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McCool wins back-to-back Senior Amateur Championships

PAOLI, Pa. - With one hole to go in the 55th Pennsylvania Senior Amateur Championship, presented by Allegheny Health Network, it was clear that history would be made at Waynesborough Country Club. Either Saucon Valley's Robin McCool would hold on to his one-stroke advantage and become the event's first back-to-back winner since John Guenther, Jr. in 1990-91, or the Club at Nevillewood's Paul Schlachter would win the event for a record fifth time in his career. With the title on the line, McCool made a par to clinch his second-consecutive Senior Amateur with rounds of 69-72 for a two-round total of 141 (-1).

"I'm not so sure I even believe it yet, because this was such a strong field," McCool said of winning for the second year in a row. "And playing head to head against a great champion like Paul Schlachter, I'm very, very pleased to win today."

McCool, who led after the first round with a 2-under-par 69 that included four birdies, did not have a single birdie in his second round until the 16th hole. McCool's card was clean with the exception of bogeys on holes 5 and 13 as he headed down the stretch.

"It was a bit of an up and down day," McCool said. "I played pretty steady overall, but I just hit some good putts that went in yesterday and didn't go in today."

He was very solid throughout the day, with 15 pars in a performance that forced Schlachter to have to try to make a few red numbers himself to mount a comeback, especially after the birdie on No. 16 that put him ahead for good. With 144 yards to the pin, McCool lofted a soft 7-iron that stopped 15 feet short of the hole. From there, an uphill birdie putt dropped to restore his one-shot advantage heading into the final two holes over Schlachter. 

But the Pennsylvania senior stalwart was up for the challenge. The winner the last time the event was played at Waynesborough CC in 2006, Schlachter dropped a shot early with a bogey on No. 4 before bouncing back with a birdie on the par-5 seventh hole. After another bogey at the ninth, he made the turn at +1 on the day. But a nice birdie on No. 11 got him back under par for the championship. That good feeling was quickly dashed as Schlachter double-bogeyed the next hole, the 341-yard par-4 12th. But Schlachter rallied to get a stroke back with a birdie at the par-5 15th hole, setting up the dramatic finish. Schlachter's second place finish was the latest in a string of dominant showings for him at this event, as he has finished in the top two in eight of the last 11 years, an amazing feat.

The best round of the day was from Lookaway GC's Roc Irey, who carded a 1-under-par 70, with five birdies. That showing vaulted Irey all the way up to a tie for third place at 145 (+3), along with Latrobe CC's James Bryan, who shot 73-72 in a pair of solid rounds at the championship.

Applebrook's Gary Daniels, who was one shot off the pace after the first round, fired a second round 76 to finish at +4 and in fifth place. The only other round of par or better on the day aside from Irey was shot by Overbrook GC's Raymond Thompson, who shot an even par 71 to tie for eighth place.

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