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Monday, August 21, 2017

Redman wins U.S. Amateur and a spot on U.S. Walker Cup team

   If you like match play, and what hard-core golf fan doesn’t, then it was a great weekend of golf viewing with the Europeans playing their match-play event, the U.S. taking on Europe in the Solheim Cup and the U.S. Amateur at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
   And as riveting as the Lexi Thompson-Anna Nordqvist battle was in the leadoff match of the Solheim singles matches early Sunday, the golf gods saved the best for last, a remarkable U.S. Amateur final in which Clemson sophomore Doc Redman snatched the title away from Texas senior Doug Ghim with a stunning eagle-birdie finish that sent the match to the 37th hole, where he won the match.
  Let’s face it, match play can be devoid of drama. A player gets behind, starts pressing, falls further behind and gets buried. But when you have two players performing at a high level, there’s nothing better.
   That was the case Sunday. In the morning round of the scheduled 36-hole final, 15 of the 18 holes were halved.
   The 21-year-old Ghim of Arlington Heights, Ill., won the first hole with a bogey. The 19-year-old Redman of Raleigh, N.C., won the 11th and the 13th with birdies. They fittingly halved the 18th with a birdie and headed for lunch with Redman, one of the survivors of a 13-man playoff for the final eight spots in match play Tuesday, holding a 1-up lead.
   Redman stretched his lead to 2-up by winning the 20th hole with a birdie. But then the precise and patient Ghim, the Big 12 Player of the Year last season, just started to outgrind Redman.
   Ghim, wearing the cap of his home-town Cubbies, won the 22nd hole with a birdie and the 29th with a birdie to draw even. He took a 1-up lead by winning the 31st with a par.
   And when Redman, who had putted so wonderfully all day, missed an eight-footer for par on the 34th hole of the match, Ghim had one hand on the Havemeyer Trophy at 2-up with two to play.
   Redman reached the par-5 17th in two and had a 60-footer for eagle. He figured he had to make it. And the left-to-right breaker tracked right into the middle of the hole. It is the kind of putt that will be talked about in reverential tones for years to come.
   “All that was going through my head was about making the putt and putting a good stroke on it,” Redman told the USGA website. “Honestly, I was just going through, you know, ‘you’re going to make this, you’re going to make this,’ and it worked out well.”
   His eight-footer for birdie on the 36th hole of the match, the familiar 18th at Riviera, was almost pedestrian in comparison, except he needed it just as badly as he did the one on the previous hole. He got it.
   Ghim had played so well, not just in Sunday’s final, but all week long. And he finally wilted on the 37th hole when he hooked a 3-wood off the tee. He made a mess of the hole and Redman would win the title with a conceded birdie on Riviera’s 10th.
   Redman joins Chris Patton, whose flawless short game enabled him to win at Merion Golf Club’s East Course in 1989, as the only Clemson players to claim a U.S. Amateur title.
   I’ve been wondering all summer when exactly the USGA was going to pick the U.S. team for the Walker Cup Match, which will be contested at the nearby Los Angeles Country Club North Course Sept. 9 and 10. I knew it was going to somewhere around the U.S. Amateur, but it was pretty much a secret until late in the Fox broadcast Sunday when we were informed that the U.S. team would be revealed at the conclusion of the Redman-Ghim match.
   Hey, Fox paid a lot of money for the USGA rights, you have to throw them a bone every once in a while.
   I don’t think Redman was on anybody’s radar for the U.S. team when the U.S. Amateur dawned Monday at Riviera and Bel-Air Country Club. But the way he played all week, and Sunday in particular, I’m sure captain John “Spider” Miller is more than happy to have him on the team.
   Ghim was probably going to make the team and he did nothing last week to change that. He will be joined on the U.S. team by fellow Texas senior Scottie Scheffler. Maybe veteran Texas coach John Fields had an inkling there might be a Longhorn or two playing in the Walker Cup when he scheduled his season opening tournament Sept. 16 to 18 at the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields Country Club.
   Think about it. Fields is going to send out a team that includes the low amateur in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Scheffler and the U.S. Amateur runnerup in Ghim. And a couple of U.S. Walker Cuppers to boot.
   This is going to be a very, very strong U.S. side that will try to wrest the Walker Cup back from a Great Britain & Ireland team that spanked the U.S. pretty handily, 16 and a half to nine and a half, two years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England.
   It is a home match for the U.S., but it’s really a home game for the veteran mid-am on the team, Stewart Hagestad, who I watched win the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship in dramatic fashion at Stonewall last summer. The 26-year-old Hagestad, the first mid-am to make the cut at the Masters, grew up playing at L.A. Country Club.
   There is one holdover from the 2015 team who will be back and he might be the most talented player in red, white and blue. That would be recent Stanford grad Maverick McNealy, No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Heck, he might even get to avenge his opening-round ouster at Riviera at the hands of Connor Syme of Scotland in the Walker Cup.
   As talented as McNealy is, he is, from all reports, a better person. He will be the team leader, in much the same way that Rickie Fowler led the 2009 U.S. team to victory at Merion. He was just a kid, but he was their leader, you could just see it.
   The rest of the team just oozes talent. There’s 20-year-old Braden Thornberry of Olive Branch, Miss., who won the NCAA individual title at Rich Harvest Farms as a sophomore at Ole Miss last spring; California junior Collin Marikawa, a 20-year-old from La Canada Flintridge, Calif.; Oregon sophomore Norman Xiong, an 18-year-old from Canyon Lakes, Calif. who helped the Ducks reach the match-play final in the NCAA Championship; Texas A&M senior Cameron Champ, a 21-year-old from Sacramento, Calif.; and Wake Forest senior Will Zalatoris, a 21-year-old out of Plano, Texas.
   The biggest beneficiary of the NCAA’s decision to go to match play to determine its team champion several years ago might very well be captain Miller. His team is very good and many of them are very good at match play.
   And best of all, more match play. Can’t wait.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Cowgill, Marrollo team up to capture title in The Deeg Sezna

   The Deeg Sezna, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s nod to the importance of mentoring – in golf and in life – was rained out a couple of weeks ago and it was raining again when the rescheduled event was played Tuesday at Blue Bell Country Club.
   But that didn’t prevent the pair of Bruce Cowgill, the 49-year-old golf chairman at Whitford Country Club, and 19-year-old clubmate Nicky Marrollo from matching par with a 71 at the 6,319-yard, par-71 Blue Bell layout in the select drive/alternate shot competition to capture the title.
Cowgill and Marrollo got off to a great start when Marrollo bombed his drive on the 331-yard opening hole just 40 yards from the hole. Cowgill knocked his approach to 14 feet and Marrollo converted the birdie try.
   After a bogey at the eighth, the pair was able to make the turn at 1-under with a birdie at the par-5 ninth. Morrollo’s 5-iron second shot left Cowgill with 100 yards to the pin and he wedged the approach to two feet.
   A double bogey at the 11th left them at 1-over,  but they had one more birdie in their bags at the par-5 17th. Cowgill’s second shot finished in a greenside bunker and Marrollo blasted it to two feet for an easy tap-in.
   “Some of the guys at (Whitford) refer to him as my ‘country club dad,’ so it’ll be fun to bring this trophy back with us,” Marrollo told the GAP website.
   Deeg Sezna, a recent Vanderbilt graduate with a degree in economics, was on the sixth day of his new job on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 when the terrorists struck. Davis Sezna Sr., in conjunction with the  Golf Association of Philadelphia, started the tournament to memorialize his son and to celebrate the relationship between the older generation and its younger counterparts in much the same way that Deeg, an avid golfer, mentored his younger brothers Teddy and Willy.
   The rainout of the original date this year forced some teams to drop out, the golf schedule at this time of the year being crowded as it is. But this is an event whose meaning transcends golf and was in no way diminished by a little rainy weather.
   Four teams shared second place at 1-over 72, including the Huntingdon Valley Country Club pair of Sean Seese, a former Saint Joseph’s standout, and Brett McGrath, Brett Pickon of Commonwealth National and D.J. Pinciotti, Daniel Pinciotti Jr. of Huntingdon Valley and Ryan Borrmann and Buddy Hansen IV of host Blue Bell and Jules Quinones.
   The mentoring relationship can be older sibling to younger sibling as it was with Deeg and his younger brothers. Or it can simply be an adult taking an interest in a fledgling golfer. Or it can be coach and player.
   That would be the case for the team that finished alone in sixth at 2-over 73 in The Deeg Sezna.
Last fall, Episcopal Academy head coach Doug Borgerson of Huntingdon Valley Country Club watched his only senior, Matt Marino, drop a birdie putt on the final hole at Gulph Mills Golf Club in the final mini-tournament of the season to give the Churchmen a one-shot edge on The Haverford School and their first Inter-Ac League title since 1999.
   Kevin Kelly, who captained the Philadelphia Cricket Club to the BMW Team Match championship, joined with Luke Marvin to capture the Junior-Junior title as they put together a 2-over 73.
   The Spring-Ford Country Club duo of George Steinmetz and Lucas Steinmetz was the runnerup with a 76.
   Owen Brown and Kelly Brown of Coatesville Country Club captured the Mixed championship with a 5-over 76.
   Whitemarsh Valley Country Club’s Peter Oppenheimer and Casey Oppenheimer, the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour’s girls 16-to-18 Player of the Year in 2016, took second with a 78.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ghim can make it a Texas two-step with victory in U.S. Amateur final

   For the second weekend in a row, a Texas golfer will be playing for a U.S. Amateur championship.
   Last week at San Diego Country Club, Sophia Schubert won the U.S. Women’s Amateur title, playing nearly flawless golf in taking down Stanford’s Albane Valenzuela, No. 3 in the Women’s World Amateur Ranking, 6 and 5 in the scheduled 36-hole final.
   Sunday, Longhorns senior Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights, Ill. will try to make it a Texas two-step as he takes on Clemson sophomore Doc Redman in a scheduled 36-hole final at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
   The ascendancy of college golfers is a relatively recent development in the long and storied history of these two championships, but no school has ever been able to boast the holders of both the Robert Cox and Havemeyer trophies at the same time.
   Ghim, No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, was in control throughout and held on for a 2 and 1 victory over Vanderbilt senior Theo Humphrey of Greenwich, Conn. in one of Saturday’s semifinals to book his ticket to the final.
   Redman, one of the survivors of a 13-man playoff for the final eight spots in the match-play bracket, parred the familiar 18th hole at Riviera to claim a 1-up decision over Virginia Tech junior Mark Lawrence of Richmond, Va. in the other semifinal.
   The 21-year-old Ghim, the Big 12’s Player of the Year in 2016-2017, built a 4-up lead on Humphrey by winning the sixth with a birdie, the eighth with an eagle, the 11th with a conceded eagle and the 12th with a par.
   Humphrey battled back by winning the 14th and 16th holes with pars, but he was in too deep a hole to get out of. When the two halved the par-5 17 with pars, Ghim was through to the final.
   “It’s something you dream of,” Ghim told the USGA website. “To be playing well means a ton to me. I don’t take lightly how significant it is to be playing out there (Sunday) and having a chance to be in the history books. The great champions of this game all started here. It’s crazy to think about it.”
   Ghim will be bidding to become the third Texas Longhorn to claim the U.S. Amateur title, joining David Gossett, the 1999 winner, and Justin Leonard, the 1992 champion.
   Redman of Raleigh, N.C. also got the early jump in his match with Lawrence, winning the third, fourth and fifth holes to turn a 1-down deficit to a 2-up advantage.
   He stayed in front until the par-5 17th when both players reached the green in two by bombing a 3-wood from more than 240 yards away. Lawrence was just inside of Redman and got a great read from Redman’s eagle try and did not miss, sending the match to the 18th hole all square.
   Lawrence’s approach to the 18th went to the back of the green and he just couldn’t control the speed as his putt trickled to the front fringe, not far from where Redman’s approach had finished. Redman was able to get a routine two-putt par and Lawrence couldn’t get his par putt to fall.
   Redman will be trying to become just the second Clemson golfer to win the U.S. Amateur. The Tigers' only champion was the large man with the remarkable touch around the greens, Chris Patton, who joined Bobby Jones, Dottie Porter, Ben Hogan, Gary Cowan, Lee Trevino and Justin Rose in the marquee list of champions at Merion Golf Club’s East Course by winning the 1989 U.S. Amateur at the classic Hugh Wilson layout in the Ardmore section of Haverford Township.