GAP odyssey yields gold for Wilmington’s Homer
MALVERN, Pa. — In Jeffrey Homer’s case, a loss didn’t do what a loss often does.
Two weeks ago, he suffered a wrenching 1-up defeat at the hands of Morgan Lofland in the quarterfinals of the 107th Junior Boys’ Championship. Homer, however, didn’t feel dejected. He felt motivated, reassured by the promise of a better outcome.
That outcome came Wednesday. Homer, a Wilmington Country Club member, carded a 1-under-par 139 to capture the 22nd Christman Cup at a sweltering Chester Valley Golf Club (par 70, 6,284 yards).
Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Patrick Isztwan, the tournament’s defending champion, and GAP Youth on Course member Thomas Larkin tied for second at 3-over-par 143. The Christman Cup is a 36-hole, walking-only event.
“I knew before that I was capable [of winning] after my play in the Junior Boys’ Championship. I came out today and was confident. I got the job done,” Homer, 16, of Wilmington, Del., said. “All of the pieces connected. It feels awesome to win a big tournament like this.”
Homer, Loch Nairn Golf Club’s Evan Barbin and The Springhaven Club’s Ryan McCabe shared the event’s 18-hole lead at 2-over-par 72. Oppressive heat, coupled with the demands of Chester Valley’s hilly terrain, tested willpower and resolve. The field scoring average after Round One boomed to 79.2.
Homer surprisingly strayed from the championship conversation early. Traversing Chester Valley for the first time Wednesday, he admittedly struggled to find his footing.
“I was kind of fidgety with my putting stroke and my golf swing. Then I made a 10-foot par putt on No. 6, and that kind of got me going a little bit,” Homer, a rising junior at The Tatnall School, said. “I kept building off of that stroke and kept holing a bunch of putts throughout the day. When I hit good shots, I converted them for birdies.”
“I came out today and was confident. I got the job done.”Jeffrey Homer
Two of those birdies elevated Homer into the co-leader chair: an up-and-in on the par 5, 465-yard 14th hole, and a seven-footer on the par 3, 180-yard 15th hole following a crisp 7-iron.
“I knew I was on a hot streak. I knew I was playing well. I knew I was in a good spot,” Homer said.
A great spot as Round Two progressed. Homer posted the day’s lone subpar score — a 3-under-par 67 — in the afternoon. The heat and hills weathered and weakened. Homer never flinched.
“I stayed hydrated and energized the whole day. I stayed in the present,” he said. “It’s a long day. Don’t give up. It doesn’t matter where you are [on the leaderboard]. There is so much golf today.”
Starting on the back nine, Homer separated from a crowded pack thanks to a trio of birdies. Credit caddie and cousin Tommy Ciconte here. Ciconte sold Homer on a 7-iron on No. 10 (par 3, 177 yards). He knocked it to 15 feet for birdie. After a consultation on No. 12 (par 4, 401 yards), player and caddie agreed on a pitching wedge from 111 yards. Homer, using the green’s slope to his advantage, peeled it back to five feet. On No. 16 (par 4, 404 yards), one of his “best drives of the day” resulted in a sand wedge from 98 yards to three feet for birdie.
Homer, with a bogey-free 32 heading out, held a three-shot lead. The par 4, 401-yard No. 6, Chester Valley’s most difficult on this day with a 4.74 scoring average, proved pivotal. Nerves, like Bryce Harper’s bat, thumped Homer. Playing in the same group, Isztwan, like a raucous crowd at Citzens Bank Park, applied pressure. He drilled an 8-iron 158 yards to 30 feet above the flagstick. Homer, meanwhile, missed the green left and watched his chip release six feet past the hole. Isztwan closed to within two strokes of Homer after burying his birdie putt.
“I get back there, and my caddie, Jake Fazio, said, ‘I have a great read on this one.’ I hit it right where he wanted me to hit it, and it went in,” Isztwan, 18, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said.
Homer, too, answered the call. He converted a six-footer to save par. Homer all but closed his Christman case on the next hole (par 3, 158 yards). In between clubs yet again, a convincing Ciconte sold pitching wedge. Homer struck it beautifully, leaving his golf ball six feet from the hole location. He cleaned up the birdie putt.
“I was going to need help from Jeff. I needed one wayward swing, and I didn’t get it from him,” Isztwan, who will attend Richmond University in the fall, said. “Jeff putted great in the afternoon. He was lights out.”
Overall, Homer totaled 27 putts in Round Two.
“My putter saved me big time. That was everything to me today,” he said.
A coveted GAP trophy means everything to Homer, too.
“Without a doubt. This is my biggest win, 100 percent,” he said.
By virtue of his performance Wednesday, Homer vaulted to the top of the Harry Hammond Award standings. He leads Elmhurst Country Club’s Billy Pabst by five strokes entering the final leg. The Harry Hammond Award is comprised of Junior Boys’ Championship Qualifying, Christman Cup and Jock MacKenzie Memorial, set for July 19 at Sandy Run Country Club.
The Christman Cup is named in honor of J. Fred Christman, former GAP Executive Committee member (1980-89) and Director of Competitions (1989-99). He chaired the organization’s Junior Committee and thereby oversaw the administration of its Junior schedule annually. “Fred has been part of the glue that has held this organization together, making things work and handling many tough situations. Certainly, with the exception of Jim Sykes, no other individual has been as closely identified with GAP activities and players as Fred regardless of their status on the Executive Committee or staff,” former GAP President Ray Cross (1997-99) wrote in a letter published in the October 1999 Philadelphia Golfer. Christman died on Sept. 14, 2019 at the age of 86.
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.
|Jeffrey Homer, Wilmington Country Club||72-67–139|
|Patrick Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||73-70–143|
|Thomas Larkin, GAP Youth on Course||73-70–143|
|Anthony Ciconte, Wilmington Country Club||73-71–144|
|William Pabst, Elmhurst Country Club||74-70–144|
|Shane Lawler, Chester Valley Golf Club||73-73–146|
|Ryan McCabe, The Springhaven Club||72-75–147|
|Ryan D’Ariano, Penn Oaks Golf Club||73-75–148|
|Jackson Debusschere, The Springhaven Club||75-73–148|
|Jake Maddaloni, Aronimink Golf Club||74-74–148|
|Evan Barbin, Loch Nairn Golf Club||72-77–149|
|Scott Hughes, Cedarbrook Country Club||74-76–150|
|Jack Homer, Wilmington Country Club||75-76–151|
|Darren Nolan, Cedarbrook Country Club||76-75–151|
|Mario Ventresca, Cedarbrook Country Club||76-75–151|
|Michael Fioravante, LedgeRock Golf Club||75-77–152|
|Matthew Homer, Wilmington Country Club||77-76–153|
|James Gradisek, Philadelphia Country Club||73-81–154|
|Logan Wagner, Meadia Heights Golf Club||76-78–154|
|Eric Fryer, Commonwealth National Golf Club||82-74–156|
|Matthew Normand, Laurel Creek Country Club||77-79–156|
|Stephen Butler, Indian Valley Country Club||77-80–157|
|Luke Corcoran, Cedarbrook Country Club||75-82–157|
|Will Huntley, Blue Bell Country Club||77-81–158|
|Elijah Ruppert, Golden Oaks Golf Club||77-81–158|
|Carson Thompson, Laurel Creek Country Club||80-78–158|
|Luke Watson, RiverCrest GC & Preserve||83-75–158|
|Reilly Shaffer, Llanerch Country Club||80-82–162|
|Lucas Steinmetz, Spring Ford Country Club||82-80–162|
|Christian Deussing, Jericho National Golf Club||87-78–165|
|Anthony Carson, GAP Youth on Course||78-88–166|
|Andrew Ranaudo, Chester Valley Golf Club||84-84–168|
|Bryce Fazio, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||85-84–169|
|Ben Pintof, GAP Youth on Course||85-85–170|
|Nicky Riscica, Trenton Country Club||83-87–170|
|Nathan Jones, The 1912 Club||85-86–171|
|Kevin Deng, Radnor Valley Country Club||84-88–172|
|J.P. Hoban, McCall Golf Club||85-89–174|
|Matthew Dietl, GAP Youth on Course||88-90–178|
|Charlie Ferrise, RiverCrest GC & Preserve||92-90–182|
|John Curran, Chester Valley Golf Club||90-97–187|
|Christian Matt, Cedarbrook Country Club||78-WD–WD|
|Keller Mulhern, Whitford Country Club||83-WD–WD|
|Connor Toussaint, North Hills Country Club||85-WD–WD|
|James Ulsh, Carlisle Country Club||96-WD–WD|
|Roy Anderson, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club||83-WD–WD|
|Quinn Hamilton, Country Club of Scranton||NS|
|Kevin Lydon, Commonwealth National Golf Club||NS|
|NS – no show; WD – withdrawal|