BLUE BELL, Pa.–Zach Barbin and Michael R. Brown, Jr. are approaching GAP legendary status. The other six remaining BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship Quarterfinalists are hoping to write an initial chapter in Association history.
On a perfect weather day at Cedarbrook Country Club (par 72, 7,070 yards), Barbin, the defending Amateur champion, and Brown, who is looking to complete the GAP Career Slam, led a group of eight players that each won two matches. The BMW Philadelphia Amateur continues Wednesday with the quarterfinals beginning at 7:30 a.m. One of the two is guaranteed a final four slot. The two face off at 7:52 a.m.
The semifinals are set to begin at 12 p.m.
Barbin, who is battling an ankle injury, qualified as the No. 14 seed. The Loch Nairn Golf Club member defeated Duke University-bound John Peters of Carlisle Country Club, 1-up, in the Round of 16 after stopping Patrick Knott of Merion Golf Club, 3&2, in the Round of 32. Brown survived a slugfest with fellow LuLu Country Club member and 2020 BMW Philadelphia Amateur runner-up Michael O’Brien, the No. 22 seed, 1-up, after easing past Kyle Vance of Blue Bell Country Club, 5&4.
Barbin is looking to become the 11th individual to win consecutive titles. Jeremy Wall of Manasquan River Golf Club was the last to do so in 2018 and 2019. Brown is gunning to become the third player to complete the GAP Career Slam. He would join Chris Lange and Jeff Osberg with victories in each of the Association’s Majors – Amateur, Middle-Amateur Championship, Open Championship and Patterson Cup. Brown took the 2009 Middle-Amateur, 2010 Open and 2018 Patterson.
“I got another chance to put myself in a position to win this again,” said Barbin, 22, of Loch Nairn Golf Club and Elkton, Md. “I feel like my game is trending in the right direction. I wouldn’t say I’m stressed as a defending champion, but I view it as a fun opportunity to play again. I was honestly more focused on my ankle than some of the shots I was hitting.”
Barbin injured his ankle at a wedding reception last Saturday in North Dakota. (See Day Two Notebook) In the Round-of-16 match, Barbin, a recent Liberty University graduate, trailed Peters 2-down after nine holes but took the lead for good on No. 17 (par 4, 452 yards). He hit a flighted 8-iron from 152 yards to 10 feet and needed just a par to take the hole and the lead. Both parred No. 18 (par 4, 393 yards).
Brown’s second contest also came down to the wire. He drained a difficult right-to-left 20-foot par save on No. 18 (par 4, 393 yards) to close out the match. He said it was the first putt he made over four feet all day.
“I would be kidding if I didn’t know I’m going to have a limited number of opportunities [to win this event] moving forward,” said Brown, 48, of Maple Shade, N.J. “I’m going to do my best to seize it. I’m going to keep my head down and try to keep making good decisions out there.”
Of the remaining six quarterfinalists, Troy Vannucci of Little Mill Country Club is probably the most accomplished. He and partner Vince Kwon were U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship Semifinalists in 2019. Last week, Vannucci, 29, of Marlton, N.J., was the runner-up in the New Jersey State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship. His deepest Amateur run came in 2019 at Stonewall. He won a match but fell in the Round of 16 to Peter Bradbeer of Merion Golf Club.
Speaking of Bradbeer, he entered match play as the Amateur Qualifying medalist and No. 1 seed. In a spirited duel, J.T. Spina of Philadelphia Cricket Club defeated Bradbeer, 1-up. Spina, with father John (Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Director of Instruction) on the bag, took the lead for good on No. 6 (par 5, 567 yards) when he knocked a wedge from 123 yards to a foot for a kick-in birdie. Bradbeer almost answered when his 30-foot birdie try just missed.
“I was expecting to be where I am at right now. I’ve been working unbelievably hard for this and I think that reflected today,” said Spina, 21, of Schwenksville, Pa. “I’ve been putting a lot. Putting is everything. I’ve been spending 10-15 hours a week on putting. Today, I made some clutch putts.”
Spina is a rising senior at St. Joseph’s University. This is the farthest he’s advanced in the Amateur in three tries.
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.
Round of 16
16. J.T. Spina, Philadelphia Cricket Club, d. 1. Peter Bradbeer, Merion GC, 1-up;
24. Morgan Lofland, Phoenixville CC, d. 25. Zach Arsenault, Riverton CC, 4&2;
20. Conor McGrath, Huntingdon Valley CC, d. 29. David Hurly, Aronimink GC, 1-up;
5. Ross Pilliod, LedgeRock GC, d. 12. Connor Bennink, Kennett Square G&CC, 6&5;
15. Jack Irons, Little Mill CC, d. 31. Nick Fioravante, LedgeRock GC, 20 holes;
7. Troy Vannucci, Little Mill CC, d. 10. Ben Cooley, Huntingdon Valley CC, 3&1;
14. Zach Barbin, Loch Nairn GC, d. 3. John Peters, Carlisle CC, 1-up;
6. Michael R. Brown, Jr., LuLu CC, d. 22. Michael O’Brien, LuLu CC, 1-up
Round of 32
1. Bradbeer d. 32. Marty McGuckin, Philadelphia Cricket Club, 1-up;
16. Spina d. 17. Matt Dolinsky, Honeybrook GC, 19 holes;
25. Arsenault d. 8. Jason Wilson, Olde Homestead GC, 2&1:
24. Lofland d. 9. Ron Robinson, LuLu CC, 20 holes;
29. Hurly d. 4. Matt Mattare, Saucon Valley CC, 1-up;
20. McGrath d. 13. Michael Davis, Merion GC, 5&4;
5. Pilliod d. 28. Patrick Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley CC, 4&2;
12. Bennink d. 21. Michael Carr, Philadelphia Cricket Club, 5&4;
31. Fioravante d. 2. Austin Barbin, Loch Nairn GC, 2-up;
15. Irons d. 18. Brian Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley CC, 1-up;
7. Vannucci d. 26. Logan Paczewski, Huntsville GC, 5&3;
10. Cooley d. 23. Zach Juhasz, Northampton CC, 5&3;
3. Peters d. 30. Tyler McGarry, Huntsville GC, 3&1;
14. Barbin d. 19. Patrick Knott, Merion GC, 3&2;
6. Brown, Jr. d. 27. Kyle Vance, Blue Bell CC, 5&4;
22. O’Brien d. 11. Jeffrey Cunningham, LuLu CC, d. 4&3.
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