Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ryan Wins Senior Amateur at Old Warson

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ryan Wins Senior Amateur at Old Warson

Article excerpt

Many years ago, a 17-year old girl had a huge crush on a young man in Taylorville, Ill., a town of about 11,000 that's 90 miles northeast of St. Louis. A fine amateur golfer, the man was six years older than the girl and she wasn't sure how she might catch his fancy.

She got an idea one day how to break the ice. She called and asked him if he would give her a golf lesson. "I think we went to a movie, instead," Dave Ryan recalled, laughing.

A year and a half later, they went to the altar and, to this day, Amy Ryan still hasn't had the golf lesson. Rather, as her husband waded deeper into the U.S. Senior Amateur at Old Warson Country Club, she gave him the lesson.

"She sent me a text message that said, 'Believe in yourself. You're just as good as they are. You can do it,'" Ryan recalled. A champion multiple times on state and regional levels, Ryan had never won a national title.

"I have trouble thinking that way," he admitted. "But she got me to believe that, and that's kind of what got me through."

Ryan can believe it now because it's a matter of record. He took a big lead, survived a spirited rally by Matthew Sughrue of Arlington, Md., and closed out a 2-up win on the 18th hole Thursday to capture the 62nd playing of the senior amateur. As he accepted congratulations afterward, with Amy, son Zac and several other supporters from Taylorville in a crowd of 150 spectators, the 62- year old Ryan couldn't help but get emotional.

"I'm very happy and blessed to have done this," Ryan said. "I'll tell you what, wanting a USGA championship is one thing. But to win one? Mentally you have to be so tough. I can't imagine what it's like to win a U.S. Open or Masters. This is nerve-wracking."

On Tuesday, those nerves survived a 20-hole stare-down with Paul Simson, a four-time Senior Amateur stroke-play medalist and two- time champion. On Wednesday, Ryan gritted his teeth for 18 holes to beat No. 1 seed and two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champ Tim Jackson.

He played 139 holes through two days of stroke play and six rounds of matches to capture a gold medal and rights to the Frederick L. Dold Trophy for the ensuing year. And most of all, before he was finished, he had to overcome the Lazarus-like comeback of Sughrue.

At the outset, the match was no contest. The 57-year old Sughrue won the first hole with a par, but Ryan birdied four of the next five holes and took a 4-up lead. What's more, he looked unbeatable. Chances are, Ryan has never baked a three-layer cake. But if you had asked him to whip one up Thursday morning, he would have made it. He was making everything.

"I've never seen anybody putt these greens like that," said Gary Pohrer, who was in the gallery with his wife, Nancy. Pohrer was a caddy at Old Warson when it first opened in 1955. "He's lights out."

But things changed on the "B" side. …

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