ROYERSFORD, Pa. — A pair of even-keeled swatters and alternative music aficionados advanced to the 103rd Junior Boys’ Championship Final presented by PURE Insurance at Spring Ford Country Club (par 72, 6,551 yards) Wednesday.
Dawson Anders and Brian Isztwan posted two victories apiece to secure a bout for the Peg Burnett Trophy. The Final, originally scheduled for Wednesday, will be contested on a mutually agreeable date. Storms and unplayable course conditions suspended play in the event’s stroke-play qualifier on Monday. The quarterfinals and semifinals were delayed as a result.
“It feels really good to finally make it to the Final,” Anders, 18, of Telford, Pa., said. “The first time I played in the Junior Boys’ I had to win a big playoff just to get [into match play]. Last year I obviously played pretty well [in reaching the semifinals]. It just feels really good to keep moving forward. I love the tournament. It’s run so well and the competition is great.”
“I’m really excited about it because I think I shot 79 every other year [and missed the match play cut], so it was really a struggle,” Isztwan, 17, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said. “I came into the week knowing that if I made as many pars as I could, I figured I would make the Championship Flight. After the qualifier, I really am a match play kind of guy. I felt good about my chances once I made it through.”
In the semifinals, Anders, an Indian Valley Country Club member, defeated Wills Montgomery of Applecross Country Club, 3&2. Isztwan stopped Golf Association of Philadelphia newcomer Patrick Sheehan of Talamore Country Club, 4&3.
Anders and Isztwan may carry different Junior Boys’ résumés, but it’s a shared passion for progression that's arranged a future meeting between the two.
“I’m a lot more consistent. I gained distance off the tee with almost every club,” Anders, a recent Souderton Area High School graduate, said. "I feel like everything’s improved.”
“I made a refocus before the summer on just playing with what I have for the day,” Isztwan, a rising senior at William Penn Charter School, said. “If the ball’s moving a way I don’t like, then I just need to figure out how to aim. That has just really freed me up because I can just swing and know that it’s going to curve the way I want it to. I have almost no swing thoughts; I just get up and hit it at the target.”
Anders, a fan of alt-rockers Green Day and Blink 182, and Isztwan, who favors new wave acts such as Coldplay and The Chainsmokers, certainly hit their targets Wednesday.
In his match against Montgomery, Anders overcame an early three-hole deficit and squared matters with a birdie on No. 9 (par 5, 535 yards). A hard-cut 3-hybrid from 290 yards preceded a 45-yard wedge shot to four feet. Anders, a 6-foot-3 sharpshooter, relied on his 3-iron to forge ahead. On the gettable par 4, 300-yard 11th hole, he launched it along the right side, chipped up to nine feet and converted the downhill birdie putt. The next hole (par 4, 386 yards) saw an identical tee strategy: 3-iron to the right. Anders then knocked a wedge 105 yards to seven feet for another 3 and a 2-up lead. A lost ball for Montgomery on No. 15 (par 5, 485 yards) closed the case in Anders’ favor.
“It’s not the way you want to win a hole. I didn’t wish that on him,” Anders, who will attend Temple University in the fall, said. “It just worked out the way it worked out. It’s a shame it had to go like that.”
Against Sheehan, Isztwan emerged from Spring Ford’s outward nine — holding a 2-up advantage and momentum.
“I made nine pars on the front. I said to Patrick [Isztwan’s younger brother and caddie] that if I could par every single hole in my matches, I think I can win all of my matches,” Isztwan said. “This time it actually held true. It put me in a good position going into the back nine, which I’ve been playing well this week.”
Sure has. Isztwan remains unscathed on Spring Ford’s back nine thus far. In the semifinals, he won No. 11 with a safe par after Sheehan failed to get up-and-down from greenside right. Isztwan grabbed the steering wheel and a 4-up advantage thanks to a chip-in birdie on the next hole. A drive into trees along the righthand side prompted a pine punch-out. Isztwan settled into position atop the right greenside bunker, swung swiftly and saw gravity take care of the rest.
“It’s really hard to stop [the ball from there], so the only thing I could use to stop it was the pin. It hit it and went in,” Isztwan said. “[Patrick and I] were deciding whether I would have a foot in the bunker or just put it in back of my stance and hack it. I went with [Patrick’s] choice there and it worked pretty well.”
Clock’s ticking on when the Final will come around. Anders will leave the country tomorrow on a family trip to Jamaica.
“Going away will help me keep my mind off the championship, so that’s nice. If I can get a few days of practice in before [the Final], then I’ll be set,” Anders said.
Anders dispatched tournament darling Nikita Romanov of the GAP Junior Players Club, 2-up, to reach the semifinals for the second straight year. He stood dormie on the 18th (par 5, 517 yards) and stamped an exclamation point by powering a 3-hybrid 260 yards to 15 feet for an eagle look. In his bout against Will Riva of Bent Creek Country Club, Montgomery received a 1-up edge when Riva sent a drive out-of-bounds on the tempting par 4, 300-yard 11th hole. Montgomery, 18, of Exton, Pa., won the next two holes with safe pars and held steady for a 4&2 triumph.
In the bottom portion of the bracket, Sheehan, 16, of Doylestown, Pa., upset medalist and No. 2 seed Conor McGrath of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, 3&1. A back-and-forth joust early swayed in Sheehan’s favor when he started the back nine with a pair of wins. Isztwan arrived at the 16th (par 3, 208 yards) dormie against Zachary Barbin of the GAP Junior Players Club. He dumped a 6-iron into the left greenside bunker, only to hole the ensuing extrication for birdie and a 4&2 victory.
“I told my brother I was going to hole it because I really like those bunker shots. I’m just pretty confident with those short bunker shots, so I knew I was going to at least hit it on the green,” Isztwan said.
The Junior Boys’ Championship is the premier Major in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Division. It is open to GAP Member Club golfers aged 14-18 who have not started their college education and who hold a handicap index of 14.4 or lower. Sixteen players qualify for match play; an additional 16 advancing into the event’s First Flight.
The Junior Boys’ Champion is awarded the Peg Burnett Trophy, named in honor of the Association’s Executive Secretary from 1951-76. Ms. Burnett was an ardent Junior golf supporter who emphasized sportsmanship and respect for the game. “I was very strict about checking the rule book. I didn’t make the rules, but since they are there, you have to abide by them.”
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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 151 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.
9. Dawson Anders, Indian Valley CC d. 13. Wills Montgomery, Applecross CC, 3&2
6. Brian Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley CC d. 7. Patrick Sheehan, Talamore CC, 4&3
13. Kyle Vance, GAP Junior Players Club d. 1. Ryan Tall, Spring Ford CC, 5&4
10. Jake McCloskey, Radley Run CC d. 6. Andreas Aivazoglou, Rolling Green GC, 19 holes
9. Dawson Anders, Indian Valley CC d 16. Nikita Romanov, GAP Junior Players Club, 2-up
13. Wills Montgomery, Applecross CC d. 5. Will Riva, Bent Creek CC, 4&2
7. Patrick Sheehan, Talamore CC d. 2. Conor McGrath, Huntingdon Valley CC, 3&1
6. Brian Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley CC d. 14. Zachary Barbin, GAP Junior Players Club, 4&2
1. Ryan Tall, Spring Ford CC d. 8. Bobby Beck, Lehigh CC, 19 holes
13. Kyle Vance, GAP Junior Players Club d. 5. Kevin Scherr, Woodstone CC, 3&1
10. Jake McCloskey, Radley Run CC d. 15. Christopher Skean, Kennett Square G&CC, 6&4
6. Andreas Aivazoglou, Rolling Green GC d. 3. Andrew Wallace, Green Valley CC, 4&2