WALLINGFORD, Pa. — Little Mill Country Club continues to shine bright in the Golf Association of Philadelphia spotlight.
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Five days removed from one of its members, Michael Hyland, winning the organization’s Middle-Amateur Championship, the club, sans Hyland, topped the Team Championship Qualifier Tuesday at The Springhaven Club (par 70, 6,492 yards). Little Mill, led by a 6-under-par 64 courtesy of Zach Arsenault, filed a 4-over-par 284 total top the 17-team field.
Overbrook Golf Club, Philadelphia Cricket Club, the two-time reigning BMW GAP Team Matches champions, and Running Deer Golf Club also punched their tickets Tuesday. The 99th Team Championship will take place June 28 at Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club.
Little Mill, which captured its only Team Championship in 2016, finished third a year ago Galloway National Golf Club. This marks its fifth appearance (2005, 2011) overall.
“I wanted to represent my teammates at Little Mill. We want redemption,” Arsenault, 24, of Medford, N.J., said. “Personally, I wanted to prove something to myself. I wanted to prove that I could go low.”
Belief proven — and then some. Arsenault’s 64 marked his competitive career-low. He came a stroke shy of matching the competitive course record, set by none other than Hyland in 2014.
“My game’s been streaky. Putting’s been my weakness, but today it was my strength,” a stoic Arsenault said.
Was it ever.
Arsenault, as focused as LeBron James in a Game 7, totaled 26 putts on the day. Starting on the back nine, he atoned for an early flatstick jitter (a three-putt bogey on No. 11) by rattling off three straight birdies. He hit a 56-degree wedge 100 yards to three feet on No. 12 (par 5, 516 yards), a 6-iron to two feet on No. 13 (par 3, 188 yards) and a pitching wedge 137 yards to three feet on No. 14 (par 4, 341 yards).
Arsenault’s red-figure reign didn’t end there. He buried a 15-foot slider from above the No. 2 (par 5, 547 yards) hole location. Arsenault, a bespectacled basher, drilled a 6-iron to seven feet on No. 6 (par 3, 180 yards). The putter’s best act occurred on No. 7 (par 4, 448 yards), where Arsenault drained a 35-footer from off the front of the green. He capped a banner day by cutting a 7-iron to eight feet on No. 9 (par 3, 170 yards).
To resolve putting woes prior to Springhaven, Arsenault, like a boy who lost his puppy, stormed into Little Mill’s pro shop over the weekend searching for answers. Head professional George Frake and assistant Nick Dentino accommodated accordingly.
“I said, ‘Can you fix [my putting] for me?’ They fulfilled my request,” Arsenault, a real estate investor who specializes in flipping houses, said. “I felt twice as confident over the putter today.”
Arsenault shared individual medalist honors with DuPont Country Club’s Matthew Finger, whose 64 included a personal-best 29 coming in.
“I’m very excited. I’ve been playing very well lately,” Finger, 40, of Wilmington, Del., said. “I had never broken 30, so shooting 29 on the back nine is pretty special. It’s cool, especially playing in a GAP tournament that’s set up difficult.”
Fresh off a Top 5 finish in the Middle-Amateur, Finger consulted with a new friend — a Ping i25 3-wood christened at Llanerch Country Club — to start the subpar steamroller. He powered it 261 yards to 20 feet for eagle on No. 2 (par 5, 547 yards). Finger, who played in the group behind Arsenault, birdied the next three holes and moved to 5 under in a flash. On No. 3 (par 3, 155 yards), he knocked a 7-iron to six feet. That entrusted 3-wood facilitated conversions on Nos. 4 (par 4, 423 yards) and 5 (par 4, 394 yards): a 9-iron 145 yards to eight feet on the first, a 7-iron 151 yards to 10 feet on the latter. Finger secured a personal-best with a picturesque birdie on No. 9 (par 3, 170 yards). He poured in a 10-footer following a smooth 6-iron.
“That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life — this tournament, this nine,” Finger said. “I wanted to play well, and I play this course well. I was hoping to shoot around par. I hit my stride toward the end.”
Rest assured Finger won’t relinquish that beloved 3-wood — stock shaft and all — anytime soon.
“I’m going to buy another one today because 3-woods are hard to come by. You find a good 3-wood, you stick with it,” Finger said. “I’ve been in the wilderness for about five years with 3-woods. I found one now, and my game is going to take off from there. Hopefully, the sky’s the limit.”
Overbrook holds 14 (1949-50, 1981, 1984, 1987-88, 1996-99, 2005, 2010-12) Team Championship trophies. Philadelphia Cricket won titles in 2015 and 2013. It’s appeared in the Championship proper on nine occasions overall. Running Deer, which advanced to Division AA in the BMW GAP Team Matches, will make its debut.
“We’re beyond happy,” Chris Meares, 39, of Turnersville, N.J., said. “When we beat Merion (Golf Club) to get into Division AA, we all went back to the club and had a huge party. We all went out and played more golf. It was a blast. We couldn’t be more excited.
“The competition at the club on weekends has been insane. It’s made everybody better.”
The Team Championship Qualifier determines which four Member Clubs will compete in the Team Championship. Participants must field at least six players to be eligible. The low four scores of each team make up the qualifying total. In the event of a tie, the fifth player’s score is used.
The Championship proper features eight-man teams playing an alternate shot format in the morning, with singles matches in the afternoon.
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 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.
|Little Mill Country Club||284|
|Overbrook Golf Club||286|
|James Kania, Jr.||73|
|Philadelphia Cricket Club||287|
|Conrad Von Borsig||70|
|Frank Petrash, IV||74|
|Running Deer Golf Club||290|
|Failed to qualify|
|Lu Lu Country Club||293|
|Michael R. Brown, Jr.||71|
|James Sullivan, Jr.||75|
|Commonwealth National Golf Club||294|
|DuPont Country Club||295|
|Blue Bell Country Club||297|
|Buddy Hansen, IV||77|
|Merchantville Country Club||297|
|Old York Road Country Club||299|
|Edward Kelly, Jr.||75|
|Paul Carbone, Jr.||75|
|Brendan Clearkin, Jr.||85|
|Tavistock Country Club||303|
|Johan van Schalkwyk||80|
|Bala Golf Club||305|
|The Springhaven Club||305|
|Mercer Oaks Golf Course||308|
|Talamore Country Club||309|
|Whitford Country Club||327|
|Kevin Conners, Jr.||NS|
|Bluestone Country Club||334|
|*low four scores count toward team total*|
|NS — no show; WD — withdrawal|