41st Middle-Amateur Championship: Preview - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

May 16, 2024

41st Middle-Amateur Championship: Preview

The GAP Major season commences at Commonwealth

The curtain opens on GAP’s Major Championship season May 21-22 as the 41st Middle-Amateur Championship presented by NJM Insurance Group returns to Commonwealth National Golf Club for the first time since 2006.

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The Middle-Amateur Championship is open to individuals 25 years of age or older. New this year, the Middle-Amateur Championship and the Joseph H. Patterson Cup expand from 36 to 54 holes. Each event will be listed on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) and eligible for points.

“For us, we are excited to get back into the arena of hosting GAP Majors,” Commonwealth National’s Director of Golf Kevin Duffy, 39, of Hatboro, Pa., said. “Commonwealth National will provide a great test of golf and show how challenging the golf course is even for the best mid-ams in Philadelphia. To help promote a great championship and Commonwealth National is a win-win for us.” 

“Tournament play at Commonwealth, especially over 54 holes, I think is as good a test as any club in the area. It’s a lot of ball-striking, and there are plenty of penalty areas,” long-time Commonwealth member Brett Diakon, 44, of Bedminster, Pa., said. “The course has been in great shape. It has been firm, fast and green. It has been a good test of golf always, but especially the last couple of years.” 

Diakon has won three club championships (1999, 2010, 2015). The home-game opportunity encouraged Diakon’s participation in the event.

The most recent change to the golf course was a full bunker restoration in 2022 to refresh the Horsham, Pa. bunkering to its original Arnold Palmer design. 

“We stick with firm, fast and fair playing conditions [at Commonwealth].” Commonwealth National’s Superintendent Ian Thomas, 46, of North Wales, Pa., said. “It’s a challenging course. The back nine has a lot of forced carries.” 

The 2006 edition of the Mid.-Am. was won by Chris Lange of Overbrook Golf Club. To date, Lange is the only player to win back-to-back Middle-Amateur titles. Michael McDermott of Merion Golf Club has won a record four Middle-Amateurs (2001, 2004, 2008, 2013).

Commonwealth played host to the Joseph H. Patterson Cup in 2000 alongside Huntingdon Valley Country Club. Huntingdon Valley’s Greg O’Connor took the title that year.

Qualifying for the Championship proper was conducted at Five Ponds Golf Club (April 13), Scotland Run Golf Club (April 15), Out Door Country Club (April 30) and Irem Country Club (May 2).     

“To win [the Mid-Am] and have it be that early in the year gives you so much confidence, and it also takes a little bit of pressure off of you for the year,” Scott McNeil, a two-time champion (2015, 2021), said. “You only want to do better after that but even if you aren’t able to, you’ve still already reached the highest of goals and it’s only May.”

A difficult championship layout paired with a new tournament format is sure to test tournament participants. 

“Commonwealth is a difficult golf course. It can really jump on you if you get out of position,” McNeil, 38, of Springfield, Pa., said. “I think it’s going to be a battle to see who can keep themselves in position for 54 holes now. I think this new format is going to make it very interesting, and I can’t wait to see it. We’ve now added a lot of different factors into it.” 

Past champions in the field include: Peter Barron, III of Galloway National Golf Club (2014); John Brennan, of Philadelphia Cricket Club (2012); Michael R. Brown, Jr. of LuLu Country Club (2009); Neil Gordon of Doylestown Country Club (1999); Michael Hyland of Little Mill Country Club (2018); McNeil of The 1912 Club (2015, 2021); Oscar Mestre of Overbrook Golf Club (2002) and Troy Vannucci of Little Mill Country Club (2022). Dave Mecca of Wemberly Hills Golf Club, last year’s champion, will not be defending.         

Live scoring will be available on gapgolf.org. Stay up to date with tournament news via GAP social media channels by following @gaofphilly on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X and YouTube.

All media inquiries should be directed to GAP Director of Operations Martin D. Emeno, Jr. at memeno@gapgolf.org or by phone at 610-687-2340, ext. 0027.

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.

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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.

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