LOWER MORELAND – It’s been three years since a Penn Charter freshman, a coaches’ pick, won the Bert Linton Inter-Ac League Championship.
His name was Brian Isztwan and he outlasted a typically strong field of Inter-Ac standouts in terrible weather at Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Militia Hill Course.
Thursday a Penn Charter freshman, a coaches’ pick, carded a 5-over-par 75 on a Huntingdon Valley Country Club layout that was just really difficult, fast and firm with some gusty winds early in the day that made club selection a guessing game and some pin placements that made it tough to get the ball close to the hole
His name is Patrick Isztwan. Huntingdon Valley is Patrick Isztwan’s home course, but that doesn’t change the fact that he had the patience to grind out a birdie-less 5-over-par round on a golf course that had most of the field, including Patrick’s big brother Brian, a senior, shaking their heads. And like his big brother three years ago, Patrick Isztwan is the Bert Linton Inter-Ac League champion.
Patrick Isztwan had a really nice Inter-Ac League regular season going through the first four of the six mini-tournaments that make up the schedule. He was fourth on the points list that determines the league’s top regular-season player. But a 46 at Bluestone Country Club and a 45 at Merion Golf Club’s West Course Monday dropped him back to 19th in the final standings.
But his play throughout the season made him an easy choice as a coaches’ pick.
“I feel like I redeemed myself a little after the last two invitationals,” Patrick Isztwan said after edging The Haverford School’s Charlie Baker by a shot.
The field started on the back nine of the challenging 6,786-yard, par-70 William Flynn design and Patrick Isztwan made bogeys on 12, 17 and 18 to make the turn at 3-over 38. He added bogeys at two and six on the front nine.
“lt was pretty hard out there,” Patrick Isztwan said. “The greens were really slick and the wind, especially early, made it tough. I think it’s the hardest it’s played all year.”
Isztwan was in the second group off of the eight threesomes that made up the elite field. There were reports around the golf course about where everybody stood. Isztwan had figured out that nobody was going to go real low on this golf course on this day.
He fell back to 5-over with the bogey at six, but he still had tough finishing stretch with seven, eight and nine to contend with.
“I didn’t want to know where I stood,” Patrick Isztwan said. “It’s not like I started the day thinking I could win. It was a very good field.”
But he parred out on the last three and then waited to see if it would hold up.
Several players still out on the course seemed to have a chance to catch him, including Malvern Prep juniors Andrew Curran and John Updike, the 2016 Pennsylvania Junior Boys’ champion. But late bogeys kept stopping the momentum of any of Isztwan’s challengers.
Only Baker could get as close as one shot to Patrick Isztwan. Battling back after opening up with a 5-over 40 on the back nine at Huntingdon Valley, Baker toured the front in 1-over 36, but couldn’t quite catch Isztwan.
Baker had carded a 1-under 34 on the front nine at Merion West Monday to lead the Fords to a team win in the final invitational of the season that returned the Inter-Ac team trophy to Lancaster Avenue for the first time in three years.
Malvern Prep’s senior captain, Matt Davis, matched par on the front nine with a 35, but it was too little, too late after a 42 on the back. Davis’ 7-over 77 was matched by his teammate Updike, but Davis received the third-place plaque in a match of cards. The front-nine 35 gave him the tiebreaker edge.
Malvern Prep’s Matt Civitella posted a 78 to finish alone in fifth, a shot behind his teammates Davis and Updike.
Malvern Prep’s Curran, Episcopal Academy’s Cole Kemmerer and Justin Hershey, and Haverford School’s A.J. Aivazoglou were another shot behind Civitella in a tie for sixth at 79.
No one else broke 80. Haverford School’s David Hurly, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Justin Dougherty and Episcopal’s Jon Nolan Perry finished tied for 10th at 81. Haverford School’s Peter Garno was alone in 15th with an 84.
Haverford School’s Mac Costin and Tyler Roland and Episcopal’s Robbie Copit finished tied for 16th at 85, Penn Charter’s Noah Schwartz finished 19th with an 86 and Germantown Academy’s Nick Schnur was 20th with an 87.
It wasn’t quite the finishing act Brian Isztwan envisioned as he finished tied for 21st with Haverford School’s Cal Buonocore, each posting an 88.
But he did pick up some hardware after winning the individual points race during the regular season for the second year in a row, the first player since the points format was adopted with the Inter-Ac’s switch to the fall in 2011 to win the title twice, let alone repeat.
Brian Isztwan was the runnerup to Temple freshman Dawson Anders in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Boys’ Championship with Patrick on the bag, finished tied for fifth in GAP’s Christman Cup at Stonewall’s North Course despite having an old guy on the bag, and was the runnerup in the AJGA’s Philadelphia Junior at Huntingdon Valley.
Last week he was one of just 25 junior standouts named to the AJGA Transamerica Scholastic Junior All-America team, which earns him a spot in the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions at the PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion and Fazio Courses in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. next month. I tacked some of the qualifications for that award on to the post earlier this week about Haverford School’s clinching win at Merion West.
It was one bad day in a very good year.
And Patrick’s victory made it a clean sweep of the Inter-Ac’s individual titles for Team Isztwan.
By the way, I was only second-best former sportswriter on the grounds at Huntingdon Valley Thursday. The great Ted Silary, who covered high school sports for the Philadelphia Daily News better than anyone ever has anywhere, was picking up some material for his high school sports website, TedSilary.com, that most writers who cover high school sports in the Philadelphia area consult regularly to check on historical facts for the Inter-Ac and the Philadelphia Catholic League over the last 40 years or so.