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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Merion East, Aronimink make the grade on top 100 list

   Golf Digest recently released its annual list of top 100 courses in America and Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course and Aronimink Golf Club, the Donald Ross gem in Newtown Square, continue to hold down places in the prestigious rankings.
   Merion’s East Course, a Hugh Wilson design (with a few tweaks from his first superintendent William Flynn, I’m fairly certain), stands at No. 5. The 2013 U.S. Open, won by Justin Rose with a 1-over 281 total, did nothing to damage the esteem with which the layout in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township is held.
   Just when it was starting to look like the U.S. Open would never return to Merion, where it had been staged four times, but not since 1981, USGA executive director Mike Davis took a chance and decided to try to overcome some seemingly staggering logistical odds and bring the 2013 Open back to the East Course. It was, in so many ways, a rousing success, so much so that the Daily Times sports staff named the golf course our 2013 Sports Figure of the Year.
   Merion East remains one notch ahead of Pennsylvania’s other most popular U.S. Open site, the sixth-rated Oakmont Country Club, which straddles the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Allegheny County. Golf Digest also gives Merion the nod over Oakmont as the best course in Pennsylvania, but it’s really just 1 and 1A in the minds of most golfers in our fair state.
   Aronimink sits at 90 on the top 100. The course, which hosted the 1962 PGA Championship won by Gary Player, gained quite a bit of notoriety with its two-year run hosting the AT&T National in 2010 and 2011 as the event took a hiatus from Congressional Country Club in suburban Washington D.C. while it played host to the 2011 U.S. Open.
   Justin Rose won the 2010 AT&T National at Aronimink, giving him two of the biggest wins of his career within the county lines of Delaware County. Great golf courses identify great players.
   If you dig a little deeper,  Golf Digest also lists the top courses in each state and one more Delco course makes that list with Rolling Green Golf Club, site of the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open and preparing to host the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2016, ranked 18th in Pennsylvania.
   Rolling Green, like No. 13 Philadelphia Country Club and No. 14 Huntingdon Valley Country Club, is a William Flynn design.
   Pennsylvania will be well-represented on the USGA championship schedule in 2016. In addition to the Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green, the Open will be staged at Oakmont for the ninth time and the U.S. Men’s Mid-Amateur championship will be coming to the northwest corner of Chester County when Stonewell hosts that championship.
   Stonewall’s Old Course is the 10th-ranked course in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest.
   And speaking of USGA championships, it was announced this week that Philadelphia Cricket Club will play host to the USGA’s newest event, the Four-Ball Championship in 2020. The Four-Ball championships for men and women take the place of the Public Links championships on the USGA calendar beginning this year.
   The men will be at the Cricket Club in 2020. The 1907 and 1910 U.S. Opens  were staged at the Cricket Club’s original St. Martins Course . But the Wissahickon Course, a classic design by A.W. Tillinghast, opened for play in 1922. The Wissahickon Course is ranked as the 12th best course in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest.
   The Cricket Club will play host to the PGA Professional National Championship --  it will always be the National Club Pro to me – this summer. Part of the Cricket Club’s appeal as a tournament site is the addition of the Militia Hill Course, a Dr. Michael Hurzdan and Dana Fry production that opened in 2002. With two championship courses, the Cricket Club can handle the kind of large field that the National Club Pro will have before it is cut as well as qualifying rounds for match play in the Four-Ball Championship.
   The inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be held May 2 to 6 of this year at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. A week later the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be held at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore.  Brynn Walker, the Radnor junior who won the PIAA championship last fall, teamed up with Council Rock North junior Madelein Herr to qualify for the event.
   Almost forgot, so which is the No. 1 course in America, according to Golf Digest? That would be Augusta National, that course you can’t wait to see on TV when the Masters gets under way  in April. Augusta National overtook Pine Valley Golf Club, the rugged gem in the New Jersey Pine Barrens near Clementon.
   Both courses have their passionate defenders, but that’s the point of making up this kind of list, to fuel a few arguments at the 19th hole. Let’s face it, to be a top-100 course in America, you have to be pretty darn good and Delaware County is fortunate to have two such layouts inside its county lines.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kan finishes in a tie for 33rd at Harder Hall

   Aurora Kan, who won the 2010 PIAA championship as a senior at Chichester, started gearing up for the last half of her senior season at Purdue by finishing in a tie for 33rd at the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational, part of a prestigious series of amateur events for women held in January each year in Florida.
   The first stop on the series was Harder Hall Golf Club in Sebring, Fla. and Kan put together rounds of 77, 82, 81 and 82 for a 322 total.
   The chairman of the Harder Hall, which concluded Sunday, is Carol Semple Thompson, the World Golf Hall of Famer from western Pennsylvania who has won the Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur title something like 22 times, give or take a championship.
   Kan, a three-time Daily Times Player of the Year during her brilliant scholastic career at Chichester, wasn’t the only Boilermaker in the Harder Hall field. Sophomore August Kim, a native Floridian, had a strong showing, firing rounds of 75, 78, 74 and 79 for a 306 total that left her in 11th place.
   Another familiar name in the field was that of reigning Philadelphia Women’s Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, one of the top Mid-Amateur players in the country. Stasi had rounds of 80, 80, 78 and 76 to finish in a tie for 21st at 314.
   Stasi is based in Florida now, but took a trip home last summer and added an eighth Philly Women’s Amateur title to the seven straight she won from 1999 to 2005 when the South Jersey native was known as Meghan Bolger.
   The Harder Hall title went to 16-year-ol d Nelly Korda, sister of Jessica, a grizzled LPGA Tour winner and veteran at age 21. The Kordas are the daughters of Petr Korda, a former Australian Open men’s singles tennis champion. Nelly Korda had rounds of 74, 75, 73 and 69 for a 3-over 291 total that was three shots better than runnerup Allison Emrey, a senior at Wake Forest.
   The Florida series of women’s amateur events continues this week with the Sally, shorthand for the South Atlantic Amateur Championship held at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla. and next week’s Jones/Doherty Women’s and Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, which is staged at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
   Hey, it beats the heck out of the sub-freezing temperatures that we’ve been enduring.