ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Rolling Green Golf Club’s Bob Billings’ goal was to break through with his first individual Golf Association of Philadelphia event. He did, in a Major way, by breaking his handicap.
Billings, playing to a 1.6 index, fired a 3-under 67 to win the Super-Senior Division in the 47th Senior Amateur Championship at Lehigh Country Club.
After Mother Nature began to rain down on the region Tuesday, the field’s afternoon wave was pulled off the course for the day at 4:10 p.m. Play resumed Wednesday at 9 a.m. in a stipulated 18-hole event. Billings, having completed his round early Tuesday, could only sit back and watch the leaderboard – and the weather channel.
“I sure hope we get 17 inches of rain and I get a one-day victory,” said Billings after his round on Tuesday with weather looming. “Obviously, I’ve played a lot of competitive golf in Golf Association of Philadelphia events. I get nervous like everyone else out there. But today, it was one of those magical days.”
Turns out Mother Nature, and the weatherman, were both on Billings’ side. Rain continued to soil the track throughout Tuesday night, and impending storms caused the championship to be shortened to one round. Ultimately, Billings’ first-round wonder held up.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that it was shortened, but that was out of our control. Anytime you can break your handicap, and win a GAP event, you have to be happy,” said Billings, of Media, Pa.
The first Billings birdie arrived on the par 3, 158-yard 3rd where he struck 6-iron resulting in an 18-foot look that fell. He’d give one back on No. 4 (par 4, 278 yards) but would get back in the red with another 3 on No. 5 (par 4, 347 yards) where he jarred a five-footer after an 8-iron approach shot.
Another bogey blemish on No. 8 (par 4, 368 yards) resulted in an even turn for Billings. Overall, he was pleased being level.
“I was hitting the ball well and driving it well. The conditions were getable, the fairways were soft, and it was a good morning to play golf,” he said. “But my round really started when I got to No. 12.”
The par 4, 365-yard 12th hosted a Billings’ 7-iron approach from 145 yards that came to rest 10 feet from the hole, resulting in his third birdie of the day. He’d go on to flag his tee shot on No. 13 (par 3, 150 yards), again implementing his trusty 7-iron leaving him with a three-foot tap-in for the 2.
“I asked [Director of Competitions Kirby Martin] if I could have the putt. He said to me, ‘It’s good for anyone but you’ and so I stepped up and made it, even though it took a 180-degree turn around the cup,” said Billings, who hit 14 out of 18 greens in regulation.
On No. 14 (par 4, 333 yards), Billings’ drive landed in the right rough, but his 9-iron approach from 130 yards led to a 16-foot birdie conversion. He’d go on to bogey No. 15 (par 4, 352 yards), but that was before his round’s highlight arrived on Lehigh’s par 4, 392-yard finisher. A perfect drive off the tee set him up for success there. Billings blasted a 6-iron from 155 yards, which landed him pin high, leaving him with a five-foot birdie that was converted.
“It was probably one of my best competitive shots, especially knowing it could be for the lead,” said Billings.
The 67-year-old bettered the rest of the Super-Senior field by two strokes. The reigning four-time Super-Senior Player of the Year Don Donatoni of White Manor Country Club, who finished with a 1-over 71, lurked in the group in front of Billings on Tuesday. He essentially knew what he needed to do in order to get the job done.
“Listen, everyone knows Don Donatoni is the tiger of the Super Seniors. He wins 70 percent of these tournaments. He nipped me in the Brewer Cup [at St. Davids] this year in match play, but he’s just so tough. And obviously he’s one of the best Super Seniors in the country. We all think we’re playing for second. But I also kid him I’m going to sneak up on him one of these days,” he said. “Today was that day.”
Billings took home back-to-back Father & Son (Older) titles in 2012 and 2013. This week’s victory marks his first solo title in a GAP event, and in a Major way.
“I’ve been playing well, but there’s a difference between playing well at your club on Saturdays and Sundays compared to coming out here versus some of the best players [in the region],” he said. “I’m thrilled to have broken through here. The curse is officially off.”
In result of a 1-under 69 in his round at Lehigh, Philadelphia Publinks GA’s Buck Jones won the season-long Super-Senior Silver Cross Award with a 220 total.
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 153 Member Clubs and 57,000 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.
|Robert Billings, Rolling Green Golf Club||67|
|Buck Jones, Philadelphia Publinks GA||69|
|Frank Polizzi, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club||70|
|Don Donatoni, White Manor Country Club||71|
|Robin McCool, Saucon Valley Country Club||72|
|William Lawler, Fox Hill Country Club||73|
|Thomas Humphrey, Wilmington Country Club||74|
|James Prendergast, Bellewood Country Club||75|
|Carl Everett, Merion Golf Club||75|
|Raymond Pawulich, Little Mill Country Club||75|
|Charles McDowell, Wilmington Country Club||76|
|Jerry Janeski, Hartefeld National||78|
|John Gonsior, Limekiln Golf Club||79|
|David Kearney, Lehigh Country Club||79|
|Jay Howson, Jr., St. Davids Golf Club||80|
|Joseph Zelechoski, Silver Creek Country Club||81|
|Scott Shafer, Whitford Country Club||82|
|Dale Moss, Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club||83|
|Jon Mabry, Moorestown Field Club||83|
|Thomas Mairone, Philadelphia Publinks GA||86|
|Dave Jacobson, Medford Village Country Club||86|
|Howard Press, Little Mill Country Club||86|
|Mike Tomasic, Woodstone Country Club||86|
|Steve Tagert, Spring Ford Country Club||87|
|Michael Rowland, Lehigh Country Club||88|
|Robert Lodovici, Little Mill Country Club||90|
|Michael Anton, Lookaway Golf Club||WD|
|Daniel Burton, Lancaster Country Club||WD|
|John Cech, Riverton Country Club||WD|
|Bob Majczan, Lookaway Golf Club||WD|
|Thomas Mallouk, Lookaway Golf Club||WD|
|Charles McClaskey, Philadelphia Publinks GA||WD|
|Edward Pappas, Rolling Green Golf Club||WD|
|Thomas Schaible, Chester Valley Golf Club||WD|
|Craig Scott, Shawnee Country Club||WD|
|Donald Ashley, Philadelphia Country Club||WD|
|Charles Caparo, Plymouth Country Club||WD|
|Michael Civitello, Chester Valley Golf Club||WD|
|Michael Nilon, Philadelphia Country Club||WD|
|Jeff Ranck, Huntsville Golf Club||WD|
|Michael Rose, Talamore Country Club||WD|
|Alan Van Horn, Commonwealth National Golf Club||WD|
|Ed Zebrowski, Sea Oaks Golf Club||WD|
|NS-no show; WD-withdrawal|