As the 2013 U.S. Open approaches (the countdown is at 37 days until the best players in the world tee off at Merion Golf Club’s East Course), I’ve often thought of Chris Lange, the veteran Overbrook Golf Club standout who is the only player in the 117-year history of the Golf Association of Philadelphia to have won all four of its major championships (Amateur, Mid-Amateur, Open and Patterson Cup).
A whole bunch of local college players, including three-time Daily Times Player of the Year Adam Cohan of Radnor, and, in the case of Malvern Prep’s Cole Wilcox, a high school player, earned berths in the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion.
The one exception was Lange, who is the same age as me, which means he turned 50 that year. They gathered all the local qualifiers at Merion for Media Day and I’ll always remember the impassioned plea Lange made to bring the Open back to Merion.
He said when he was driving in the neighborhood of the East Course, he would often take a detour down Golf House Road and admire the 14th and 15th holes that border the road, just because he loved the course so much.
“Give Merion its Open,” Lange said that day. I guess somebody was listening.
Lange came to mind with news last week that he took his game out of mothballs and fired a 1-under 70 at White Manor Country Club to capture GAP’s Warner Cup (gross) event. The victory came on the heels of a 2012 campaign during which Lange kept the sticks in the shop for most of the year, citing a bit of golf burnout.
“I’ve been chasing tournaments for 50 years,” the 58-year-old Lange told the GAP website. “It’s nice to shoot a good score in competition. This was a surprising round. I haven’t been playing that well. I have an ear infection, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to come out and get it in.
“You feel OK once you start making birdies. It puts a different perspective on things. Today I had two thoughts that worked: A thought with the long game and a thought with putting and I was like a different guy out there. My rolodex is getting very long.”
Birdies on the third, sixth and seventh holes enabled Lange to make the turn in 32. He struggled a little on the inward nine, but when a six-foot par putt hung on the lip and then tumbled in, he completed his tour of the 6,626-yard, par-71 White Manor layout under par.
Another of Overbrook’s stable of senior standouts, Ray Thompson, finished in a tie for third with a 2-over 73.
Mike Owsik, proprietor of the M Golf Range in Newtown Square (and a fellow Class of ’73 Archbishop Carroll product of mine), was at 78. Merion’s Gordon Jamieson and Aronomink Golf Club’s Martin Klagholz were at 78 and Edgmont Country Club’s Michael Quinn was at 79.
Overbrook’s Frank McFadden and Rolling Green Golf Club’s Robert Billings were at 80 and The Springhaven Club’s Andrew Harmer was at 81.
Lange and Thompson also took top honors in their respective age groups, 55-to-59 and 60-and-over.