DOYLESTOWN, Pa.– Mike Little is a late comer to the game. He didn’t pick up a club until 2006 when his father Bill encouraged him to do so. A few months later, Little, and his high school friend Pete Christakos decided, on a bit of a whim, to head to the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach, S.C. to become professionals.
Tuesday at Doylestown Country Club (par 72, 6,572 yards), Little recorded a career-defining victory in the 116th Open Championship. The Lookaway Golf Club pro birdied the final hole to edge Alex Knoll, a Glen Brook Golf Club assistant professional, by a stroke and earn the $2,000 winner’s check. Little finished 6 under (2 under in Round 2) for the 36 holes.
Andrew Mason of Huntingdon Valley Country Club and Jeff Osberg of Pine Valley Golf Club tied for low amateur. Both former Open Champions, Mason (2011-12) and Osberg (2016, 2019), traversed Doylestown in 4 under.
Little’s top-Open finish was a tie for fifth in 2017 at Philadelphia Country Club.
When Little, who sold auto parts prior to heading South, played his first competitive round in 2006 for the Golf Academy to gauge his ability level, he carded a 101. Yes. That’s a 101. When he graduated 16 months later, Little posted a 71.
“This is a tournament I always wanted to win. I always highlight this one on the schedule,” said Little, 36, of North Wales, Pa. “A lot of great players have won this event. I do get some time to work on my game with a great staff supporting me. All the hard work over the years has paid off today. I want to thank my swing coach Mark Sheftic and my putting coach Mike Dynda. I also want to thank my father [Bill]. I was pretty athletic growing up. I was very good at baseball when I was young. I knew there was a sport out there for me. He’s the one that really taught me the game of golf. He took me out one Sunday afternoon and I really fell in love with it.”
With the tournament on the line, Little hit the equivalent of a walk-off home run on No. 18 (par 5, 517 yards). He ripped driver down the middle of the fairway only to have his ball stop in the front part of a divot. Little then asked Kirby Martin, GAP’s Director of Competitions, spotting balls in the fairway, where he stood on the leaderboard. Martin said “tied.” Little, knowing a birdie would win it, then pulled his 5-wood from the bag and hit a low, cut that landed near the flag and stopped 10 feet away. A gentle downhill eagle putt stopped inches from the cup. The tap-in birdie resulted in Little thrusting his arms in the air.
“Since I’m still learning the game, I think that’s helping me when I get under pressure. It’s all new experiences. I’m not feeling like some others would. Again, I don’t know what they are going through hitting when they are on the 18th hole hitting out of a divot from 225 yards. But I know I enjoyed that a lot,” said Little. “I knew I had an opportunity to win if I knocked it on the green and made a birdie. To execute that shot, that’s a thank you to everyone who has helped me along my journey here with golf. I’m very proud of that.”
A short time earlier, the final hole hosted a pair of theatrical moments.
Osberg took the stage first. He ripped a 3-wood from 261 yards to eight feet. His eagle putt found the bottom of the cup and the clubhouse lead at 4 under. In the very next group, Knoll ripped his 231-yard, 3-wood second shot into the right collection area. His chip from 10 yards slowly tumbled toward the cup and rolled 360-degrees around the lip, but somehow stayed out. He tapped in for birdie and 5 under.
“I hit a really nice chip that should have went in but 360-degreed its way out of the hole,” said Knoll, 35, of Jim Thorpe, Pa. “It broke right-to-left. I just wanted to get it on the green. I knew it would roll out the rest of the way.”
Little was the first-round leader at 4 under. However, a couple of early bogeys tightened an already clustered leaderboard.
When he birdied No. 9 (par 5, 526 yards), Little trailed Knoll by a shot.
A plethora of names fluctuated up-and-down the scoreboard until late in the round. Little moved to 6 under with an eagle on No. 14 (par 5, 499 yards) thanks to a 25-foot putt, but dropped a shot on No. 16 (par 4, 378 yards) when he found the right trees off the tee before eventually lipping a 20-foot par try.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, GAP canceled qualifying altogether, thus making the Open Championship invitation-only. Originally set for Galloway National Golf Club, the Open was moved to Doylestown in the wake of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The Open Championship is GAP’s third oldest championship. The Amateur is 119 years old and the Joseph H. Patterson Cup is 117.
NOTE–The guaranteed purse for professionals is $10,000.
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 288 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
|Michael Little, Lookaway Golf Club||68-70-138|
|Alexander Knoll, Glen Brook Golf Club||71-68-139|
|(a) Andrew Mason, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||71-69-140|
|(a) Jeff Osberg, Pine Valley Golf Club||72-68-140|
|Zac Oakley, Bidermann Golf Club||71-70-141|
|(a) Connor McNicholas, The 1912 Club||71-71-142|
|Braden Shattuck, Bidermann Golf Club||73-69-142|
|(a) Troy Vannucci, Little Mill Country Club||72-70-142|
|Trevor Bensel, Overbrook Golf Club||72-71-143|
|(a) Michael R. Brown, Jr., LuLu Country Club||70-73-143|
|(a) William Davenport, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club||69-74-143|
|Travis Deibert, Doylestown Country Club||76-67-143|
|(a) Jalen Griffin, Five Ponds Golf Club||74-69-143|
|John Pillar, Sr., Country Club at Woodloch Springs||73-70-143|
|Steve Swartz, West Shore Country Club||72-71-143|
|(a) Brandon Dalinka, The Ridge at Back Brook||69-75-144|
|David Quinn, Laurel Creek Country Club||72-72-144|
|Chris Krueger, Kings Creek Country Club||71-74-145|
|Hugo Mazzalupi, Patriots Glen National Golf Club||76-69-145|
|(a) Grant Skyllas, LedgeRock Golf Club||74-71-145|
|(a) Andrew Keeling, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club||77-69-146|
|Brian Kelly, Bucknell Golf Club||75-71-146|
|(a) Matthew Teesdale, The 1912 Club||75-71-146|
|Andrew Turner, French Creek Golf Club||72-74-146|
|(a) J.T. Spina, Spring Ford Country Club||74-73-147|
|(a) Conrad Von Borsig, Philadelphia Cricket Club||74-73-147|
|(a) Lukas Clark, Galloway National Golf Club||75-73-148|
|Curtis Kirkpatrick, Indian Spring Golf Course||74-74-148|
|David McNabb, Applebrook Golf Club||72-76-148|
|Mark Sheftic, Merion Golf Club||71-77-148|
|Michael Tobiason, Deerfield Golf Club||74-74-148|
|Pat Butkus, Tavistock Country Club||74-75-149|
|(a) Jack Irons, Little Mill Country Club||75-74-149|
|Dustin McCormick, Glen Brook Golf Club||76-73-149|
|Dustin Wallis, Dustin Wallis Golf||74-75-149|
|Ross Brown, Fox Hill Country Club||74-76-150|
|George Forster, Radnor Valley Country Club||78-72-150|
|Joseph Kogelman, GOLFTEC – Moorestown||76-74-150|
|Billy Stewart, The ACE Club||73-77-150|
|Jeffrey Herb, Waynesborough Country Club||78-73-151|
|(a) David Herbst, West Shore Country Club||73-78-151|
|(a) Brian Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||79-72-151|
|(a) Andrew Cornish, RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve||77-75-152|
|Parks Price, Country Club of York||76-76-152|
|Gregory Farrow, Deerwood Country Club||77-76-153|
|Christopher Filling, Seaview Golf Club||74-79-153|
|(a) Conor McGrath, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||79-74-153|
|Brendon Post, University of Delaware||75-78-153|
|(a) Oscar Mestre, Overbrook Golf Club||78-76-154|
|Rich Steinmetz, Spring Ford Country Club||74-80-154|
|Ashley Grier, Overbrook Golf Club||74-81-155|
|(a) Tony Peressini, Doylestown Country Club||77-78-155|
|Greg Matthias, Tavistock Country Club||78-78-156|
|Bob Lennon, Wilmington Country Club||78-79-157|
|David Pagett, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club||75-82-157|
|Billy Sautter, Philadelphia Cricket Club||80-77-157|
|(a) Zach Barbin, Loch Nairn Golf Club||82-78-160|
|(a) — denotes amateur|
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