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Friday, November 25, 2011

Royal Melbourne and other stars of the Presidents Cup

  Even the most ardent golf fans might have had a hard time figuring exactly what day it was if they were trying to follow the Presidents Cup from Down Under last weekend.
   It was a little easier for us second-shifters. I caught the U.S. squad clinching the Cup when Tiger Woods defeated Aaron Baddeley in their singles match around 1 a.m. Sunday morning.
    A couple of interesting angles emerged from the convincing 19-15 victory for the U.S. over a talented International team that featured five homestanding Aussies playing under the most famous Australian of all, captain Greg Norman.
    The Royal Melbourne course itself was really a neat track, even just watching it on TV. I’m not up on the whole back story of how Alister MacKenzie, the architect of Augusta National, came to design a course on a subcontinent several thousand miles away from Augusta, Georgia, but the guy somehow managed to design two courses that totally work on television.  And that’s pretty odd since television was still an idea in somebody’s head when McKenzie, who died in January 1934, was doing his design work.
   Another interesting angle from the Presidents Cup was the U.S. domination of the foursome sessions, which feature an alternate-shot format.
   The prevailing theory was that the U.S. has really learned how to play that format since, between the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, U.S. players are faced with it more often than their opponents.
   Give some credit too, to Freddie Couples, the U.S. captain. He kept saying he wasn’t feeling as laid-back as he looked, but while he was being typically cool Freddie, he also put together some really nice teams, most notably the Bubba Watson-Webb Simpson and Jim Furyk-Phil Mickelson duos.
   Of course, everybody was interested in how Tiger looked. Couples had made Woods a captain’s pick long before he officially had to and got a lot of criticism for doing so since Tiger wasn’t playing particularly well when Couples made the pick. Still, Freddie’s logic — "He’s been the best player in the world since forever." — was difficult to argue with.
   Well, after getting waxed while teaming with Steve Stricker in his opening match, there were flashes of the old Tiger, especially the six birdies in he made against Baddeley. It’s not Couples’ style to pat himself on the back, but he could’ve thrown around a few I-told-you-sos when Tiger got the Cup-clinching point.
   And anybody who was tromping around Aronimink Golf Club for the final round of the AT&T National on the eve of the Fourth of July last summer might have had a flashback if he or she saw Nick Watney squaring off with K.J. Choi in Presidents Cup singles play.
   And guess what, just as he did on a Fourth of July weekend in Delaware County, Watney gutted out a hard-fought victory over the steady South Korean.
Stu comes up short
   Stu Ingraham, the pro at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, took another stab at the Champions Tour Qualifying School and again came up a little short.
   It’s a measure of how competitive the over-50 circuit is when Ingraham cards rounds of 71, 70, 69 and 73 at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz. and still lands five shots out the top-30 finish needed just to be among the group that can play in qualifying rounds for Champions Tour events.
   Only six players earned full exemptions to the Champions Tour, but the rest of the top 30 and ties earned at least a shot to get into some events.
Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour
   The Philadelphia Junior Tour made one last stop in 2011 with an event Nov. 12 at Paxon Hollow Country Club in Marple Township and several of the top Central League players in the recently completed scholastic season had strong showings.
Marple Newtown sophomore Sam Soeth led the Delco contingent with a 6-over 77 over the 5,417-yard, par-72 Paxon Hollow layout that left him in third place in the 16-to-18 age group.
   Soeth, an All-Delco as a freshman, is putting a disappointing scholastic postseason behind him. Soeth hit the ground running early in the scholastic season as his strong summer carried over, but he struggled in the District One Tournament at Turtle Creek Golf Club and failed to earn a trip to the East Region Tournament.
   Strath Haven junior Jared Brown finished fourth in the age group with an 80 that left him three shots back of Soeth. Springfield junior Kyle Hakun was another shot back in fifth with an 81 and Penncrest senior Ryan Smith ended up in a tie for 13th with an 84.
   Garnet Valley’s Caelean Butler finished 12th with an 87 and Ryan Claypole, a Glen Mills resident, finished 18th with a 94.
   In the 16-to-18 division, Robert Oleski III of Wayne finished in a tie for fifth with a 94, Alec Kerr of Broomall finished eighth with a 92, Stephen McAlee of Media finished 11th with a 102, Cody Terrion of Newtown Square finished 12th with a 103 and Bobby Thompson of Broomall finished 13th with a 109.
   Among the nine-holers, John Updike of Wayne finished third with a 45, Kevin Smith of Wallingford finished in a tie for fifth with a 49, Caprian Kan of Boothwyn finished in a tie for seventh with a 50 and Bennett Steinbach of Media finished 12th with a 69.
Wrapping up the college scene
   The Villanova golf team completed a solid fall campaign last month when the Wildcats finished in a tie for 12th at the Bank of Tennessee Invitational.
   Villanova was led by senior Brian Colbert, who had rounds of 78, 73 and 72 over the 7,147-yard, par-72 Blackthorn Golf Club layout in Jonesborough, Tenn., for a 223 total that left him in a tie for 25th.
   Michael Kania, the two-time Haverford School All-Delco and two-time Inter-Ac League champion, was another two shots back of Colbert in a tie for 33rd with rounds of 72, 75 and 78 and a 225 total.
   The Wildcats hope to build on the momentum they gained this fall when play resumes next year. Villanova had a big spring in 2010, capped by a third-place finish at the Big East Tournament.
   On the women’s side, The Citadel sophomore Erica Pellegrini, a two-time Garnet Valley All-Delco, finished off a strong fall campaign by finishing in a tie for 32nd at the Palmetto Invitational at Oak Point Golf Course in Kiawah Island, S.C.
Pellegrini had rounds of 74, 75 and 78 for a 227 total as she led The Citadel to a 17th-place finish in the 18-team field with a 956 total.
   Another Delco player, Bucknell sophomore Lauren Bernard, the former Notre Dame standout who captured the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur championship last summer, also teed it up at Oak Point and finished in a tie for 62nd with rounds of 79, 82, and 76 for a 237 total. The Bison finished six shots ahead of Pellegrini’s Citadel squad in 16th place at 950.
   Pellegrini and The Citadel will make their way back to Kiawah Island when their season resumes in February at a tournament hosted by the College of Charleston.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kan, Calamaro have strong fall finishes

 To the surprise of absolutely no one who followed their scholastic golf careers, Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion at Chichester, and Jackie Calamaro, the 2009 PIAA champion at Radnor, finished their fall campaigns in the Big 10 on a strong note in the last couple of days.
   Kan, a freshman at Purdue, helped the Boilermakers claim their first title of the fall in their final event of the first half of the season at the Landfall Tradition, which was completed Sunday at the Country Club of Landfall’s Jack Nicklaus Course in Wilmington, N.C.
   Purdue was led by junior Paula Reto, a native of South Africa, who claimed the first individual title of her career with a 2-over 218 total. Reto had rounds of 71, 77 and 70, which enabled the Boilermakers to post a 904 total and cruise to a 14-shot victory over Auburn.
   Purdue’s international cast included junior Laura Gonzalez-Escallon from Belgium, who finished in a tie for seventh with rounds of 76, 73 and 76 and junior Jam Vilairatana of Thailand, who carded a career-low 73 in the final round to finish in a tie for 24th at 232.
   Kan, the 2010 Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion, was next for the Boilermakers with steady rounds of 79, 78 and 78 for a 235 total that left her in a tie for 34th. Rounding out the scoring for Purdue was junior Kishi Sina, who had a 237 total and finished in a tie for 45th.
  Purdue returns to action at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic Feb. 12 to 14 in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
   Calamaro, who is a redshirt freshman at Illinois after undergoing hip surgery, earned a spot in the lineup for the Fighting Illini after a strong showing in the recent Hoosier Fall Invitational (check last week’s blog post for the full story on that).
   Illinois earned its second straight runnerup finish at the Fighting Camel Fall Classic, which was completed Tuesday in Blues Creek, N.C. Weather delays forced a 27-hole windup Tuesday.
   Senior Samantha Sloan led the way with rounds of 78, 74 and 77 for a 13-over 229 total that gave her a fifth-place finish. That enabled the Fighting Illini to post a 923 total that left them second to tournament host Campbell by 21 shots.
   Calamaro, a two-time Pennsylvania Junior Girls champion, was Illinois’ second-lowest scorer with rounds of 80, 74 and 77 that left her in a tie for sixth.
   Rounding out the scoring for Illinois were senior Hailey Koschmann and sophomore Ember Schuldt, who finished tied for 14th at 235, and senior Katelin Dilger (238, 24th) as all five players earned top-25 finishes.
   It was also the final event of the fall season for the Fighting Illini. They will get back in action Feb. 4 in Boca Raton, Fla. in the Illinois Challenge, a dual-match competition with in-state rival Illinois State, albeit in warmer climes that they would find in Illinois in February.