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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Penn State's Miller beats the pros with victory in GALV Lehigh Valley Open

   It’s been a year since former Northwestern Lehigh standout Cole Miller came roaring from behind to surge past former Penn State teammate J.D. Dornes at Moselem Springs Golf Club and claim the Pennsylvania Amateur title.
   It’s been quite a year since then, highlighted by a final-round 68 at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Wash. that gave Miller the individual title in the NCAA’s Washington Regional and helped the Nittany Lions advance as a team to the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
   He will return for his senior season at Penn State as one of the top players in the country. So it’s not a huge surprise when he does things like he did this week against a top-notch field of Philadelphia Section PGA pros in the GALV Lehigh Valley Open at Northampton Country Club.
   Miller opened up with a blazing 8-under-par 64 in the rain-delayed first round and added a solid 5-under 67 in the second round to hold off a hard-charging Mark Sheftic, the head of instruction at Merion Golf Club, to capture the title with a 13-under 131 total.
   Northampton Country Club had the same issues Monday that a lot of us faced at Stonewall for the U.S. Amateur qualifier. So much rain fell Sunday night into Monday morning, the superintendent and his crew couldn’t get Northampton in playable condition until 2 p.m. When a late-day storm arrived to halt play, the opening round was suspended and had to be completed Tuesday.
   None of it seemed to bother Miller, whose 64 gave him a one-shot lead over Michael Tobiason out of the Deerfield pro shop, who carded a solid 7-under 65, when the first round was finally in the books.
   But Miller never took his foot off the pedal, recording four birdies and an eagle in the second round for a 5-under 67. Sheftic made a strong move with nine birdies, including five in a row from holes 9 through 13. A couple of late bogeys slowed Sheftic’s charge, but his 6-under 66, matched by only one other player for lowest in the second round, gave him an 11-under 133, two shots behind Miller, but good enough to earn him low pro honors and the top prize.
   “It was my first professional win,” Miller told the Philadelphia Section PGA website. “I have won NCAA tournaments, but this is the first time I have ever won an event that featured a field of PGA professionals. It feels great to go up against some of the best players in the area and know that I can compete alongside of them.”
   Miller will defend his Pennsylvania Amateur title beginning Monday at White Manor Country Club and then it’s off to L.A. for the U.S. Amateur Championship at Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club.  Miller punched his ticket to the U.S. Amateur by going 66-65 at Colonial Golf & Tennis Club in Harrisburg July 19 for a 131 total that gave him medalist honors by a whopping eight shots.
   Miller also took a hop across the pond earlier this summer and teed it up in The Amateur Championship, which was held at England’s Royal St. George’s Golf Club. He carded rounds of 71 and 72 and missed match play by two shots.
   Spring-Ford Country Club head pro Rich Steinmetz added a 5-under 67 to his opening-round 68 to finish alone in third, two shots behind Sheftic at 9-under 135. Tobiason fell back with a second-round 71 and shared fourth with John Pillar, the director of golf at the Country Club at Woodloch Springs, at 8-under 136. Pillar had a second-round 69 after an opening-round 67.
   Matt Episcopo, out the Pine Valley Golf Club pro shop, matched Sheftic’s second-round 66 after he had opened with a 71 to finish alone in sixth place at 7-under 137.
   Greg Mathias (68-71) of Tavistock Country Club, Kevin Kraft (70-69) of the Bumble Bee Hollow Golf Center and Brian Kelly (69-70) of Bucknell Golf Club finished tied for seventh at 5-under 139.
Pat Butkus, an assistant pro at Overbrook Golf Club, opened with a sparkling 6-under 66, but fell back with a 74 in the second round and was one of four players tied for 10th at 4-under 140. Reigning Omega Player of the Year Michael Little (68-72) of Lookaway Golf Club, Dave Quinn (69-71) of Philmont Country Club and Jeff Fick (71-69) of Chapel Hill Golf Club joined Butkus in the group tied for 10th at 4-under.
   Brian Bergstol (71-70) of the Shawnee Inn & Resort, Dave Pagett (69-72) of Whitemarsh Valley Country Club and Terry Hertzog (73-68), the head pro at the Country Club of York, finished tied for 14th at 3-under 141. Bergstol was coming off a tie for second in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Open Championship at Philadelphia Country Club as he shared low-pro honors with Tony Perla of Philadelphia Cricket Club behind the champion, Saucon Valley Country Club amateur Matt Mattare.
   Stu Ingraham, the head of instruction at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, headed up an interesting group tied for 17th at 2-under 142. Ingraham, who played the weekend and finished tied for 49th in the U.S. Senior Open earlier this month, was just three shots behind Miller with his opening-round 67, but fell back with a 75.
   Another amateur, Kevin Scherr, who capped his senior season at Nazareth Area by capturing the PIAA Class AAA individual title last fall, was also in the group at 142 with a pair of 71s.
   Ashley Grier, the Overbrook assistant who is the Section’s top female player, had rounds of 72 and 70. This spring, Grier became the first woman in the 95-year history of the Philadelphia Section to win an Omega points tournament when she captured the Callaway Golf TPD Championship at Trump National Philadelphia.
   Alex Knoll of Bethlehem Golf Club rounded out the foursome tied for 17th at 142 as he added a 4-under 68 to his opening-round 74.

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