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Saturday, October 31, 2015

A pretty good week for the Radnor golf program

    It would have been a pretty nice week for Radnor golf had Andy Achenbach’s Raiders just had a second straight PIAA Class AAA individual title out of senior standout Brynn Walker.
   That’s Walker flanked by her parents, Mary Lou and Rocky, at Heritage Hills with her gold medal in a picture provided by the PIAA.
   But a couple of days later, Walker and the Raiders were back for more and they got what they came for, the PIAA Class AAA boys team championship. It was hard-earned, by a single shot over a game Peters Township squad. And they had to wait a day when the team tournament, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed to Thursday with a forecast of heavy rain and wind for Wednesday.
   I was unable to make the necessary schedule maneuver to get back to Heritage Hills for the team competition, although the postponement did allow me to sneak over the East Course at Merion Golf Club Wednesday to watch some drenched Inter-Ac League golfers finish their league tournament rounds.
   But the Raiders, led by Walker’s 2-over 73, won the program’s third state title in the last decade. The boys won the 2006 title, the first year the PIAA staged a team competition. Three years ago, Radnor had enough girls to field a girls team and Walker, then a freshman, was the piece the Raiders needed to put them over the top for the 2012 state crown after a runnerup finish in 2011.
   These last two seasons, there just weren’t enough girls to field just a girls team, so Walker was added to the boys team. Even with Walker missing some time early in the season to compete in an AJGA event and then help Team Pennsylvania finish third in the U.S. Women’s  State Team Championship, the Raiders, getting great leadership at the top of the lineup from junior Michael Sydnes and contributions from some precocious youngsters, kept winning matches.
   Radnor blitzed its way to a perfect 11-0 run through the Central League, a very difficult thing to accomplish. The Raiders took on perennial Central contender Conestoga at St. Davids Golf Club and Walker fired an astonishing 5-under 30 as Radnor disposed of the Pioneers, 181-192.
   The question for Achenbach at the District One Tournament was which five players to put out for the team competition. The top four scores would count.
   That decision was complicated somewhat by the strong play of junior Gabby Kim in the District One individual competition. Kim had posted a strong 1-over 73 at Turtle Creek Golf Club in the Central League Tournament and then posted an even-par 70 on Day 1 of the district girls tournament at Gilbertsville Golf Club’s White and Red nines.
   Day 2 of the district tournament for the girls shifted to Turtle Creek with the team competition being held simultaneously. Walker and Sydnes, who had struggled to an opening-round 77 in the individual boys competition at the Turtle, were locks for the team lineup.
   Achenbach had to go with Kim, who was just playing too well to keep out the lineup. Then he rolled the dice on two of his freshmen, Jake Calamaro and David Colleran. Calamaro had missed the cut to return in the individual competition with an opening-round 79 and Colleran hadn’t even survived out of the Central League Tournament to compete individually at the Turtle.
   There were a lot of disappointed individuals that day at the Turtle. Walker fired a 1-under 71, but ended up in a tie for third in the individual competition. Kim, playing in the same group with Walker, had hung in there with her more decorated teammate before faltering a little at the end for a 76 that left her in sixth place.
   Nobody was more disappointed than Sydnes. He had rallied with an even-par 72, but it left him short of advancing to the East Regional by a shot.
   Calamaro, the younger brother of Radnor’s 2009 girls state champion Jackie Calamaro, fired a 2-over 74, which combined with the scores from Walker, Kim and Sydnes gave Radnor a six-shot margin of victory over Methacton and the program’s third boys district title to go with the two the girls won in 2011 and 2012. The individual disappointment was eased somewhat by District One team gold medals.
   Kim continued her strong play the following week by claiming the individual title at the East Regional with a 2-over 74 at Golden Oaks Golf Club, a shot better than Walker.
   While Walker set her sights squarely on a second straight individual title at Heritage Hills with an opening-round 74, Kim finally had a hiccup, posting an 85.
   But while Walker was winning that state title on Day 2 of the individual competition at Heritage Hills, Kim bounced back in a big way with a 2-over 74 that was two shots better than any other girl in Class AAA would post and it vaulted her to a ninth-place finish.
   If Achenbach had any doubts about including Kim on the roster for the team competition, that round certainly erased them.
   Ultimately, Achenbach settled on the same five he used at the district tournament.
   Walker, so good in the team environment, fired a 2-over 73 (we’ll use the boys par of 71 at Heritage Hills as opposed to the girls par of 72 in discussing the team tournament). Sydnes, so disappointed by his failure to advance individually out of the district tournament, added a 77.
    Calamaro, so clutch at the district tournament, was again with a 79 that included a brilliant birdie at the 18th,  a relatively easy par-5 for the girls, but a challenging par-4 for the boys. And Kim, while probably not thrilled with her score, shot an 83 that was just good enough to give Radnor a 312 total, one better than the 313 total put up by Peters Township.
   Radnor was able to throw out Colleran’s 85, but it’s hard to measure the value of the experience both Calamaro and Colleran gained competing in the district and state team tournaments as freshmen. Yes, Walker will be gone next year, but Sydnes, Kim, Calamaro and Colleran, who drove home from York County Thursday with gold medals, will be back.
   And how about Walker’s week and her brilliant scholastic career?
   She hadn’t been playing her best in the postseason after a spectacular 4-under 68 at Turtle Creek in the Central League Tournament. She was driving the ball long and straight, but the putter kept betraying her.
   Still, she arrived at the 16th tee on Day 2 of the individual competition at Heritage Hills with a two-shot lead. The par-4 is 330 yards on the card, probably more like 300 yards, but straight downhill with probably a 200-foot elevation drop. It is very tight with a creek and woods on the right and some gunk on the left where a snap hook might end up.
   But Walker has faith that she can hit the driver straight, so that’s what she pulled out of the bag. Her tee shot was majestic and on the perfect line. It ended up on the green and two putts later, she had a birdie and was her way to a three-shot victory.
   And then, two days later, she came up big in the team competition. Just like she did as a freshman when she helped Radnor win the girls state team championship. Just like she did when she teamed with her pal from Council Rock North, Madelein Herr, to reach the semifinals of the inaugural U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship last spring. Just like she did when she teamed with 2010 Chichester state champion Aurora Kan and Ellen Ceresko to help Pennsylvania take bronze at the U.S. State Team Championship in September. As I’ve mentioned before, North Carolina is getting a heck of a teammate when Walker shows up Chapel Hill next fall.
   So the final accounting for Walker’s career is two state individual championships, a fifth-place state medal, an East Regional title, a District One and a state girls championship and a District One and a state boys team championship.
   It is quite a winning tradition Radnor has built on the links in the last decade-plus and Walker is right at the top of the list of that championship legacy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lees, Kan have strong showings at Junior Tour stops in Jersey

   The Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour had a little weekend series with a stop Saturday at The Links Golf Club in Marlton, N.J. followed by a trip to the shore at Mays Landing Golf and Country Club Sunday.
   Agnes Irwin sophomore Kaitlyn Lees topped the 16-to-18 girls field at The Links with an 83. Radnor senior Caitlin Bullock finished third with a 101. Camille O’Halloran of Northfield, N.J. had the best round among the 16-to-18 girls at Mays Landing with an 81 and Casey Oppenheimer of Conshohocken, with rounds of 100 at The Links and 90 at Mays Landing, was the only 16-to-18 girl to tee it up both days.
   Chichester junior Caprian Kan, coming off a solid scholastic season, was the only 13-to-15 division player to test both courses. She had an 84 with identical nines of 42 at The Links Saturday and came back with a 79 that featured a 1-over 37 on the back nine at Mays Landing Sunday.
   David Robbins of Holland fired a 1-over 72 at The Links to take top honors in the 16-to-18 division. Runnerup Hayden Rousselle of New Hope had a 74 and came back Sunday with a 75 at Mays Landing for the best total for those who teed it up both days.
   Episcopal High product Joe Chambers finished third at The Links with a 77 and Radnor sophomore Daniel Bullock finished 15th with a 98.
   Gaven Giampalmi of Lansdale led the way for the 16-to-18 division at Mayls Landings with a 2-under 69.
   In the 13-to-15 division, AJ Aivazoglou, a Haverford School freshman and a  Glen Mills resident, lost in a scorecard playoff at The Links after his 84 was matched by Jaden Weisman of Malvern and Stephen Lorenzo of Lower Gwynedd. Weisman won the scorecard playoff.
   Alec Stern of Bryn Mawr finished in a tie for seventh with a 90.
   Corey Kan of Boothwyn, like his big sister, teed it up both days, coming back for more after struggling home with a 121 at The Links to shoot a 93 at Mays Landing. He finished fifth at Mays Landing behind 13-to-15 winner Akhil Giri of Moorestown, N.J. who had a 75. Giri led those in the 13-to-15 division who played both days with a 161 total. He had an 86 at The Links.
   Among the nine-holers at The Links, Henry Fish of Malvern topped the field with a 41. Ryan Garvey of Media finished fifth with a 46 and Charlie Bastien of Media finished sixth with a 50.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Radnor's Walker takes one last shot at Heritage Hills

   It’s been a pretty successful run at the scholastic level for Radnor senior Brynn Walker.
   She was the missing piece that the Raiders added to a girls team that had been the PIAA runnerup in the team competition in 2011 that put them over the top in 2012.
   Walker was an individual qualifier that year as well, but did not earn a medal. Still, she left the Heritage Hills Golf Resort along with her teammates with a state medal of golden hue.
   Radnor couldn’t get past rival Mount St. Joseph in the District One Tournament the next year, but Walker again qualified for the state tournament individually and earned a fifth-place medal in Class AAA that year. She also earned All-Delco honors for the first time.
   Walker wasted little time making her college choice in the winter following her sophomore season, deciding she would take her talents to Chapel Hill, N.C. and the University of North Carolina.
   Following a monster summer during which she qualified for both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Amateur championships, Walker followed up a victory in the East Regional with a PIAA Class AAA championship, beating Canon-McMillan’s Lauren Waller in a playoff. That also made her the 2014-2015 Daily Times Player of the Year.
   Walker tees off Monday morning at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort for her fourth and final go at the state tournament. Despite finishing in a tie for third at the District One Tournament and tied for second last week at the East Regional, Walker will be the favorite.
   When I interviewed her last spring for the Player of the Year story, she said nobody can put more pressure on her than she puts on herself. Walker has hit the ball fantastically the last two weeks, but her putter has not been cooperating. Her composure, tested to the maximum, has never wavered. It’s a pretty impressive thing to see in a high school senior.
   Walker’s chief competition will come from one of her best friends, Council Rock North senior Madelein Herr, and from her teammate, Radnor junior Gabby Kim. Herr won the district title and Kim was the medalist at last week’s regional at Golden Oaks Golf Club and is having a breakout postseason.
   If one of those three don’t win the state title, look for Coatesville’s Sammie Staudt, who shared second with Walker at Golden Oaks, or Owen J. Roberts’ Maddie Sager, who lost to Herr in a playoff at districts, as logical contenders. It’s been since 2007 that a player not from District One has won the girls big-school title. Expect that streak to continue.
   In the midst of the scholastic postseason last year, Walker and Herr took a stab at qualifying for the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which was to be staged the following May at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
   Well, they qualified all right. And they proved to be quite a team, qualifying for match play and making it all the way to the semifinals. It took a team of Hannah O’Sullivan, who would win the U.S. Women’s Amateur in the summer of 2015, and Robynn Ree, to finally stop them. It was some pretty remarkable stuff from a couple of high school juniors and they even got some face time on FS1 when their quarterfinal match was aired in prime time. Walker and Herr can’t wait to get to Streamsong in Florida next May to give the Four-Ball another shot.
   As Herr’s dad Eric, who accompanied them on the trip to Oregon, said at the District One Tournament a couple of weeks ago, “they really ham-and-egged it unbelievably well.” This being a golf blog, I don’t have to explain what that means.
   They’re in the same group for the first round Monday and I suspect they’re happy about that.
   Radnor hasn’t been able to field a girls team the last two seasons, so Walker became a welcome addition to a coed team that won the District One Class AAA team title two weeks ago. That means Walker’s stay at Heritage Hills will extend to Wednesday’s team competition.
   I’ve noted before that Walker seems to thrive in a team environment. In addition to the PIAA girls title in 2012 and the quite successful partnership with Herr in the Four-Ball, Walker teamed with Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion at Chichester and former Purdue standout, and former Penn State standout Ellen Ceresko to help Team Pennsylvania finish third in the U.S. Women’s State Team Championship in September in Cape Girardeau, Mo. North Carolina is getting a great teammate.
   St. Joseph’s Prep is back to defend its PIAA Class AAA team title, but Radnor, with Walker and Kim and Michael Sydnes and whoever else Radnor coach Andy Achenbach picks to fill out his five-person roster will be pretty tough.
   When Heritage Hills debuted as the site of the state tournament in 2002, Radnor junior Adam Cohan became the Raiders’ first individual state champion. It was the beginning of a very successful run in York County for the Raiders golf program.
   Cohan finished in a tie for second with Strath Haven junior Conrad Von Borsig the following year. When a team championship was added to the state golf program, the Radnor boys showed up in 2006 and won the inaugural championship on a brutally cold and windy day in York County. Three years later, Jackie Calamaro won a PIAA girls title. Three years after that, the Radnor girls won the team title and then last year Walker emerged as the Class AAA state champion.
   Walker’s high school career will come to an end there this week and it won’t surprise me one bit if the Radnor golf program isn’t celebrating some kind of great accomplishment once again at Heritage Hills.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Siegfried, Haverford School take a stand at final Inter-Ac mini-tournament

  Malvern Prep took most of the drama out of the Inter-Ac League golf race by the time the six teams descended on Waynesborough Country Club Wednesday for the final mini-tournament hosted by the Friars.
   Malvern Prep had already clinched the league title, but there was that matter of the Friars’ pursuit of a perfect 30-0 sweep of the six mini-tournaments, a feat accomplished by the 2012 Haverford School team.
   And the Fords, led by a 1-over 36 by senior All-Delco Max Siegfried, and a 2-over 37 by Thomas Gravina, managed a 231 total that matched Malvern Prep and left the Friars with a 29-0-1 record. The Fords managed to protect the program’s perfect season, but it was still a remarkable run through arguably the toughest scholastic golf league in Pennsylvania by Gary Duda’s Friars.
   Malvern Prep sophomore Matthew Davis grabbed medalist honors with a 1-under 34, the third time he was the medalist in the six mini-tournaments. Freshman John Updike added an even-par 35. Rounding out the counters for the Friars were Gavin Sims and Andrew Curran with 40s and 41s by Marty McGuckin, Mike  Miller and Matt Civitella.
   Haverford School got three clutch 39s from David Hurley, Sam Walker and Peter Garno, but ultimately got the round that earned the Fords the tie with Malvern Prep from somebody named Roland, whose 41 came in the first mini-tournament he teed it up in, which is why I don’t have his first name. I’ll work on that little piece of information.
   The Fords also needed a strong showing to hold off Episcopal Academy and nail down a second-place finish and their 4-0-1 day did that as they ended up 21-7-2.
   Episcopal Academy, led by 2-over 37s by Cole Kemmerer and Jon Perry, was only five shots back of Malvern Prep and Haverford School with a 236 total at Waynesborough. The Churchmen finished third at 19-10-1. Matt Marino and Mike Zeng chipped in with 39s.
   The battle for the top spot in the individual standings was something of an Aronimink Golf Club junior club championship affair. Despite the fact that Davis was the medalist three times, he finished third behind his teammate Updike, the best of a ridiculously talented crop of freshmen in the league, and Siegfried.
   Siegfried had a number of near misses during the summer, but his consistency was rewarded with the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Player of the Year award. The same thing happened in the Inter-Ac mini-tournaments. Other than a 41 at Plymouth Country Club, he had a 35, a 36 and three 37s. It added up to a 246-23-13 record. Fellow Aronimink member Updike was second at 244-26-12 and Davis, yeah, he’s Aronimink, too, was 232-35-15.
   Penn Charter sophomore Brian Isztwan, who will defend his Bert Linton Inter-Ac League Tournament title Wednesday at Merion Golf Club’s East Course – they’ve played five U.S. Opens there, as you may be aware – finished fourth at 230-29-13. Isztwan is a member at Huntingdon Valley Country Club.
   Updike really does lead a remarkable freshman class in the league. I’m not certain of the classes of all the players in the league, but of the 18 automatic qualifiers to Wednesday’s league tournament at Merion, the ones I’m reasonably sure of are Malvern Prep’s Updike and Civitella and  Episcopal’s Zeng.
   Haverford School’s Garno is just outside the top 18. Malvern Prep’s Curran missed the first three mini-tournaments with an illness, but closed out strong with a 38 at Plymouth and a 40 at Waynesborough. And Episcopal’s Case Hummer finished 19th, but you can’t really count him because he won’t be a freshman until next year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

McDermott, Osberg prove to be quite a team at Four-Ball qualifier

   This year saw the debut, for both men and women, of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
   And around these parts, you could immediately see what could happen when a couple of golfing buddies, in this case Radnor’s Brynn Walker and Council Rock North’s Madelein Herr, both juniors, get together and get on a roll. The Walker-Herr teamed reached the semifinals of the first women’s Four-Ball last May. The team chemistry of a couple of friends was evident.
   Tuesday at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club a couple of golfing buddies, Bryn Mawr residents Michael McDermott and Jeff Osberg, the two best mid-amateurs in the Golf Association of Philadelphia for the better part of the last decade, decided to give it a go in a local qualifier for the men’s Four-Ball, which will be held next May at the famed Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
   McDermott grew up playing at Llanerch Country Club and Osberg was a member there for several years. When the two bombers met in the second round of the Philadelphia Amateur this summer at Llanerch – McDermott eventually knocking off the defending champion – it was one of the most highly anticipated Philly Am matches in recent memory.
   The results in the Four-Ball qualifier were predictable enough as the 40-year-old McDermott, a member at Merion Golf Club, and the 31-year-old Osberg, a member at Huntingdon Valley Country Club, blitzed the 6,872-yard, par-72 Whitemarsh Valley layout with a 6-under 66 to claim medalist honors.
   A couple of other longtime golf buddies, David Liotta of West Chester and P. Chet Walsh of Wayne, grabbed the other qualifying berth with a 4-under 68.
   Larry Benedetto of West Chester and Doug Fedoryshyn, a Malvern resident and Concord Country Club member, and Brian Gillespie of Newtown Square and Michael Hyland of Medford, N.J. are the alternates after both teams carded 3-under 69s.
   Osberg held off McDermott this summer to claim the William Hyndman III Award that goes to the GAP Player of the Year for the first time. McDermott has won the award five times.
   “If you can’t beat him, join him,” McDermott told the GAP website. “I called Jeff (Monday night) and we talked about (what it would be like). I actually approached it like I was playing against Jeff. He didn’t start off great and I joked with him at the sixth hole and said, ‘I’m 1-up.’ Generally this summer, if I played against Jeff and stayed close, I was doing OK.”
   After a so-so start, the bash brothers heated up on the back nine at Whitemarsh Valley, which, once upon a time, was the site of the PGA Tour stop in Philadelphia. McDermott won the first of his two Philadelphia Amateur titles at Whitemarsh Valley in 2008.
   Osberg’s wedge from just 55 yards away at the par-4 10th left him with a five-foot birdie putt that he drained. He then smashed a 3-wood into a greenside bunker at the par-5 11th and got it up and down for a birdie.
   Osberg needed just an 8-iron to reach the 488-yard par-5 17th green in two and he dropped in a 10-footer for eagle. McDermott finished off the round by holing a clutch 12-foot par putt at the 18th.
   “It’s definitely something that’s cool to look forward to over the winter,” Osberg said. “It’ll motivate us pretty hard in April to get the clubs out and to get our games in shape to compete with the rest of the country.”
   Their length and experience in USGA events – and their friendship -- will make them a very formidable team. Very formidable. 

Brennan the champion of Champions

   It’s not easy to win a club championship at Philadelphia Cricket Club, which won the GAP team matches for the second time in three years last spring.
   So, it’s not surprising that the Cricket Club club champion, John Brennan, who teaches social studies at Spring-Ford High School, would emerge as the winner in GAP’s Tournament of Champions Wednesday at The Springhaven Club.
   Brennan toured the 6,374-yard, par-70 William Flynn design in 3-under 67 to beat Green Valley Country Club club champ Ben Feld by a shot.
   “I told my wife that I may never get a chance to play again in the (Tournament of Champions), so I had to get out here today,” Brennan told the GAP website. “With so many great players at Philly Cricket, I’m not sure if I would have ever gotten another chance. It’s a big deal to win a club championship at the Cricket Club, so the fact that I won (the TOC) makes it mean that much more to me.”
   Among some of the club champions from Delco clubs who teed it up, Rolling Green Golf Club’s Zachary Falone had a 73, Paxon Hollow Country Club’s Michael Shevlin Sr. had a 74 and Springhaven’s Rich Thon, playing on his home track, had a 76.
   Joseph Russo of Laurel Creek Country Club bested the field of senior club champions with a sparkling 5-under 65 and Ed Chylinski of Chester Valley Golf Club took super-senior honors with a 78.