HVCC’s Isztwan survives, advances

HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa.–Patrick Isztwan wasn’t supposed to be competing in this week’s BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. A fortuitous email, an unlikely playoff outcome and stunning victory over medalist Troy Vannucci instead has the 19-year-old HVCC member advancing into the Round of 16.

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Isztwan defeated Vannucci of Little Mill Country Club, 4&3, in the Round of 32 Tuesday in front of a boisterous gathering of home crowd followers. He headlines 16 players who advanced to Round of 16. Isztwan faces Brandon Dalinka of The Ridge at Back Brook at 7:30 a.m. starting on No. 10. Quarterfinal matches follow and begin at 12 p.m.

Dalinka defeated Nikita Romanov of Chesapeake Bay Golf Club in 19 holes.

The semifinals, originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, are now set for Thursday at 7:30 a.m. The 36-hole Final remains slated for Saturday with the first 18 holes at 7:30 a.m. and second 18 at 12 p.m.

So how did we get here?

Isztwan attempted to qualify for the Amateur at LuLu Country Club. He said it’s been a Championship circled on the calendar since the announcement a year ago.

However, Isztwan’s LuLu round ended in bedlam. He double-bogeyed No. 15 before finishing birdie-birdie-par to miss the cut by a stroke. He needed a 12-foot par save on the final hole to maintain his position. That saved him a place on the Amateur alternate list.

Isztwan was not happy. Until he was.

Sitting with family at his brother’s Harvard University graduation, Isztwan received an email from the GAP Championship Department. An Amateur spot was his if he wanted it.

So there’s the email.

In Qualifying, he posted rounds of 74 at HVCC and 73 at Lookaway Golf Club. The 147 total put him into a 10-for-9 playoff to secure a spot in match play.

On the first playoff hole, No. 10 (par 4, 400 yards), there was more chaos. His shots, in order: drive left onto the edge of No. 9 fairway (par 4, 459 yards); approach long onto the hill over the green in the fescue; a chip across the putting surface onto the opposite side of the green; a chunk chip; and a pressure-packed 20-foot putt to save bogey and join a group of five others on the next tee.

On No. 11 (par 4, 371 yards), the unruliness continued. Isztwan found the fairway off the tee box but lifted a pitching wedge from 120 yards, into the wind, into the back bunker. His only exit, and attempt to hold the green, was with a putter. An insider’s play per se. Unfortunately, the greenside rough stopped the ball a foot from the green. He kept putter in hand for the next, though, and rolled his effort to five feet.

Again, needing bogey to make it a 3-for-2 playoff, Isztwan was true.

On No. 17 (par 3, 226 yards), Joe Tigani of Fieldstone Golf Club went first and flew his tee ball long. Alex Seelig of Reading Country Club went next and found the green. Isztwan followed with a 9-iron to 30 feet left and on the putting surface.

Isztwan, and Seelig, survived with pars.

In the first-round match, Vannucci spurted clear early, leading 2-up after six holes. Isztwan once again showed his resolve. He won the next three holes, including an almost eagle on No. 9 (par 4, 459 yards) when his 8-iron from 174 yards stopped a foot from the cup.

“We both had six or seven feet for birdie [on No. 7] and I made that and he didn’t,” Isztwan, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said. “That was a nice first-hole win. I hadn’t won a hole yet in that match. On No. 8 (par 4, 467 yards), I put it on and he got a bad break in the bunker with a plugged lie. I made my four. On No. 9 (par 4, 459 yards), you throw it on that back stop and it comes down close. I hit it tight. He had a 30-footer up the hill that I thought was going in the whole way. It narrowly missed. It was nice to come out of the front ahead.”

Vannucci bounced back with a win on No. 10 but Isztwan turned the electricity up.

He took No. 11 with a birdie and No. 12 (par 4, 414 yards) with a par.

On No. 14 (par 4, 470 yards), Isztwan lit up the Valley with a 40-foot double breaker for birdie. A fist pump for the three followed.

On No. 15 (par 5, 577 yards), Isztwan found the fairway and the voltage to launch a 7-iron from 240 yards, downhill and downwind, to 10 feet.

Vannucci’s drive stopped in the left rough and tried to chase up an iron approach onto the green from far back but watched his ball tumble into the bottom of the bunker. He had no chance to get up-and-down.

“This will not affect the rest of the year. I hit a lot of good shots. It’s definitely a place where a lot of local knowledge is a huge plus,” said Vannucci, 31, of Marlton, N.J.

“I felt pretty good once I got to the first tee in the match. The way this course is you can make some big numbers. I feel a lot freer here when it’s match play and you don’t have to finish everything out,” said Isztwan, a rising junior at the University of Richmond. “I hit one bad shot you can just move on. In stroke play you can wrack it up here. Once I got the stroke portion done, I was ready and excited.”

Round of 32

32. Patrick Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley Country Club, d. 1. Troy Vannucci, Little Mill Country Club, 4&3; 16. Brandon Dalinka, The Ridge at Back Brook, d. 17. Nikita Romanov, Chesapeake Bay Golf Club, 19 holes; 8. Zach Dilcher, Hartefeld National, d. 25. John Brennan, Philadelphia Cricket Club, 5&4; 24. Brian Gillespie, St. Davids Golf Club, d. 9. Benjamin Feld, Green Valley Country Club, 20 holes; 29. Evan Eichenlaub, Saucon Valley Country Club, d. 4. Hayden Moffat, Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association, 3&1; 13. John Lalley, Llanerch Country Club, d. 20. Connor Sheehan, Tanglewood Manor Golf Club, 1-up; 28. Christian Matt, Cedarbrook Country Club, d. 5. Connor Bennink, RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve, 2&1; 21. Logan Paczewski, Huntsville Golf Club, d. 12. Morgan Lofland, Phoenixville Country Club, 23 holes; 2. Jeff Osberg, Pine Valley Golf Club, d. 31. Alex Seelig, Reading Country Club, 3&2; 15. Benjamin Smith, Country Club of Harrisburg, d. 18. Cole Wilcox, USGA/GAP GC, 3&2; 26. Michael R. Brown, Jr., LuLu Country Club, d. 7. Conor McGrath, Huntingdon Valley Country Club, 4&3; 23. Xiong Da, USGA/GAP GC, d. 10. Oscar, Mestre, Overbrook Golf Club, 2-up; 3. Andy Butler, Huntingdon Valley Country Club, d. 30. Chris Fieger, Sr., Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association, 4&3; 14. Michael Crowley, Briarwood Golf Club, d. 19. John Barone, Glenmaura National Golf Club, 6&5; 27. David Kim, LuLu Country Club, d. 6. Jalen Griffin, Five Ponds Golf Club, 2&1; 22. Campbell Wolf, USGA/GAP GC, d. 11. Kevin Kramarski, Moorestown Field Club, 6&4.

BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship

Originating in 1897, the Amateur Championship is GAP’s premiere individual event. Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Albert H. Smith captured the first Amateur Championship by defeating J.D. Winsor of Merion Cricket Club in 37 holes. The event’s format switched to medal play in 1938. J. Wood Platt went on to win two consecutive Amateurs under that format. His brother William “Zimmer” Platt earned the 1940 title at Philadelphia Cricket Club by being the only competitor to finish all 72 holes. The event’s format reverted back to match play in 1941. The Amateur Championship wasn’t contested from 1943-45 because of World War II. Overall, 34 courses have hosted the Amateur.

GAP

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 organization’s 340 Member Clubs and 100,000 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.

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