|Kevin McDermott (right) was one of seven Llanerch players to make the cut.|
NOTEBOOK: #GAPMidAm Day Two
HAVERTOWN, Pa. - Home-field advantage can make a huge difference. Local knowledge can help mount a successful run at a title or a key victory.
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For eight Llanerch Country Club members, seven of whom made the cut, the 35th #GAPMidAm presented by Callaway Golf was their year to take advantage. Especially at a course where local knowledge is quite helpful in navigating such a challenging track.
The low Llanerch member in the field was 2016 Club Champion Eddie Johnson, who carded rounds of 71 and 77 to place in a tie for third. Johnson has also been a finalist in the last three club championships.
“It is great to be the lowest Llanerch member in this year's Middle-Amateur but it is not something that I will reflect upon,” Johnson, 35, of Havertown, Pa., said. “It’s nice to be the low guy, but this place is great. If there was another member lower that me, then I would be as happy for them as they are for me.”
Kevin (74, 77) and Brian McDermott (78, 75) were the next best on the leaderboard behind their older brother Michael, a former Llanerch member and current Merion Golf Club representative who placed second. Stephen Seiden, Tom Spano, Michael Quartermain and Dan Brown also made the cut.
“There’s a lot of good players here,” Kevin McDermott, 41, of Newtown Square, Pa., said. “Maybe not the guys you are thinking are frontrunners in GAP Majors but ones in the next 10 to 15. Certainly a lot of guys came out for this event because they know the track, know where the trouble is and have an opportunity to play well. It didn’t surprise me that a lot of the Llanerch members played relatively well.”
Outside of the membership, the golf course holds a bit of the spotlight. In the final round, the course was playing 6,780 yards and only one player shot under par Thursday. That was former Middle-Amateur Champion (2014) Pete Barron, III of Greate Bay Country Club. No matter what the conditions are, Llanerch always holds up.
“The first 14 holes measure out at about 7,100 yards and the yardage comes out of the course on Nos. 15-18,” Kevin, a Llanerch member of 28 years and the 2013 Club Champion, said. “By that point, most are bleeding and your shirt is ripped. They are done at that point, relatively speaking. To get around this course for 36 holes, you need to have total command of your golf ball. You can’t fake it around here.”
At the end of the day, the people who you surround yourself with will ultimately make the biggest impact on you. At Llanerch, that holds true.
“The best part about this place is the people,” Johnson said. “If you don’t have good people, you don’t have a good golf club. You could have the best course in the world, but if the membership is terrible, you don’t have a golf club.”
Samaha snags best GAP Major finish since 2001
Old York Road Country Club’s John Samaha grew up playing golf on the GAP Junior Golf circuit and in the Philadelphia region. It’s rooted in his game.
“I’ve been playing in GAP events for so long,” said Samaha, who medaled in the 2000 Junior Boys’ Championship at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. “I’m just familiar with it all.”
After his Junior Golf days, Samaha spent his collegiate career at UNC Charlotte with the 49ers. His first move out of school was a professional stint on mini tours, mostly in Florida.
“I tried out the professional route and I realized it wasn’t for me,” said the 35-year-old.
Nowadays, Samaha is lucky to get out on the course twice a week. Practice time is hard to come by. He has a seven-month-old son, Jack.
“There’s not much time to play more than that these days,” said Samaha, a bartender at Maple Glen Tavern.
Samaha fired a pair of 75s this week, earning him a share of ninth place. He says that will go a long way for his confidence after a rough season in 2017.
“Honestly, the finish wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, especially with a four-putt on No. 16 (par 5, 540 yards), but this was good for my game. I’m just enjoying myself. Coming out here in this playing environment is great for me. I’ve played on high levels but coming out here with [middle-amateurs] is a good time. GAP events are some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing,” said Samaha, a Hatboro, Pa. resident.
This week will go down as his most notable finish since the 2001 BMW Philadelphia Amateur, held at Jericho National Golf Club, where he reached the quarterfinals.
“Notable Major finishes? That was it," said a laughing Samaha. "It was a long time ago.”
Final results: Birdie contest
After 36 holes of stroke play, the results are in for the Association’s annual #GAPMidAm presented by Callaway Golf Birdies Contest.
A total of 282 birdies were made through the course of two days: 168 in Round 1, 114 in Round 2 after the cut reduced the field to 73 golfers.
The winner of a brand-new Callaway Mack Daddy wedge will be announced tomorrow morning.
Callaway Golf was founded in 1982 by the late Ely Callaway, a visionary entrepreneur who operated under a simple but profound business promise: Deliver Demonstrably Superior, Pleasingly Different products and services. That philosophy turned what was originally a boutique manufacturer of high-quality wedges and putters into the world's largest maker of premium, performance golf products. The Callaway mission and vision has remained the same; we passionately pursue advanced, innovative technologies that help golfers of all abilities find more enjoyment from the game. Under the Callaway and Odyssey brands, Callaway manufactures and sells golf clubs and golf balls, and sells golf apparel, footwear and accessories in more than 110 countries worldwide.
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 260 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. 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.