Green lights, roadblocks emerge on Playoff road
Glenmaura National Golf Club and Llanerch Country Club visited the BMW GAP Team Matches tollbooth plenty of times. They know the fee required in order to cross the Playoff bridge.
It’s a hefty price in 2021 (cost breakdown forthcoming). Nevertheless, both Glenmaura National (2–0) and Llanerch (2–0) appear ready and willing to empty their change jars after posting crucial Week Two victories.
By doing so, Glenamaura National sits a win away from its first Playoff appearance since 2017. Llanerch, too, needs one more win to secure its fourth Playoff berth in the last seven years.
Better hope those change jars contain mostly quarters and $1 coins. Glenmaura National opposes Section 1 frontrunner LuLu Country Club (2–0, 76 points) in Week Three. The Playoff picture is equally as complicated for Llanerch; It will face defending champion and Division AA points-leader Huntingdon Valley Country Club (2–0, 85 points) in Week Three.
“Huntingdon Valley is very young, and we have a bunch of mid-amateurs over here at Llanerch, so it will be a fun day at both places,” Tom Spano, Llanerch’s captain, said. “Both places have significant home-course advantages. We’ll see what happens.”
“We obviously know it’s a tough match. There’s no question that LuLu has a great team,” Matthew Dougherty, Glenmaura National’s captain, added. “They added [2014 GAP Middle-Amateur Champion] Pete Barron, III, and we know how good of a player Pete is, in addition to their already existing team. We’ve got to play well. When you get to this point, you’re going to face a team with 12 good players.”
To this point, Glenmaura National’s proven formidable in all facets. It defeated Running Deer Golf Club (0–2), 38.5–15.5, in Week Two.
Familiar faces such as Matthew Hoover, Stephen Hudacek, III and Nick Parise give Glenmaura National reliability and consistency within its depth chart. A new face in nine-time AGA/GAP Player of the Year Eric Williams, who joined the club a year ago, gives Glenmaura National an anchor at home. He’s earned 5.5 singles points through two weeks. John Barone, who’s reeled in five points through two weeks, is the away yang to Williams’ yin.
“They’re both such solid players,” Dougherty, 42, of Dalton, Pa., said. “It gives us a nice one and one. It gives us a nice piece on our home and away teams to build off of.”
For Llanerch, the tandem of John Lalley and Mike Quartermain combined for six of the team’s 18 points on the road in Week Two. It breezed past Aronimink Golf Club (0–2), 39-15.
“The away team getting 18 points was a big jump for the day. John in the No. 1 spot and Mike [in the No. 6 spot] really helped the team,” Spano, 38, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said. “There’s a lot of local knowledge involved at Aronimink. Our guys did well over there. We swept the first two groups [at Llanerch] and were able to protect the course.”
The notion of protecting the course will take on a different meaning in Week Three. Llanerch underwent a renovation that caused the closure of nine holes (Nos. 5-7, 11-16) across Steel Road. A grand reopening of the newly-refurbished course in its entirety will coincide Llanerch’s attempt at a BMW GAP Team Matches postseason return.
“With the renovation that we’ve done, we’ve expanded a lot of the greens, so there is a lot more pin placements,” Spano said. “Now that we’ve taken down some trees, there’s significant wind on a lot of holes, coming across the fairways and realty throwing you off on some clubbing. When you get on the wrong spots on the greens, lag putting is obviously more difficult with windy conditions. With the course reopening, there’s a lot of excitement around the club. Hopefully it’s a successful weekend for our club as well as our team.”
Philadelphia Cricket Club, too, is gearing up for an exciting weekend, although the circumstance isn’t the best-case scenario it envisioned. Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (2–0), a four-time BMW GAP Team Matches champion (2013, 2015, 2017-18) will battle brothers Philadelphia Cricket Club 2 (1–1) in Week Three. The latter, however, fell to Little Mill Country Club (1–1), 31–23, in Week Two, thereby lessening (not eliminating) the drama within Cricket showdown. Philadelphia Cricket Club 1, which defeated LedgeRock Golf Club (0–2), 33.5–20.5, in Week Two, leads Philadelphia Cricket 2 by 23 points in Section 2 entering the regular season finale.
“We were a little disappointed. We were hoping Cricket 1 and Cricket 2 would be battling each other at 2–0, but the Little Millionaires played pretty well at home,” Kevin Kelly, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1’s captain, said. “Every week is fun, and you just hope to get to the Playoff. We seem to be in a good position to get there. At the end of the day, there’s a reason there’s a Cricket 1 and a Cricket 2 [in Division AA]. We’re just going to play the lineups the way we played them the last two weeks and see how it shakes out. It should be a really fun day at the club.”
Don’t sleep on Tavistock Country Club (2–0, 69.5 points) in Section 3. It knocked off Old York Road Country Club, 31–23, in Week Two. As a result, Tavistock, a four-time BMW GAP Team Matches champion (2004-06, 2008), is on the brink of clinching its first Playoff appearance in a decade.
Do forgive the staggered silence of Tom Gramigna, the team’s captain, during his metaphorical Monday morning presser. The enthusiasm among the Tavistock troops is a bit overwhelming right now.
“We’re thrilled with the win. Honestly, I haven’t even looked at the scoresheets, so I can’t speak intelligently,” Gramigna, 51, of Haddonfield, N.J., said. “We actually got lucky with it raining early, so it didn’t rain during any of our play at Tavistock. It was a little windy, and the greens were extremely fast. The course was awesome. There’s a lot of excitement at the club right now.”
And a lot of traffic approaching the Playoff tollbooth.
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.