BMW GTM Playoff set: Philly Cricket, HVCC, Little Mill & Llanerch
Four teams — literally and figuratively — weathered the storm of the 2016 BMW GAP Team Matches to secure Playoff spots.
| Playoff & Challenges schedule | 2016 standings | Week One recap | Week Two recap |
Defending champions Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (3–0, 127 points) and returning finalist Llanerch Country Club (3–0, 106 points) posted Week Three victories to advance. They will be joined by Huntingdon Valley Country Club (2.5–0.5, 101.5 points) and Little Mill Country Club (2–1, 96.5 points), both of which advanced by virtue of point total.
The BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff & Challenges will take place Saturday, May 7. It includes teams from Division AA, the event’s top tier. Three players for each participating club play at each venue. Each player competes in a four-way match against one foe from another team.
Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 is widely viewed as the on-paper favorite. It averaged 42 points a week and finished atop Division AA. Two team members — P.J. Bartholomew (2007 BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion) and Gregor Orlando (a Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine Player to Watch in 2016) — ranked in the Top 5 among all scorers.
Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 surely delivered on a “win and you’re in” scenario in Week Three, brushing past Glenmaura National Golf Club (2–1), 40–14.
“To get by a very good Glenmaura team and to get into the Final is a great accomplishment for us,” Rob Savarese, Jr., Philadelphia Cricket Club’s team captain, said. “Everybody’s really happy and excited about Saturday. We talk about [the BMW GAP Team Matches] all year; it’s a big part of our culture. Maybe half the team has grown up in the BMW GAP Team Matches environment, and then we have a bunch of new guys who have never experienced it. That combination really gets everybody enthused and thinking about it all year.”
Andy Latowski is among the new and enthused. Although he now resides in California, Latowski made the trip east to compete in Week Three, grabbing 2.5 singles points. Fellow “lights out” players included Bartholomew and Orlando, who swept their respective matches as well.
“For the rest of us, it was just about survival and trying to stay warm,” Savarese, 49, of Lafayette Hill, Pa., said.
Llanerch survived and sizzled in a 36–18 triumph over Commonwealth National Golf Club (1–2). Like most of its Week Three competitors, it battled the rain — less downpour and more nuisance — throughout the majority.
“It made the golf course longer. Llanerch has some very long par 4s, and when it gets wet, those long par 4s turn into short par 5s,” Tom Spano, Llanerch’s captain, said. “You’re approaching some of these par 4s with longer irons or woods, which makes it difficult, especially for the away team. The course held up pretty well. The greens were still Llanerch-quick.”
The return of veterans Sean Coyle and Mark Fuessinger also aided Llanerch’s effort. The two combined for five singles points.
“It’s great to be back in the final,” Spano, 33, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said. “Last year was a great experience. It created a buzz around the club. We have 12 guys who take this pretty seriously, and to finish second last year [in the BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff] was a great thing for us.”
To reach the Playoff a year ago, Llanerch knocked off fellow unbeaten Little Mill in Week Two. The latter transformed that heartache into elation with a win against Overbrook Golf Club (2–1). Little Mill trailed Overbrook by 5.5 points entering the contest. It not only needed a Week Three victory, but also a substantial points haul to hold off Philadelphia Cricket Club 2 (2–1) for the top spot. By grabbing 40.5 against Overbrook, Little Mill edged Philadelphia Cricket Club 2 by 7.5 points.
“Going into it, we knew we had to make a serious run. Once I heard the Kania brothers [James, Jr. and Michael] weren’t playing, I knew it increased our chances of doing so,” Michael Hyland, Little Mill’s team captain, said. “People thought we were down and out after week two. Guys showed some heart in the rain.”
Hyland and his father Thomas teamed to sweep their singles and better-ball match. Paul Bickford and James Gillespie followed suit at Overbrook. Bill Cregar, a “hot hand at the club” this past week, stepped in for Joseph Roeder and snagged 2.5 points.
Little Mill earned BMW GAP Team Matches titles in 2011-12 and made the Playoff in the years since (save for 2015). Only three members of its 2012 roster — James Arsenault and the Hylands — remain a part of the team in 2016.
“We lost a lot of key players to turning professional or moving away, but are still pretty good,” Hyland, 37, of Medford, N.J., said. “Making the Playoff was our main goal. It’s more fun than almost winning anything because we never get to play as a team.”
Unlike Little Mill, Huntingdon Valley is a stranger to the BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff as of late. Sure it holds a record 32 titles, but its last postseason appearance came in 2010.
“It’s been a long time. There are probably only a few of us left who were on that 2010 team,” Daniel Pinciotti, Jr., Huntingdon Valley’s team captain, said. “The guys are really pumped up. Everybody’s excited about playing in the championship for the first time in a while. We’re probably the major underdog, being that Cricket won it last year, Llanerch came in second and Little Mill’s been right there.”
Huntingdon Valley and fellow perennial Aronimink Golf Club (2.5–0.5, 90.5 points) squared off with Playoff stakes in Week Three. The final groups provided drama at both sites. Huntingdon Valley’s James Schmidt won the back nine of his match against Aroninmink’s Jeff Klagholz for a crucial point. Likewise for William Weihenmayer at Aronimink, who claimed a point heading in. Mind math caused confusion as groups entered the clubhouse post-round.
“I honestly thought we lost,” Pinciotti, 44, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said. “I actually congratulated [Aronimink team member] Michael Davis for winning. He gave it back to me. It was crazy.”
Saturday could be wild as well, with four former BMW GAP Team Matches champions — and potential precipitation — in the mix.
“Huntingdon Valley and Little Mill have a lot of experience. The Llanerch team reminds me a lot of our second team; they play loose and that could be very dangerous,” Savarese said. “It’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to play really well to win. This could be an exciting end to the Team Match season.”
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 153 Full Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.