GAP Am’s Rich History

If there are any young golfers in the field of GAP’s Amateur Championship at Huntingdon Valley CC who don’t have a full appreciation of golf history in this city, all they need to know is that this is the 112th Amateur.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but when GAP held its first Amateur at Bala Golf Club in 1897 – won by Albert H. Smith of Philadelphia Cricket Club, by the way, one of the four founding clubs – William McKinley was settling in as the 25th president of the United States.

That same year, Yale defeated Penn 30-10 in the first major college basketball game, Thomas Edison patented the movie camera, the Washington Star became the first newspaper to assign a reporter to cover the White House and a London cabbie named George Smith was said to have earned the dubious distinction of being the first person arrested for drunk driving. (Smith later pled guilty and paid a fine of 25 shillings).


That brings us to the Amateur Championship, which gets under way tomorrow with two rounds of stroke-play at Huntingdon Valley CC and Torresdale-Frankford CC. The top 32 finishers in stroke-play will advance to match play beginning Thursday, concluding with the final match Saturday at Huntingdon Valley.

If there is anything surprising about this year’s Amateur, it is that is HVCC is hosting it for the first time since 1960, when John Guenther of Berkshire CC beat the favored Linc Roden III on his home course, 2 and 1.

This is surprising only insofar as Huntingdon Valley, the classic William Flynn design, has been a frequent and gracious host of so many GAP tournaments throughout history, up to and including last year’s Philadelphia Open, won by young Andrew Mason, who shot rounds of 65-70, which anyone who has played Huntingdon Valley knows simply cannot be done – at least not by a player who doesn’t have his name stitched on his bag.

Sadly, Mason, who went on to become GAP’s Player of the Year, will not be in the field of the Amateur this week. He had a chance to play in the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur, which has a national field, and took it.

Also not in the field this week is Kyle Sterbinsky of Yardley CC, who last year, as a 14-year-old and the youngest player in the field, made it to the quarterfinals.
Defending champion Michael Hyland of Little Mill CC, however, will be in the field, hoping to do better than he did the last time he was the defending champion, in 2001.
“I lost 7-and-5 in the first round,” Hyland told the GAP staff.

Hyland heads into the Amateur with his game in “pretty good” shape. He recently finished third in the Kelly Cup in California and he was a semifinalist in the New Jersey State Mid-Am at Galloway National.

As usual, the field of 125 is pretty much a “Who’s Who” of amateur golf in Philadelphia. Of GAP’s premier events, only the Open, with its mix of club pros and elite amateurs, boasts a stronger field.

Huntingdon Valley has undergone something of a transformation, even since the Open last year. Hundreds of trees have been removed from the course, creating vistas and sightlines that haven’t existed for years.

The difference was quite noticeable to Chris Roselle, GAP’s tournament director, who last week set up the course with Kirby Martin, GAP’s director of competitions.
“On several holes, like No. 2 and No. 6, where you used to see trees, you see a lot of blue skies,” said Roselle. “The course is in great shape.”

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Because this column took last week off, there was no chance to congratulate Talamore CC’s Bob Abramski on his victory in GAP’s Warner Cup (Net) for us geezers 55 and older.

Abramki, 63, a 12-handicapper and a retired insurance underwriter from Fort Washington, shot 76 at Whitemarsh Valley CC, for a net total of 64. He finished one shot ahead of his friend and fellow Talamore member Gary Tiller, also a 12 handicap.

Abramski’s accomplishment is a testament perseverance in the face of pain and injury. Abramski, greens committee chairman at Talamore, played most of the past two years in a back brace, thanks to a injury dating back to his high school days. This year, he began working with physical therapist David Ostrow at FitGolf in Conshohocken. Abramski figures he has played 30 rounds so far this season – pain-free and without a back brace.

“He’s a miracle worker,” Abramski said of Ostrow.

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The GAP Member Play Days that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago continue to be a hit. So far, there have been quick sellouts at Metedeconk National, Trump National – Philadelphia, LedgeRock GC and White Manor CC.

Now comes word that the next Member Play Day, set for July 18 at The Ridge at Back Brook, sold out in 14 minutes. Rick Kelly of Newtown, who I interviewed for the earlier item on Member Play Days, emailed to say that when registration opened up at midnight on June 6, all 120 slots were gone by 12:14 a.m.

“If fact, I could only get three out of our foursome entered within that time period – our poor fourth got relegated to the Wait List.” wrote Kelly.

For the future, registration opens June 13 for the Member Play Day at Sunnybrook GC on July 25; registration opens June 18 for the Play Day at Llanerch CC on July 30.

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