|Philadelphia Country Club plays host to the 113th Open Championship. Pictured is the final hole.|
Philadelphia Country Club hosts 113th Open Championship
Golf Association of Philadelphia history was made the last time the Open Championship visited Philadelphia Country Club in 2004. Kim Verrecchio, then of Waynesborough Country Club, became the first woman professional to qualify for and compete in the event. A status she still holds today.
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The tournament’s champion, Chris Lange, also penned a historical note when he became just the fifth amateur to win the Delaware Valley’s most contentious championship. The only other prior amateur victors to Lange were James B. McHale, Jr. (1948), William Hyndman, III (1968-69), R. Jay Sigel (1975, 77-78, 80, 86-87) and Michael Brown (1997).
This year’s Philadelphia Open, set for July 17-18, makes its fifth appearance at one of the Association’s Founding Members. And again, it will author a new chapter in the Open record books. For the first time in recent history (since 1971-74), the Open will be contested on multiple days. Competitors will complete 18 holes on consecutive days instead of the one-day, 36-hole format. Also new for 2017, an expanded field to 133 players, up from 78. There will be a cut after Round 1 to the low 60 players and ties.
Defending champion, amateur Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, approves of the modifications. He defeated Chris Crawford of Spring Mill Country Club in a four-hole aggregate playoff at the Ridge at Back Brook.
“I like the change to two days. The field is bigger and stronger this year and it will be very difficult to repeat but I certainly have my sights on trying to do so,” said Osberg, 33, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., the Association’s two-time reigning William Hyndman, III Player of the Year. “It’ll be different with the reshuffling of the pairings after the first day. Last year, I was fortunate to play with Chris Crawford but typical you don’t know where you stand in the tournament. This year it’ll have a little more of the feel where you know where you are down the stretch and what needs to be done.”
Osberg’s victory continued a recent Open trend. He was the seventh consecutive amateur winner and eighth in the last 10 tournaments. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, a Temple University scholar-athlete – Andrew Mason (2011-12), Brandon Matthews (2013, 2015) and Matt Teesdale (2014) – earned the title.
The amateur trend may continue in 2017 as the field breakdown is almost 2:1 in favor of amateurs: 85 to 48.
“To get the best players in the area to come and see Philadelphia Country Club means a lot to us. It’s an opportunity for us to continue to elevate where our golf course is,” said Scott Reilly, Philadelphia Country’s sixth-year head professional “The club has a strong feel of wanting to give back. We are excited about the opportunity.”
Reilly tees off at 8:50 a.m. on No. 1. His take on what it will take to walk away with the 2017 title.
“You have to understand where the pins are so you have the proper angles,” said Reilly. “It’s definitely going to take solid driving and negotiating greenside. We don’t have very big greens so getting up-and-down is really important. You are going to have to be able to make solid putts to keep a round going.”
The Philly Country competitive course record is 64. That was set by Charlie Beljan in the 2005 U.S. Amateur Championship when Country was the alternate qualifying site. Merion Golf Club (East) was the main venue.
Total purse for the Open is $35,000. The low professional receives $7,000.
Overall, amateur players have won 19 times.
R. Jay Sigel holds the most Open titles at six. He won all of those as an amateur.
Eighty-six players secured a spot in the field by qualifying at either Blue Bell Country Club or Radnor Valley Country Club. The remaining 47 earned exemptions based on previous results. Participants include professionals who are members in good standing of the Philadelphia Section PGA, head professionals of GAP Member Clubs and amateurs who are members of member clubs and carry a handicap index of 7.0 or less.
As always, the public and media are welcome to attend.