For the second straight year, Michael McDermott found himself staring at the defending champion in a second-round match in the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Tuesday at Merion Golf Club’s famed East Course.
In both cases, the matches came on courses with which McDermott, a two-time Philly Amateur champion, was intimately familiar. But when the guy standing in the tee box is Jeff Osberg, as it was at Llanerch Country Club where McDermott grew up playing, or Cole Berman, as it was Tuesday at Merion, McDermott’s home course these days, it’s going to be a tough battle.
And, much as last year, this matchup of the veteran McDermott, a five-time Golf Association of Philadelphia William Hyndman III Award winner, against the rising star in Berman, a junior at Georgetown, did not disappoint.
McDermott finally prevailed in a tight match in which neither player ever enjoyed more than a 1-up advantage, taking out the defending champion on the 20th hole. The victory came at the end of a long day of match play as McDermott defeated Scott McLaughlin of LuLu Country Club, 3 and 2, and Berman took out Wildwood Golf & Country Club’s David Hicks, who reached the final in 2013 at Aronimink Golf Club before falling to McDermott for the second of his two titles, 4 and 3, in first-round matches Tuesday morning.
Berman, who plays out of Philadelphia Cricket Club, was bidding to become the first repeat Philly Amateur champion since Overbrook Golf Club’s Chris Lange did it in 1993 and ’94.
McDermott advances to a quarterfinal match Wednesday against another former Philly Amateur champion, Five Ponds Golf Club’s Scott Ehrlich, who claimed a 4 and 2 second-round victory over John Samaha of Old York Road Country Club.
But first McDermott, a standout at Haverford High and Saint Joseph’s, had to deal with Berman, a two-time Inter-Ac League champion at The Haverford School.
McDermott took a 1-up lead with a birdie on the par-5 second hole in a preview of things to come. Berman birdied the seventh to get back to all square. A birdie at the 11th gave McDermott the edge, but Berman answered by winning the par-4 14th with a par and the par-4 15th with a birdie and suddenly he had a 1-up advantage with three holes to play. But McDermott forced extra holes with a birdie at the par-4 16th and some tough up-and-downs at 17 and 18, Merion’s challenging finish.
After halving the first extra hole, they were back at the par-5 second, the hole that Ardmore Avenue borders all the way up its right side and on which McDermott’s length might give him a slight advantage.
McDermott bombed a 4-iron from 235 yards away and his second shot left him right in front of the green. Berman was only 50 yards away in two, but his approach stopped 30 feet short of the hole while McDermott chipped to two feet. When Berman’s birdie try just missed, McDermott buried his short putt to secure the win.
“It was as tight a match as I can remember playing,” McDermott told the GAP website. “The match was just square the whole day. It was just great golf, a couple of good saves by each of us, a couple of good birdies.
“It’s what this tournament is all about. He’s such a fierce competitor. It was a fun, memorable match, win or lose.”
Plenty of challenges await for McDermott as he seeks to add a third Philly Amateur title to his impressive amateur resume, including a potential semifinal match with Aronimink’s Michael Davis, the Princeton junior who knocked out McDermott in another 20-hole thriller in the quarterfinals a year ago on his way to a loss to his old Inter-Ac rival Berman in the final.
Davis edged former Radnor standout Carey Bina of Radnor Valley Country Club, 2 and 1, to advance to a quarterfinal matchup with Applecross Country Club upstart R.J. Wren, a recent Twin Valley graduate. Wren, who is headed for Delaware, edged LuLu Country Club’s Glenn Smeraglio, one of the many standout seniors in the GAP stable, 2 and 1.
And the tantalizing prospect of a McDermott-Osberg final is very much alive. The two teamed up to earn a trip to last month’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Winged Foot, but failed to advance to match play.
Osberg, playing out of Huntingdon Valley Country Club. claimed a 1-up victory over Green Valley Country Club’s Ben Feld, the Drexel golf coach who was on the bag as Drexel’s Chris Crawford, the Patterson Cup winner last summer, earned a berth in this week’s U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club at a sectional qualifier at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.
Osberg’s quarterfinal opponent is Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Gregor Orlando, who beat Yardley Country Club’s Christopher Ault, 4 and 3, in a second-round match.
Osberg just might find another of his buddies from his days at Llanerch Country Club waiting for him in the semifinals in Stephen Seiden, the one-time Strath Haven standout who cruised to a 5 and 4 victory in his second-round match with Michael R. Brown of the Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association.
Seiden will square off in the quarterfinals with Wild Quail Golf & Country Club’s Jay Whitby, who pulled out a 1-up decision over William Jeremiah of Biderman Golf Club in a second-round match.