Kevin Pechin is the athletic director at Conestoga and was the golf coach there until taking over as AD a couple of years ago. Were he to scan the list of the quarterfinal matchups in the 117th BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship, which tee off first thing Thursday morning, he would be moved to utter, “Central League in the house” – rather loudly.
Three of the remaining eight players still in the hunt to inscribe their name on the J. Wood Platt Trophy are Central League products, including three-time Philly Am champ Michael McDermott (Haverford High) and 2009 champion Conrad Von Borsig (Strath Haven). The other Central League entry is Sam Soeth (Marple Newtown), who might have been something of an unknown entity before match play got under way Wednesday but not so much after victories over two-time reigning Golf Association of Philadelphia William Hyndman III Player of the Year Jeff Osberg and Benjamin Smith, both of Huntingdon Valley Country Club.
You had to win two matches Wednesday on a tremendous golf course, A.W. Tillinghast’s 6,668-yard, par-70 Wissahickon Course at Philadelphia Cricket Club, to get to the quarterfinals. Two more wins Thursday will get you to Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final.
The 42-year-old McDermott is the most decorated of the three. Along with younger brothers Brian and Kevin and Rolling Green Golf Club assistant pro Chris Hoyle, McDermott and the Fords, under coach Tommy Lallone, dominated the Central League in the mid-1990s.
After an outstanding career at Saint Joseph’s, McDermott has been one of the Philadelphia area’s top amateur golfers for more than 15 years now and is the defending champion at the Cricket Club after an epic 1-up win over Osberg in the final at his home course, Merion Golf Club’s East Course, a year ago.
Last summer he reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall, falling to eventual champion Stewart Hagestad, the low amateur at the Masters a couple of months ago.
All of which puts a giant bull’e-eye on his back, particularly among the talented youngsters in the Philadelphia area. McDermott had to fight off two of them Wednesday, going to the 19th hole to edge fellow Merion member Peter Bradbeer, coming off a solid freshman season at Bucknell, and then rallying from 1-down after 11 holes to beat Jack Melville, a former Upper Dublin standout who was a freshman at Delaware this year, 2 and 1.
McDermott had Bradbeer, a Friends’ Central product, 3-down with six holes to play and Bradbeer was intimidated not one bit as he won 13 with a par, 14 with a birdie, 15 with a par and 17 with a birdie to take a 1-up lead to the last. McDermott being McDermott answered with a birdie at the 18th to extend the match and won it on the 19th with a par.
Melville was no pushover either. He took a 1-up lead with a par on the third hole, the 11th of the match. But McDermott answered by getting back to even with a par on the fourth and then made back-to-back birdies on seven and eight to take control of the match.
McDermott will take on Jay Whitby of Wild Quail Golf & Country Club, who rolled to an impressive 6 and 5 victory over Christopher Ault of Yardley Country Club in his second-round match, in Thursday morning’s first quarterfinal match.
I covered Soeth’s scholastic career at Marple Newtown in my Delco Daily Times days. Possessed of a sweet swing, he qualified for the District One Championship all four years at Marple Newtown. But he had trouble taking the next step and for a short while, the game wasn’t fun for him.
As a senior, he just let his talent take over as he finished tied for third at districts earned a medal in the PIAA Class AAA Championship with a tie for fifth. He qualified for match play in the Philly Am three years ago on his home course at White Manor Country Club the week of his high school graduation and won a match before falling to Ben Feld, now the Drexel golf coach (and this week the looper for Christopher Crawford in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills – had to sneak that in somewhere).
He headed for Myrtle Beach, S.C. and one of those golf management programs. But Brian Quinn talked him into coming home and playing college golf at Temple. Even as recently as this spring, he struggled at times with the Owls, but Quinn showed some faith in him by making him one of the five he took to The American Championship at the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course.
The 1-under 69 he shot on the Wissahickon Course in Monday’s qualifying indicated the golf course fit him. There seemed to be little doubt of that after he took down Osberg in the opening round of match play, finishing the job with a birdie at the 14th and a par at the 15th.
Starting with last year’s Philly Am, Osberg’s run in GAP majors has gone second, first, first and second.
Starting on the 11th in the afternoon, Soeth prevailed over Smith in crazy match that started with Smith winning the first three holes and then Soeth winning the next three to square the match. The back and forth continued all afternoon with Smith finally putting a nose in front by taking the sixth with a par.
Smith was 1-up with four holes to play and then Soeth won seven with a birdie and eight and nine with pars and it was over.
Soeth gets Cricket Club member Gregor Orlando, a 4 and 3 winner over Bala Golf Club’s Scott McNeil in the second round, in Thursday’s second quarterfinal.
I covered Von Borsig’s scholastic career with the Delco Daily Times as well. He engaged in a wildly entertaining head-to-head battle Central League rival Adam Cohan of Radnor in the 2003 PIAA Championship, but they ended up tied for second. As a senior, Von Borsig was an easy winner of the District One title and finished fifth at the state tournament.
After claiming the 2009 Philadelphia Amateur title at Stonewall and completing an unsatisfying college career at Virginia – other than getting to pick the brain of noted sports psychologist Bob Rotella on a regular basis – Von Borsig embarked on a short-lived pro career.
He went to Georgetown to get a graduate degree in business, regained his amateur status and joined the Cricket Club last year. He has fit right in.
In his opening-round match, Von Borsig was 4-up with five holes to go against The Ridge at Back Brook’s Brandon Dalinka and withstood a late rally by the former Council Rock North standout to claim a 1-up victory.
In the afternoon, he edged David Hicks, the Wildwood Golf & Country Club player who lost to McDermott in the 2013 Philly Am final at Aronimink Golf Club, 1-up. Von Borsig grabbed a 1-up lead with a par at 17 and needed birdie to half the 18th and win the match.
Von Borsig’s quarterfinal opponent Thursday morning will be Grant Skylass of LedgeRock Golf Club, who edged Lancaster Country Club’s Adam Fricke, a senior on Feld’s Drexel golf team, 1-up.
Another Cricket Club member (and another guy whose scholastic career I covered at the Delco Daily Times), Cole Berman, the 2015 Philly Am champion, fell to Michael Brown, Jr. of Lu Lu Country Club, 1-up.
Brown was 1-down with two holes to play and promptly won the 17th with a par and the 18th with a birdie to knock off Berman, a senior at Georgetown and a former Haverford School standout.
The third quarterfinal will be an all-Lu Lu affair as Brown will square off against P.J. Acierno, who recently completed one of the finest careers in program history at La Salle. Acierno claimed a 2 and 1 win over another LedgeRock representative Nathan Sutherland, a Holy Name product.
If you can’t make the morning quarterfinals, the winners will tee off in the semifinals starting at high noon.