Brian Isztwan’s consistency during the Inter-Ac League’s regular season last fall was rewarded when, as a junior at Penn Charter, he finished atop the league’s point standings, compiled during the league’s six mini-tournaments.
That same kind of consistency at the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 103rd Junior Boys’ Championship, presented by PURE Insurance, this week at Spring-Ford Country Club was rewarded with a spot in the final.
Isztwan, playing out of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, won two matches Wednesday to earn a chance to put his name on the Peg Burnett Trophy in a match against Dawson Anders, a recent Souderton graduate who plays out of Indian Valley Country Club.
The title match was originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but Monday’s thunderstorm pushed the schedule back. It will be played at a mutually agreeable later date.
For now, Isztwan can get some satisfaction from battling through the kind of tough junior competition that is a hallmark of this event to get to the final.
“I’m really excited about it because I think I shot 79 every other year (and missed the match-play cut), so it was really a struggle,” the 17-year-old Isztwan, who captured the Inter-Ac’s Bert Linton individual championship as a freshman at Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Militia Hill Course, told the GAP website. “I came into the week knowing that if I made as many pars as I could, I figured I would make the championship flight.
“After the qualifier, I really am a match play kind of guy. I felt good about my chances once I made it through.”
With younger brother Patrick on the bag, Team Isztwan played its par strategy to perfection in a 4 and 3 victory over Patrick Sheehan, a Central Bucks East junior who plays out of Talamore Country Club, in the semifinals.
Isztwan parred every hole on the front nine and emerged with a 2-up lead at the turn.
Sheehan was coming off an impressive victory in the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour’s Precision Pro Golf Open at Hickory Valley Golf Club’s Presidential and Ambassador courses last weekend. In the quarterfinals, he knocked off Isztwan’s fellow Huntingdon Valley member Conor McGrath, who was the qualifying medalist at Spring-Ford, 3 and 1.
Isztwan make it 3-up by winning the 11th with yet another par and then took a commanding 4-up lead on the 12th by chipping in for birdie after getting in trouble off the tee.
Isztwan displayed a little more short-game magic in finishing off another tough customer, Zachary Barbin, a GAP Junior Players Club representative from Elkton, Md., 4 and 2, in the quarterfinals. Isztwan had a 3-up lead heading to the par-3 16th hole at Spring-Ford, but his tee shot ended up in a greenside bunker.
He promptly holed out his bunker shot for birdie and the match was over.
Anders earned his spot in the final with a 3 and 2 victory over Applecross Country Club’s Wills Montgomery, a Downingtown East standout. Anders’ bid for a Junior Boys’ title a year ago was halted in the semifinals.
Anders also faced a tough quarterfinal challenge from Nikita Romanov, a GAP Junior Players Club entry from Wilmington, Del., before prevailing, 2-up. Romanov was the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour’s 13-to-15 Player of the Year in 2016.
Montgomery reached the semifinals with a 4 and 2 win over Bent Creek Country Club’s Will Riva, who helped Lancaster Catholic capture the PIAA Class AA team title last fall.
As for the first flight, once recent Methacton graduate Kyle Vance landed in the consolation bracket, he was the odds-on favorite to come out on top. Last summer, Vance, a two-time District One champion and a prized Kansas State recruit, earned a trip to the U.S. Junior Amateur at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. and reached match play.
Vance reached the first flight final with a 5 and 4 win over Spring-Ford’s Ryan Tall, the Central League champion at Conestoga last fall. His opponent in the final is Jake McCloskey of Radley Run Country Club, who pulled out a win on the 19th hole over Rolling Green Golf Club’s Andreas Aivazoglou, a Haverford School standout.