Thursday, January 15, 2015

Merion East, Aronimink make the grade on top 100 list



   Golf Digest recently released its annual list of top 100 courses in America and Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course and Aronimink Golf Club, the Donald Ross gem in Newtown Square, continue to hold down places in the prestigious rankings.
   Merion’s East Course, a Hugh Wilson design (with a few tweaks from his first superintendent William Flynn, I’m fairly certain), stands at No. 5. The 2013 U.S. Open, won by Justin Rose with a 1-over 281 total, did nothing to damage the esteem with which the layout in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township is held.
   Just when it was starting to look like the U.S. Open would never return to Merion, where it had been staged four times, but not since 1981, USGA executive director Mike Davis took a chance and decided to try to overcome some seemingly staggering logistical odds and bring the 2013 Open back to the East Course. It was, in so many ways, a rousing success, so much so that the Daily Times sports staff named the golf course our 2013 Sports Figure of the Year.
   Merion East remains one notch ahead of Pennsylvania’s other most popular U.S. Open site, the sixth-rated Oakmont Country Club, which straddles the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Allegheny County. Golf Digest also gives Merion the nod over Oakmont as the best course in Pennsylvania, but it’s really just 1 and 1A in the minds of most golfers in our fair state.
   Aronimink sits at 90 on the top 100. The course, which hosted the 1962 PGA Championship won by Gary Player, gained quite a bit of notoriety with its two-year run hosting the AT&T National in 2010 and 2011 as the event took a hiatus from Congressional Country Club in suburban Washington D.C. while it played host to the 2011 U.S. Open.
   Justin Rose won the 2010 AT&T National at Aronimink, giving him two of the biggest wins of his career within the county lines of Delaware County. Great golf courses identify great players.
   If you dig a little deeper,  Golf Digest also lists the top courses in each state and one more Delco course makes that list with Rolling Green Golf Club, site of the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open and preparing to host the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2016, ranked 18th in Pennsylvania.
   Rolling Green, like No. 13 Philadelphia Country Club and No. 14 Huntingdon Valley Country Club, is a William Flynn design.
   Pennsylvania will be well-represented on the USGA championship schedule in 2016. In addition to the Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green, the Open will be staged at Oakmont for the ninth time and the U.S. Men’s Mid-Amateur championship will be coming to the northwest corner of Chester County when Stonewell hosts that championship.
   Stonewall’s Old Course is the 10th-ranked course in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest.
   And speaking of USGA championships, it was announced this week that Philadelphia Cricket Club will play host to the USGA’s newest event, the Four-Ball Championship in 2020. The Four-Ball championships for men and women take the place of the Public Links championships on the USGA calendar beginning this year.
   The men will be at the Cricket Club in 2020. The 1907 and 1910 U.S. Opens  were staged at the Cricket Club’s original St. Martins Course . But the Wissahickon Course, a classic design by A.W. Tillinghast, opened for play in 1922. The Wissahickon Course is ranked as the 12th best course in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest.
   The Cricket Club will play host to the PGA Professional National Championship --  it will always be the National Club Pro to me – this summer. Part of the Cricket Club’s appeal as a tournament site is the addition of the Militia Hill Course, a Dr. Michael Hurzdan and Dana Fry production that opened in 2002. With two championship courses, the Cricket Club can handle the kind of large field that the National Club Pro will have before it is cut as well as qualifying rounds for match play in the Four-Ball Championship.
   The inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be held May 2 to 6 of this year at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. A week later the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be held at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore.  Brynn Walker, the Radnor junior who won the PIAA championship last fall, teamed up with Council Rock North junior Madelein Herr to qualify for the event.
   Almost forgot, so which is the No. 1 course in America, according to Golf Digest? That would be Augusta National, that course you can’t wait to see on TV when the Masters gets under way  in April. Augusta National overtook Pine Valley Golf Club, the rugged gem in the New Jersey Pine Barrens near Clementon.
   Both courses have their passionate defenders, but that’s the point of making up this kind of list, to fuel a few arguments at the 19th hole. Let’s face it, to be a top-100 course in America, you have to be pretty darn good and Delaware County is fortunate to have two such layouts inside its county lines.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kan finishes in a tie for 33rd at Harder Hall



   Aurora Kan, who won the 2010 PIAA championship as a senior at Chichester, started gearing up for the last half of her senior season at Purdue by finishing in a tie for 33rd at the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational, part of a prestigious series of amateur events for women held in January each year in Florida.
   The first stop on the series was Harder Hall Golf Club in Sebring, Fla. and Kan put together rounds of 77, 82, 81 and 82 for a 322 total.
   The chairman of the Harder Hall, which concluded Sunday, is Carol Semple Thompson, the World Golf Hall of Famer from western Pennsylvania who has won the Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur title something like 22 times, give or take a championship.
   Kan, a three-time Daily Times Player of the Year during her brilliant scholastic career at Chichester, wasn’t the only Boilermaker in the Harder Hall field. Sophomore August Kim, a native Floridian, had a strong showing, firing rounds of 75, 78, 74 and 79 for a 306 total that left her in 11th place.
   Another familiar name in the field was that of reigning Philadelphia Women’s Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, one of the top Mid-Amateur players in the country. Stasi had rounds of 80, 80, 78 and 76 to finish in a tie for 21st at 314.
   Stasi is based in Florida now, but took a trip home last summer and added an eighth Philly Women’s Amateur title to the seven straight she won from 1999 to 2005 when the South Jersey native was known as Meghan Bolger.
   The Harder Hall title went to 16-year-ol d Nelly Korda, sister of Jessica, a grizzled LPGA Tour winner and veteran at age 21. The Kordas are the daughters of Petr Korda, a former Australian Open men’s singles tennis champion. Nelly Korda had rounds of 74, 75, 73 and 69 for a 3-over 291 total that was three shots better than runnerup Allison Emrey, a senior at Wake Forest.
   The Florida series of women’s amateur events continues this week with the Sally, shorthand for the South Atlantic Amateur Championship held at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla. and next week’s Jones/Doherty Women’s and Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, which is staged at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
   Hey, it beats the heck out of the sub-freezing temperatures that we’ve been enduring.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Springhaven looper Spencer named Caddie of the Year



   A couple of interesting golf notes showed up in the days leading up to Christmas:
The Golf Association of Philadelphia held its J. Wood Caddie Scholarship Trust brunch at Philadelphia Country Club Saturday and the Francis C. Poore Caddie of the Year award went to a looper at The Springhaven Club and a female looper at that, one Shannon Spencer.
   Not sure if a female had ever received the Poore before, but it’s not surprising that a young lady from a Delco club would get the honor. And she’s smart, too. Spencer is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s who is attending the Penn State College of Medicine.
   As a onetime beneficiary of the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Fund and, obviously a former looper myself, I say, “Way to go, Shannon Spencer.”
   The J. Wood Platt scholars got to hear from four-time PGA Tour winner and adopted son of Delaware County Sean O’Hair at the brunch. O’Hair, the husband of Sun Valley All-Delco Jackie Lucas, is trying to bounce back from a couple of down years on golf’s biggest stage.
   But that didn’t prevent him from imparting some of the wisdom he’s gained from a long and winding golf career, including turning pro at age 17. I’m guessing O’Hair told the J. Wood Platt scholars they were making the right move by attending college in their late teens and early 20s. 
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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Get your tickets for 2015 U.S. Women's Open



   There might never have been a more exciting time in women’s professional golf than right now.
   It is a truly international game now and 2014 was a year in which the U.S. contingent may have finally caught up after a period when the rest of the world, particularly the group from South Korea, had been dominating women’s golf.
   But two of America’s most intriguing young players, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie, became major champions for the first time in 2014 and Stacy Lewis was the LPGA Tour’s Player of the Year. Lewis held the No. 1 spot in the World Ranking for much of 2014 before South Korea’s Inbee Park grabbed it back at the end of the year.
   Wie will defend her U.S. Open title – and I’m sure hearing herself called the defending U.S. Open champion has not gotten old in the least to Wie – at Lancaster Country Club July 6 to 12.
   There is one last ticket offering going on this month for the flexible, multi-entry ticket packages  for the Women’s Open. Pretty sure it’s about this point in the blog post when I’m supposed to say: The perfect gift for the women’s golf fan on your Christmas list. OK, got that out of the way.
   The peple who run the tournament were even offering a Women’s Open hat for the first 200 customers who purchased their tickets on Cyber Monday. Anyway, if you want to check out ticket information, visit www.2015uswomensopen.com/tickets
   Park, who won the first three majors of 2013 and then added to her major haul in 2014 by capturing the Wegmans LPGA Championship, will enter 2015 as the top-ranked player in the world. Behind No. 2 Lewis, is Lydia Ko, the sensational 17-year-old from New Zealand, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, China’s Shanshan Feng, Wie, South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu, who possesses a simply elegant swing, Aussie veteran Karrie Webb, South Korea’s Hyo-Joo Kim and rounding out the top 10, Thompson, the athletic American who will turn 20 in February. Pretty international cast right there.
   This is going to be big doings in Lancaster and it’s really not that far away. As someone who has made the Lancaster Pike run to cover the PIAA Championships in York County most of the last 12 years, it’s a scenic drive and there’s some pretty decent outlets just this side of Lancaster proper if want to sneak some shopping in around your golf watching.
   And you just never know who’s going to show up in a U.S. Open field. Radnor’s reigning PIAA champion Brynn Walker made it to the U.S. Girls Junior and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2014, maybe the Open will be the next logical step. Another former PIAA champion from Delco,  Aurora Kan, the 2010 winner as a senior at Chichester, will likely be a freshly-minted Purdue University graduate contemplating her future. Kan is certainly capable of making it out of a qualifier to the Open field if she chooses to take a shot at it.
   Like I said, these are exciting times in the women’s game and you can see the best female players on the planet only a couple of hours away next summer.
   Once upon a time we had a women’s major professional championship every year a few miles down the road when the LPGA Championship lived at the DuPont Country Club on the Delco side of Wilmington in Delaware for a while. I would highly recommend a trip to see the Women’s Open in Lancaster next summer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Haverford School had two impressive final acts



   I had been searching around for some results from the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association Tournament and from Haverford School-Episcopal Academy Day and finally was able to chat with Fords head coach Gui Costin, who had some interesting stories to tell.
   Very little separated Haverford School and Malvern Prep as they battled it out in the six mini-tournaments for the Inter-Ac League title this fall, which the Fords finally nailed down at the final event. And the team chase at the PAISAA tourney at Brookside Country Club, which adjoins The Hill School in Pottstown, was no different.
   Haverford School senior Jay Losty didn’t play badly this fall, but I suspect his play wasn’t up to what he had hoped for in his final year. But he was still a senior leader on an Inter-Ac championship team and that leadership was on display at Brookside.
   “I caught up to Jay on the 16th hole and I thought Malvern had us by one at that point,” Costin said. “I asked him if he wanted to know what the numbers were and he said he did. Turns out we were up one, but he didn’t know that.
   “He makes bogey at 16, then he makes a great par at 17, a long, uphill par-3. It was getting so dark at that point that the last two groups played the last hole together, so there’s five guys out there, it’s dark and he thinks he needs to make it from the fairway for us to win. He hits it a foot from the hole and makes birdie.”
   When the numbers were added up, Losty’s birdie gave Haverford School the team title, 244-245.
   The teams had four players with the best three scores counting. Haverford School senior Otis Baker had signed for a 78 (Costin said he actually shot 77, but had to go with the 78 he signed for), junior Max Siegfried had an 82 and Losty’s birdie gave him 84 and Haverford School its winning 244 total.
   Losty is headed for Yale and will play squash in college, but those last couple holes at Brookside tells you all you need to know about Jay Losty the golfer.
   Malvern Prep was led by Brendan Bacskai with an 80. Mike Lamond had an 82 and Mike Szipszky had an 83.
   Episcopal, the third-place finisher in the Inter-Ac race, also finished third in the PAISAA tourney with a solid 248 total.
   Haverford School might very well have saved its best for last as the Fords teed it up on Haverford-EA Day Nov. 7, challenging the front nine at Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course on a chilly, blustery day.
   Ryan Bowman and Siegfried carded 4-over 40s on Merion’s front nine to lead the Fords to a 248-264 victory over a very strong Episcopal team.
   The Fords could take their pick from two of the three 41s that rounded out their scoring as Baker, senior Jack McAleese and eighth-grader Peter Garno all came in at that 5-over total.
   “To have five players go 5-over or better on the front nine at Merion in those conditions is pretty impressive,” said Costin, a lifelong member at Merion.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Barkann's 89 at Seaview good for 10th



   I’m a little late with this, but I’ve been sitting on the results from what was billed as the next-to-last Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour stop of the year at the historic Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway Township, N.J. just outside of Atlantic City when it was still pretty warm a couple of weeks ago.
   I was busy putting together an All-Delco tennis team, but also had some time off coming and actually snuck in one last round of golf on a chilly Sunday morning last weekend. I mention it only to plug my go-to place to play for the golfer with little or no  money, Blackwood Golf Club in Douglassville, just over the Berks County line above Pottstown. It’s a legit 6,000-plus yard course that was in great shape last Sunday. It’s eminently walkable. And without a cart to pay for, the greens fee was 15 bucks. Just sayin.
   There wasn’t a huge Delco contingent at Seaview, but Michael Barkann of Newtown  Square finished 10th in the 13-to-15 division with an 89 over the challenging 6,202-yard, par-71 Seaview layout. Hayden Smith of Havertown, one of the youngest players in the division, finished five shots back of Barkann in 11th place with a 94.
   Brian Isztwan of Huntingdon Valley took top honors in the division with a sparkling 1-over 72.
   Upper Darby junior Michael Wolf finished 12th in the 16-to-18 division with a 92. Christopher Drysdale of Yorktown Heights, N.J. matched the 72 put up by Isztwan to finish first in the 16-to-18 age group.
   Not sure if the early arrival of winter in these parts prevented the Junior Tour from getting in one last event, but it sounds like it’s going to warm up this weekend, so we’ll see. Could be worse. Could be Buffalo.