Jeremy Wall, who recently completed his college career at Loyola of Maryland, arrived at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club from Manasquan River Golf Club for the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship without a whole lot of expectations.
The 22-year-old kept making the drive up from the Jersey Shore and playing 36 holes or so, then drive back to the shore and then drive back to Whitemarsh Valley and do it again.
It turned out to be 37 holes in Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final against Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Andrew Mason. And when it was over, when one last gutty comeback by Mason came up short, it was Wall holding the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s most prestigious piece of hardware, the J. Wood Platt Trophy.
It is an event with as long a history as the U.S. Open, this being the 118th renewal. And Wall joined a long, long list of impressive winners with an impressive performance of his own, holding off Mason in a match so good that not even 36 holes was enough to determine a winner.
Only 12 of the 37 holes were halved, only five of them in the afternoon. Wall kept running out to an advantage and Mason, the top amateur in Pennsylvania in 2011 and 2012 before turning pro and then having his amateur status reinstated, just kept battling back.
Mason never led, but he did have a putt for par to win the match on the 36th hole. If you told him before the match started that he would have that opportunity, I suspect he would have taken it.
“To win five matches is quite an accomplishment because all these players are so good,” Wall told the GAP website. “A 36-hole match is a marathon and you have to grind it out. It is so easy to let your mind get in front of you and start thinking about what you are going to say in a speech.
“It is a big win and I am looking forward to taking it into the rest of the summer. I am happy that my game is rounding into form.”
Mason evened the match with a conceded birdie at the par-5 17th, the 35th of the match, after needing just a 7-iron to reach the green in two.
Neither player could get it close on the par-4 finishing hole, each putting from 50 feet away, and neither could convert their par efforts.
Wall reached the par-4 first hole in regulation while Mason, bunkered off the tee, found a greenside bunker with his approach. When Mason couldn’t get his four-footer for par to fall, he conceded the par and the match to Wall.
Mason, a former standout with Brian Quinn’s Temple program, didn’t concede much to his talented opponent even though he was behind Wall right from the start.
Wall was 3-up while those following the match on Twitter were still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, winning the first with a birdie, the second with a par and third with a birdie.
Back in the days when Whitemarsh Valley was the home to a PGA Tour stop each year, the fourth hole was consistently ranked among the toughest par-3s the pros played all year. When the 29-year-old Mason made a brilliant birdie there to trim his deficit to 2-down, he let Wall know that this wasn’t going to be easy.
Twice in the morning round, Wall increased his lead to 4-up and twice Mason answered with wins to cut his deficit to 3-down. When Wall won with par on the par-3 16th, he restored that 4-up advantage for a third time and took it to lunch.
Not sure what Mason ordered, but it certainly seems to have hit the spot because he came roaring out of the gate in the afternoon, needing just six holes to completely wipe out his 4-down deficit.
Mason won the first two holes with birdies before Wall took the 21st with a birdie to restore a 3-up advantage. A bogey on the tough par-3 fourth, the 22nd of the match, was good enough for a win for Mason there and then he took the 23rd with a birdie and the 24th with a par and the match was even.
Wall won the 25th and 26th holes with pars to get back to 2-up before they halved the little par-3 ninth, the 27th of the match, with pars, the only hole on the front nine of the afternoon round to be halved. Whew.
Wall was 3-up after winning the 28th with a par, but Mason wasn’t finished by any means. He took the 29th with birdie, the 30th with par and the 31st with birdie and suddenly the match was even again.
Wall purposely bombed his drive on the 33rd hole into the adjacent third fairway, a little bit of strategy he discovered by accident with what he thought was a bad drive in his semifinal win over the RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve’s Marty McGuckin, then hit a 9-iron to six feet for a conceded birdie that gave him a 1-up lead with three to play. That set the stage for the drama to play out to its 37th-hole conclusion.
I discovered at the end of GAP’s coverage of the final match that next year’s BMW Philadelphia Amateur will be staged at Stonewall. Hey, I still have my yardage books from the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. Maybe I’ll be available for somebody who isn’t necessarily looking for the best Stonewall looper. Just sayin’.