Two regain footing on Playoff precipice
Glenmaura National Golf Club and Llanerch Country Club know the scene all too well.
Both want a different ending this time. After reeling off respective Week Two wins, Glenmaura National (2–0, 73 points) and Llanerch (2–0, 65 points) stand on the doorstep of a BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff appearance.
For the former, it’s a sore stance. Glenmaura National, from 2013-16, carried a 2–0 record into Week Three and then lost. It gained the Playoff in 2017 and finished fourth. The 2–0 hex resurfaced in 2018 when Glenmaura National suffered a four-point defeat at the hands of Huntingdon Valley Country Club. It entered Week Three at 2–0 and fell to eventual BMW GAP Team Matches Champion LuLu Country Club by nine points a year ago.
“When you get to this last week and you’re 2–0, generally there is someone else who has a shot [at the Playoff] and is 2–0 as well. Whether it’s Philadelphia Cricket or LuLu or Huntingdon Valley, you know you’re going to play a strong team. You have to play your best,” Matthew Dougherty, Glenmaura National’s captain, said.
An encounter with a current champion is common of late for Llanerch. In 2021, it fell to then reigning champion Huntingdon Valley Country Club, 45–9, in Week Three. Now Llanerch needs to overcome the defending champion, LuLu (2–0, 69 points), in order to secure a Playoff berth.
“Maybe that’s the way the formula works. I don’t know,” Tom Spano, Llanerch’s captain, said. “We just have to put our best 12 out there, play good golf and see how it shakes out.”
Llanerch last appeared in the Playoff in 2018. It finished fourth that year.
In Week Two, Llanerch defeated LedgeRock Golf Club, (0–2, 41.5 points), 30.5–23.5. John Lalley continues to lead the team at home with six singles points through two weeks. Playing in the No. 6 spot at LedgeRock, team rookie Kevin Murphy accounted for a crucial five points (2.5 singles, 2.5 better-ball alongside Brandon Murdock).
“Kevin Murphy hits the ball a long way. LedgeRock is a big golf course, so it was a good fit for him. He played well,” Spano, 39, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said.
Next for Llanerch is LuLu, which knocked off Saucon Valley Country Club (0–2, 40.5 points), 33–21, in Week Two. Glenmaura National’s test comes in the form of a dominant Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (2–0, 83.5 points). Cricket trounced Aronimink Golf Club (0–2, 23 points), 41.5–12.5, in Week Two.
“Philadelphia Cricket doesn’t have any weaknesses. They have a strong lineup,” Dougherty, 43, of Dalton, Pa., said. “Not only do they 12 guys, they have 24, and probably more than that.”
That notion doesn’t dismiss Glenmaura National’s confidence in its own depth, however. Glenmaura National squeezed every ounce of it to squeak past Northampton Country Club (0–2, 36.5 points), 29.5–24.5, in Week Two.
“When I was driving down to the range, I said to [my partner] Eamon (Evans), ‘I hope we don’t overlook these guys. They have some strong players on their team.’ Most of our guys, I don’t think anybody’s ever played Northampton, so that was a little bit concerning. That was what ultimately did our road team in, to some degree,” Dougherty, 43, of Dalton, Pa., said. “A lot of the comments coming back were if they were to play the course again, they would’ve not hit into some areas where they got into trouble. That’s the thing with the Team Matches. Sometimes you’re familiar with courses, and sometimes you’re not and have to make adjustments.”
Glenamaura National intends to make favorable adjustments to its lineup in Week Three. Key contributors Vince Scarpetta, III and Patrick Mitchell will be available.
“We’re in a different position lineup-wise, from top to bottom, than we’ve been in for quite some time. I’m confident in the guys this year,” Dougherty said. “[Team members] John Barone and Eric Williams won the Harold Cross Invitational [at Philadelphia Cricket] last year. Cricket is a phenomenal course. You know what you’re going to get if you played it before. If we can get the right guys in the right positions home and away, then we’ll give ourselves a great chance.”
A brighter Playoff chance affixes both Huntingdon Valley Country Club (2–0, 72.5 points) and Merion Golf Club (2–0, 69.5 points). The former holds a 10.5-point lead over Whitemarsh Valley Country Club (1–1, 62 points) in Section 4. Huntingdon Valley edged Philadelphia Cricket Club 2 (1–1, 54.5 points), 28.5–25.5, in Week Two.
The tussle came down to the wire. Andy Butler and Kyle Deisher, playing in the No. 5 and 6 spots at Cricket, swept their better-ball match and earned 2.5 and three singles points, respectively. Huntingdon Valley babyface Christopher Schank, playing in the No. 6 spot at home, swept his singles match.
“He’s gotten better each year. We want to give him some opportunity to play, and I think he did very well. He battled and had a nice fight on the back nine,” Andrew Mason, Huntingdon Valley’s captain, said. “He’ll probably be a guy we rely on next week and in the Playoff, if we’re lucky enough to make it there.”
Merion, meanwhile, continues to rely upon a renewed Team Matches interest. And redhot sticks such as Patrick Knott, Addison West and Cole Willcox. That trio leads Merion in scoring with six singles points apiece.
“The Merion players have been really amped up, and mainly shown up. To beat both Tavistock (Country Club) and Little Mill (Country Club), two great golf teams … the players are pumped and feel great. We’re really happy about that,” Knott, Merion’s captain, said.
Merion defeated Tavistock (1–1, 56.5 points) 33.5–20.5, in Week One and Little Mill (1–1, 53 points), 36–18, in Week Two. Its last Playoff appearance occurred a decade ago when it finished fourth. Merion dropped out of Division AA in 2018 after losing a Challenge Match against Running Deer Golf Club, 33.5–20.5. It returned to the Team Matches’ top tier on the wings of a 42–12 win over Commonwealth National Golf Club in a Challenge last year.
Merion is now a win away from a Playoff return. It opposes Hartefeld National (0–2, 37 points) in Week Three.
“We’re all looking forward to getting out there and having a chance to get into the Playoff. We’re not taking anything for granted,” Knott, 36, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said. “You’re always going to get a good match in the top division. I expect Hartefeld to come out strong in trying to keep us from getting to the championship.”
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, Philadelphia Country Club and Philadelphia Cricket Club – 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 eighth 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 330 Member Clubs and 90,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.