SPRING HOUSE, Pa.– A mecca, defined, is a place that attracts people to it.
Dave Mecca, and his stunning victory in the Middle-Amateur Championship, may be the conduit for those in Northeast Pennsylvania, a.k.a. the Anthracite Golf Association, to visit GAP more often.
Mecca posted a sensational second round and tournament best 1-under-par 70 Tuesday at Old York Road Country Club (par 71, 6,632 yards) to finish a shot clear of all pursuers for the 40th Middle-Amateur Championship presented by NJM Insurance Group. Mecca finished the tournament’s 36 holes at 2-over 144. His winning score is the highest since Michael McDermott’s 2008 victory at Fieldstone Golf Club. McDermott finished 2 over that year as well.
“It’s surreal. It’s awesome for finally an AGA guy winning. I’m really happy with how I played today. Yesterday, I didn’t strike it all that great, I just got around the course. Today, I had my “A” game. I putted really well. I hit the ball well with the exception of like one shot,” said Mecca, who guided his home Glen Oak Country Club to a victory in the prestigious GAP/AGA Men’s Coal Scuttle a year ago.
“I think you’ll see in the next couple years we’ll have some more guys [from AGA] playing. We have some strong talent up there. I know the guys [in the Middle-Amateur] are the best. It’s not the entire state of Pennsylvania, but it’s Pennsylvania, New Jersey [and] Delaware. These are some of the strongest fields I can play in. It’s cool to test my game against these guys.”
That strong GAP/AGA talent is already making waves.
Amongst the trio that tied for second was John Barone of Glenmaura National Golf Club, a fellow AGA/GAP representative. Barone, a Temple University graduate, appeared favored to hoist the trophy after 14 holes when he held a two-shot lead. Three straight bogeys followed and derailed his quest. Sharing the second slot was first-round co-leader Stewart Rickenbach of Huntingdon Valley Country Club and Ben Feld of Green Valley Country Club, the 2017 winner.
“I’m super-pumped to see Dave come out on top. You always have to root for the Anthracite Golf Association guys. To see both of us on top of the leaderboard is pretty cool,” said Barone, 27, of Philadelphia, Pa. “We have a ton of good players in that area. [Him and I] being at the top of the leaderboard says a lot about golf in that area.”
Mecca, 30, of Clarks Summit, Pa., entered Round 2 three shots in back of Rickenbach and other co-leader Ryan Beck of the host club. He appeared to play himself out of the championship almost immediately with a double bogey on No. 2 (par 4, 337 yards) when he “bladed a wedge 40 yards over the green.” He continued, “That calmed my nerves because I thought I was done.”
That was until the birdie train pulled into the station.
He registered under-par scores on four of the next seven holes.
An impressive Day 2 feat considering there were only 116 birdies made by the field of the 1,257 holes played.
On No. 4 (par 5, 574 yards), he laced a 5-wood from 248 yards that rolled off the left side of the green to 50 feet from the cup. He chipped to 10 feet and made the putt. On No. 8 (par 4, 330 yards), Mecca powered a 5-wood to 40 yards short of the green. He followed with a sand wedge to four feet for a birdie 3. A chip from short of the green on No. 9 (par 5, 553 yards) to six feet added a red score before he sank a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 10 (par 4, 408 yards).
Mecca was solo second at that point.
“I thought I may be close. I checked the scores and at the point I was only one back,” said Mecca. “I play better under pressure.”
Six more pars followed.
A bogey on No 17 (par 4, 412 yards) made the former Hofstra University golf captain angry when he three putted from five feet. His five-footer for birdie from above the hole resulted in a six-footer for par from beneath it. He tapped-in for bogey.
He parred No. 18 (par 4, 422 yards), leaving a birdie putt a few rolls short.
Barone, meanwhile, made a 50-foot birdie up the hill on No. 14 (par 3, 149 yards) to slingshot to a two-shot advantage. A mental mistake, as he called it, with his par putt on No. 15 (par 5, 524 yards), and two additional bogeys on the two ensuing tough holes erased his advantage.
“That’s just golf,” said Barone on his travails on Nos. 16 (par 3, 204 yards) and 17 (par 4, 412 yards). He missed a putt on No. 16 for par and incurred a bogey on No. 17 after his drive landed on a mogul in the fairway. His second shot came up short right of the green and he missed a shortish par try.
Perhaps, even more incredible than Mecca’s performance Tuesday, was his physical status. He contracted the shingles around Week 2 of the BMW GAP Team Matches, which was played April 30. He didn’t swing a club again until May 11, in preparation for the U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Huntsville Golf Club. He posted a 2-over 74 to miss the cut by four strokes. Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. He said it affected his left shoulder and chest area.
A William Hyndman, III Player of the Year points event, the Middle-Amateur started in 1984, three years after the USGA created the U.S. Mid-Amateur as a formal championship for post-college amateurs. GAP followed suit with the USGA in creating a Middle-Amateur, 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 only available to players 30 years of age or older.
The GAP 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 individuals. It also, as previously mentioned, changed the format of the event to a two-day stroke play tournament with a cut to the low 70 players and ties after the first round. Furthermore, GAP lowered the handicap index requirement from 7.0 to 5.0 in 2023.
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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|David Mecca, Glen Oak Country Club||74-70–144|
|Benjamin Feld, Green Valley Country Club||72-73–145|
|John Barone, Glenmaura National Golf Club||72-73–145|
|Stewart Rickenbach, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||71-74–145|
|Brian Gillespie, St. Davids Golf Club||73-73–146|
|Zak Drescher, Bent Creek Country Club||75-72–147|
|Scott McNeil, The 1912 Club||75-73–148|
|Joseph Tigani, Fieldstone Golf Club||75-74–149|
|Daniel Rudershausen, Bidermann Golf Club||75-74–149|
|Jacoby Chappa, Maple Dale Country Club||73-76–149|
|Nathan Fry, Green Pond Country Club||73-76–149|
|Zach Dilcher, Hartefeld National||77-73–150|
|Matthew Mattare, Saucon Valley Country Club||77-73–150|
|Christopher Ault, Yardley Country Club||77-73–150|
|Michael Davis, Aronimink Golf Club||73-77–150|
|Dan Ayars, Sakima Country Club||78-73–151|
|Brian Fisher, Spring Ford Country Club||75-76–151|
|Andy Butler, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||75-76–151|
|Ben Cooley, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||75-76–151|
|Gregor Orlando, Philadelphia Cricket Club||73-78–151|
|Michael Carr, Philadelphia Cricket Club||77-75–152|
|John Brennan, Philadelphia Cricket Club||76-76–152|
|Robert Olseski, Applebrook Golf Club||75-77–152|
|Scott Ehrlich, Waynesborough Country Club||75-77–152|
|Michael R. Brown, Jr., LuLu Country Club||77-76–153|
|Brock Kovach, LedgeRock Golf Club||76-77–153|
|Tyler McGarry, Huntsville Golf Club||75-78–153|
|Steve Skurla, White Manor Country Club||74-79–153|
|Jon Rusk, LuLu Country Club||74-79–153|
|Ryan Carroll, Bidermann Golf Club||78-76–154|
|Alexander Kim, Philadelphia Cricket Club||78-76–154|
|John Meyers, Makefield Highlands Golf Club||77-77–154|
|Eric Williams, Honesdale Golf Club||77-77–154|
|Jake Fazio, Huntingdon Valley Country Club||75-79–154|
|Mark Benevento, Jr., Philadelphia Cricket Club||75-79–154|
|Dan Keenan, Little Mill Country Club||74-80–154|
|Ryan Beck, Old York Road Country Club||71-83–154|
|Kevin Cahill, Merion Golf Club||79-76–155|
|Sean Flanigan, Sakima Country Club||77-78–155|
|Daniel Oh, Blue Bell Country Club||77-78–155|
|Gregory Markus, Laurel Creek Country Club||77-78–155|
|Marty McGuckin, Philadelphia Cricket Club||76-79–155|
|Matt Dolinsky, Honeybrook Golf Club||76-79–155|
|Conrad Von Borsig, Philadelphia Cricket Club||76-79–155|
|Ryan Gelrod, Philadelphia Cricket Club||75-80–155|
|James Egan, Glen Oak Country Club||79-77–156|
|John Samaha, Old York Road Country Club||77-79–156|
|Alex Hosier, French Creek Golf Club||77-79–156|
|Jon Rudisill, Little Mill Country Club||76-80–156|
|Zachary Falone, Makefield Highlands Golf Club||73-83–156|
|Brendan Mahoney, Philadelphia Cricket Club||78-79–157|
|Billy Howard, Applebrook Golf Club||77-80–157|
|Bryan Ott, Schuylkill Country Club||76-81–157|
|Ryan McDonald, Merion Golf Club||79-79–158|
|Stephen Barry, Running Deer Golf Club||79-79–158|
|Ryan Cass, Hidden Creek Golf Club||78-80–158|
|Eddie Johnson, Llanerch Country Club||77-81–158|
|Jonathan Radick, Spring Mill Country Club||75-83–158|
|Matt Teesdale, The 1912 Club||78-82–160|
|Edward Kelly, Old York Road Country Club||79-82–161|
|Jared Tendler, Jericho National Golf Club||79-82–161|
|Kevin Maguire, Laurel Creek Country Club||79-82–161|
|Patrick Rutter, Schuylkill Country Club||78-83–161|
|Glenn Smeraglio, LuLu Country Club||76-86–162|
|Ryan Richardson, Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association||79-84–163|
|Scott Kalamar, Green Pond Country Club||79-84–163|
|Scott McLaughlin, LuLu Country Club||78-85–163|
|James Greenhalgh, Eligo Club||79-85–164|
|Ryan Gracey, Hartefeld National||79-86–165|
|Matt Crilley, Steel Club||77-90–167|
|Stephen Scott, Legacy Club at Woodcrest||79-WD–WD|
|WD – withdrawal|
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