Matt Mattare has established himself as one of the top mid-amateur players in the Golf Association of Philadelphia and that’s saying something for a group that was represented by four players in match play when the U.S. Mid-Amateur was staged at Stonewall last summer.
It would have been five if Mattare had been able to survive a 14-man playoff for the final spot.
All of Mattare’s considerable golf skills were on display Monday as the 31-year-old financial adviser with Morgan Stanley put on a show in the opening round of GAP’s 113th Open Championship at Philadelphia Country Club.
Mattare birdied half the holes at the venerable 6,902-yard, par-71 Philly Country Club layout in Gladwyne in a brilliant 8-under 63 that established a new competitive course record.
The Philadelphia Open has long been a one-day, 36-hole event, but switched to two days this year to allow for a bigger field. Playing two rounds in one day was always tempting the weather gods at this time of year anyway.
Mattare lives in Jersey City, N.J. and competes in Metropolitan Golf Association events, but he enjoys the competition in GAP and maintains his membership at Saucon Valley Country Club because it keeps him GAP-eligible.
His spectacular round gave him a four-shot lead over Philadelphia Cricket Club assistant pro Tony Perla, who fired a solid 4-under 67. The pros in the field are competing for a top prize of $7,000 out of a total purse of $35,000.
Merion Golf Club’s Michael McDermott, who would love to fill in the only missing piece in his glittering GAP resume with a Philadelphia Open victory, is tied for third with Stone Harbor Golf Club’s David Hicks at 2-under 69.
Two of the Philadelphia Section PGA’s most experienced competitors, Stu Ingraham, the head of instruction at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, and Mark Sheftic, the head of instruction at Merion, are two of the four players tied for fifth at 1-under 70. Ingraham played the weekend and finished tied for 49th at the U.S. Senior Open a couple of weeks ago at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass.
Temple sophomore Marty McGuckin, GAP’s Junior Player of the Year last summer, and Delaware sophomore Jack Melville complete the rest of the foursome at 1-under 70.
McGuckin, the Inter-Ac League champion at Malvern Prep, plays out of RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve. He was my caddy colleague for a day at last week’s Christman Cup at Stonewall’s North Course.
Melville, a scholastic standout at Upper Dublin, had his Delaware teammate, R.J. Wren, the former Twin Valley standout, on the bag Monday. I also shared a Stonewall loop with Wren last week.
This day belonged to Mattare. He needed just 11 putts to negotiate the front nine at Philly, ripping off six birdies on the outgoing nine alone.
A lob wedge from 94 yards at the second left him a 15-foot birdie try that fell. His lob wedge from 72 yards at the par-5 third finished six feet from the hole and he made that. He hit an 8-iron at the par-3 fifth to six feet and made that. He nearly reached the par-5 sixth in two and a chip and a putt left him at 4-under for the round.
It was when a tough slider from 10 feet at the seventh fell for birdie that Mattare suspected something special was going on.
“I had a 10-footer that broke about a foot-and-a-half and I just buried it dead in the heart,” Mattare told the GAP website. “Once you get to 5-under, you start getting greedy.
“The way I play is nice and relaxed and in control. I try not to press the issue. Especially since this is the first round of a 36-hole tournament.”
The last of his six front-nine birdies came at the eighth as he drilled a lob wedge from 104 yards away to eight feet and made the putt.
He added three more birdies on the incoming nine. It was another chip and a putt on the par-5 12th before dropping a couple of longish birdie putts of 15 and 20 feet at 13 and 17, respectively, to get to 9-under.
He had trouble with a tough chip at the last, the ball settling where the fringe meets the rough, and missed a 20-footer for par for his only bogey of the round.
The two finalists at the 2015 BMW Philadelphia Amateur at Llanerch Country Club, former Inter-Ac rivals Cole Berman, who won the title that day, and Michael Davis, are two of the eight players tied for ninth at even-par 71.
Berman, a senior at Georgetown who plays out of the Cricket Club, was a two-time Inter-Ac champion at The Haverford School. Davis, a senior at Princeton who plays out of Aronimink Golf Club, was an Inter-Ac champion at Malvern Prep.
John Pillar Sr., the director of golf at the Country Club at Woodloch Springs, is one of four pros in the group at 71. Pillar has had a pretty good spring and summer, teeing it up in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier and representing the Philadelphia Section at both the PGA Professional Championship at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon and at the U.S. Senior Open. David Quinn, from the Philmont Country Club pro shop, Brian Bergstol, a pro at Shawnee Country Club, and Alexander Knoll, a pro at Bethlehem Golf Club, are also in that group.
Rounding out the group at 71 are Lu Lu Country Club’s Scott McLaughlin and Saint Joseph’s junior Ross Pilliod, who is playing out of Gilbertsville Golf Club. Pilliod, a scholastic standout at Berks Catholic, has also been known to grab a loop at Stonewall on occasion.