Thursday, October 30, 2014

O'Hair is still in golf's big league after all



   I was finally able to figure out the status of Delco’s adopted favorite son on the PGA Tour, Sean O’Hair, as he spoke to the region’s top golf writer, Mike Kern of the Philadelphia Daily News, during a promotional appearance for TaylorMade at his new home course, White Manor Country Club, this week.
   I knew O’Hair, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, had to go through the Web.com playoffs to regain his tour card, a process he had successfully grinded his way through in 2013. But when he missed the cut in the first two events, I didn’t think his chances were very good.
   But apparently he played  well enough in the final two events to earn his playing privileges with the big boys again in  2014-15. I don’t think the tour does a very good job of spelling out where guys like O’Hair stand when they are trying to navigate their way back to the tour through the Web.com playoffs, but maybe that’s just my lack of Internet savvy showing.
   When I spotted O’Hair showing up in the first couple of events of the new season, I wondered if maybe he had just enough status to sneak into these fields that the top players tend to ignore.  But the interview he did with Kern made it clear that O’Hair is indeed still a card-carrying member of the PGA Tour.
   And he gave himself a big boost of confidence with a third-round 64 at The McCladrey Classic last weekend in Sea Island, Ga. that helped him finish in a tie for 17th after he backed up the 64 with a final-round 68.
   O’Hair’s name first came into my consciousness when something called the New England Pro/Cleveland Golf Tour started sending results to the Daily Times in the summer of 2003 with a frequent contender from Aston, Pa. named Sean O’Hair. The name didn’t ring a bell to anyone on the Daily Times sports staff.
   But when I finally reached O’Hair on the phone, the mystery was solved. He had married the former Jackie Lucas, an All-Delco golfer at Sun Valley, the previous November and she was touring with him as both new bride and caddie. Asked where he lived when he filled out his application for the New England Tour, he said to his new wife, “Where are we from, Jackie?” And so, Aston, Pa. was it.
   I didn’t make the connection then that O’Hair was the talented youngster who had reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1997 at Aronimink Golf Club before being coerced to turn pro at age 17 by a father who, in a “60 Minutes” piece on pushy sports parents, referred to his son as a “commodity.”
   O’Hair was close to rock bottom when he met Lucas, who had transferred after two years at Monmouth to a Florida college because she was seeking better competition to improve her game. She became O’Hair’s partner on a golf journey that has had a lot of twists and turns in the last decade-plus.
Mostly, it’s been good times. The O’Hairs have four children and Sean has banked in the neighborhood of $13 million on the tour.
   Oddly, after reaching as high as No. 12 in the world rankings, O’Hair’s game started to slide in 2011. He got a big boost by winning the Canadian Open that summer for his fourth tour victory, but he has struggled mightily the last two seasons.
   Somehow, though, O’Hair seems to be at his best when his back is up against the wall. And he sounded determined at the still relatively young golf age of 32 to turn things around.
   “There’s no doubt in my mind my best golf’s ahead of me,” O’Hair told Kern. “I don ‘t look at myself as an obsolete golfer. Once you lose the belief, you’re screwed. And there’s a million guys waiting in line who are willing to put the time in.”
   Here’s hoping O’Hair can get his game back on track in this 2014-15 season. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll have the path to qualifying through the Web.com playoffs figured out by next September, so I’ll be in the same boat if O’Hair has to take that complicated route back to the big tour again.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Strong showing for Kan, Purdue at Landfall Tradition



   Aurora Kan, the three-time Daily Times Player of the Year at Chichester, and her Purdue teammates saved their best effort of the fall part of the 2014-15 campaign for last.
   The Boilermakers have been slowly rebuilding since finishing third at the NCAA Tournament  in 2013 at the end of Kan’s sophomore season. But a young team took a giant step forward against one of the top fields of the fall in the Landfall Tradition, which concluded Sunday at the Country Club of Landfall’s Pete Dye Course in Wilmington, N.C.
   And Kan, who won the PIAA Tournament as a senior at Chichester four years ago, kick-started the Boilers with one of the best rounds of her collegiate career, a 4-under 68 in Friday’s opening round that put Purdue ahead of the pack in the team chase with a 283 total. After a lot of ups and downs this fall, Purdue flashed the ability it possesses when the team puts it all together.
   Purdue fell back with a second-round 295 Saturday and a final-round 298 Sunday for an 876 total. Still, the Boilers finished in a tie for seventh with reigning national champion Duke and ahead of five of the top-25 ranked teams in Division I.
   Wake Forest, an ACC rival of Duke’s, took the team title with an 865 total. The Demon Deacons got a solid showing from freshman Erica Herr, the two-time PIAA champion from Council Rock North, who finished tied for 11th at even-par 216 after firing a final round of 2-under 70.
   Powerhouse Alabama finished second at 868, South Carolina and Notre Dame shared third place at 871, Virginia was fifth at 872 and Oklahoma State was sixth at 873. Purdue and Duke were another three shots back in a tie for seventh.
   Kan, too, cooled off a little following her fast start. She had rounds of 74 and 78 over the weekend to finish in a tie for 24th at 4-over 220. Marta  Martin, a freshman for Spain, had a breakout performance with rounds of 71, 74 and 73 and was the low Boilermaker at 2-over 218 and tied for 16th in the individual standings.
   Sophomore August Kim, the Floridian who might be Purdue’s most talented player, sandwiched a 71 and a 72 around a 77 in the middle round to match Kan’s 220 total.
   Johanna Tillstrom, Purdue’s senior Swede, had rounds of 75, 71 and 75 to finish a shot back of Kim and Kan at 5-over 221 in a tie for 32nd.
   Anna Appert Lund, Purdue’s junior Swede, opened with a 1-over 73, a big factor, along with Kan’s 68, in that stunning start for the Boilermakers. Appert Lund fell back with rounds of 76 and 79 to finish in a tie for 69th at 228.
   Central Florida’s Ashley Holder claimed the individual title with a 7-under 209 total.
   It was a great way for Purdue to finish the fall campaign, giving the Boilers some positive vibes between now and the start of the spring campaign. Purdue opens the spring by hosting the Lady Puerto Rico Classic at Rio Mar Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico Feb. 15 to 17.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Walker heads All-Central girls first team



   Radnor junior Brynn Walker, who claimed the PIAA Class AAA girls crown in a playoff last week, heads the All-Central League girls first team, selected by the league’s coaches.
   After firing a brilliant 5-under 67 in the Central League Tournament at Turtle Creek Golf Club, Walker struggled to a sixth-place finish in the District One Tournament.
   But the North Carolina commit turned it on when it counted. She captured the title in the East Regional at Golden Oaks Golf Club with a 2-under 70. Then last week in the PIAA Tournament at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort, Walker followed up an opening-round 75 with a 1-under 71 that left her in a tie with Canon-McMillan senior Lauren Waller at 2-over 146. But Walker crushed a drive at Heritage Hill’s par-4 ninth hole, flipped a wedge a foot-and-a-half from the cup and dropped the putt for a birdie that gave her the title.
   Walker follows in the footsteps of Jackie Calamaro, who captured the PIAA title in 2009, as Radnor’s two girls with individual state championships.
   Joining Walker on the girls first team are two of her Radnor teammates, senior Julia Curley and sophomore Gabby Kim, as well as Garnet Valley senior Annika Vandayar and Harriton’s Eva Jodar. Walker and Curley were key contributors to Radnor’s 2012 PIAA Class AAA team championship.
   Penncrest’s Jessica Davis, Marple Newtown’s Devon DelFranco and Springfield’s Yana Illeva earned second-team honors.
   Penncrest senior Griffin Colvin, who qualified for the District One Tournament for a third time this fall, and Garnet Valley senior Mike Stanilka are the only Delco representatives on the All-Central boys first team.
   Unbeaten league champion Conestoga dominates the first team with state qualifier Mike Cook, regional qualifier Andrew Willner, Sam Friedman, Jack Mitchell and Jace Kienzie all on the list. Rounding out the first-team selections are the Harriton pair of Erik Reisner, who won the Central League Tournament for the second straight year, and Will Daly.
   Among the second-team picks are Radnor’s Paul Yun, a three-time district qualifier, and Raider teammates Jack Owens and Michael Syndnes, Marple Newtown’s Joey DelFranco, who made districts for a second time this fall, Garnet Valley’s Tim Reeves and Springfield’s Andrew Todaro.
Among those receiving honorable mention were Radnor’s Jack Staples, Tom Hamilton and Jacob Liberman, Ridley’s Kyle Fiorelli and Greg Meyers, Springfield’s Derrick Baun, Haverford’s Matt Speers, Strath Haven’s Jeff Painter and Upper Darby’s Mike Wolf.
   Strath Haven, which finished 6-5 in the league under Kevin Kochersperger, was the winner of the league’s sportsmanship award. Upper Darby, despite not winning a match, was second in the sportsmanship voting in a close race, and Ridley finished third.

Haverford School dominates All-Inter-Ac first team

   League champion Haverford School placed five players on the All-Inter-Ac League’s first team, chosen by the coaches.
   Max Siegfried, Otis Baker, Ryan Bowman, Matt Grubb and Jack McAleese helped the Fords finish 27-2-1 in the Inter-Ac mini-tournaments to wrest the title away from Malvern Prep in a terrific race between the teams.
   Siegfried, a junior, was the second-leading point-getter in the league during the mini-tournaments and finished in a tie for seventh in difficult conditions at the Bert Linton Inter-Ac League Tournament last week at Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Militia Hill Course. Baker, a senior, was fifth in the season-long points standings and lost in a playoff at the Inter-Ac tourney after tying for first after the regulation 18 holes with Penn Charter freshman Brian Isztwan, each carding 76s on a cold, wet, windy day.
   Episcopal is represented on the first team by freshman Jon Nolan Perry and senior Joe Chambers. Perry was the Churchmen’s top finisher at the Cricket Club, getting a share of fourth with a 78. Chambers was the Churchmen’s top point-getter in the season-long standings, finishing third.
   Malvern Prep is represented on the first team by Brendan Bacskai, who finished fourth on the points list, and Nick Miller, who finished third at the Cricket Club, just a shot out of the playoff with a 77.
Penn Charter’s Isztwan barged on to the first team by winning the tournament. He was joined on the first team by teammate JB Bradbeer, who finished atop the season-long point standings.
   The second team includes two more Haverford School standouts, Jay Losty and Peter Garno, and Episcopal senior Trey Croney. Rounding out the second-team picks are the Malvern  Prep quartet of Mike Lamond, ,Mike Szipszky, Marty McGuckin and Jack Hagan and Germantown Academy’s Jake Niedosik.

Another first for Kan

   Chichester sophomore Caprian Kan continued her strong play on the Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour circuit with a first-place finish in Saturday’s stop at Foxchase Golf Club in Stevens.
   Kan carded a 79 over a Foxchase layout measuring 5,505 yards for the girls to finish atop the 13-to-15 division. June Kim of Wayne posted a 96 to finish fourth.
   Kim’s older sister, Radnor sophomore Gabby, finished third in the 16-to-18 division with an 84. Samantha Yao of Berwyn and Samantha Fritzinger of Zionsville led the way with 80s with Yao taking the title on a match of cards.
   Radnor junior Caitlin Bullock finished eighth with a 104.
   Aronimink Golf Club’s Billy Civitella finished in a tie for sixth in the 13-to-15 division with an 80. Caleb Ryan of Norristown took top honors with an even-par 72 on a Foxchase layout that measures 6,507 for the boys.
   D.J. Colleran of Radnor finished eighth with an 81, Daniel Bullock of Wayne was one of three players tied for 18th at 94, and Corey Kan of Boothwyn finished 23rd with a 119.
   Among the nine-holers, Jackson Fields of Glen Mills finished sixth with a 50 and Roy Anderson of Chadds Ford finished seventh with a 52. Joshua Ryan of Norristown took top honors in the division with a 42.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Inter-Ac's best got a little taste of Scottish golf



   It couldn’t have been much fun for the Inter-Ac League’s top players to slog their way around a tough Philadelphia Cricket Club Militia Hill course in Wednesday’s rain and wind. The players were even called off the course at one point because of the threat of lightning.
   It was, as league secretary Paris Sterrett described it, Scotland weather.
   Such was the parity of talent in the league this year that Penn Charter freshman Brian Isztwan, a coach’s wild-card pick into the Bert Linton Inter-Ac League Tournament, emerged with the title after tying with Haverford School’s Otis Baker at 76. Isztwan parred the first hole of a playoff to take the title.
   Malvern Prep’s Nick Miller, who endured the disappointment of being disqualified in the next-to-last mini-tournament of the season for signing an incorrect scorecard, showed he has put it behind him with a 77 to take third.
   Another coach’s wild card, Haverford School’s Jack  McAleese, got a share of fourth with another freshman, Episcopal Academy’s promising Jon Nolan Perry, and Malvern Prep’s Mike Lamond. McAleese had some clutch rounds during Haverford School’s run to a fourth Inter-Ac League title in five years this fall.
   Junior Max Siegfried, Haverford School’s best player this seaon, shared seventh place with Episcopal senior Joe Chambers, Malvern Prep’s Brendan Bacskai and Germantown Academy’s Jake Niedosik. They all shot 80.
   Rounding out The Haverford School contingent were Peter Garno (81), Jay Losty (84), Ryan Bowman (84), Jack Henderson (87) and Matt Grubb (89). Episcopal’s Scott McConnell posted an 84 and Trey Croney had an 88.
   Such were the conditions that Penn Charter’s JB Bradbeer, who led the league in the points standings compiled from the regular-season mini-tournaments, could only manage an 86.
   Some of the top players from Haverford School, Episcopal and Malvern Prep will tee it up Saturday at Brookside Country Club in Pottstown in the Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Association Tournament. Episcopal’s Croney won the title last year at Stonewall.

Berman claims second win

   It has been quite a start to his Georgetown career this fall for Cole Berman, the two-time Daily Times Player of the Year at The Haverford School.
   You’d think it would be tough to top winning the title in your debut event as a freshman,  but earlier this week Berman won a playoff to capture the Georgetown Intercollegiate, hosted, obviously, by the Hoyas, for his second win of the fall campaign.
   Berman fired a 2-under 69 Tuesday at The Members Club at Four Streams to end up in a tie for the top spot with William & Mary’s Alex Hicks, the same Alex Hicks who reached the final of the 2013 Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Amateur Championship at Aronimink Golf Club before falling to Michael McDermott.
   Combined with his opening-round 71, the 69 gave Berman a 2-under 140 total. He parred the first hole of a playoff to claim the title.
   “It was great to win  with the entire team here,” Berman told the Georgetown website. “Today was a grind.  I was playing well, but  not making any putts, so luckily I had a chance to be in  a playoff.
   “I knew I had to shoot something in the 60s to win. Luckily 69 was enough. Throughout the day, I didn’t know if it would be enough, you need some things to go your way and today they did.”
Berman’s first-place finish helped Georgetown finish in a tie for sixth with Penn State at 589. The Hoyas had rounds of 297 and 292.
   Toledo captured the team title at 569 (284-285) as the Rockets had three players – Chris Selfridge (70-71), Otto Black (69-72) and Stephen Watts (71-70) – finish in a tie for third in the individual chase at 1-under 141.
   One of the teams Berman’s Hoyas did beat though was Temple, which finished ninth at 595 (304-291). The Owls were led by junior Brandon Matthews, the 2013 GAP Player of the Year who finished in a tie for seventh with rounds of 71 and 72 for a 1-over 143 total.
   Earlier this month, the Owls captured the title in their Temple Invitational that was played at Huntingdon Valley Country Club, one of several William Flynn-designed gems in this area. Temple had rounds of 287 and 285 for a 572 total.
   Matthews led the way, taking the individual title with a pair of 69s and a 138 total. Newly crowned 2014 GAP Player of the Year Matthew Teesdale, winner of the Philadelphia Open last summer at Applebrook Golf Club, finished in a tie for eighth at Huntingdon Valley for the Owls with rounds of 70 and 77 for a 147 total.
   Berman, who recently received the GAP Junior Player of the Year award for the third straight year, and Georgetown also teed it up in the Temple Invitational and the two-time Inter-Ac League Tournament winner was the Hoyas’ low man, finishing in a tie for eighth overall with rounds of 71 and 76 for a 147 total.
   Berman helped Georgetown finish in a tie for fifth in the team standings with rounds of 291 and 306 for a 597 total.
   One of the players who also finished in a tie for eighth at that 147 figure was Hartford’s Will Betts, the Pittsburgh area resident who drove across the state to earn co-medalist honors in U.S. Amateur qualifying at Stonewall last summer. Betts had rounds of 72 and 75 at Huntingdon Valley.

A state title for the Prep and other Heritage Hills musings



   Sounds like it was a miserable day for golf Wednesday as the PIAA Tournament concluded with team competition in boys and girls Class AAA and AA at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort (somehow the Inter-Ac League held its tournament Wednesday at Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Militia Hill course and we have some basic results in Thursday’s Daily Times print edition and on GameTime Pa., but I will expand on that later in the week), but there were some interesting results despite the conditions.
   As I predicted, Mount St. Joseph senior Isabella DiLisio finished her scholastic career in fine fashion with a 78, but it wasn’t enough to lift the Mount to a second straight team title. Central Valley, which was a Class AA program as recently as two years ago when the Radnor girls were winning the Class AAA team title, edged the Mount by four shots to win the Class AAA team title.
Central Valley’s Maddy McDaniel had the only round better in Class AAA than DiLisio’s in the cold, rainy and windy conditions with a 75.
   DiLisio, who told The Times Herald’s Rick Kauffman, that she was devastated when she failed to advance out of the East Regional and get a shot at repeating as the PIAA Class AAA champion, did her best to make it two straight team titles for the Mount. DiLisio’s dad told me Tuesday at Heritage Hills that Isabella will continue her golf and academic careers at Notre Dame.
   The Class AAA boys team title went to Catholic League champion  St. Joseph’s Prep, which I believe is the first state golf championship for a Catholic League and District 12 representative, although it seemed like it was just a matter of time before La Salle or the Prep won a state team title.
The Prep displayed remarkable balance in winning the title by just three shots over Scranton Prep. Jack Mitchell led the way for the Prep with a 79. The Hawks’ four other players, Paul Mauer, Nick Calabrese, Alex Butler and Mike Burns, all shot 81.  So one of the 81s didn’t matter as the Prep finished with a 322 total.
   I’m not sure if any of the Prep’s players is a Delco resident, but I do know one of their dads is a Delco native. Paul Mauer’s father Paul is a fellow Archbishop Carroll Class of 1973 graduate of mine (and fellow St. Denis graduate and fellow Shawnee Road resident) and a fellow veteran of the Merion Golf Club caddyshack. The elder Mauer is the manager of Stonewell, the gorgeous 36-hole complex carved out of farm country in northwestern Chester County. Stonewall will play host to the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in 2016.
   District One did grab one of the team titles at Heritage Hills as Roland Massimino, grandson of Rollie Massimino, coach of Villanova’s Cinderella 1985 NCAA men’s basketball championship team, led New Hope-Solebury to a narrow one-shot victory over Sewickley Academy for the Class AA title. Massimino posted a remarkable even-par 72 in the tough conditions as New Hope-Solebury had a 333 total.
   The Class AA girls title went to Villa Maria from District 10 with a 389 total.
   In addition to DiLisio wrapping up her scholastic career at Heritage Hills, Tuesday’s second round of the individual competition was the last go-round for Pennsbury senior Jackie Rogowicz and, like DiLisio, is was a decorated career indeed.
   Rogowicz struggled with the putter Tuesday, but still managed a 79, which got her a share of fifth place and one last state medal. She has been, very simply, right in the thick of things in the last three scholastic postseasons.
   Rogowicz won her second District One title this fall and she was second to DiLisio at districts when the two of them, just sophomores, opened the tournament with 66s at Gilbertsville Golf Club’s Red and White nines. Rogowicz was the runnerup to Council Rock North’s Erica Herr when Herr won her second straight state title in 2012 and was the runnerup in 2013 when DiLisio grabbed the title with a dramatic eagle at the last hole.
   And there she was Tuesday in the final group, once again contending for a state title right to the end.
   Rogowicz, as I mentioned in a post last week, is headed to Penn State and the Nittany Lions’ head coach Denise St. Pierre had a smile on her face as she watched the last two groups in the Class AAA field. Of the eight players, she has successfully recruited four of them. I mentioned last week that Rogowicz, Villa Maria’s Cara Basso and Council Rock North junior Madelein Herr are headed for Penn State, but St. Pierre’s stable of talent will also include Canon-McMillan senior Lauren Waller, who battled Radnor’s Brynn Walker shot for shot in the final round before finally settling for second when Walker birdied the first hole of a playoff.
   In previewing the state tournament, I guessed that the winner would probably come from a strong District One contingent and with Walker taking the title, that assessment proved correct.
   But District Seven, led by Waller’s runnerup finish, made plenty of noise. Gateway junior Johnna Beehner, who played in the final group with Walker, Waller and Rogowicz, finished in a tie for third with Peters Township sophomore Mia Kness, giving District Seven three of the top four finishers.
   Rogowicz shared fifth with Allison Cooper of Central Dauphin and District Three. Cooper has been a fixture at the state tournament the last couple of years as well.
   The District One crowd was prominent among the rest of the top finishers as Owen J. Roberts junior Maddie Sager and Council Rock North’s Herr shared seventh place with another District Seven representative, Central Valley’s McDaniel. Villa Maria’s Basso was 10th, Unionville junior Kate Evanko was 11th and Coatesville junior Sammi Staudt was 12th.
   Which brings us to the champion, Radnor’s Walker. As I mentioned in my report that appeared in Wednesday’s Daily Times print edition, for as long as she hits it, it was Walker’s grit that won her the title.
   It looked like she had the title won when she hit a 5-iron stiff at the tough par-3 15th hole for a birdie that gave her a two-shot cushion on Waller with three holes play. But 16 and 17 at Heritage Hills are really tricky holes, especially when a state title is so close you can taste it.
   Walker hit a poor first putt on 16, leaving herself five feet for par and she couldn’t make it for a three-putt bogey.
   “I thought I was actually going to make it through a round here without a three-putt, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” Walker said later.
   A poor approach at 17 left her with at least a 60-foot putt. She left her first putt about 12 feet short and then hit a really good putt that just missed falling in on the low side. Suddenly the two-shot lead was gone, but if Walker was feeling the pressure, she never let it show.
   She striped her drive at the par-5 18th and drilled a 4-iron over the water to 22 feet. Waller did a great job getting her second shot on the green in two as well and nestled a lag putt up close. Walker had an eagle putt to win it and very nearly made it.
   More than an hour later – a ridiculously long wait for a playoff for a state title in a typically curious decision by the PIAA – Walker got up on the ninth tee and smashed a driver 275 yards, deftly chipped it to a foot and a half away and made the putt for a birdie and a state championship.
   Afterward, she related some advice she learned as a fledgling golfer about match play, which is essentially what she and Waller were engaged in for the last nine holes and the playoff.
   “My grandpa told me if you’re in match play, always assume the other player is going to birdie the hole or chip in or get the best possible result,” Walker said alongside the ninth green at Heritage Hills amid an impromptu celebration among family and friends. “You can’t ever count on the other player playing poorly. You have to play good.”
   When Walker had to, that’s exactly what she did.