LuLu captures 1st BMW GAP Team Matches title
LuLu Country Club’s resurrection is complete. The venerable club, in existence since 1912, and most recently known for its prominent return to the local golf scene after suffering a devastating 2015 clubhouse fire, edged defending BMW GAP Team Matches champion Huntingdon Valley Country Club for its first title Saturday. Cloudy, overcast skies occasionally gave way to rays of sunshine in Glenside, Pa. as an ecstatic LuLu finished with 71 points compared to Huntingdon Valley’s 66.5. Philadelphia Cricket Club1 placed third with 54.5 points and Tavistock Country Club finished fourth at 24. Philadelphia Cricket and Tavistock are also former BMW GTM champions.
“Our expectations were to get back [to the final]. We knew we had to play well to do so and did,” said LuLu Captain James Sullivan, Jr. “When I looked at the teams coming into today, my personal [thought] was Huntingdon Valley was a slight favorite with us and Philadelphia Cricket nipping at their heels.
“In total we had a lot of guys grind out a lot of points. Dan Charen getting seven points in the two slot of Cricket is phenomenal. Mike Brown is our horse and he got 8.5 in the [No.] 1 slot at Tavistock. Tavistock [started] a couple hours later and that made [Brown’s match the] focus. And for Brownie to come in with 8.5 points right away. He’s my personal hero. It was a great day for us and a great day for LuLu as a club.”
With the first three sites complete and reporting scores, Huntingdon Valley held a 2.5-point edge, 55.5-53, on LuLu. LuLu defended its home turf by winning 23 of a possible 27 points. Huntingdon Valley did the same, taking 22 of 27. The only sweep from the 24 players (three groups of four players each) at both clubs came from LuLu’s Richard Riva, a BMW Philadelphia Amateur quarterfinalist in 2020.
As stated, LuLu’s Brown was sent to Tavistock. In the first match out at the Haddonfield, N.J. club, his 8.5 point match performance elevated LuLu into a 2.5-point lead with two matches to go. That continued Brown’s powerful BMW GTM play. The former two-time William Hyndman, III Player of the Year Award recipient won 8.5 out of 9 singles points during the regular season.
The Playoff format, different from the regular season, features three players from each participating club at each venue. Each player competes in a three-way match.
“What a treat. This place is so much fun you can’t even describe it,” said Sullivan, 46, of Glenside, Pa., who was a member of Huntingdon Valley’s BMW GTM winning teams in 1996 and 1999. “I’ve been here for six years. We had 80 members and were in the B or C Division in the GAP Matches [when we started]. [Today] we are at 550 members with 50 on the waiting list at the moment. This has been a lot of fun to be a part of.
“When you are an old guy like me, I played my golf 20 years ago. It’s a treat to be able to play and still be on the first team and compete. We had a couple of near misses where we could have won, should have won. There are so many moving parts on a day like today. It was a close match. Huntingdon Valley is obviously phenomenal. Cricket is great. Tavistock ran into a few buzzsaws today. It’s so much fun you can’t describe it.”
In 2019, the last time the Matches were held – 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19 – LuLu finished second to Huntingdon Valley by two points. That was its only other Playoff appearance.
“We’ve been very fortunate. When we started managing [LuLu], we had about 180 members. Right now our membership is sold out. We had six GAP Team Matches teams this year and five of six had winning records,” said Jon Rusk, 42, of Yardley, Pa., who began managing LuLu with father Ron in 2015. “It’s a great day for the guys. We had 500 people pulling for the team..”
Rusk played in the No. 1 slot at LuLu and scored six points.
Scott McLaughlin was LuLu’s captain a year ago. He also was part of Commonwealth National Golf Club’s victorious BMW GAP Team Matches squad in 2009.
On a team of dominant performance, McLaughlin was just that. He swept all nine singles points in the regular-season matches and then took eight of nine in the Playoff.
“Ever since I joined here five years ago, it’s been talked about. It’s a real team atmosphere here. It’s something everyone else and something everybody gets behind. First of many, hopefully,” said McLaughlin, 41, of Ambler, Pa. “[Losing in 2019] was rough. Especially with the delay. Not having the Matches last year with COVID. That made it more excruciating having to wait another year to get another chance at it.
“I made a five-footer for par on No. 18. It got me the overall with Kyle [Martin of Huntingdon Valley] and the back nine with Adam [Bracy of Tavistock]. Those two points could have swung the other way for Huntingdon Valley and maybe we aren’t here talking right now.”
But they didn’t. And LuLu’s celebration will continue for quite some time.
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 Association’s 300 Member Clubs and 80,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.