At Durham, N.C., Bob Kearney is in his happy place: the U.S. Senior Amateur golf championship.
Kearney, who lives in Houston, Texas, but spends summers in Harrisville, advanced to the round of 32 Monday with a convincing 5-and-4 win over Randy Haag of Orinda, Calif., in the first round of match play.
Kearney tees off Tuesday morning against Mark Knecht of Paducah, Ky., at 8:03. Kearney is the No. 36 seed coming out of two days of medal play; Knecht is No. 61.
For the first time in 52 years, three players shared medalist honors at Old Chatham Golf Club. Dean Channell of Cary, N.C., Doug Hanzel of Savannah, Ga., and Michael McCoy of Norwalk, Iowa, all posted 2-under 142 during the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying, which ended Sunday.
Among those advancing to match play was Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., a two-time U.S. Senior Amateur winner. He won his first-round match Monday also, 1-up over Dave Ryan.
Kearney, 62, played collegiately at UConn and in 2015 was ranked the No. 1 senior amateur golfer in the country. He qualified to play in back to back U.S. Senior Amateurs, in 2015 and 2016, and reached match play in 2015, winning a first-round matchup.
Today he’ll attempt to get one stage further.
A Connecticut native and a 1979 UConn grad, Kearney played golf four years for the Huskies. He won the Texas Mid-Am in 1998 and the Texas Amateur in 2001. In 2013, he captured the Harvey Penick Senior Invitational. Kearney finished tied for 95th place in the final Golfweek Senior National Rankings of 2014, according to the UConn athletics website.
On Monday, he was in complete control after making three straight birdies starting at the third hole. After giving one hole back, he added another birdie at the seventh, and went 4-up with his fifth birdie of the round at the 11th hole.
Kearney closed out the match with a par at the par-5 14th hole, while Knecht made bogey.
Kearney was the low amateur at this year’s N.H. Open, staged in Keene.
Another player with New England ties, Assumption College graduate Frank Vana Jr. of Marlboro (Mass.) CC advanced to the round of 32, too. Vana won 3-and-2 over Craig Davis of Chula Vista, Calif. He had four birdies through 16 holes, where his match ended.
He tied for sixth in weekend stroke play at even-par 144 over 36 holes and is the No. 7 seed. Vana faces No. 26 seed Walter Todd of Laurens, S.C., in the round of 32 Tuesday.