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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Wall finally finishes off Mason on 37th hole to claim BMW Philadelphia Amateur crown


   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’.







Saturday, June 16, 2018

Smith, Kiel the overall winners in Precision Pro Golf Open event at Hickory Valley


   Kevin Smith has been one of the best players in the Central League in the regular-season dual matches in his first two seasons at Strath Haven.
   But that has not really translated to postseason success as Smith has been unable to get past the District One Class AAA Championship. But Smith has shown signs this spring that he’s taken his game up a notch.
   It happened again at this week’s Precision Pro Golf Open, a 36-hole Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour test at Hickory Valley Golf Club’s twin courses in New Hanover Township. Smith fired a solid 2-over-par  73 over Hickory Valley’s challenging 6,611-yard, par-71 Presidential Course Friday for a two-day total of 6-over 148 that gave him a four-shot margin over a strong field.
   Smith had posted a 4-over 75 over Hickory Valley’s 6,309-yard, par-71 Ambassador Course in Thursday’s opening round. The Ambassador is shorter and often plays a little easier than the Presidential, but Thursday’s persistent breezes clearly sent the scores higher.
   In addition to the usual Junior Tour age divisions, the Precision Pro Golf event also offered American Junior Golf Association points in an overall 13-to-18 division for the boys and girls.
   Smith was the overall boys winner and topped the 16-to-18 division with his outstanding two-day effort. Earlier this spring, Smith nearly advanced out of a local U.S. Open qualifier at Hidden Creek Golf Club, losing in a playoff for the final spot in sectional qualifying.
   Smith had two birdies in each round at Hickory Valley and a did a good job handling the conditions, particularly during Thursday’s windy opening round when his 75 gave him a one-shot lead. And he did a nice of playing with the lead in Friday’s final round.
   The older guys dominated the overall scoring with the top nine from the 16-to-18 division accounting for the top nine overall finishers.
   Cole Shew of West Chester was the runnerup as he matched Smith’s 2-over 73 Friday at the Presidential Course after opening with a 79 for a 10-over 152 total.
   Christopher Skean of Kennett Square, Stephen Lorenzo of Lower Gwynedd and Hunter King of Atglen shared third, each landing a shot behind Shew at 153. Skean added a 3-over 74 to his opening-round 78, Lorenzo was one shot better on Day 2 with a 76 after opening with a 77 and King matched Lorenzo’s effort, adding a 76 to his opening-round 77.
   Connor Bennink, who capped his junior season at Unionville last fall by helping the Indians capture the PIAA Class AAA team championship, finished alone in sixth at 156 with a pair of 78s. Bennink also finished tied for fifth in the Class AAA individual competition in the state championship at the Heritage Hills Resort.
   Nathan Pierce of Limerick finished seventh, adding an 80 to his opening-round 77 for a 157 total. Matthew Lofland of Blue Bell carded an 80 at the Ambassador Course and bounced back with a 78 at the Presidential Course to finish alone in eighth at 158.
   John Wang of Wilmington, Del. added an 81 to his opening-round 78 to finish ninth at 159. Alec Ryden of Moorestown, N.J. rounded out the top 10 in the division with a 161 total after adding an 82 to his opening-round 79.
   Ryan McCabe, who captured the District One Class AA individual title as a freshman at Devon Prep last fall, and Jack Davis of Newtown Square both ended up with 160 totals, but a scorecard playoff gave McCabe the 13-to-15 title.
   McCabe carded a 78 on the Presidential Course in Friday’s final round after opening up with an 82 at the  Ambassador Course. Davis had a solid 4-over 75 on Day 2 after struggling to an 85 in Thursday’s windy conditions.
   McCabe and Davis were the only players from the 13-to-15 division to sneak into the overall top 10 as they finished tied for 10th.
   Nicholas Ciocca of Devon was a shot behind them in third place at 161 after adding an 82 to his opening-round 79. Garnet Valley junior Jacob Sokolsky was a shot behind Ciocca in fourth at 162 as he improved off an opening-round 83 with a 79 in Friday’s second round.
   Jack Reid of Medford, N.J. posted a solid 78 on Day 2 at the Presidential Course after opening with an 85 on the Ambassador Course and finished fifth at 163. Win Thomas of Unionville finished alone in sixth with rounds of 84 and 82 for a 166 total.
   Christopher Buysse of Paoli was a shot behind Thomas in seventh at 167 as he added an 85 to his opening-round 82. Keller Mulhern of Exton finished eighth at 169 as he bounced back nicely from an opening-round 90 with a 79 in Friday’s second round.
   Haverford School sophomore Chase Cohen finished alone in ninth at 171 after adding an 83 to his opening-round 88.
   Rounding out the top 10 in the 13-to-15 division were Stephen Butler of Telford and Jack Fialko of Berwyn, both of whom landed on 172. Butler added an 87 to his opening-round 85 while Fialko opened with an 84 and finished up with an 88.
   Among the girls, the overall 13-to-18 winner emerged from the younger group with Natasha Kiel of New Hope, much like Smith did, going wire-to-wire while posting an 18-over 160 total.
   Kiel built some momentum on the back nine of Thursday’s opening round at the Ambassador Course as she birdied 11 and 15 on her way to a 37 on the incoming nine. That enabled Kiel to post an 81 and then she added a 79 on the Presidential Course to finish 10 shots clear of the rest of the girls.
   Eden Richmond of Princeton, N.J. added an 80 to her opening-round 89 and was the runnerup to Kiel in the 13-to-15 division and overall with a 169 total.
   Kathleen Mark, who helped Episcopal Academy claim the Inter-Ac League title in her freshman season this spring, finished third in the 13-to-15 division and fifth overall at 179. Mark opened with a 91 and added an 88 in Friday’s final round.
   Ava O’Sullivan of Exton finished fourth in the division and sixth overall as she added an 85 to her opening-round 95 for a 180 total.
   Rounding out the 13-to-15 division were Bethany Julias (118-107) of Schwenskville in fifth at 225 and Carolina Gola (121-105) of North Wales in sixth at 226.
   Olivia Wirsching, who has been part of two District One Class AAA championship teams at Mount St. Joseph in her first two seasons with the Mount, claimed top honors in the 16-to-18 division and was third overall at 170. After struggling to a 94 in the opening round, Wirsching’s 5-over 76 in Friday’s second round was the best score among the girls over the Presidential Course.
   Maya Torpey of Malvern was five shots behind Wirsching in second in the division and was fourth overall at 175. Torpey rattled off three straight pars on 15, 16 and 17 on her way to an opening-round 91 and came back with an 84 in Friday’s final round.
   Peyton Kraras of Wyomissing finished third in the division and seventh overall as she added a 91 to her opening-round 97 for a 188 total. Alyson Rentschler of Hamburg was two shots behind Kraras in fourth at 190 as she posted a pair of 95s.
   Rounding out the 16-to-18 division in fifth at 219 was Helen Shaw of Harleysville, who improved by 21 shots from her opening-round 120 with a 99 in Friday’s final round.
   Hunter Probst of Bear Creek was the winner among the nine-holers with an 86 total. Probst birdied the 16th hole on his way to a solid 38 in Friday’s second round after opening up with a 48.
   Joseph Mancini of Philadelphia was the runnerup as he carded rounds of 64 and 63 for a 127 total.
   The Precision Pro Golf Open also included a college women’s division and Emily McGarrigle of Wernersville held off a charge by Georgia Naples of West Chester to capture the 17-to-24 age group.
   McGarrigle led Naples by 11 after carding an 83 in Thursday’s windy conditions over the Ambassador Course and added a 91 for a 174 total. Naples struggled to a 94 in the opening round, but bounced back with an 84 to finish four shots behind McGarrigle at 178. McGarrigle and Naples both birdied the 17th hole on their way back to the clubhouse Friday.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mason, Wall will battle it out for BMW Philadelphia Amateur title


   Now that Andrew Mason has resumed his amateur career, it seems to be a good time to fill in one of the few missing items on his local amateur resume.
   After surviving a 21-hole marathon with Aronimink Golf Club’s Michael Davis in Thursday morning’s quarterfinals, Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Mason claimed a 3 and 2 victory over Spring-Ford Country Club’s Ryan Tall, a recent Conestoga High graduate, to reach the final of the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club.
   Mason’s opponent in Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final at the 6,789-yard, par-72 Whitemarsh Valley layout will be Manasquan River Golf Club’s Jeremy Wall, who recently completed his college career at Loyola of Maryland.
   Wall absolutely dismantled the reigning Philadelphia Open and Met Amateur champion Michael Mattare of Saucon Valley Country Club in a stunner of an 8 and 7 victory in the quarterfinals before getting past Marty McGuckin, a former Malvern Prep standout out of RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve, with a 4 and 3 decision in the semifinals.
   Mason, a former Temple standout, was the best amateur golfer in Pennsylvania in 2011 and 2012. He won back-to-back Philadelphia Open and Pennsylvania Amateur crowns in those two years and threw in a Patterson Cup victory as well in 2011 when he was the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s William Hyndman III Player of the Year.
   Mason decided to turn pro and well, you know, it is a measure of how difficult the professional golf thing is that a guy as good as Mason can’t quite make it happen. The 29-year-old Mason regained his amateur status last year and here he is, battling for a chance to add his name to the J. Wood Platt Trophy.
   “I wasn’t expecting to be here by any stretch of the imagination,” Mason told the GAP website. “It’s been fun. There have been a few other Huntingdon Valley members to have won it here and some other great players to win at Whitemarsh, like Michael McDermott.  It would be nice to add my name to that list.”
   There is always at least one match in the wild and crazy four-matches-in-two-days Philly Am schedule like the one Mason survived against Davis, the 2015 Philly Am runnerup to his Inter-Ac League rival Cole Berman at Llanerch Country Club who recently completed an outstanding career at Princeton.
   Seven springs ago I was at White Manor Country Club for the last Bert Linton Inter-Ac League Championship held in the spring and Davis, a freshman at Malvern Prep, birdied the last three holes to capture the title. He’s always been a good player.
   Davis was 2-down to Mason with three holes to play when he rolled in a long birdie putt at 16 and took a conceded birdie at 17 when Mason made a bit of a mess of the hole.
   The match went to the 21st hole when neither player drove it well. But Mason ultimately got the job done with an approach to six feet and a par putt that won the hole. Survive and advance. It’s the name of the game in the Philadelphia Amateur.
   There is nothing worse in match play than to catch a good player who gets on a roll. Such was the fate of Mattare, the reigning GAP William Hyndman III Player of the Year. Wall holed out from a greenside bunker for birdie on the second hole and went off.
   He birdied the next two holes and the ninth and it was over by 11th hole. Wall was 4-under through 11.
   Mason’s surprise semifinal opponent was Tall, who won the Central League title as a junior and finished third at Turtle Creek last fall. Tall, who is headed for Lafayette, cruised to a 5 and 4 win over Peter Barron III of Greate Bay Country Club in his morning quarterfinal match.
   Mason took control of the match by winning seven, eight and 10 with pars to take a 3-up lead. Tall battled back by winning the par-5 11th with a birdie, but Mason restored his 3-up lead by taking the par-3 12th with a par.
   It was really a tremendous showing for Tall and a testament to the outstanding junior program that  head pro Rich Steinmetz has going at Spring-Ford.
   There was another Bert Linton Inter-Ac League champion from Malvern Prep in the final eight in McGuckin, who won the title as a senior in the fall of 2015. He battled past Drexel golf coach Ben Feld, another Huntingdon Valley guy, 2 and 1, to earn a semifinal meeting with Wall.
   Wall’s younger brother Jack, the last of the four Wall brothers to star at Christian Brothers Academy in Monmouth County, made some noise this spring by finishing just two shots shy of a trip to the U.S. Open in a strong showing in the sectional qualifier at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J. Jack Wall, who still has a year of high school left, has committed to play college golf at South Carolina.
   But it turned out that U.S. Open week belonged to big brother Jeremy and McGuckin couldn’t quite cool him off in their semifinal match.
   Wall had a 2-up lead after they halved the seventh with bogeys. Wall then ripped off eight straight pars, the last at the 15th to finish off his 4 and 3 victory.