#BMWPhillyAm: Day Three - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

Jun 16, 2021

#BMWPhillyAm: Day Three

Irons, McGrath advance to #BMWPhillyAm Final

BLUE BELL, Pa.–The odds favored a fresh face eventually hoisting the J. Wood Platt Amateur Championship Trophy. When match play of the 121st BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship started Tuesday at Cedarbrook Country Club (par 72, 6,981 yards), 22 of the 32 players to advance from Stroke-Play Qualifying were age 24 or younger.

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Four rounds and a lot of golf later, 19-year-old Jack Irons of Little Mill Country Club and 21-year-old Conor McGrath of Huntingdon Valley Country Club have a date for the title. The 36-Hole Championship Final begins Saturday at 7:15 a.m.

Both players are in search of their first GAP Major.

“It’s a big deal. This is the first time I’ve really made it this far in something [this big],” said McGrath, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., a Temple University senior.

“It’s exciting. I can’t wait for Saturday,” said Irons, who resides in Naples, Fla., but summers with family in Medford Lakes, N.J. He took online classes and graduated from high school. “I just want to keep on making good swings. Put the pressure on my opponent. Put it in play. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on.”

Irons, who made match play in the Amateur for the first time in three tries last year, did something eight players before him failed to do. He defeated reigning Amateur Champion Zach Barbin of Loch Nairn Golf Club. Irons won 3&2 over Barbin, who battled a bum ankle all week. Barbin won all five of his matches at Lancaster in 2020 and the first three this year. He played 105 holes after spraining his ankle at a wedding last week.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” said Barbin, 22, of Elkton, Md. “Jack played great. My ankle feels a little tight and sore. To make it this far I’m really proud of how I played. To come out here and finish as a semifinalist there is not too much more you can ask for.”

McGrath defeated recent Conestoga High School grad and Penn State-bound freshman Morgan Lofland, 18, of Paoli, Pa., by an identical 3&2 score. Lofland was competing in his first Amateur Championship.

“I struggled to put shots together and to get a rhythm going against Conor,” said Lofland. “You can’t win a match when you are not on your game and not hitting shots when you need to hit shots. It wasn’t like that for me today.”

Irons stopped clubmate Troy Vannucci in the quarterfinals, 2&1, earlier in the day. In his match against Barbin, he stood 2-up and in a bit of trouble off No. 12 (par 5, 557 yards) tee, punched out and launched an 8-iron from 162 yards up-and-over the left fairway tree that stopped 4½ feet from the cup. A sensational response to a Barbin second shot, a 3-iron from 250 yards that stopped 15 feet from the hole. Barbin missed the eagle, and the two walked away with matching birdies. Barbin did win the next hole, but Irons took Nos. 14 (par 4, 447 yards) and 15 (par 4, 390 yards) with a pair of clutch putts to secure the victory.

“That was a big momentum switch,” said Barbin. “It’s a big difference being 2-up rather than just 1-up with a few holes to go.”

McGrath, turned his semifinal match around with victories on Nos. 8, 9 and 10. He went from 1-down to 2-up. He took No. 8 (par 4, 428 yards) with a run-of-the-mill par, No. 9 (par 3, 206 yards) with a conceded par after Lofland missed the green and his ensuing chip shot failed to release toward the hole, and No. 10 (par 5, 528 yards) courtesy of a flighted 8-iron from 164 yards that stopped 30 feet from the cup but on the same tier as the hole. A miraculous second shot on No. 11 (par 4, 309 yards) from 70 yards right of the green resulted in a halve and, in essence, ended any Lofland comeback chances.

A victory by McGrath Saturday would be the first by a Temple University golfer since Jim Sullivan, Jr. in 1999. He also looks to add his name to the illustrious list of legends of Huntingdon Valley’ers to take the Association’s most prestigious championship. A total of 15 HVCC members have won 24 Amateur titles since 1897. That is double the next closest club, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, at 12. The last to do was Jeff Osberg in 2014.

“Huntingdon Valley means the world to be. Everyone at the club is so supportive of me,” said McGrath. “The history behind Huntingdon Valley is incredible. It’s cool to give myself a shot to be part of that.”


20. Conor McGrath, Huntingdon Valley CC, d. 24. Morgan Lofland, Phoenixville CC, 3&2; 15. Jack Irons, Little Mill CC, d. 14. Zach Barbin, Loch Nairn GC, 3&2.


24. Lofland d. 16. J.T. Spina, Philadelphia Cricket Club, 19 holes; 20. McGrath d. 5. Ross Pilliod, LedgeRock GC, 5&3; 15. Irons d. 7. Troy Vannucci, Little Mill CC, 2&1; 14. Barbin d. 6. Michael R. Brown, Jr., LuLu CC, 19 holes.

BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship

Originating in 1897, the Amateur Championship is GAP’s premiere individual event. Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Albert H. Smith captured the first Amateur Championship by defeating J.D. Winsor of Merion Cricket Club in 37 holes at Bala Golf Club. The event’s format switched to medal play in 1938. J. Wood Platt went on to win two consecutive Amateurs under that format. His brother William “Zimmer” Platt earned the 1940 title at Philadelphia Cricket Club by being the only competitor to finish all 72 holes. The event’s format reverted back to match play in 1941. The Amateur Championship wasn’t contested from 1943- 45 because of World War II. Overall, 37 courses have hosted the Amateur.


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.

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