25th Christman Cup - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

Jul 10, 2024

25th Christman Cup

Sunnybrook’s Stevenson sets benchmark in win

HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa. — His day started with hope. It ended with history.

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John Stevenson became the first player to win both the Junior Boys’ Championship and Christman Cup in consecutive years. He defeated Merion Golf Club’s Sean Curran and John F. Byrne Golf Club’s John Diamond in a sudden-death playoff to claim the Christman’s 25th edition Wednesday at Huntingdon Valley Country Club (par 70, 6,656 yards).

“By far the biggest roller coaster day of my tournament golf career,” an emotional Stevenson, 18, of Ambler, Pa., said.

It may take the remainder of the summer for the stun to wear off.

How he won is the typical Stevenson script. Grind, execute and finish. How he even became eligible to win is the work of Lady Luck.

Stevenson forgot to enter the Christman Cup. Yes, the tournament’s defending champion stood on the sidelines, hoping for a chance to play.

“I kind of missed the sign ups. It was really stupid. I realized two weeks ago that I wasn’t in the field,” Stevenson, a Sunnybrook Golf Club member, said. “I could’ve sworn I signed up. I got really lucky that [the GAP Tournament Department] gave me the opportunity to be an onsite alternate. It’s just luck. I’m so thankful.”

Stevenson arrived at Huntingdon Valley at 7:20 a.m., 10 minutes before the opening tee time. He hit balls on the driving range. He rolled putts on the practice green. Then he anchored in an Adirondack chair.

John Stevenson hugs grandmother Rita Chesco following his win.

“I was sitting there for an hour and 20 minutes. Everyone was there. I honestly didn’t even think I got in,” Stevenson, who will attend Drexel University in the fall, said. “I was counting kids on the range. All of a sudden, [GAP Assistant Communications Director Tony Regina] grabbed me and told me there was an opening. I was like, ‘There’s no way.’”

An unsettled Stevenson ultimately settled into the opening round. “A grind,” he called it. Stevenson registered nine greens in regulation and relied on an impervious short game. He carded a 2-over-par 72 — two strokes behind 18-hole leader James DeRocini of Westwood Golf Club.

Stevenson returned to Huntingdon Valley’s driving range. A previously perilous place turned promising. Stevenson “found his swing.”

He gained ground on the leaderboard thanks to back-to-back birdies on Nos. 7 (par 5, 567 yards) and 8 (par 4, 410 yards): a two-putt on the former, a 12-footer set up by a pitching wedge from 135 yards on the latter. Stevenson moved to even par, in full Christman control, following a birdie on No. 12 (par 4, 370 yards), where he hit a pitching wedge 125 yards to four feet. He stood two strokes ahead of Curran at that point.

Then disaster descended. Stevenson bogeyed his next four holes. A challenging lie in the bunker on No. 13 (par 3, 172 yards), a flared 5-iron on No. 14 (par 4, 454 yards), a windswept wedge on No. 15 (par 5, 575 yards) and an unresponsive wedge on No. 16 (par 4, 363 yards). 

“I got really nervous. I was way more nervous than usual during that stretch. My head was racing,” Stevenson said. “[Caddie] Scott Hughes did a really good job keeping me in it. It could’ve gone way worse if he wasn’t there. I didn’t let those four holes get to me. I knew I still had a shot. I stayed in it. I never gave up.”

Curran, too, struggled coming in. A three-putt bogey on No. 17 (par 3, 201 yards) preceded a thinned 50-degree wedge from 121 yards on No. 18 (par 4, 435 yards). Curran, 16, of Newtown Square, Pa., then missed a 15-footer to save par.

Diamond, 16, of Northeast Philadelphia, Pa., forged his playoff position with a birdie on No. 18 (par 4, 435 yards). He drilled a 56-degree wedge 122 yards to the back fringe and drained a 35-footer. He, Curran and Stevenson all finished regulation tied at 4-over-par 144.

If Lady Luck opened the door for Stevenson, then she warmly ushered the recent La Salle College High School graduate inside on No. 1 (par 4, 386 yards), the first playoff hole.

Diamond appeared poised to walk away a winner. His drive majestically cut off the left fairway bunker. Diamond then brilliantly bumped a wedge from 40 yards to two feet, a surefire birdie. Meanwhile, Stevenson’s drive failed to carry the left fairway bunker, an oddity for the long-hitter. Facing a reasonable lie against the lip, he extricated a wedge from 100 yards to 22 feet above the flagstick. Stevenson, his eyes shrouded in sand, thought it traced perfectly. The green disagreed on this day, refusing to surrender the intended backspin.

No matter. Stevenson canned the downhill birdie putt to match Diamond. Curran, a rising junior at The Haverford School, managed par after missing the green left with a wedge.

“I told [Hughes] my read. It was two cups left. Then Scott said it was three and half cups, so I lined it up over that,” Stevenson said. “I had this feeling I was going to make it. I knew it without knowing it, if that makes any sense.”

“I wasn’t expecting John to make his putt. I thought I had the win,” Diamond, a rising junior at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, said.

A Mongolian reversal, in hipster golf parlance.

On No. 2 (par 4, 402 yards), the second playoff hole, Diamond held tee honors. A tree held his fate.

“I wanted hit a draw off the right bunker, and I was so afraid of going left that I overhooked it. It hit the tree. I then had a bad lie with a 4-iron, so that led to a bad shot,” Diamond said.

With Diamond out of position, Stevenson split the fairway with a towering drive. He next hit a 52-degree wedge 105 yards to 10 feet. A scrambling Diamond needed a 55-footer to fall. Stevenson, in kind, did the rest when it didn’t.

A tearful Stevenson embraced an equally tearful Rita Chesco, his grandmother and grandest golf supporter. When she saw Stevenson’s name in the field, she drove from the Jersey Shore to watch.

And what she and fellow spectators at Huntingdon Valley witnessed was truly unprecedented.

“It’s pretty emotional. I never had anything like this happen. I didn’t even know if I was going to play. I was sitting there, hoping and waiting,” Stevenson said.

And winning. Again.

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 edition of Philadelphia Golfer. Christman died on Sept. 14, 2019 at the age of 86.

Harry Hammond Award
With his performance, Stevenson leads the Harry Hammond Award race by four strokes over North Hills Country Club’s Sebastian Botero. The Harry Hammond is emblematic of the qualifying round of the Junior Boys’ Championship, the Christman Cup and the Jock MacKenzie Memorial, which will take place July 15 at Sandy Run Country Club. Stevenson is in the Jock MacKenzie field.

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 345 Member Clubs and 110,000 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.

Name, clubRd1-Rd2–Total
*John Stevenson, Sunnybrook Golf Club72-72–144
Sean Curran, Merion Golf Club72-72–144
John Diamond, John F. Byrne Golf Club72-72–144
James DeRocini, Westwood Golf Club70-75–145
Liam Littleton, Sunnybrook Golf Club75-72–147
Colby Komancheck, RiverCrest GC & Preserve72-76–148
Jack Homer, Wilmington Country Club73-76–149
Sebastian Botero, North Hills Country Club75-74–149
Chris Vahey, North Hills Country Club73-76–149
Nolan Corcoran, Philadelphia Junior Tour74-76–150
Kasim Narinesingh-Smith, Radley Run Country Club72-78–150
Jack Crowley, Aronimink Golf Club75-75–150
Adam Fluehr, North Hills Country Club80-70–150
Gregor Weissenberger, Aronimink Golf Club77-73–150
Luke McGraw, USGA/GAP GC73-78–151
Aidan Farkas, Llanerch Country Club76-76–152
Eamon Cochran, White Manor Country Club73-79–152
Grant Burkhart, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club75-77–152
Diego Yanez, Cedarbrook Country Club76-76–152
Jack Dare, Riverton Country Club74-78–152
Jackson Puskar, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club77-75–152
Declan Conner, The Skramble House of Golf73-79–152
Ian Natale, Sunnybrook Golf Club75-78–153
Daniel Cantwell, Moorestown Field Club79-74–153
Seiji Sako, McCall Golf Club74-80–154
Paul Reilly, Galloway National Golf Club75-79–154
Declan McLane, North Hills Country Club74-81–155
Lannon Boyd, Overbrook Golf Club79-76–155
Charlie Barrickman, Radley Run Country Club75-80–155
David Burmeister, Saucon Valley Country Club76-79–155
Ian Larsen, Honeybrook Golf Club80-76–156
Christopher Sung, Waynesborough Country Club79-79–158
Eddie Gebhardt, Rolling Green Golf Club76-82–158
Logan Cassidy, Union League Golf Club at Torresdale78-80–158
Cole Berry, Overbrook Golf Club76-82–158
Alec Thiele, Walnut Lane Golf Club76-82–158
Tommy Marshall, Medford Lakes Country Club80-79–159
Ryan Quinn, Commonwealth National Golf Club81-78–159
Patrick Duda, Bellewood Country Club79-80–159
Michael Dignazio, Wilmington Country Club80-80–160
Brent Glah, Commonwealth National Golf Club82-78–160
Brad McDermott, Aronimink Golf Club84-76–160
Liam Crowley, Aronimink Golf Club77-84–161
Harrison Brown, Philadelphia Country Club80-81–161
Colin Sarnoski, Saucon Valley Country Club84-77–161
Joseph McGinty, Bent Creek Country Club79-83–162
Brayden Tritsch, Medford Village Country Club81-81–162
Liam McFadden, Overbrook Golf Club83-80–163
Brian Cotter, Medford Village Country Club81-82–163
Brody Bell, Spring Ford Country Club80-83–163
Trevor Sieben, Little Mill Country Club74-89–163
Keller Tannehill, Atlantic City Country Club78-85–163
Joe Ciconte, Wilmington Country Club80-84–164
Ethan Legarda, GAP Youth on Course82-82–164
David Nissen, Philadelphia Cricket Club84-81–165
Brady Crow, Moorestown Field Club81-84–165
Judd Fletcher, Riverton Country Club76-89–165
Luke Tappeiner, GAP Youth on Course78-87–165
William Forman, Merion Golf Club86-79–165
Ethan Luo, USGA/GAP GC83-83–166
Quin Zuegner, Lookaway Golf Club87-80–167
Gavin Dirkes, White Manor Country Club86-81–167
Marshall Kain, Overbrook Golf Club82-85–167
Anestis Kalderemtzis, Penn Oaks Golf Club83-85–168
Will Walsh, Philadelphia Country Club84-86–170
Nick Linkchorst, Golf Course at Glen Mills89-81–170
Frank Boensch, Steel Club87-84–171
John Gavaghan, Sandy Run Country Club89-82–171
Christian Dawley, Philadelphia Country Club84-88–172
Michael Didomenico, Waynesborough Country Club86-86–172
Zachary Antao, DuPont Country Club87-87–174
Connor Breen, Medford Lakes Country Club89-85–174
Joel Perry, Mulligan’s Pointe84-91–175
Nick Waskey, Doylestown Country Club84-91–175
Peter Lafon, GAP Youth on Course98-90–188
Ethan Martin, Philadelphia Junior Tour75-WD–WD
William Simonson, Tavistock Country Club84-WD–WD
Cade Kelleher, Country Club of ScrantonNS- –NS
* — won in playoff
NS — no show; WD — withdrawal

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