Marty McGuckin made a tough call halfway through his sophomore year at Temple, deciding to leave the golf team in order to concentrate on academics.
But the guy can still play, which he proved Wednesday in the BMW Philadelphia Amateur by winning a pair of matches, the second in 20 holes over 2014 champion Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, to earn a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club.
I was in my final days at the Delco Daily Times when I first ran into McGuckin. He captured the Bert Linton Inter-Ac League individual title on a really, really wet day at Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course after leading a young, but talented Malvern Prep team to the league title in the fall of 2015, his senior season.
I ran into him again last summer when he carried the bag for his former Malvern Prep teammate Matt Davis in the Christman Cup at Stonewall’s North Course while I was looping for Penn Charter’s Brian Isztwan on a long, hot double-round of a day. McGuckin had won the Christman Cup a year earlier to cap his final summer of junior golf.
McGuckin was playing both Stonewall courses later in the month in a U.S. Amateur qualifier, so I agreed to caddy for him and his Temple teammate and former Episcopal Academy standout Joe Chambers in a practice round at the Old Course.
Golf has a way of revealing people and McGuckin came off as a nice guy and a very good player. That’s why I’m sure it was tough for him to walk away from a tight-knit group at Temple.
“Playing golf on the team was great and I loved my teammates at Temple,” McGuckin told the Golf Association of Philadelphia website following a long day Wednesday. “But my parents and I were talking about how golf isn’t everything. I’m not going to play professional golf and it is what it is.”
McGuckin opened his day with a 4 and 3 victory over fellow Owl Connor McNicholas of LuLu Country Club.
That earned him a second-round meeting with Osberg, one of the top mid-amateur players in the area. In addition to the 2014 Philly Am he won at White Manor Country Club, Osberg lost in the 2016 final to his friend and rival Michael McDermott on the 36th hole in a match at Merion that will be talked about in GAP circles for many years to come.
McGuckin had Osberg 2-down with two to play, but you expect a champion to fight to the finish. Osberg won the eighth hole – the match started on the 10th hole of the 6,789-yard, par-72 Whitemarsh Valley layout – and then rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on Whitemarsh Valley’s little par-3 ninth to send the match to extra holes.
McGuckin’s opponent in Thursday morning’s quarterfinals will be Drexel head coach Ben Feld, another player from the deep stable of talent at Huntingdon Valley.
Feld, who captured GAP’s Middle-Amateur championship at Overbrook Golf Club a year ago, knocked off Dylan Stein of Mercer Oaks Golf Course, 3 and 2, in the morning Wednesday before taking out qualifying medalist Ryan Rucinski, a Wilmington College senior and Salesianum product, in a hard-fought 2 and 1 victory in the afternoon.
While we’re on the subject of Huntingdon Valley, Andrew Mason, who was the best amateur golfer in Pennsylvania for a couple of years earlier in the decade, rolled to a couple of decisive wins Wednesday to earn a spot on the quarterfinals opposite another Malvern Prep guy, Aronimink Golf Club’s Michael Davis.
Mason, one of Brian Quinn’s former standouts at Temple, was GAP’s William Hyndman III Player of the Year in 2011 when he won the Philadelphia Open, the Patterson Cup and the Pennsylvania Amateur. He repeated in the Philadelphia Open and the Pennsylvania Amateur in 2012, the Philly Open win coming at Pine Valley Golf Club.
After a brief pro career – he won the 2013 Pennsylvania Open in his professional debut – the 29-year-old Mason is balancing golf with work and family. But he hasn’t forgotten how to play.
Mason claimed a 6 and 4 win over David Herbst of West Shore Country Club in Wednesday morning’s opening round before cruising to a 5 and 3 decision over Danny McCourt of Mercer Oaks.
Davis, the runnerup in the 2015 Philadelphia Amateur at Llanerch Country Club who completed an outstanding college career at Princeton this spring, topped Marco Nieto of Glenmaura National Golf Club, 2 and 1, Wednesday morning before knocking off Michael R. Brown Jr. of LuLu, 2-up, in a hard-fought match in the afternoon.
Brown had ousted defending champion Gregor Orlando of Philadelphia Cricket Club in a 20-hole nail-biter in the opening round earlier in the day.
As someone who follows the scholastic golf scene pretty closely, I was intrigued by the second-round matchup between Spring-Ford Country Club’s Ryan Tall, who just graduated from Conestoga, and Talamore Country Club’s Patrick Sheehan, a Central Bucks East senior.
Tall was the Central League champion as a junior and I saw Sheehan play some tremendous golf in a runnerup finish in the District One Class AAA Championship at Turtle Creek last fall.
The match went the distance with Tall pulling out a 1-up victory. His quarterfinal opponent will be Peter Barron III of Greate Bay Country Club, who edged a tough customer in Matthew Finger of DuPont Country Club, 1-up, in their second-round encounter.
Saucon Valley Country Club’s Matthew Mattare, the reigning Philadelphia Open and Met Amateur champion, is still very much alive after a 2 and 1 win over T.J. Summers of Commonwealth National Golf Club Wednesday morning and a 2 and 1 win over a stubborn Austin Barbin, a GAP Junior Club representative from Elkton, Md.
It was a really strong showing for Barbin, who, like Talamore’s Sheehan, still has a year of high school left.
Mattare’s quarterfinal opponent will be Jeremy Wall, who completed his college career at Loyola of Maryland this spring and plays out of Manasquan River Golf Club. Wall knocked off Carlisle Country Club’s Campbell Wolf, the runnerup in the 2016 PIAA Class AAA Championship as a senior at Cumberland Valley, 5 and 4, Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday morning’s quarterfinals will be followed Thursday afternoon by the semifinals. The two survivors of the semifinal matches will meet in the scheduled 36-hole final Saturday morning.