Dalinka, Samaha pairing proves powerful
MOHNTON, Pa. — Brandon Dalinka and John Samaha met in 2016 at Merion Golf Club. A BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship Round of 32 battle saw the latter upending the former, 5&3.
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The two again crossed paths in the same event a year ago at Stonewall. Dalinka and Samaha competed in the same group during the stroke-play qualifier. Tales of Amateurs past, along with a fair share of jokes and golf compliments, filled their conversations Wednesday during the 37th Middle-Amateur Championship at LedgeRock Golf Club (par 72, 7,069 yards).
Playing as a twosome, Dalinka and Samaha entered the final round three shots off the lead. Both posted Top-10 finishes; Dalinka closed with a 1-under-par 71, Samaha a 1-over-par 73.
“We were playing well,” Dalinka, 37, of New York City, N.Y., said. “John was hitting his irons well. He played great from the start. We were kind of zigging and zagging well. It was just fun out there.”
“We were both relaxed and having fun,” Samaha, 38, of Hatboro, Pa., added. “He’s laid back. He keeps his emotions in check. He drove it really well today.”
Chill, coincidentally, also describes Samaha on the golf course. Neither he or Dalinka, however, appeared ice cold Wednesday.
Samaha, an Old York Road Country Club member, moved to 1 under overall following a birdie on No. 10 (par 3, 180 yards), where he knocked an 8-iron to three feet. Three-putt bogeys on Nos. 13 (par 5, 556 yards) and 16 (par 4, 365 yards) offset an otherwise sharp toolset.
“I’m very happy,” Samaha said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit this year. I’ve played a little bit of competitive golf here and there. I got a 4-month-old and a 3-year-old at home, so I don’t practice as much as I’d like. But I played well this week. I didn’t hit the ball well yesterday. I just scrambled and got it in the hole. Today was probably the opposite. I hit my irons well today.”
Combine Samaha’s iron play with Dalinka’s putting Wednesday, and you get a Middle-Amateur machine.
“I putted really well today,” Dalinka, the 2019 New Jersey State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Champion, said. “I’ve struggled with my swing this year, so it’s nice to put it to the test and play well in this event. Hopefully, I can put it to the test and it will be a little better [next week in the GAP Open Championship]. If I can keep putting the way I am, then I should have a chance.”
Dalinka, a member of The Ridge at Back Brook, gave himself a chance Wednesday by firing four back-nine birdies. On No. 11 (par 4, 413 yards), he lifted a wedge 95 yards to six feet. A flip wedge to five feet on the par 5, 556-yard 15th hole resulted in red as well. Dalinka’s “terrible rescue” on No. 17 (par 4, 445 yards) fortunately settled on a flat spot. He then hit rescue 230 yards to six feet. On No. 18 (par 5, 598 yards), Dalinka arguably executed his best swing of the day, hitting a hybrid 240 yards to six feet. He narrowly missed the eagle try.
“GAP puts on such great events. It’s a lot of fun to see the guys who I grew up playing against like Jeff Osberg and Michael McDermott. The competition here is as strong as it gets,” Dalinka, who works in finance for TCW MetWest, said.
It’s a brute strength, if the Dalinka/Samaha pairing is any indication.
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 288 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.