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Williamsburg resident David Pulk had a career-best finish during the United States Golf Association Senior Amateur on Monday, reaching the round of 16 before being eliminated by No. 4 seed Tim Jackson.
The USGA Senior Amateur is a tournament for golfers 55 and older who have a handicap — a formula that estimates how many strokes above or below par a player might be able to play — equaling 7.4 or lower.
Pulk, the 2015 champion of the Senior Open of Virginia, entered this year’s Senior Amateur as the 52nd overall seed after qualifying for the tournament at Salisburg County Club in Midlothian on Aug. 21. Pulk’s previous best performance in the Senior Amateur was making the round of 32 during his first appearance in 2012.
Play at the Senior Amateur differs from traditional golf. In the Senior Amateur, competitors play in head-to-head matches. The player who records a better score wins the hole, or is considered to be “up 1.” The player who wins the most holes by the end of the round is the winner.
During Monday’s round of 64, Pulk pulled a major upset by defeating No. 13 David Nelson 2 and 1, meaning Pulk led by two with only one hole left to play.
“I wasn’t intimidated by someone who had played four strokes better in stroke play,” Pulk said of Nelson. “We both played very solid, and I just happened to win the 16th hole with a par and made a nice birdie on 17 to close out the match.”
In Tuesday’s round of 32, Pulk and No. 45 Mike Bell were all square through 18 holes before Pulk pulled out the victory on the 19th hole in sudden death.
Wednesday’s round of 16 — uncharted territory for Pulk — featured a dramatic step up in competition.
Jackson opened the round going 2 up after the opening two holes. On the third hole, Pulk earned a birdie to pull within one. Jackson rebounded by winning the fourth and sixth holes and holding even on the fifth hole.
Down 3, Pulk played even with Jackson through the next five holes before getting a bogey on the 12th hole and surrendering up another point. Jackson logged a par on the 14th hole that put him up five points with four holes to play, giving him the victory.
“It was just one of those days where he didn’t miss a shot,” Pulk said of Jackson. “I had my opportunities to make birdies but they just didn’t fall. I knew if I didn’t have my A+ game it would be a tough match and unfortunately I started very slowly and he started very quickly.”
Despite the loss, Pulk was still encouraged by his play and plans to try qualifying for the tournament again in 2016.
“If I get back there enough times and keep going further, I’ll eventually win,” he joked. “It gives me incentive to get back there and go a bit further next time.”