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Friday, June 28, 2013

Bina earns spot in U.S. Junior Amateur

   The Golf Notebook in Saturday’s Daily Times was a wrapup of all the golf news that fit from events this week through Thursday. So the blog this week takes care of some breaking news and some Junior Tour results that there simply wasn't room for on the printed page.

   But Radnor All-Delco Carey Bina, who had already had a big week by qualifying for the Philadelphia Open and qualifying for match play and winning a match in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Boys Championship, made it an even bigger week Friday by qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
   Bina dropped a 10-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff at Indian Valley Country Club to survive a three-for-one playoff and earn a trip to the U.S. Junior Amateur, which will be held July 22-27 at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif.
   Bina had rounds of 75 and 73 over the 6,864-yard, par-72 Indian Valley layout for a 148 total that left him in a tie for the fourth and final qualifying berth with Logan Membrino of Ponte Vedre Beach, Fla. and Zach Smith of Pleasanton, Calif.
   Medalist honors went to Wissahickon senior Jalen Griffin, who had a pretty good week himself having earned medalist honors in a Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour qualifier Monday and medalist honors in the GAP Junior Boys. Griffin had rounds of 73 and 70 for a 1-under 143 total.
   At another U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier Thursday at Springdale Golf Club in Princeton, N.J., Malvern Prep senior Michael Davis, a Newtown Square resident and Aronimink Golf Club member, claimed medalist honors with a 139 total.
   It will be the second trip to the U.S. Junior Amateur for Davis. He was the Inter-Ac League champion as a freshman in the league’s final spring campaign. He was hampered by back problems during  the scholastic season last fall, but appears to be fully healed.

Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour

  It was a busy week on the Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour, highlighted by a 36-hole Elite Tour event presented by Cleveland/Srixton Golf Wednesday at Turtle Creek Golf Club and two girls who keep improving had solid showings in the girls divisions.
   Kaitlyn Lees, who won the Inter-Ac League Tournament as a seventh-grader this spring, had rounds of 83 and 81 to finish six shots back of Kara Walton of Avondale (78-89—158) in the overall 13-to-18 division. Wayne’s Gabriella Kim, expected to compete for a spot on the roster of reigning PIAA Class AAA champion Radnor this fall, finished fourth with rounds of 91 and 81, eight shots back of Lees. Lees and Kim were second and third, respectively, in the 13-to-15 division.
  Garnet Valley senior Jack Highfill had a pair of 78s at the Turtle Creek layout that has been the traditional site of the District One Tournament and finished tied for 11th overall among boys 13 to 18 and tied for eighth in the 16-to-18 division at 156.
  Some of Delco’s younger golfers had nice rounds in a Junior Tour stop at Cedarbrook Country Club Monday.
   In the 13-to-15 division, Radnor’s Jacob Liberman,  Media’s Ryan Brennan and Bryn Mawr’s Michael Sydnes all had 88s to finish in a tie for 12th. Brian Kilroy of Drexel Hill had a 94 to finish 19th and Connor Hale of Garnet Valley checked in with a 98 to finish in a tie for 24th.
  Among the nine-holers, D.J. Colleran (48) of Radnor finished tied for ninth, James Quinn (51) of Radnor, Case Hummer (51) of Glen Mills and Lucas Zhu (51)  of Wayne all finished tied for 13th, and June Kim (52) of Wayne finished another shot back in 17th.
   On the girls side, Springfield senior Samantha  Miller finished sixth in the 16-to-18 division with a 94,  Notre Dame senior Caroline Barker finished ninth with a 107 and Josephine Rider of Newtown Square was 11th with a 117.
   There were also a pair of Junior PGA qualifiers conducted by the Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour.
   Monday at Lebanon Country Club, recent Springfield graduate Kyle Hakun, the Central League champion last fall, fired a 78 to finish fifth and earn one of the 18 berths available in the 16-to-18 age group.
   Garnet Valley’s Highfill was another shot back in a tie for sixth at 79.
   The medalist was Wissahickon’s Griffin, who opened his big week by firing a 2-under 70 at Lebanon.
   Friday, there was another Junior PGA qualifier staged down the shore at Avalon Golf Club.
   Highfill finished tied for seventh in the 16-to-18 division with an 80 over the 6,272-yard, par-71 Avalon layout. Highfill shared seventh place with Christopher Chizauskie of Thornton, who also had an 80. Cardinal O’Hara senior Kevin George just missed the qualifying cutoff with an 85.
   Penncrest junior Griffin Colvin finished second in the 13-to-15 division with an 81. Matthew Davis of Newtown Square also grabbed a qualifying berth in that age group by finishing in a tie for fifth with an 83.
   Among the girls, Caprian Kan of Boothwyn carded an 88 to qualify in the 13-to-15 age group.

U.S. Mid-Amateur coming to Stonewall

   It was already going to be a big year for Pennsylvania in 2016 with the U.S. Open returning to storied Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh and the U.S. Women’s Amateur coming to Delco and Rolling Green Golf Club.
   Well, it got even better this week when the USGA announced that the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship will be staged at Stonewall Links, in the far northwest corner of Chester County, West Nantmeal Township, to be specific.
   I got a look at Stonewall while covering the 2009 Philadelphia Amateur final in which Conrad Von Borsig downed fellow All-Delco James Kania Jr. and it is a really neat course.
    The Old Course at Stonewall, a Tom Doak design, opened in 1993 with the adjoining North Course, also a Doak design, being added in 2003.
   “The members and staff of Stonewall Links are pleased to host the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship,” said Frank Foster, the championship chairman and vice president of Stonewall. “Stonewall has two championship courses which are ready to test the players. The championship committee has already begun preparations for what promises to be an exciting event. We look forward to welcoming all the participants, officials and spectators.”

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The U.S. Open and more: Two busy weeks in Delco

   There’s been so much going on between the U.S. Open at  Merion and the Philadelphia Amateur at Aronimink, I haven’t gotten to the blog for a while.
   The blog is designed to fill in the gaps when there isn’t enough room for golf in the paper (or the “print product,” as it seems to be almost disdainfully referred to these days). But all the U.S. Open stuff was getting in the paper and we’ve managed to sneak in a couple of the notebooks I like to put together for summer Saturday papers.
   First, the Open was a huge success on so many levels, not the least of which was Justin Rose’s winning 1-over 281 total. Look, I get it, that’s not the Merion you can still play from probably less than 6,500 yards from the regular tees when the membership gets their course back.
   The fifth is a monster at just over 400 yards. It was otherworldly at more than 500 yards from that tee in the 10th fairway. Still, as low amateur Michael Kim’s caddy, a Merion looper named LaRue Temple (more on him later), put it, “you hit it left on 5, it’s going to end up in the creek, just like it always does on 5.”
   But the essential Merion was still there. I spent a lot of time Saturday and Sunday at the fifth green, shooting the breeze with the golf fans who congregated there. I told several of them that the par I made at five at the Walker Cup Media Day in 2009 is the single greatest hole of golf I’ve ever played. When Daily Times Phillies beat writer Dennis Deitch drilled a 4-iron to 12 feet at the par-3 17th at this year’s U.S. Open Media Day, he said simply, “Pretty sure it was the best shot I ever hit in my life.”
    Because that’s what Merion makes you do. It makes you hit great shots, sometimes in spite of yourself.
   The U.S. Open is my favorite big event in sports, probably because that’s the big sporting event I’ve been to the most. And the three Opens at Merion in my lifetime stand out the most. I got more reaction from my story that ran in a special Open preview section and in various daily and weekly papers in the area about being a forecaddie at the 1971 Open and caddying in the 1981 Open than anything I’ve ever written. Heard from a lot of the old Merion caddies, many of whom have great memories of those days as well.
   That’s why one of the highlights of the 2013 Open was the media making the aforementioned LaRue Temple such a rock star following Saturday’s third round. Temple insisted he was just trying to “represent Merion,” which he did well. He also deflected a lot of the praise being heaped on him to Kim, the talented amateur who was one shot out of the lead when he stood on the 16th tee the Saturday afternoon of the U.S. Open. “He’s the man,” Temple said more than a few times.
   Temple even showed up in Golf World’s list of quotables with his great line about how the Merion caddies often observe when a player is taking his or her time, “You’d think they were playing in the U.S. Open. Well, this week they are playing in the U.S. Open.”
   The bigger point about Temple is that a little local knowledge seemed to go a long way at Merion. Rose and the seemingly snakebit Phil Mickelson seemed to be among the better prepared players at Merion. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and quite a few others, not so much. In a lot of ways, it might not have been worthwhile for them to spend a lot of time preparing for an Open site they may not see again. When Tiger tees it up at Pinehurst next year, he will be playing his third Open there. He will probably fare better than he did at Merion.
   It was also nice to see how much the Ardmore/Haverford Township/Main Line community made that Open happen. Obviously, Haverford College allowing its campus to be turned into a tent city was the key element that allowed the Open to return to Merion.
   There were people who allowed the front yards of their homes on Golf House Road to be turned into concession stands and corporate hospitality tents and in the case of a backyard, the media interview area. The Haverford School gave up its parking lot for the media.
   If you went, and you thought it was a great event, you have those people and more to thank.
   The golf fans of the Philadelphia area, as they had at the two stagings of the AT&T National at Aronimink, came out in droves, got their boots and shoes muddy and watched some golf. For there not to be a regular stop on the PGA, LPGA or Champions tours in the Philadelphia is one of life’s great mysteries.
   Speaking of Aronimink, the Philly Amateur was staged in Delaware County for the first time in recent memory as the Donald Ross gem played host to a tournament that’s as old as the U.S. Open.
Not surprisingly, three of the four semifinalists were guys with strong Delco ties.
   Michael McDermott, the eventual champion, screams Delco. He’s a Haverford High grad, he grew up as a member at Llanerch Country Club and these days he’s a member at Merion Golf Club and Aronimink. That would be your three courses in Delco that have hosted major championships.
McDermott is all class and he is compiling a Golf Association of Philadelphia record that will make him one of this area’s all-time great amateurs.
   McDermott’s semifinal opponent was reinstated amateur Conrad Von Borsig, who is playing out of White Manor Country Club, but whose high school career at Strath Haven I chronicled.
   McDermott clobbered Von Borsig to reach the final, but I was able to have a long chat with Conrad following his opening-round victory and he was, as always, brutally honest about how tough the road is for a young golfer trying to move up the ranks in professional golf. He didn’t make it, but he wanted to give it a shot and he did.
   Michael Kania was the most successful of a large group of current and past Haverford School players at Aronimink. Four Fords, including Cole Berman, who will be back for his senior season this fall, made it into match play.
   Kania, part of the deep talent pool at Overbrook Golf Club, reached the semifinals before falling to Alexander Hicks the William &  Mary junior playing out of Wildwood Golf & Country Club.
   Lastly, I was able to get daily updates in the paper from the very last playing of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship held at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla.
   Aurora Kan, Chichester’s 2010 PIAA champion, made match play in her fourth WAPL appearance and won a match before falling to Wisconsin phenom Casey Danielson, who’s headed for Stanford. Combined with her three U.S. Junior Girls appearances, Kan has qualified for seven USGA events before she’s turned 20.
   It will be interesting to see what kind of schedule Kan maps out for herself this summer. Last summer she took a trip with her old Radnor rival, Jackie Calamaro, the 2009 PIAA champion, to Pinehurst for the North and South Women’s Amateur.
   The Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur, which Kan won at Whitemarsh Valley in 2010 before her senior season at Chichester, is back in this part of the state at Gulph Mills Country Club in August, but the timing might not work with Kan’s preparation for her junior year at Purdue.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wrapping up round two of the U.S. Open

 It's always been a pet peeve of mine that when a round of any tournament, let alone the U.S. Open, wraps up on a Saturday morning  because of weather delays, you never get a final accounting of that round. In the case of the 2013 U.S. Open, there were dozens of players still on the course when darkness fell Friday night. So, direct from the media center hard by the 16th tee at Merion Golf Club's historic East Course, is the second-round roundup I prepared for use on delcotimes.com

HAVERFORD – When round two of the U.S. Open finally concluded Saturday morning, the 1-under 139 totals of Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel did indeed hold up for the lead.
Three players, Englishmen Luke Donald and Justin Rose and American veteran Steve Stricker landed at even-par 140 and were one shot back after two tours of what has proven to be a tough test in the 6,996-yard, par-70 East Course layout.
Flying under the radar at 1-over were 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Nicolas Colsaerts, aka the Belgian Bomber, American Hunter Mahan, and Australian John Senden.
Delco golf fans who were at the 2010 AT&T National held at Aronomink Golf Club remember Rose making a statement with his victory on the Fourth of July. Speaking of Aronomink, Mahan was a member of the field for the 1997 U.S. Junior Amateur there, a field that has already produced Masters winners Trevor Immelman and Adam Scott.
Leading the pack at 2-over 142 is another Englishman, Ian Poulter, who basically wrested the Ryder Cup right out of the hands of some stunned Americans at  Medinah last fall. He’s joined at that figure by Australian journeyman Mathew Goggin and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
Lurking at 3-over are that Woods fella – three-time U.S. Open champion, 14-time major winner Tiger Woods – and that Irish Rory guy – 2011 U.S. Open champion and owner of two majors at the tender age of 24 Rory McIlroy. There’s another major figure at 3-over in South African Ernie Els, twice a U.S. Open champion and the reigning British Open champion.
If you don’t follow college golf, you might not know these guys, but a talented foursome of amateurs made the cut, led by California’s Michael Kim, the Haskins Award winner as the Player of the Year who joined heavyweights like Woods,  McIlroy and Els at 3-over.
Tsung-Cheng Pan, who just completed his sophomore season at the University of Washington, was only one shot out of the lead when darkness fell and halted play in the second round Friday evening. Pan, a native of Taiwan, struggled a little coming in Saturday morning on that brutal finishing stretch at the East Course known as the Back Five, but he stands at 4-over 144, just a shot behind Kim in what could be an interesting battle for low-amateur honors.
Making the cut just on the number at 8-over were two other amateurs, Kim’s Cal teammate Michael Weaver, and Kevin Phelan, a 22-year-old Irishman who just completed his senior season at the University of North Florida.
The big story at Merion remains how well the East Course has held up to the best players in the world. There were some severe pin placements for round two, but, as in the first round, only five players broke par in the second round.
Horschel, reiterating a point driven home by David Graham in the final round of the 1981 Open at Merion, hit every green and shot 3-under 67. To review: If you hit every green at Merion, you can score.
Stricker had a very patient 1-under 69, Rose had a 69, Mahan a 69 and Stenson had the second-best second round with a 2-under 68.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's U.S. Open week in Delco

   Hard to believe, but U.S. Open week has arrived in Delaware County with the 2013 version teeing off in just four days at Merion Golf Club’s famed East Course in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township.
   The USGA guys probably swallowed hard while watching three-plus inches of rain deluge the East Friday. Any hopes that Merion will be really firm and fast for the Open were probably dashed by that little act of God.
   But it rained really hard in the days leading up to the Walker Cup Match in 2009. I know, I know those guys were amateurs. But I always remember Rickie Fowler, who was about to turn pro in a couple of weeks, sitting there in the afterglow of the U.S. victory and saying,  “they can make this golf course as hard as they want to.”
   And well, for the first U.S. Open at Merion in 32 years, they’re going to want to. The rough is certainly up from 2009 and way up from the 2005 U.S. Amateur.
   From some of the things I’ve read leading up to this week, most of the PGA Tour pros believe one of their considerably talented number is going to go seriously low this week, so low that the Open will never, ever come back to Merion.
   But you don’t hear that from the few guys who have played Merion under championship conditions, guys like Fowler and defending champion Webb Simpson.
   You won’t find a bigger fan of Merion East than me. You might even want to brand me an apologist, but you can’t. I’ve never had to apologize for a great golf course that can bring out the best and worst in any given golfer, sometimes in the same round.
   It will be a very interesting week. I’ll be hanging out there, writing columns for the Daily Times. There is absolutely nothing like watching the very best players in the planet do their thing. It had been too long since I had seen top PGA Tour pros in action live before the AT&T National’s two-year sojourn at Aronimink. That I’ll get to watch them at my favorite golf course in the world this week is icing on the cake.
   Who do I like? I guess I should at least try to make a prediction in the Daily Times sometime before the National Open tees off Thursday. I will say I am leaning away a little from guys like the dream trio of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott because they are coming in so cold as far as knowledge of the golf course. But great players have always, always … did I say always? … played well at Merion. So there’s that.
    I’m leaning toward a precision guy. But who is that guy? I’ll have to think it over. Jim Furyk certainly fits the bill. Steve Stricker, maybe somebody like him, but who isn’t quite as old and plays more. Brandt Snedeker, maybe, if he wasn’t hurting, which seems to be affecting his putting as much as anything.
   It’s only four days away, so I better get cracking. Four days until the 2013 U.S. Open comes to Merion. Hard to believe it’s really here.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Seiden leads Llanerch to Team Championship berth

   Hard to believe that we are just 11 days away from the 2013 U.S. Open teeing off at the historic East Course at Merion Golf Club in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township.

   While Tiger Woods was getting his first look at Merion on a rainy, chilly day after Memorial Day last week, many of the area’s top amateur players were on the other end of Haverford Township teeing it up in the Golf Association of Philadelphia Team Championship Qualifier at Llanerch Country Club.
   And the homestanding Llanerch group did pretty well, earning one of the four spots available by finishing in a tie for second with Commonwealth National at 304.
   Huntingdon Valley Country Club got a big lift from Jeff Osberg, who just left Llanerch over the winter, in claiming medalist honors at 298. Philadelphia Cricket Club, coming off its title in the GAP team matches, will be the fourth when the GAP Team Championship is decided June 25 at Lehigh Country Club.
   Osberg used his knowledge of Llanerch to fire a 3-under 68 over the 6,778-yard, par-71 layout in conditions so tough that the field average was 83.
   “It’s nice coming back here, I love Llanerch,” Osberg, who will be trying to land a spot in the U.S. Open at Merion in sectional qualifying Monday, told the GAP website. “It always plays extremely difficult. Playing in the afternoon, you could see the scores from the morning and I wasn’t surprised. I just feel comfortable here. I know how to play the greens. I know how to keep it in  play. I never really got in trouble today.”
   But Llanerch got a big boost from one of Osberg’s pals, Steve Seiden, the Strath Haven All-Delco, who, along with Osberg, gave Llanerch a pair of entrants in the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. Seiden led a talented Llanerch group by posting a 2-over 73.
   “I knew pars were going to be excellent today with the weather coming in, but they’re good on this golf course no matter what the conditions are,” the Havertown resident told the GAP website. “The familiarity of the golf course helps you get it around and be comfortable with the lines off the tees.
   “I got off the tee real well and consequently put myself in good shape to hit a lot of greens and to make some easy pars. And easy pars help the round keep going. It was nice to do that.”
   Seiden also gave some credit to Sandy Amadio, a Llanerch member who forecaddied for Seiden despite the rainy conditions.
   “He’s an old veteran here,” Seiden said. “We get along well and I asked him to ride along with me to have some fun and he likes the competition. He  made sure I didn’t make any silly mistakes. I’ve been known to do that.”
   Llanerch also got 76s from Kevin McDermott and Michael Rogers and 79s from Sean Coyle and Tom Spano (with the luxury of tossing out one of the 79s) in recording its 304 total. Brian McDermott had an 81 to round out the Llanerch effort.
   When the four qualifiers gather again at Lehigh for the final, there will be eight-man teams playing alternate-shot format in the morning and singles in the afternoon.
   Overbrook Golf Club saw its three-year reign as team champion halted as it failed to advance with a 322 total. James Kania Jr., GAP’s William Hyndman Player of the Year in 2009, carded a 76, but none of the rest of Team Overbrook’s players could break 80.
   The Springhaven Club was led by Gene Flanagan’s 78 in posting a 326 total and Aronomink Golf Club, which was led by Bucknell and Malvern Prep product Dan Bernard’s 76, was another shot back at 327.