Favorites, former champ gain Playoff
The 2021 BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff. As expected.
Powerhouses Huntingdon Valley Country Club (3–0, 130 points), LuLu Country Club (3–0, 107.5 points) and Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (3–0, 115 points) all made good on preseason prognostications. Tavistock Country Club (3–0, 100 points) rediscovered its BMW GAP Team Matches magic en route to the Section 3 title.
The Playoff is set for Saturday, May 8.
Huntingdon Valley, which holds a record 33 BMW GAP Team Matches titles, enters as defending champion. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the event a year ago.
“I think we’re all excited. We’re just glad to be back in the Playoff against some formidable teams,” Dan Pinciotti, Jr., Huntingdon Valley’s captain, said. “Philadelphia Cricket 1 is tough. LuLu is almost impossible, and Tavistock just jumped out there and grabbed everybody by the tail.”
“It’s going to be a very stern test. All three teams are loaded. They’re all very deep,” Kevin Kelly, Philadelphia Cricket’s captain, added. “I assume Huntingdon Valley would have to be the favorites as the defending champ. We played a practice match against them, and they have a lot of good, young kids combined with a lot of stately veterans. I think they’re the team to beat.”
A frontrunner designation is difficult to assign. Huntingdon Valley, LuLu, Philadelphia Cricket 1 and Tavistock all proved their Playoff worth with Week Three victories. Huntingdon Valley cruised past Llanerch Country Club (1–2), 45–9. LuLu edged Playoff hopeful Glenmaura National Golf Club (2–1) by nine points. In a battle of Cricketeers, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 maintained bragging rights over Philadelphia Cricket Club 2 (1–2) thanks to a 41.5–12.5 victory. Tavistock, a four-time BMW GAP Team Matches champion (2004-06, 2008), defeated Overbrook Golf Club (1–2), 30.5–23.5, to clinch its first Playoff appearance since 2011.
“We’re excited. We have our hands full obviously. There are some incredible teams that we’re going to be playing, but we’re going to give it our best,” Tom Gramigna, Tavistock’s captain, said. “We’re hungry for sure, but we’re also a pretty significant underdog. Again, that’s why you play these things. You never know. We can get hot and compete, and hopefully that’s what we do. We’re looking forward to competing and seeing how it all shakes out.”
“Between the four teams, I expect it to be a really close battle this year,” Jim Sullivan, Jr., LuLu’s captain, added. “I know our team is very good. But you have Huntingdon Valley, and they rolled through their bracket this year. Philadelphia Cricket obviously has great experience, so they’re going to be a challenge. Tavistock has a bunch of great players. The four teams are pretty evenly matched and playing well right now.”
Lineup allocation comes into focus as the Playoff approaches.
“It will be a fun week, trying to figure out who goes where. We have a lot of good players. It’s just a matter of figuring out who’s best for what course,” Kelly, 54, of Horsham, Pa., said.
“The Playoff is the best golf day of the year, the most exciting golf day of the year, but also the most anxiety ridden golf day of the year,” Sullivan, 46, of Glenside, Pa., added. “Now as one of the old guys who helps put together the lineup, the anxiety started Sunday night as soon as we heard the results. Obviously, you want to get into the Playoff and have a chance to play. But trying to figure out who and where and all the different moving parts is tough.”
Huntingdon Valley may be the defending champion, but it isn’t exempt from tough lineup choices, either. Replies flooded Pinciotti’s inbox the instant he sent a preseason email soliciting BMW GAP Team Matches interest.
“I haven’t had a struggle to try and get people to play. Everybody said, ‘I’m in all three weeks. We get to the Playoff, and we’re in,’” Pinciotti, 49, of Ivyland, Pa., said. “It’s tough to make some calls when guys have been there all three weeks. Guys have been really dedicated.”
That dedication now turns to the BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff.
“If you guys could hook up the RedZone channel where we can see all of the matches, that would be a lot of fun,” Sullivan said.
The BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff includes teams from Division AA, the event’s top tier. Three players of each participating club play at each venue. Each player competes in a four-way match against one player from another team.
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. BMW is the event’s presenting sponsor for the seventh consecutive year.
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.