Brennan Schools GAP Mid-Am Foes

The Mid-Am Championship, GAP’s first major of the season, is in the books and the winner is a relatively fresh face, John Brennan.

Brennan, 33, from Philadelphia Cricket Club, a social studies teacher at Spring Ford High School, toured Chester Valley CC in rounds of 67-74–141 on Wednesday and Thursday, for a 1-over total, to win by four shots ahead of Ben Smith (69-76) of Little Mill CC.


The McDermott brothers – three-time Mid-Am champion Michael (75-72) of Merion GC, and Brian (74-73) of Llanerch CC – finished tied for third at 7-over 147.

Two prominent names of note were not far down the leaderboard. Chip Lutz (72-76), of LedgeRock GC, a three-time Mid-Am winner and reigning two-time Senior Player of the Year (locally and nationally) finished one shot behind the McDermotts, tied for fifth with Michael Brown (71-77), of Philadelphia Publinks, winner of the 2009 Mid-Am and the 2010 Philadelphia Open.

There was, however, one familiar naming missing from the Day Two drama: defending champion Glenn Smeraglio, of Mercer Oaks. Smeraglio shot a very uncharacteristic 86 on Wednesday and missed the cut.

“I got off on the wrong foot and stayed on the wrong foot,” said Smeraglio, reached on his cellphone Thursday afternoon.

Specifically, he recalls a series of “fat” wedge shots that cost him dearly.

“It was tough out there and course got the better of me,” he said.

When Smeraglio’s score was posted on the GAP website, he said he got about 10 text messages from friends asking, “Are you all right?”

“No excuses,” he said. “I wish I had an excuse.”

The Mid-Am title is something of a breakthrough for Brennan, who had finished in the top nine four out of the previous six years. It was his first win in a GAP championship, and the first Mid-Am title for a player from Philadelphia Cricket since Rob Savarese Jr. won in 2003.

“To put my name on a GAP trophy really means a lot. Words can’t describe it,” Brennan told GAP staffers. “It’s overwhelming.”

It did not escape Brennan’s notice that the Mid-Am win earned him an exemption into the premier GAP event of the season, the Philadelphia Open in July at Pine Valley.

“To punch my ticket to get in Pine Valley is unbelievable,” said Brennan.

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Unless you’re part of the ruling hierarchy of your club, there is one event on the GAP tournament schedule every year that attracts little attention. I refer, of course, to Pro-Pres, Golf & Green.

As the name suggests, foursomes in the Pro-Pres, as it’s called, are made up the club pro, the president, the golf chairman and the green chairman from clubs throughout GAP. Although there are prizes, the Pro-Pres is not so much a tournament as it is a fun day and a gathering of the minds, followed by a dinner banquet.

I wouldn’t bother to note this year’s Pro-Pres, which was held May 16 at Cedarbrook CC, except that a couple of people have mentioned the remarks by the keynote speaker at the banquet, Bradley Klein, the outspoken and influential architecture editor at Golfweek magazine.

From what I hear, Klein was indeed outspoken, blunt and spot-on in discussing (a) the financial plight of many clubs today and (b) trees on golf courses.

Klein is a friend and colleague, so I called him to hear first-hand about his comments at the Pro-Pres. He picked those topics, Klein said, because his audience was an assemblage of precisely the people who make decisions at clubs. Why waste such an opportunity to speak his piece?

Also, Klein noted, he had to speak fast; he had precisely 12 minutes. Everyone in the room already had spent a long day on the golf course, many of them had imbibed a cocktail or two, and they wanted to eat and get home in time to see the playoff game between the 76ers and the loathsome Celtics.

“There was no Q&A afterward, is what I’m saying,” said Klein.

On the matter of running clubs, Klein said the days are over of clubs being run by boards as if they were a hobby or a personal fiefdom. To survive today, clubs must be run like a business, accountable and with an eye on financial stability.

“Golf courses must pay for themselves,” he said.

The days also are over when clubs can afford to allow board members to appoint friends or family members to important posts and committees overseeing courses.

“They need to qualify, they need to work their way up,” said Klein. “These jobs require time and they require work. These people need to be advocates for the golf course and for the superintendent, not a buddy of the club president.”

Touche.

As for trees on golf courses, which are a particular passion of Klein’s, he rued the days of a succession of club golf chairmen planting trees willy-nilly all over the course, often with an eye toward benefiting their own game, whether we’re talking hook or slice.

“For years, courses had tree planting programs, but there was no program,” said Klein. “There was no thought, no planning, no strategy – and they didn’t pick the right kind of trees.”

Now, he said, clubs to develop systematic and rigorous approaches to managing the trees on their golf course.

“I said, ‘If you really love your golf course, donate $100 and have a spruce tree removed in your loved one’s name,’ ” he said.

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