FORT WASHINGTON, Pa.–Michael Hyland of Little Mill CC is going to miss his close friend’s wedding in Detroit, Mich., on Saturday. He’ll instead be at Manufacturers G&CC looking for a second J. Wood Platt Amateur Championship trophy. Hyland, the 2000 Amateur winner, defeated Andrew Mason of Huntingdon Valley CC, 5&4, in one semifinal Thursday afternoon while Stephen Hudacek, III of Glenmaura National GC stopped Matthew Burkhart of Meadia Heights GC, 4&2, in the other. Hudacek and Hyland clash for the 111th Amateur title in a 36-hole final set for 8 a.m. Saturday.
It will be Hyland’s second Amateur Final appearance, Hudacek’s first.
“[My friend will] understand I hope,” said the affable Hyland, 32, of Marlton, N.J. “It’s a dream come true. It’s been 11 years since I made it last time. To be an old guy and be in the final again is pretty fun.”
“My goal was to make match play. After that anything can happen,” said Hudacek, 23, of Scranton, Pa. “This always has one of the strongest local fields. This is my third year playing in the Amateur. I’ve never made match play before this.”
Hyland, who qualified as the 16th seed, moseyed around a challenging Manufacturers G&CC with a white hot putter and no regrets. In the 30 holes he played, the 32-year-old carded nine birdies, two eagles and three bogeys. He never trailed in either of Thursday’s contests and totaled just 46 putts in those 30 holes.
Against Mason, the 28th seed, Hyland parred No. 5 (par 4, 428 yards) to take an early 1-up advantage before winning holes Nos. 8-10 with a par, eagle and par.
|Stephen Hudacek, III birdies No. 8 (par 3, 120 yards).|
On the treacherous No. 8 (par 3, 120 yards), Hyland two-putted from 40 feet as Mason missed the green left and failed to get up-and-down from above the cup. On No. 9 (par 5, 475 yards), he scalded a 6-iron from 190 yards to seven feet for eagle and then made a run-of-the-mill par on No. 10 (par 4, 425 yards) when Mason found trouble and a subsequent bogey. Hyland chipped up to four feet on No. 12 (par 5, 523 yards) for a winning birdie and then on No. 14 (par 4, 428 yards) poetically rammed home a 20-footer for 3 to secure a final’s berth.
“I’ve probably played holes 7 thru 12, in something like 6 under,” said Hyland, who defeated Michael McDermott in 38 holes in the 2000 Final. “They are the match play holes out here where you have to make a move.”
Said Mason, 22, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., who made match play in the Amateur for the first time is his career, “I expected to make match play and take it one step at a time after that. I hung in there. I expected him to make putts but I expected myself to play better.”
The other semifinal was All Square thru No. 7 when Hudacek gained the upper-hand with victories on three of the next four holes.
He birdied No. 8 for a second straight time on the exact same 20-foot chance he had in the morning; reached No. 9 (par 5, 475 yards) in two from 185 yards with a 5-iron and two putted from 60 feet for 4 and then parred the lengthy and difficult 11th (par 3, 190 yards).
“My philosophy with the lead is to have looks at birdie and force the other player to make putts,” said Hudacek, who qualified as the 23rd seed.
Hudacek was 3-up on the 14th green, but Burkhart was staring at an eight-footer for birdie to cut the deficit by a hole and get back in the match. Instead, however, Burkhart said he had “a mind block” and three putted from the short distance, losing the hole to fatally fall 4 down.
“I can’t complain. Stephen played great and deserves to be where he’s at,” said Burkhart, 20, of Lancaster, Pa. “It’s such a marathon. I played great golf for 2 ½ days.”
Hyland defeated a game Scott McNeil of Philadelphia Publinks GA, the No. 24 seed, 3&2, in a match that featured nine birdies, two eagles and all seven holes in which there was a winner done so with an under-par score. “I’ve never seen a person hit the ball that far and straight,” said Hyland of McNeil. “That was the toughest match I’ve ever played.” Hyland wore out his red pen. He recorded six birdies and an eagle in the 16 holes. McNeil did his best to keep pace. He netted three birdies and an eagle. “We were both under par and both played well,” said McNeil, 25, of Philadelphia, Pa. “There was really nothing more I could do.” This was McNeil’s first-ever appearance in the GAP Amateur Championship.
Mason delivered a fantastic performance in defeating reigning Golf Association of Philadelphia Senior Player of the Year Chip Lutz of LedgeRock GC, 3&2. Mason was 3-down early, but found his footing mid round and overtook Lutz on No. 11 (par 3, 190 yards) with a clutch 20-foot birdie. He never trailed again and won two of the next four holes to clinch a berth in the semifinals. Lutz, 56, of Reading, Pa., the oldest remaining player in the field was also looking for his second-ever J. Wood Platt Trophy, having won the title in 1977 at this very site. Lutz, who qualified as the 29th seed, said he has been battling a balky right knee injury the last couple of days. “I putted well early, but there was a stretch in the middle of the round where I lost my direction,” said Lutz. “I just got out of rhythm. Andrew played very well.”
Hudacek defeated Amateur rookie Paul Kovalcheck of Lu Lu CC, 3&1, to advance. Kovalcheck, of Aston, Pa., couldn’t participate in years past because of schedule conflicts with qualifying events. However, the recent graduate of McDaniel College earned an exemption into the field courtesy of a Top 10 finish in last year’s Patterson Cup.
“It was definitely cool,” Kovalcheck, 21, said. “I wasn’t even expecting to get into match play. From there, I was kind of playing with house-money, I thought. I played pretty good today, but just got beat by a better golfer. I was happy, though. It was definitely an honor to play in this tournament.”
Kovalcheck, seeded No. 18, started to climb out of a three-hole deficit on No. 16 (par 4, 428 yards), where he knocked a 58-degree wedge 100 yards to 10 feet and cleaned up the birdie putt. However, a wayward drive on the par 4, 372-yard 17th would seal Kovalcheck’s fate.
The boy wonder’s voyage into Amateur folklore came to an end, but what a thrill it was for Kyle Sterbinsky of Yardley CC. The 14-year-old fell to Burkhart, 2-up, in the quarterfinals.
“It was an honor to even get into match play,” Sterbinsky, of Yardley, Pa., said. “I made it a lot farther than I was expecting to. In my match, I couldn’t get a lot of putts to go, but I hit the ball pretty solid. I was pretty happy with my game today.”
Like Kovalcheck, Sterbinsky showed just cause for a late charge on No. 16. He stuck a pitching wedge 113 yards to 15 feet. Sterbinsky had a chance to even the match on No. 17 following a superb sand wedge from 89 yards out. He couldn’t execute the uphill birdie putt.
“I thought it was dead straight and it dove left,” Sterbinsky, the 19th seed, said. He would lose the 18th hole.
17. Michael Hyland, Little Mill CC, d. 28. Andrew Mason, Huntingdon Valley CC, 5&4.
23. Stephen Hudacek, III, Glenmaura National GC, d. 6. Matthew Burkhart, Meadia Heights GC, 4&2.
17. Hyland d. 24. Scott McNeil, Philadelphia Publinks GA, 3&2.
28. Mason d. 29. Chip Lutz, LedgeRock GC, 3&2.
23. Hudacek, III d. 18. Paul Kovalcheck, Lu Lu CC, 3&1.
6. Burkhart d. 19. Kyle Sterbinsky, Yardley CC, 2-up.
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