Stephen Dressel, once a Conestoga standout who plays out of St. Davids Golf Club, contended in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf two years ago on his home course before finishing fifth.
He’ll be trying to bank on that experience after grabbing the lead Wednesday at this year’s edition of GAP’s first major championship of the season with a 4-under-par 66 at Overbrook Golf Club.
“Be patient,” Dressel told the GAP website about lessons learned from two years ago. “You can only control what you do in golf. You can’t play defense. I’ll just try to draw on the experience I had (Wednesday) and keep it going into (Thursday).”
Dressel holds a one-shot lead over James Gillespie of Little Mill Country Club, who carded a 3-under 67. Lurking two shots behind is Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Jeff Osberg, the reigning two-time William Hyndman III Player of the Year who fired a 68. Michael Carr of Philadelphia Cricket Club matched Osberg’s 68 to join him in a tie for third.
The only other sub-par rounds over the 6,548-yard, par-70 Overbrook layout were posted by Chris Lange Jr. of the host club and Drexel golf coach Ben Feld of Huntingdon Valley, who are tied for fifth after each carded a 1-under 69.
Round 2 is scheduled for Thursday and GAP has responded to a forecast for rain by sending the 72 players who survived the cut off the first and 10th tees beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Dressel got off to a fast start with a front-nine 32 that enabled him to make the turn at 3-under. He had birdies at the fourth and eighth holes, but the highlight of the round came at the par-5 fifth hole where his sand wedge shot from 35 yards away found the cup for an eagle. He also bogeyed the par-3 seventh when his tee shot missed the green to the right.
He made a nice par save by dropping a 10-foot putt on the par-5 12th and added one more birdie when he knocked a 58-degree wedge to 12 feet at the par-4 14th and made the putt.
Defending Middle-Amateur champion Matthew Mattare of Saucon Valley Country Club heads a group of three players tied for sixth at even-par 70. He was joined at that figure by Dan Brown of Llanerch Country Club and Clark Holle of Mercer Oaks Golf Course.
Chris Lange Jr.’s father, Christopher Lange, one of GAP’s all-time greats who knows his way around Overbrook a little, is tied for ninth with a 1-over 71. Thomas Gramigna of Tavistock Country Club also carded a 71 to share ninth with Lange.
Part of Dressel’s challenge in Thursday’s second round is holding off a talented bunch of Mid-ams.
When the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship was held at Stonewall in Chester County last summer, four GAP Mid-ams made it to match play, led by Merion Golf Club’s Michael McDermott, a four-time GAP Middle-Amateur champion who reached the quarterfinals at Tom Doak’s twin jewels.
McDermott, the reigning BMW Philadelphia Amateur champion, is one of nine players tied for 11th after he carded a 2-over 72 Wednesday.
The other U.S. Mid-Am match-play qualifiers also teed it up at Overbrook Wednesday. Yardley Country Club’s Christopher Ault is tied for 21st after posting a 3-over 73 and the Cricket Club’s Gregor Orlando is tied for 41st after a 5-over 75. John Brennan, also of the Cricket Club, missed the cut, which fell at 76, with a 78.
And Mattare, the defending GAP Middle-Amateur champion, just missed match play at Stonewall, failing to advance out of a 14-man playoff for the 64th and final spot.