After knocking off three-time BMW Philadelphia Amateur champion Michael McDermott in the semifinals of this year’s championship on his home course, Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Wissahickon Course, Gregor Orlando talked about the importance of getting that early lead.
“In match play you always hope you can get off to a good start,” Orlando said two days before adding his name to McDermott’s on the J. Wood Platt Trophy with an easy 9 and 8 victory over LedgeRock Golf Club’s Grant Skylass in the scheduled 36-hole final Saturday at the Cricket Club. “I was 3-up after five and 4-up after nine. It was nice to have that little cushion to keep your heart rate down.”
Just before I turned in for some shut-eye after completing an overnight shift in my new “day” job – well, it was daytime when I was finished – I checked my Twitter feed and saw Orlando dropping in a birdie putt on the first hole of Saturday’s final to grab a 1-up lead. He never trailed.
By time I woke up in the middle of the afternoon, the 26-year-old Orlando, the 2007 PIAA champion as a junior at Erie Cathedral Prep, was well on his way to victory over Skylass.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be on that trophy with some of the best players in the area,” Orlando, who played collegiately at Virginia, told the Golf Association of Philadelphia website. “It’s really special. There’s nothing quite like winning the Amateur.”
Orlando increased his lead to 2-up when he won the second hole with a bogey. But Skylass, bidding to be the first Berks County golfer to win the Philadelphia Amateur since the great Chip Lutz did it 40 years ago, battled back.
He made birdies at three and six, both times whittling Orlando’s lead to 1-up. But Orlando turned into a par machine over the 6,868-yard, par-70 A.W. Tillinghast gem in Whitemarsh Township.
When you’re ahead in match play, pars are solid gold. Your opponent starts pressing for birdies and, more importantly, knows that par is an absolute necessity.
Orlando won the seventh with a par and then the ninth with a par to make the turn 3-up. Skylass cut it to 2-up by winning the 10th with a par, but Orlando again built his lead to 3-up with one of his best shots of the day at the par-4 11th, a gap wedge from 120 yards away that settled inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie.
Seven pars later, Orlando broke for lunch with that same 3-up advantage.
Skylass again got within a hole by winning the 19th with a par, but lost the 20th with a bogey. That’s when Orlando started to pull away, winning the 21st with a par, the 22nd with a birdie and the 23rd with a par. Suddenly he was 6-up.
He finished off Skylass by winning the 26th with a bogey, the 27th with a par and the 28th, the Wissahickon’s sweet little 175-yard, par-3 10th back at the clubhouse, with a par.
When the Erie native arrived in the Philadelphia area trying to work his way up the ladder as an agent with Erie Insurance, 2015 Philadelphia Amateur champion Cole Berman advised him to take a look at the Cricket Club.
Saturday he became the fourth Cricket Club member in the last 10 years to put his name on the J. Wood Platt Trophy, joining Phil Bartholomew (2007), his fellow Virginia product Conrad Von Borsig (2009) and Berman, a senior at Georgetown.
It was a pretty good week for the Cricket Club contingent. John Brennan opened the tournament with a brilliant 4-under 66 on the Wissahickon Course in qualifying on his way to earning medalist honors by three shots. Berman fell in the second round and Von Borsig reached the quarterfinals before bowing out.
And Orlando, who reached the second round of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall last summer, capped it with Saturday’s victory.
“Growing up here, I have seen a lot of change and a lot of growth,” Berman told the GAP website. “The atmosphere and the competitiveness have changed and it is incredible to believe that four of us have won the premier golf tournament in the Philadelphia area.
“Everyone knew Gregor would break through. I don’t think this will be his last GAP major.”
By the way, I mentioned following the BMW Philadelphia Amateur on Twitter. Marty Emeno and his small army of GAP guys and girls do a tremendous job keeping you up to date for all of their events. If you follow nothing else on Twitter, follow GAP @GAofPhilly. Oh yeah, and me @tmacgolf16, especially now that I’ve finally figured out how to link my latest posts to a tweet. Who says you can’t teach an old sportswriter new tricks?