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Monday, July 31, 2017

Cutrell grabs lead in Pennsylvania Amateur with 67 at White Manor

   Arnie Cutrell of Hannastown Golf Club recovered from a double bogey on the first hole to make six birdies at White Manor Country Club and grab the lead after the opening round of the 104th Pennsylvania Amateur, presented by LECOM, Monday.
   Cutrell’s birdie binge enabled him to finish with a 4-under-par 67 total that gave him a one-shot lead over Penn State junior JD Hughes, playing out of Carlisle Country Club.
   Five players, including Yardley Country Club’s Christopher Ault, who qualified for match play at last summer’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at Stonewall, and another Hannastown representative, Palmer Jackson, who captured the Pennsylvania Junior Boys’ crown earlier this summer, are tied for third at 2-under 69.
   Cutrell had never seen the White Manor layout before playing a practice round Sunday and he was nursing a pulled calf muscle. Things didn’t look good when he yanked his drive off the first tee to the left, where it landed in an official’s cart. He had to lay up and then three-putted and was 2-over walking to the second tee.
   “Sometimes that makes you bear down,” Cutrell, a veteran standout on the western Pennsylvania amateur scene, told the Pennsylvania Golf Association website. “I was able to focus and get back on track and end up with a nice score.”
   Cutrell got a shot back when he dropped a wedge from 100 yards on the par-5 sixth hole three feet from the hole and converted the birdie putt. When a 35-footer for birdie found the cup on the eighth hole, Cutrell was back to even and ready to roll.
   It was the first of four straight birdies and he got one more on the par-3 14th to get to 4-under for the round. That gave him six birdies in a stretch of nine holes from Nos. 6 to 14.
   Hughes, who started on the back nine at White Manor, also ripped off four birdies in a row on 16, 17, 18 and one. He fell back to 1-under with bogeys at the second and third holes. But he blasted a 4-iron to the front of the par-5 sixth and then watched his 80-foot putt fall for a spectacular eagle that enabled him to finish at 3-under for the round. Like Cutrell, Hughes had never laid eyes on the White Manor layout until playing a practice round Sunday.
   Hughes was in and out of the Penn State lineup last season, but when teammate Ryan Dornes went down with a fractured hand, Hughes played a key role in a run by the Nittany Lions that saw them earn a trip to the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
   Joining Ault and Jackson in the group tied for third at 2-under 69 were former Radnor standout Carey Bina, playing out of Radnor Valley Country Club, Applecross Country Club’s Liam McAnally and Rutgers senior Matt Holuta, who plays out of Indiana Country Club.
   Drexel senior Aaron Fricke, a former Garden Spot standout playing out of Lancaster Country Club, and Jason Wilson, a PAGA individual member, were the only other players to break par at White Manor and are tied for eighth at 1-under 70.
   Lurking in a group of seven players tied for 10th at even-par 71 is defending champion Cole Miller, Hughes’ teammate at Penn State. Miller capped his junior year at Penn State by capturing the individual title in the NCAA Washington Regional with rounds of 69, 69 and a closing 68 at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Wash. that gave him a three-shot victory over a star-studded field.
   Miller, a former Northwestern Lehigh standout playing out of Blue Ridge Country Club, will return to Penn State as one of the top players in Division I. He displayed the kind of explosiveness he is capable of as recently as last week when he ripped off rounds of  64 and 67 at Northampton Country Club to beat a field of Philadelphia Section PGA pros in the GALV Lehigh Valley Open by two shots with a 13-under 131 total.
   Also in the group tied for 10th at even-par 71 is Aronimink Golf Club’s Michael Davis, a senior at Princeton. Davis won an Inter-Ac League championship at White Manor as a freshman at Malvern Prep the last year the Inter-Ac played in the spring.
   Georgetown senior Cole Berman, playing out of Philadelphia Cricket Club, is one of 11 players tied for 17th at 1-over 72. Berman, Davis’ rival at The Haverford School in their Inter-Ac days, defeated Davis in the 2015 BMW Philadelphia Amateur final at Llanerch Country Club.

King rules in Junior Tour stop at The Country Club of Harrisburg with 79

   Hunter King of Atglen finished up with a birdie on the 18th hole for the only sub-80 round of the day as he captured top honors in the 13-to-15 division in a Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour stop Monday at The Country Club of Harrisburg.
   His birdie at the last gave King an 8-over-par 79 over the 6,317-yard, par-71 Country Club of Harrisburg layout and his second Junior Tour win of the year. Tyler Zimmer of Bryn Mawr, who has been riding a hot streak of late, was the runnerup with an 81.
   James Ulsh of Carlisle finished third with an 82, Henry Fish of Malvern was fourth with an 84, Jason Eck of Harrisburg was fifth with an 85 and John Peters of Carlisle was sixth with an 86.
   William Pabst of Roaring Brook Township finished seventh with an 87, Jack Shmonov of Harrisburg was eighth with an 88, Jack Penwell of Enola was ninth with a 93 and CJ Arnold  of Yardley rounded out the top 10 with a 118. Julian Lauver of Lancaster finished 11th with a 122.
   Austin Lauver of Lancaster (older brother of Julian, I’m guessing) took top honors in the 16-to-18 division with an 82 that featured a birdie on the seventh hole. It was Austin Lauver’s first win of the year.
   Nathan Shaw of Hershey was the runnerup with an 88 and Brandon Gregg of North Wales finished third with a 92.
   Amanda Gerrish of Hummelstown birdied the sixth hole on her way to an 83 that gave her the top spot in the girls 13-to-15 division. It was Gerrish’s second Junior Tour victory of the year. McKylie Boreman of New Cumberland was the runnerup with a 91.
   Lillian McNally of York finished third with a 97, Ava O’Sullivan of Exton was fourth with a 98 and Kelsey McConaghy of Palmyra was fifth with a 111.
   Olivia Gardenhour of Waynesboro was the only entrant in the 16-to-18 division and her 84 included a birdie on the 17th hole.
   Isaak Bloom made a tough par on the third hole on his way to a 48 that bested the field of nine-holers. Griffin Walizer of McElhattan was the runnerup, just a shot behind Bloom with a 49. Nolan DeForest of Harrisburg finished third with a 51.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Shepherd wins and other stories from the U.S. Girls' Junior at Boone Valley

   Erica Shepherd, a 16-year-old from Greenwood, Ind., captured the U.S. Girls’ Junior title Saturday with a 3 and 2 victory over her pal Jennifer Chang, a 17-year-old from Cary, N.C., in the scheduled 36-hole final at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.
   The title match got lost a little in the understandable uproar that came in the wake of Shepherd’s 19th-hole victory over Elizabeth Moon of Forrest City, Ark., in Friday’s semifinals. It’s been called controversial, but there was really nothing controversial about the penalty that Moon incurred when she hastily pulled the ball back after missing a three-foot birdie putt that would have given her the match.
   It was just shocking, the kind of sudden end that makes match play so riveting.
   It looked like Moon, not Shepherd, was headed for a spot in the final opposite Chang when Moon’s approach at the par-5 14th hole, the 19th hole of the match, finished three feet below the hole. Shepherd couldn’t even bear to watch as she waited on the side of the green for the sound of the ball hitting the bottom of the cup.
   But the ball, after a tentative swipe by Moon, never even touched the hole. Then she did what golfers have been doing for as long as the game has been played. She reached for the ball with her putter to putt it again (yes, they always go in the second time).
   Shepherd’s caddy said, “Did you give her that putt?” Shepherd said, “I was going to.”
   But it was too late. Moon had essentially given the putt to herself and replayed the stroke before Shepherd had a chance to concede it. The match was over.
   Nobody felt good about it. Chang had to give Shepherd a pep talk before the title match teed off Saturday morning. The message essentially: Forget about it, let’s go play golf.
   If it’s the biggest mistake Moon ever makes, she’ll have a very good life. And yeah, competition is about winning and losing, but junior golf is also about developing young people as golfers and people and Moon knows more about Rule 18-2 than she ever cared to.
   And Moon played some great golf at Boone Valley. I was pulling for Ami Gianchandani of Wachtung, N.J., mostly because she came out of the qualifier at Silver Creek Country Club in Hellertown that a lot of the girls from this area played in. Gianchandani was actually the runnerup for medalist honors to Jennifer Cleary, the Wilmington, Del. resident who has had a really strong summer.
   And Gianchandani had all kinds of momentum going into her quarterfinal match with Moon Friday morning after the Pingry School senior stunned one of the top junior golfers on the planet, Paphangkorn Tavatanakit of Thailand, 1-up, in the round of 16 Thursday.
   Gianchandani got the early lead on Moon, something she had been successful doing in her three previous matches. A birdie at the par-5 14th – that hole came up a lot in the last two days of the tournament – gave Gianchandani a 2-up lead with four holes to play.
   But Moon made a stunning turnaround, evening the match with back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 that drew her even with Gianchandani and then winning the 18th with a par for a 1-up victory. That is what she should remember from her U.S. Girls’ Junior Friday, not the unfortunate end to the day five or so hours later.
   And, by the way, really nice run by Gianchandani at Boone Valley.
   In that semifinal match, Shepherd found herself 2-down with four to play when Moon birdied, you guessed it, the par-5 14th. But Shepherd, much as Moon had done against Gianchandani earlier in the day, battled back, winning the 15th with a birdie and the 17th with a par to send the match to the fateful 19th.
   Shepherd, who is right-handed in almost everything she does, but plays golf left-handed, built a 4-up lead with a birdie on the 24th hole of the final against Chang, who plans to join the powerhouse Southern California program next summer.
   Chang, who hadn’t trailed in a match all week, battled back as Shepherd knew she would. Chang won the 25th hole with a par, the 28th with a bogey and the 31st with a birdie to draw within 1-down. But Shepherd birdied the par-5 14th – there’s that hole again – the 32nd of the match, to restore her 2-up advantage.
   When Shepherd drilled a 5-iron to 12 feet at the par-3 16th, it was over.
   It was also nice to hear the story about Shepherd’s mentor, Leigh Anne Creavy, who was Leigh Anne Hardin when she won the Girls’ Junior in 1998 at my favorite golf course, the East Course at Merion Golf Club. I was still new at the Delco Daily Times that summer, but Bob Lentz, who, I believe, is still with The Associated Press in Philadelphia, covered the Girls’ Junior for us.
   Creavy defeated Brittany Straza, 2-up, in the final 19 years ago. There’s a really nice story by Lisa D. Mickey on the USGA website chronicling the special relationship between Creavy and Shepherd.
   I seem to recall that that Girls’ Junior was something of a coronation for Beth Bauer, who was the defending champion and finishing off one of the most outstanding runs by any junior golfer ever. Bauer would precede Creavy to Duke.
   Bauer and Creavy both seemed destined for LPGA stardom and, although Bauer was the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2001, neither ever really did become stars.
   But Creavy, pretty much unintentionally, became a mentor to the kid whose father was friends with her father-in-law. Not that Creavy didn’t get something out of it. During the Fox broadcast of the final, she admitted that Shepherd had rekindled Creavy’s passion for the game. They formed a team in an unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2015.
   Life rarely works out the way you think it will. Creavy didn’t turn out to be an LPGA star, but mother and mentor to a girl who matched your feat by winning a U.S. Girls’ Junior title, that’s not bad either.
   Shepherd will also follow in Creavy’s footsteps and head for Duke at the end of next summer. Me, I’m looking forward to a rematch between Shepherd and Chang in a Duke-USC NCAA semifinal in three or four years. Now that would be fun.
   And I’ll be rooting for Elizabeth Moon because she won’t be defined by one moment when she was just ticked because she hit such a lousy putt and she had to putt it again, right away.