WAYNE, Pa. — Minutes after capturing his fourth Brewer Cup trophy Wednesday, Don Donatoni sat in his car for a brief moment, reflecting on the weight of his achievement. The White Manor Country Club member, now drained of personal pressure, overcame No. 1 seed and Division rookie Thomas Humphrey, 2&1, to win the Super-Senior trophy in the event’s 10th edition, presented by Callaway Golf at St. Davids Golf Club (par 70, 5,728 yards).
“I was a little emotional about it because I didn’t think I had it in me when I came here,” an elated Donatoni, 69, of Malvern, Pa., said. “My game was just starting to come around. I was striking the ball better and making the short putts. I knew I had a shot, but I just didn’t think I was sharp enough to survive. To win this event once is a thrill, but to do it four times is just something you can’t fathom.
“Match play is so unpredictable. You come out and play as best you can no matter who the opponent is. To come out on top is a tremendous accomplishment and feeling.”
“Don’s just a great champion,” Humphrey, 65, of Chadds Ford, Pa., added. “He’s not going to give you anything. If you’re sitting there waiting for him to do something wrong, you’re going to be waiting a long time.”
Donatoni rarely gave. Humphrey rarely waited.
In a bout between two of the Division’s longest hitters, Donatoni and Humphrey traded jabs on the front nine. The former established a 2-up lead following a conceded birdie on No. 5 (par 4, 362 yards), where he knocked a wedge 95 yards to six feet. Humphrey faced a 5 or worse. The Wilmington Country Club member managed to even the contest with a birdie on the par 5, 427-yard No. 8, drilling a 7-iron from 165 yards and two-putting from 20 feet.
Donatoni, shaking off the cobwebs of a lost lead as well as the remnants of a feisty cold, saw the uphill par 3, 144-yard 10th hole as a beacon of light. He rolled a treacherous downhiller for birdie into another area code on the sprawling surface. After Humphrey cozied his birdie attempt into gimme range, Donatoni, thinking “grip and pray”, stroked in an uphill 20-footer to halve.
“That was a momentum builder for me,” Donatoni, the four-time reigning Super-Senior Player of the Year, said. “There is no doubt that when I made that comebacker, I felt like I had a second life. I had lost a 2-up lead on the front nine and could quickly find myself 1-down going into a par 5. I knew Tom, with his length, could birdie the hole. Making that putt was extremely important.”
“That was a great putt,” Humphrey added. “With Don, he just doesn’t make mistakes, and even when he did, he recovered. That’s the sign of a true champion.”
Humphrey didn’t birdie the next hole (par 5, 516 yards); Donatoni did to reclaim a 1-up advantage. He nipped a 40-yard chip that tracked the entire route and stopped a revolution or two shy short of its destination. Donatoni extended his edge to 2 after Humphrey encountered trouble in the form of a bare lie on No. 13 (par 4, 350 yards). A popped 4-hybird on the next hole (par 3, 145 yards) caused a Donatoni loss. Humphrey, more driver, less passenger, remained aggressive in his comeback bid. He reached the par 5, 470-yard 16th green in two and stared at a makeable 15-footer for eagle. Donatoni, facing another 40-yard chip with swale and ridge to navigate, again executed to squeeze another halve.
“I went back to the chip shot on No. 11. I said, ‘You’ve done it before, you can do it again,’” Donatoni said. “That was huge. Making that birdie on No. 16 was really important to me mentally.”
Donatoni secured an unprecedented fourth title on the next hole (par 3, 138 yards). The congenial and consistent Humphrey, with tee honors, caught the front left bunker — a dark cavern for visitors on this day.
“I’ve hit 9-iron there all week and this morning I hit 9-iron and I was on the front-third of the green,” he said. “Now I’m 1-down and I have to go for the pin, so I take 8-iron. I thought I hit a great shot. I guess it just ballooned a little bit and fell out of the sky. I hit the shot I wanted to. It was just unfortunate.”
“I saw what happened to Tom’s tee shot. He’s a club longer than me,” Donatoni said. “I thought it was a great shot, and the wind knocked it into the bunker. So I hit 7-iron as hard as I could into that wind. I don’t think, in the three days I’ve been here, that I’ve hit a better, more solid shot under the circumstances. I just flushed it to the right and it released to 10 feet.”
A two-putt turned the task for Donatoni, who previously won three straight Brewer titles (2013-15). As he shook hands with Mr. O Gordon Brewer, Jr., the tournament’s namesake quipped that his event should be renamed “the Donatoni Cup.”
“It was very kind of him to suggest that because it has become a great habit,” Donatoni said of his Brewer success. “I have some wonderful photos of me holding that trophy with Mr. Brewer. It’s something I won’t forget. Perhaps it is a target for others to come behind me and try to accomplish as well. I think it’s a pretty high bar I’ve set with four of these.”
In a clash of past champions, Donatoni separated from Charles McClaskey of Philadelphia Publinks GA early and never looked back en route to a 4&3 win. Donatoni moved to 3-up following a birdie on No. 6 (par 3, 127 yards) where he choked down on a pitching wedge and stopped it at six feet. McClaskey, who won titles in 2010 and 2011, couldn’t capitalize on minimal chances to close the deficit for the contest’s remainder.
“This tournament is probably the best one I’ve played in the last three years,” McClaskey, 78, of Elkton, Md., said. “In this game, and in life, you’re going to get down, but you have to keep plugging along. I always try to be the best that I could be. I think I still come away feeling confident.”
Humphrey outlasted Merion Golf Club’s Carl Everett to prevail in 19 holes. He stood dormie on the 17th tee, where an unwanted three-putt gave his opponent a glimpse. Everett buried a 25-footer on the next (par 4, 358 yards) to force overtime. On No. 1 (par 4, 358 yards), Everett tugged a drive right into rough beside the fairway bunker. He then skied a 7-iron from 150 yards onto a mound guarding a front right hole location.
“I was having trouble judging what club to hit. I didn’t take enough,” Everett, 70, of Harleysville, Pa., said. “This week was certainly a bit of a boost. I played reasonably well. Tom is a very fine player I might add.” Everett made 5 on the 19th hole, Humphrey 4.
The Brewer Cup, launched in 2008, is named in honor of O. Gordon Brewer Jr., a veteran of 42 USGA Championships and two-time U.S. Senior Amateur Champion (1994, 1996). He also won Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur titles in 1967 and 1976 as well as the 1997 Senior Amateur Championship, which earned Brewer Player of the Year honors that year. He was inducted into the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
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 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of 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.
3. Don Donatoni, White Manor CC d. 1. Thomas Humphrey, Wilmington CC, 2&1
1. Thomas Humphrey, Wilmington CC d. 4. Carl Everett, Merion GC, 19 holes
3. Don Donatoni, White Manor CC d. 2. Charles McClaskey, Philadelphia Publinks GA, 4&3