The season’s first Major, the Middle-Amateur Championship, returns to its rightful May timeframe on the GAP tournament schedule this week (May 26-27) and kicks off the race for the William Hyndman, III Player of the Year in earnest.
Last year, the Mid.-Am. was played in late September at LedgeRock Golf Club with a limited field due to COVID-19. This go around, stunning Lookaway Golf Club located in Buckingham, Pa. hosts, and a full field of 148 players is set to contend. One notable absence from the field is defending champion Jeff Osberg of Pine Valley Golf Club. Osberg, with his victory at LedgeRock Golf Club last year, completed the career GAP Slam. A work conflict, however, will end Osberg’s reign after just seven-plus months.
The Mid.-Am. is a two-day, 36-hole championship with a cut to the Top 70 players and ties for the final round. The tournament is restricted to players 25 years of age or older. In the field are 10 former Middle-Amateur Champions; eight newly turned 25 year olds, including past BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion Cole Berman (2015) of Merion Golf Club, and four players over the age of 60.
Past Mid.-Am. winners slated to compete are: Neil Gordon (1999), Five Ponds Golf Club; Oscar Mestre (2012), Overbrook Golf Club; Michael R. Brown, Jr. (2009), LuLu Country Club; Thomas Gramigna (2010), Tavistock Country Club; Glenn Smeraglio (2011), LuLu Country Club; John Brennan (2012), Philadelphia Cricket Club; Peter Barron, III (2014), Galloway National Golf Club; Scott McNeil (2015), Cobbs Creek Golf Club; Matthew Mattare (2016), Saucon Valley Country Club; Ben Feld (2017), Green Valley Country Club.
The oldest competitor in the field is Tom DiCinti of Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association at age 71.
Michael R. Brown, Jr. has all the bases covered when it comes to year’s Mid.-Am. Not only does he have the experience – as mentioned, he is a past champion – but he’s also a former Lookaway member. And he’s coming into the Championship with good vibes. Last July, he won the Pennsylvania Amateur Championship at Lookaway in rousing fashion. Most recently, he registered the deciding points for LuLu in its BMW GAP Team Matches victory.
“The Mid-Am holds a special place in my heart since it was the first GAP Major I won shortly after being reinstated [an amateur]. It’s been awhile but I think about it every time around this time of year,” said Brown, 48, of Maple Shade, N.J. “I’m excited to be going to somewhere I’m familiar with and like so much. It’s an absolute beautiful piece of property. You have to be able to move the ball both ways. And you have to be good with the wedges. There are some difficult greens that if you hit a good shot you can make birdie or if you are in the wrong quadrant you could be looking at bogey pretty easily.”
Lookaway may be a newcomer to the Middle-Amateur rotunda, but it’s not a newbie when it comes to GAP and Majors. Lookaway hosted the 2008 GAP Open won by Greg Pieczynski. It’s also scheduled to be the site of the 2023 Open.
Feld, the 2017 champion, will be the last player to tee off on Day One. He’s the final person in the 2:05 p.m. group beginning on No. 10.
“It’s obviously an event that I hold a special place for,” said Feld, 30, of Philadelphia, Pa., whose lone Major victory came in the Mid.-Am. He is also a two-time BMW Philadelphia Amateur semifinalist. “I didn’t play well in the [BMW GAP] Team Matches but I started to play well in the U.S. Open (Local) Qualifying at Indian Valley [Country Club]. I started to roll the well and hit some better shots. I feel like my game is trending in the right direction.”
Lookaway, a Rees Jones design, opened in 1999. The property it lives on dates back to 1713, when it was deeded by William Penn (Deed #1 in Buckingham Township, Pa.) to Thomas Watson, of Yorkshire, England. A portion of the building, which serves as the clubhouse, was built sometime around 1752 and is believed to be the oldest building used as a clubhouse in the United States.
Over the course of the next 170 years, the property changed hands several times with the building being used as, among other things, a home and a schoolhouse. In 1923, Theodore W. Sterling purchased the active dairy farm, known then as Paxon Farm, from Edward and Albert Paxon. Sterling renamed the farm Lookaway, and was well known to locals as a source for providing fresh milk. That milk was provided in bottles sporting a logo comprised of the entwined initials of the farm’s owner, Mr. Sterling. The logo remains as the symbol of Lookaway Golf Club under a handshake agreement between the Sterling family and the Lookaway partners, who purchased the property in 1997 and played the first rounds of golf there in May 1999.
Aside from offering live scoring on its website, the Association will provide Middle-Amateur updates via Twitter. Follow @GAofPhilly and connect by using the hashtag #GAPMidAm.
The inaugural Middle-Amateur Championship was held in 1984, three years after the United States Golf Association (USGA) created the U.S. Mid-Am as a formal championship for post-college amateurs. The Association followed suit with the USGA in creating a Mid.-Am., but initially differed in its administration of the tournament in a couple of respects.
The most obvious difference was the age requirement. Prior to 2001, the GAP Middle-Amateur was for players 30 years of age or older.
The Association’s Executive Committee reviewed and revised that age requirement in 2001 to match the USGA’s guidelines of 25 years of age or older for eligible players. Also, at that point, the Committee changed the format of the event to a two-day stroke play tournament (instead of a one-day medal play event) with a cut to the low 70 players and ties after the first round. Players must have a GAP/USGA Handicap Index of 7.0 or lower to be eligible to compete.
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.
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