ELVERSON, Pa. — Unlike the event’s other 97 competitions, David Kimbley didn’t technically win a club championship to get into the Tournament of Champions field. Instead, he took home Philadelphia Publinks GA’s Player of the Year honor with 680 points, earning him the coveted bid.
That berth gave Kimbley the opportunity needed to fire a 1-under 70 in regulation Thursday at French Creek Golf Club (par 71, 6,368 yards). It also gave him the chance to eventually win the overall crown, bettering DuPont Country Club’s Matt Finger on the second playoff hole.
“It means a lot. There are so many good players in this field with all these champions,” said Kimbley, 44, of Elverson, Pa. “It’s a great win for me.”
The towering Kimbley, a long hitter with precision around the greens, made the turn at 1-over par before catching fire on French Creek’s back. He’d go on to birdie four of his final six holes – including a two-foot tap-in on No. 18 (par 4, 410 yards) – to take the clubhouse lead.
“I got it going down the stretch there. The putts were just dropping,” he said.
Finger would soon after match Kimbley’s card, meaning a playoff was in order to decide a champion of champions. With darkness threatening, the players stepped up to the tee box on No. 1 (par 4, 350 yards) with a sense of urgency. Finger’s drive rolled into the right rough, while Kimbley’s bomb found the center of the fairway. Both players took wedge on their approach shots, and landed, identically, just off the front of the green. Again, identical shots were played on the third try, leading to tap-in pars. The sudden-death scenario moved on to No. 2 (par 4, 452 yards).
Rain made an unwelcome appearance there as both players lifted their tee shots into the air. Finger landed in position A in the center cut while Kimbley came up short and left in the thick, slick rough. The wet lie posed problems for Kimbley, leaving him with a punch 6-iron that “didn’t jump” and rolled back down into the fairway. Finger lifted his approach up and over the green, leaving a tough up-and-down chance from the rough. Kimbley’s 50-yard chip then checked up perfectly and nestled up to three feet. Finger played next, as his wedge shot caught the soaked fringe, resulting in zero roll out. Next came Finger’s par putt, which caught a fair share of the lip but failed to drop. Kimbley stepped up and jarred his three-foot 4 for the victory.
“I do have some experience in playoffs, but I’d say my record in those is around two losses and three wins,” said Kimbley, who fell earlier this summer in a playoff, alongside teammate John Buliga, in the Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship at Cherry Valley Country Club. “Stepping up to that last three-footer for the win felt great. It was a solid left-to-right putt that hit dead center.”
An adjustment on the greens gave Thomas Hyland the gusto needed to storm the event’s Senior (par 71, 6,034 yards) castle. He carded a 1-under-par 70 to edge Lehigh Country Club’s Thomas Soares, who notched an ace on the day, by two strokes.
“I’ve been playing pretty well, but I’ve been putting kind of poorly. I had a rare good putting day today,” Hyland, 62, of Marlton, N.J., said. “I played in this team match type of event at Northampton (Country Club) on Tuesday, and the pro (Brent Wallace) came out after the round, looked at me and gave me a couple of putting ideas. I was mainly having trouble with my left-handed putting. I was playing it really far forward, and had my hands back. That was causing me to pull it. Brent definitely helped me.”
Two putters and three styles distinguish Hyland from his compatriots.
“For the long putts, I use a mid-length putter with a conventional long putter style. The hands split,” Hyland, a Little Mill Country Club member, said. “If I’m inside 25 feet, I’ll putt sidesaddle most of the time. If it’s a right-to-left putt and it’s fairly short, I’ll putt those with a left-handed putter.”
Hyland’s putting performance started in style with a birdie on No. 10 (par 3, 128 yards), his first hole. He converted an 18-footer following a solid 8-iron. On the short par 4, 286-yard 15th hole, Hyland played a safe 4-iron off the tee before smacking a sand wedge 70 yards to four feet for birdie. He went back-to-back on Nos. 6 (par 5, 530 yards) and 7 (par 4, 353 yards) thanks to 7-iron set-ups from 130 yards. Hyland bagged both putts from inside five feet.
Needless to say, a three-putt wasn’t to blame for his three bogeys on the day.
Hyland’s victory marked his first individual GAP triumph since 2007, when he seized the Marston Cup at LedgeRock Golf Club. It also elevated the Little Mill Country Club member to fourth in the Senior Player of the Year standings.
Icing on a delightful 2018 tournament cake for a humbled Hyland.
“It’s nice to get a win anytime. I don’t expect many more,” he said.
A pair of Super-Senior titles hung in the balance at French Creek (par 71, 5,704 yards): the tournament itself and a Player of the Year honor.
White Manor Country Club’s Don Donatoni trailed Saucon Valley Country Club’s Robin McCool by 12 points entering the day. He made up the difference — and then some.
Donatoni carded an even-par 71 to capture the Super-Senior crown and to catapult ahead of McCool in the standings. His victory returned 25 points, enough for a sixth straight POY designation.
“Even though I knew my score today was going to be tough to beat, you don’t count your chickens,” Donatoni, 70, of Malvern, Pa., said. “I never got out of the moment out there. I really never thought about [the Player of the Year]. I just wanted to hang in there and do the best I could. I knew if I could win today, I’d have a chance. That’s all I was looking for. If it turns out I win my sixth in a row, nothing could be sweeter. I’d be thrilled.”
He’s likely bouncing off the walls.
Donatoni, who played in the morning alongside McCool and Spring Ford Country Club’s Steve Tagert, made the turn in 2 over. French Creek’s par 5s staged his only slip-ups: hazard greenside right on No. 4 (455 yards), a hack lie in the right fairway bunker on No. 6 (499 yards).
“The golf course can be dangerous in spots,” Donatoni, who won the Tournament of Champions’ Senior title in 2010 and 2016, said. “I thought the greens had a lot of fire in them. You really had to be careful.”
A clean back nine suggests that Donatoni used caution. On No. 14 (par 4, 338 yards), he hit a three-quarter wedge 124 yards to 20 feet for birdie and a six-shot lead over McCool. Donatoni closed his TOC and POY case with an emphatic birdie on No. 17 (par 3, 168 yards) green, where he delivered a 4-hybrid to 25 feet below the flagstick.
He and McCool traded smiles and respective congratulations as they walked off the No. 18 (par 4, 373 yards) green.
“I didn’t play very well today, so I’m rather disappointed with respect to that,” McCool, 67, of Center Valley, Pa., said. “I got a chance to watch some really good golf. Don played beautifully. He had a great season, and I did too. I’m disappointed to end it with a bad round.”
“Robin’s had a heck of a season. He’s such a great competitor,” Donatoni said. “I know he had a [points] lead on me coming into today. I figured today was an important day to perform well and do my best.”
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 260 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
|*David Kimbley, Philadelphia Publinks GA||70|
|Matthew Finger, DuPont Country Club||70|
|David Mecca, Glenmaura National Golf Club||71|
|Matt Kocent, Philadelphia Cricket Club||71|
|Dwight Diorio, Rolling Green Golf Club||71|
|Richard Stolz, Merchantville Country Club||71|
|John Samaha, Old York Road Country Club||72|
|Kyle Henofer, Indian Valley Country Club||73|
|Troy Vannucci, Little Mill Country Club||73|
|Brandon Raihl, Hartefeld National||73|
|Mike Korcuba, Medford Village Country Club||73|
|Akhil Giri, Laurel Creek Country Club||73|
|Ryan McCabe, The Springhaven Club||74|
|Peter Moran, Whitford Country Club||75|
|Corey Gee, The ACE Club||75|
|Blake Hinckley, Wilmington Country Club||75|
|Bill Burke, Sea Oaks Golf Club||76|
|Stephen Barry, Running Deer Golf Club||76|
|Peter Barron, Stone Harbor Golf Club||77|
|C.J. Bell, McCall Golf & Country Club||77|
|Bryan Keeling, Spring Mill Country Club||78|
|A.J. Donatoni, Fox Hill Country Club||79|
|Eric Montella, Glen Oak Country Club||80|
|Kyle Ginty, Talamore Country Club||81|
|Gerard Rosato, The 1912 Club||81|
|Cory Meyer, Philmont Country Club||82|
|E.J. Legarda, Woodcrest Country Club||84|
|Brandon Capone, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||84|
|Luis Diaz, Rancocas Golf Club||85|
|Robert Oswald, Skippack Golf Club at Evansburg State Park||87|
|Paul Stuhlmiller, Golf Course at Glen Mills||88|
|Andrew Wallace, Green Valley Country Club||89|
|Zachary Morganti, White Oaks Country Club||94|
|Vince D’Ginto, Limekiln Golf Club||94|
|Sean Carlin, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club||WD|
|Luke Liddell, Union League Golf Club at Torresdale||WD|
|Arabinda Behura, Eagle Rock Golf & Resort||WD|
|Thomas Hyland, Moselem Springs Golf Club||70|
|Thomas Soares, Lehigh Country Club||72|
|Brian Rothaus, Philmont Country Club||73|
|Chris Smedley, Hartefeld National||74|
|Gregory Buliga, Yardley Country Club||75|
|Jon Lavin, Rolling Green Golf Club||75|
|Raymond Thompson, Overbrook Golf Club||75|
|Rich Thon, The Springhaven Club||77|
|Brian Exton, Brookside CC of Allentown||80|
|Mike Cavanaugh, Jericho National Golf Club||80|
|Michael Montella, Glen Oak Country Club||80|
|Robert Gill, Fox Hill Country Club||80|
|Charles Dowds, Applebrook Golf Club||81|
|Byron Whitman, Berkshire Country Club||81|
|Rick Barry, Cobbs Creek Golf Club||81|
|Dale Owens, French Creek Golf Club||83|
|Alan Brody, Radnor Valley Country Club||83|
|J.B. Whaley, Sakima Country Club||83|
|Mike Woods, Sea Oaks Golf Club||83|
|Harold Schweitzer, Jr., Broad Run Golfer’s Club||84|
|Bill Moyer, Spring Ford Country Club||85|
|Guy McKeone, Reading Country Club||85|
|Dewey Bookholdt, Old York Road Country Club||85|
|Edward Enoch, Old York Road Country Club||86|
|Scott Schaffer, Woodcrest Country Club||87|
|Peter Mellone, Loch Nairn Golf Club||89|
|David Gibbons, Stonewall||89|
|Bruce Losse, Limekiln Golf Club||91|
|Lou Trovato, Talamore Country Club||92|
|Keith Wilson, Bensalem Township Country Club||WD|
|Steven Walczak, Wilmington Country Club||WD|
|Mark Ellinger, Whitford Country Club||WD|
|Don Donatoni, White Manor Country Club||71|
|James Prendergast, Spring Ford Country Club||75|
|Andy Donaldson, French Creek Golf Club||75|
|Steve Tagert, Spring Ford Country Club||77|
|Dave Jacobson, Medford Village Country Club||78|
|Willard Woolbert, Philadelphia Cricket Club||80|
|Robin McCool, Saucon Valley Country Club||80|
|Howard Press, Little Mill Country Club||81|
|John Turner, The Springhaven Club||83|
|James Baird, Chambersburg Country Club||83|
|Richard Toledo, Sea Oaks Golf Club||83|
|David Swiderski, Merchantville Country Club||85|
|Keith Malcolm, Brookside CC of Allentown||85|
|Norman Linker, Old York Road Country Club||86|
|Frederick Christie, Loch Nairn Golf Club||87|
|Tyrone Burtner, Coatesville Country Club||87|
|Bruce Gladish, Sandy Run Country Club||87|
|David Zerby, Woodstone Country Club||87|
|Roger Kadis, Broad Run Golfer’s Club||88|
|Spencer Ring, West Chester Golf & Country Club||88|
|Brian Linn, Talamore Country Club||89|
|Phil Dickerson, Inniscrone Golf Club||91|
|Stephen Brennan, Old York Road Country Club||91|
|Jeff Crumling, Heritage Hills Golf Resort||92|
|Michael Weber, Carlisle Country Club||92|
|Ed Kocher, LedgeRock Golf Club||93|
|Lee Gerstenfeld, McCall Golf & Country Club||96|
|William Stewart, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||DQ|
|Glenn Miller, Jr., Steel Club||WD|
|* — won in playoff; DQ — disqualification; WD — withdrawal|
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