Mother Nature painted the perfect BMW GAP Team Matches portrait on April 18.
Partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. A departure from the typical Week One weather (cold and rainy).
Ironic since 2021 marks the long-awaited arrival of GAP’s founding event. The BMW GAP Team Matches returned following a one-year hiatus due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Four teams — Huntingdon Valley Country Club, LuLu Country Club, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 and Tavistock Country Club — prevailed in convincing fashion to put Division AA, the event’s top tier, on notice. The points breakdown (in order of citation): 41, 40, 40 and 38.5.
“For us, and I think for everybody, it was awesome to get back out playing golf with the guys you haven’t seen in a while. You got a little normalcy again, just walking down the fairways and thinking about the game,” Dan Pinciotti, Jr., Huntingdon Valley’s captain, said. “Everybody on our team was really excited to get back out there and defend our [BMW GAP Team Matches] titles. It was nice to keep it for an extra year, but now it’s time to defend. We’re excited to do it.”
Huntingdon Valley (1–0) emphatically demonstrated its championship pedigree with a 41–13 victory over Aronimink Golf Club (0–1). Playing in the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, respectively, youngsters Jake Fazio and Patrick Isztwan swept the singles and better-ball portions at home. The former, in his Division AA debut, made quite the impression on his Huntingdon Valley brethren.
“He had a really good year last year, getting to the finals of the club championship. He’s been playing some really solid golf as of late,” Pinciotti, 49, of Ivyland, Pa., said. “He got his first chance to play [on Huntingdon Valley’s first team] and really performed beyond belief. To go out there in your first GAP Team Match [in Division AA] was probably a little nerve-racking, but he played unbelievable.”
Huntingdon Valley holds a record 33 BMW GAP Team Matches titles. Its quest for No. 34 continues in Week Two against Commonwealth National Golf Club (0–1).
“It’s going to be a battle. A lot of our team members haven’t played Commonwealth,” Pinciotti said. “They’ve got a good team. Brett (Diakon, Commonwealth National’s captain) always gets those guys ready. We’re going to be up for the fight.”
Sporting metaphorical boxing gloves, LuLu (1–0) also proved to be a prizefighter in Week One. It defeated Running Deer Golf Club (0–1), 40–14.
“We’re very happy with the performance. Running Deer is a good team, a tough team and a tough course to play at, and so winning a couple of points there and handedly at home is a plan for success,” Jim Sullivan, Jr., LuLu’s captain, said. “We were grateful to get out with those results. It was a good week for us.
“In the clubhouse after Week One, there was a little bit of tension release, of feeling good and having played well after a lot of buildup of hoping to play well. The BMW GAP Team Matches is an important event for LuLu. We take it seriously.”
As serious as Batman chasing a Gotham criminal. The No. 1 spots set the LuLu tone. Jon Rusk (at LuLu) and Michael R. Brown, Jr. (at Running Deer) swept their respective singles matches.
“From what I saw firsthand at home and what I heard about at Running Deer, Brownie and Ruskie would’ve been our co-MVPs for the week,” Sullivan, 46, of Glenside, Pa., said. “Jon played well and didn’t miss a shot for the most part. On the road, Mike Brown played probably [Running Deer’s] best player in Stephen Barry and won his match. It sounded like he played incredible.”
LuLu heads to Hartefeld National (0–1) in Week Two.
“Every club has a bunch of good players, and when you go to their course, they’ve got every chance to beat you. We have to try to play well at home and get as many points on the road,” Sullivan said. “We feel good about the 12 guys who played this week. Our belief is to find the right people to play in the Nos. 1, 3 and 5 positions, and then find the most compatible partners for them. There’s not a lot of rocket science behind our perspective.”
From a Playoff perspective, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (1–0), like LuLu, is an on-paper favorite. It, too, issued a convincing Week One win, knocking off Little Mill Country Club (0–1), a three-time (2011-12, 2016) BMW GAP Team Matches champion, 40–14.
“It’s very exciting. We’re trying to find our way back into the Playoff. It’s a very good feeling we have right now,” Kevin Kelly, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1’s captain, said. “Little Mill’s a formidable opponent. It’s always nice to win.”
Like Huntingdon Valley, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 witnessed a sweep from its No. 5 and 6 spots, respectively, at home. The parties responsible: Cricket newcomer Brian Fischer and veteran Marc Mandel.
Both will look to repost such results in Week Two against LedgeRock Golf Club (0–1).
“We’re cautious and excited,” Kelly, 54, of Horsham, Pa., said. “Fortunately, [Philadelphia Cricket Club 2] played LedgeRock yesterday, so we have a little idea what’s going on up there and who we think we’re going to see. That’s kind of nice.”
Now there’s a common word in the Week One vernacular: nice. It felt nice to be back in BMW GAP Team Matches action for all. But Tavistock (on paper, not in person) didn’t seem nice and gentle against Whitemarsh Valley Country Club (0–1). A 38.5–15.5 win is a statement from the four-time (2004-06, 2008) BMW GAP Team Matches champion.
“Last year obviously was a tough year with COVID-19. We all missed the Matches, and it was really nice getting back at it and having some fun,” Tom Gramigna, Tavistock’s captain, said. “Our guys are extremely excited and committed to playing. Our Top 14 guys signed up for all three weeks. The enthusiasm is the highest I’ve ever seen.”
High enthusiasm, high level of play. Tavistock reeled off 23 points at Whitemarsh Valley. Credit, according to Gramigna, goes to Adam Bracy, who lined up the Week One road warriors. Bracy, for his part, swept the singles portion and paired with Adam Warner to grab three better-ball points.
“It was a pretty unbelievable performance by our away team. My hat’s off,” Gramigna, 51, of Haddonfield, N.J., said. “The away team, to do what it did, was pretty incredible.”
Tavistock’s next stop on the Playoff path is Old York Road Country Club (0–1).
“We certainly hope to win,” Gramigna said. “As I mentioned, the enthusiasm level and commitment level is extremely high. Everyone’s out practicing, trying to give their best for the team. Everybody works together to put the best team forward we can.”
BMW GAP Team Matches
Since 1897, the BMW GAP Team Matches has been contested annually, save World War II (1943-45), a severe ice storm (1994) and the COVID-19 pandemic (2020). The Association’s forefathers conceived the Matches to promote spirit, fellowship and camaraderie. It started with the four founding clubs – Belmont Golf Association (now Aronimink Golf Club), Merion Cricket Club (now Merion Golf Club), Philadelphia Country Club and Philadelphia Cricket – each fielding two teams with six players per side. First known as the Interclub Team Matches, the event changed to the Suburban League Matches in 1915 before adopting its current moniker in 1997.
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 300 Member Clubs and 80,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
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