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Sunday, May 29, 2011

A solid Senior PGA Championship debut

  Stu Ingraham, who plays out of the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, struggled a little on the weekend in his debut performance at the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., but still ended up being one of the top finishers among the 42 club pros who qualfied for the Champions Tour major.
   Ingraham was the low club pro after two rounds following a 2-under-par 70 Friday that gave him a 36-hole total of 1-under 143. It was a round he felt could have been even better. Only 12 of the club pros made the 36-hole cut.
   "It was the kind of round where if I had made anything within 10 feet, I would have been 5- to 6-under," said the 51-year-old Ingraham, a six-time Philadelphia Section PGA Player of the Year, of his second round.. "I got on the wrong side of the holes and was too conservative in my putting. I am happy I was able to post a good round and feel like I can keep it going."
  Ingraham had weekend rounds of 77 and 79 and finished at 11-over 299. He pocketed $3,917.
   Low club-pro honors went to Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., the reigning Senior Professional Player of the Year who was also making his Senior PGA debut. Skinner trailed Ingraham by two shots at the halfway point, but had rounds of 76 and 73 on the weekend to finish at 6-over 294.
    Gene Fieger, of the golfing Fiegers of Wallingford, is the director of golf at The Hideout in Naples, Fla. and was also making his Senior PGA debut. After making the cut at 3-over 147, Fieger had a pair of 78s on the weekend and finished at 15-over 303. Fieger earned $3,700.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stu mixing it up

    Stu Ingraham, the pro at M Golf Range and Learning Center in Newtown Square, has it under par and will make the cut at the Senior PGA Championship, which is being held at Valhalla Golf Club in wet Louisville, Ky.
   A three-time Philadelphia Section PGA Player of the Year, Ingraham had rounds of 73 and 70 to stand at 1-under 143 through two rounds at the 7,297-yard, par-72 layout. A number of players have to return to the course Saturday morning to complete their second rounds, but  Ingraham will certainly make the cut in his first start in this Champions Tour major.
   Kiyoshi Murota holds a commanding four-shot lead after rounds of 66 and 67. But Ingraham is only six shots out of second place as Nick Price and Hale Irwin are tied for second at 7-under.
   Ingraham tried to qualify for the Champions Tour two winters ago, but came up short. But he has been on the big stage before with six PGA Championship appearances and 17 PGA Professional National Championships (the event often referred to as the National Club Pro).
   The Philadelphia Section's other two representatives at Valhalla will not make the cut.
   Brian Kelly, the head pro at Bucknell G.C.had rounds of 75 and 78 for a 9-over 153 total and Radnor Valley C.C. head pro George Forster, who has been the dominat senior pro in the Philadelphia Section, posted rounds of 78 and 76 for an 11-over 155 total.
   Another name familiar to Delco golf enthusiasts, Gene Fieger, the one-time Nether Providence standout and Overbrook G.C. head pro, had rounds of 73 and 74 and his 3-over 147 total should have him playing on the weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tiger Woods to the Inter-Ac Tournament: A Golf Odyssey

   The planets aligned just so Tuesday and a summer breeze blew into Delco along with a certain 14-time major golf champion by the name of Tiger Woods. You may have heard of him.
   What made it a perfect day for somebody covering golf at the Daily Times, though, was that once the Woods press conference at Aronimink Golf Club was over, you could sneak down Goshen Road, hook a right at Providence and check out some of the best young talent in Delco at the Inter-Ac Tournament hosted by Malvern Prep at White Manor Country Club.
    OK, Tiger first. There was a Tiger transition going on right before our eyes at Aronimink as he hyped the second and final edition of the AT&T National at Aronimink, which concludes on the eve of the Fourth of July.
   It was an upbeat Tiger who greeted the media Tuesday. He doesn't think the sore knee and Achillies that chased him off the golf course at the TPC Sawgrass after nine holes of The Players Championship will keep him out of action for much longer.
    And yes, he still plans to be competitive in tournaments and majors.
    But he evoked names like Jay Haas and Ray Floyd and, of course, the great Jack Nicklaus as he talked about how he might start winning golf tournaments again.
   Woods seems to know he's no longer going to win by just bashing the golf course into submission.
   "I can't hit the ball, in relative terms, as far as the rest of the guys on the Tour can," Woods said. "It's a different ball game. A lot of it isn't even off the tee. You have guys that have 150 to the hole and they're hitting wedge in. Ten years ago, most guys needed 8-iron to hit it 150 yards.
   "But look at guys like Jay Haas and Ray Floyd, late in their careers. The would win tournaments because they could pick apart the golf course. They knew where you could hit and where you couldn't hit. Look at Jack, he was the longest of his generation, but he proved you could be long and still play a cerebral game. You can have a power game and still play a strong mental game."
   Imagine the most physically dominating golfer of all time turning into a cagey veteran. It might start to happen the next time you see him tee it up.
    And don't think for one second that he's not keeping track of major championships and where he stands as he tries to chase down the Golden Bear's record 18 major wins.
   "I've had what, 14 in 15 years," Woods said. "Jack got his 18 over 24 or 23years. It takes time and I still have plenty of time. And I still get excited about playing golf and playing in major championships."
   Hmm, a couple of majors between now and June 2013 and maybe Tiger will be taking aim at history when he arrives at Merion Golf Club for the U.S. Open. There's been a little history there, including Bobby Jones completing what passed for the Grand Slam in 1930 and Ben Hogam coming all the way back from nearly dying in a head-on crash with a bus to win the 1950 Open. 
   Or Tiger may still be desperately seeking that 15th major. It should be big doings in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township either way.
   Then it was off to White Manor to cover some kids who have known nothing except Tiger Woods being the best golfer their whole lives.
   Malvern Prep ninth-grader Michael Davis evoked memories of a Malvern star of the fairly recent past, Billy Stewart, as Davis birdied the last three holes at White Manor for a 2-under 69 and a six-shot victory.
   I got to watch Davis for a few holes as he played alongside Haverford School sophomore Scott Jaster and Episcopal sophomore Sean Fahey. On the back nine, I stuck with Haverford School ninth-grader Cole Berman, who was paired by Episcopal senior Bobby Svigals.
    It felt like summertime at White Manor and it looked like the games of all these kids were heating up just in time for the summer tournaments to come.
    As they gathered for the awards ceremony following the tournament, the Inter-Ac players were complimented by White Manor head pro Mark Levine for their behavior on the course.
    It was well-deserved as all the players I saw were on their best behavior. And, for the most part, they played pretty quickly. Nice players and nice kids with supportive coaches and a few moms and dads.
   Yeah, seeing Tiger Woods up close and personal is pretty interesting. But covering the Inter-Ac Tournament wasn't a bad way to spend the rest of a perfect day for golf.
Overbrook, Llanerch moving up
   I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Merion Golf Club's top team had won the Philadelphia Cup after taking the top tier of the Women's Golf Association of Philadelphia Team Matches.
   Well, the top teams at Overbrook G.C. and Llanerch C.C. had pretty nice springs as well and, as a result, will move up a notch when the 2012 Team Matches come around.
   After going 5-0 in the Fourth Cup, Overbrook blanked Riverton C.C.'s top team to move up to the Third Cup. Overbrook's lineup for the challenge match included Emily Endres, a state qualifier at Radnor who just completed her senior season at Lehigh, Mary Beth Schell, Kathy Wiley, Karen McFadden, Amy Renninger, Jamie Susanin, who will be a junior on the Radnor golf team in the fall, and Kate Loftus.
    Llanerch's top team went 5-0 to capture the Sixth Cup and then knocked off Gulph Mills G.C.'s second team to move up to the Fifth Cup. The Llanerch lineup for the challenge match included Mary Jo McWilliams, Carol Wlotko, Colleen Marsini, Arlene Del Pizzo, Judy McCormick, Kimberle Swanson and Theresa Liney.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's a Mac Attack

    The real definition of a true mid-amateur player is somone who might have to put the clubs away every once in a while because the demands of family and work are a little higher priority than hitting the little white ball around.
   Such was the case with Michael McDermott. And he's not just any mid-amateur. The Haverford High and Saint Joseph's University product is a five-time winner of the William Hyndman III Award that goes to the Golf Association of Philadelphia's Player of the Year.
   McDermott had been the best amateur player in the Philadelphia area for a decade when his name suddenly stopped showing up in GAP competitions a year ago.
   Well, he'll be back again when the first GAP major event of the year, the Middle-Amateur Championship, tees off Wednesday at Laurel Creek Country Club in Mount Laurel, N.J.
   "I just decided not to dedicate any time to golf last year, so it makes this year sort of interesting or exciting because I haven't played in tournaments in 18 months," the 2008 GAP Mid-Am champion told the GAP website. "My time (last year) was best spent not even worrying about golf. It was a great move. This year, I feel like I can give it a good effort because guys like (defending Mid-Am champ Tom) Gramigna, (2009 Mid-Am champion Michael) Brown and (Jeff) Osberg are really playing great golf. I've been watching them closely over the past year, even though I haven't been playing myself."
   McDermott captained the Merion G.C. team that reached the playoff round in the top tier of the GAP Team Matches and actually ran into Osberg, a member at Llanerch C.C., in a key match that pitted McDermott's new club against his old stomping grounds at Llanerch, where the rest of his family still plays.
   Don't expect that the absence from competition will have hurt McDermott's game much. He says he feels "pretty good" about his game. If anything, being away from tournament golf may serve to restoke the competitive fires.
   "I historically thought I played better in competition than in social rounds, but that was because I played a lot of competition," McDermott said. "Now that I've taken time off, that'll certainly be tested. Hopefully, I wake up on the right side of the bed and I have a swing amd a putting stroke. I don't think one year off is going to have a dramatic impact."
A near miss for Purdue
    Caught up with PIAA girls champion Aurora Kan of Chichester at the Delco Athletes Hall of Fame scholarship awards luncheon Thursday and she indicated she'd be rooting for Purdue, where Kan is headed in the fall, as the Boilermakers tried to repeat as the NCAA champions this weekend at The Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.
    And Purdue, which became the first "cold-weather" college to win an NCAA golf title a year ago, almost pulled it off.
    After a just-good-enough-to-qualfy effort at the regionals, Purdue turned on the switch at the NCAA Tournament in finishing second to UCLA when all the shots were counted Saturday.
   The final tally had Purdue four shots behind. The margin would have been only two shots, but Purdue's Thea Hoffmeister was disqualified for signing for a score lower than her 75. Purdue had to use Maude-Aimeer LeBlanc's 77. The mistake didn't cost Purdue the title and it didn't affect the Boilers' second-place standing, but coach Devon Brouse hopes the lesson is learned.
   "We shouldn't have to teach that lesson many more times, because if you do that at the NCAA championship the last round, it obvisouly has consequences," Brouse told The Associated Press.
   Purdue was led by Laura Gonzalez, who finished third in the individual chase with a 286 total, five shots back of LSU freshman Austin Ernst, who claimed the title. Purdue's Numa Gulyanamitta finished in a tie for eighth at 289.
   Tiffany Lua finished in a tie for fourth at 287 to lead the way for UCLA.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Billy the Kid still firing

   It's been nine years since Billy Stewart, then a member at Llanerch Country Club, became the youngest player in more than a half century to win the Golf Association of Philadelphia's Amateur Championship. The ink was barely dry on Stewart's Malvern Prep diploma when he blitzed John Robinson of Commonwealth, 8 and 7, in the scheduled 36-hole final.
    Well, Stewart, who continues to play the mini-tours as a professional, was back in the area Thursday and grabbed one of the seven berths available in a local U.S. Open qualifying event held at Applebrook Country Club in East Goshen, Chester County.
   Stewart matched par at the 6,799-yard, par-71 Applebrook layout and then survived a three-for-one playoff for the final spot. Stewart now moves on to a 36-hole sectional qualifying tournament of his choice in the second step of the process that makes the U.S. Open truly "Open." The 2011 edition of the National Open will be held June 16 to 19 at Congressional C.C. in Bethesda, Md.
   The co-medalists, both of whom carded 4-under 67s, were Gary Carpenter Jr., a 36-year-old amateur who lives in Maryland not far from Congressional, and Marcello Santi, a native of Italy whose long and winding golf career includes 11 years on the European Tour and his current gig as a project manager for a golf-course development firm.
    Several familiar names took their U.S. Open shot at Applebrook and came up short.
   Braden Shattuck, who is about to finish his junior year at Sun Valley, fired an outstanding 2-over 73 to miss out on the playoff by just two shots. Shattuck has been one of the county's top scholastic players the last two falls, but hasn't been able to get over the hump in the postseason. Clearly, Shattuck has his game in good shape as the summer approaches.
    Also at 2-over 73 was Stephen Seiden, the Strath Haven All-Delco who started playing under the Llanerch banner last year after previously playing out of Concord C.C.
   James Kania Jr., the 2005-06 Daily Times Player of the Year as a junior at The Haverford School, was another shot back at 3-over 74 as was Adam Cohan, the 2002 PIAA champion and three-time Daily Times Player of the Year at Radnor. Kania's younger brother Michael advanced in Open qualifying earlier in the week at Hidden Creek G.C. near the Jersey Shore. The Kanias both play out of the links powerhouse that is Overbrook G.C.
Elliott leads the way at Merion
   This time last year, Catherine Elliott, the former Notre Dame standout, was teeing it up with the Penn Quakers at the NCAA regionals at Stanford.
   Last week Elliott was holding down the No. 1 position on Merion Golf Club's top team in the Women's Golf Assocation of Philadelphia Inter-Club Team Matches as Merion clinched the Philadelphia Cup title with a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia Cricket Club that completed a 5-0 sweep through the top tier of the annual team matches.
   Elliott, who reached the semifinals of the Women's Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur Championship and fell in the Pennsylvania Women's Amateur final to Chichester senior Aurora Kan while playing some excellent golf in the summer of 2010, edged the Cricket Club's top gun, Kelly Rutan, 1-up.
   Other winners for Merion included Nancy Porter, Kim Simmons, Katie Sibel and Vinny West. Porter is the daughter of Dorothy Porter, winner of the 1949 U.S. Women's Amateur at Merion. Rounding out the powerhouse Merion lineup in Tuesday's final match were Liz Haines, one of the top amateur players in the Philadelphia area for many years, and Loraine Jones, who was known as Loraine Connolly when she was a PIAA Tournament qualifier at Haverford High.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A first step to Congressional

   Michael Kania had a strong finish to his sophomore season at Villanova and his sharp play carried over at U.S. Open qualifying Tuesday at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
   Kania, the two-time Haverford School All-Delco and Overbrook G.C. member, matched par at the 7,015-yard, par-72 Hidden Creek layout to earn one of the four coveted spots in sectional U.S. Open qualifying next month. The ultimate goal is a spot in the U.S. Open, which will be played June 16-19 at Congressional C.C. in Bethesda, Md.
   Christopher Gold, a former University of Maryland product who is playing the Hooters Mini-Tour, grabbbed the qualifying medal wtih a 2-under 70. Gold is a native of Haddonfield, N.J. and was a Golf Association of Philadelphia standout in his amateur days at Little Mill C.C.
   Christopher Gray, an assistant pro at Old York C.C. at Chesterfield, was another shot back at 1-under 71. Kania, the 2010 runnerup at the GAP Amateur Championship, shared third place with Jordan Gibbs of Princeton, N.J. at even-par 72. Kania's Villanova teammate and GAP rival since their junior days, Robert Galbreath Jr., posted a 2-over 74 and lost out in a playoff for the second alternate spot in sectional qualifying.
    Another local qualifier for the Open is scheduled for Thursday at Applebrook G.C. in East Goshen, Chester County. Michael Kania's older brother James, winner of the the 2009 William Hyndman Award that goes to the GAP Player of the Year, Cory Siegfried, a teammate of the Kanias at Haverford School, and Adam Cohan, a three-time Daily Times Player of the Year in his high school days at Radnor, are among the names appearing on the list of tee times at Applebrook.
Little Mill crowned the champion
   The Little Mill C.C. team played big in capturing the Golf Association of Philadelphia's Team Matches Division AA crown Saturday for the first time since the Medford, N.J. club joined the GAP family in 1985.
   And it wasn't really close. Players from all four clubs involved -- Little Mill, perennial Team Matches powers Merion G.C. and Tavistock C.C. and Fox Hill C.C. -- teed it up at each course. Little Mill finished with 75 points with Tavistock finishing second with 48 points, Merion in third with 47 and Fox Hill another point back in fourth with 46 points.
   Particularly impressive was the play of Little Mill newcomer Benjamin Smith. He teed it up at Merion's famed East Course, which will play host to the U.S. Open for the fifth time in 2013, and pulled out of the driveway on Ardmore Avenue with nine points added to the Little Mille cause.
    Merion had earned its spot in the Division AA final four with a hard-fought victory over Llanerch C.C. May 1. That match featured a heavyweight showdown between Merion captain Michael McDermott, who grew up playing at Llanerch, and a talented addition to the Llanerch roster in Jeff Osberg. McDermott used his local knowledge at Llanerch to get the best of Osberg and propel Merion to last Saturday's Division AA playoffs.