VILLANOVA, Pa. — “An act of the golf gods” is a colloquial one-liner that Bob Beck will turn to when asked about the Brewer Cup. Clearly, a higher presence intervened on the Lehigh Country Club member’s behalf Wednesday at Overbrook Golf Club.
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Beck holed a 25-yard bunker shot to defeat Lu Lu Country Club’s Christopher Clauson for the Senior title in the event’s 9th edition, presented by Callaway Golf. That astonishing occurrence followed an inconceivable discovery. On No. 1 (par 4, 381 yards), the match’s 19th hole, Beck tugged his drive left, presumably out-of-bounds. After a brief search, observers noticed two golf balls in the fairway — one obviously Clauson’s because of a pure drive; the other, inconceivably so, belonged to Beck.
“I don’t know what to tell you. I guess it was meant to be,” a stunned and speechless Beck, 56, of Allentown, Pa., said. “I got a gift from the golf gods and made pretty good use of it. I made lemons into lemonade.”
“I don’t know why, but I’m no longer surprised that happened,” Clauson, 59, of Philadelphia, Pa., said. “I’m using certain breathing techniques to get me back into the moment. The most important is, ‘How do you stay present?’” I was able to that, so in some way it didn’t surprise me what happened. You do whatever it takes to win. In this case, he had an opportunity, stepped up and did it. Hat’s off to him.”
Prior to the curtain call, Beck, with a yardage of 150 in the No. 1 fairway, debated a 7-iron, but decided on an 8-iron, strong swing included. It tracked toward the flagstick but plummeted into the right greenside bunker. Clauson hit an uphill 7-iron 157 yards to 30 feet left of the hole location. Once both finalists arrived at the green, Beck, expressionless and even-keeled regardless of circumstance, reviewed the slope, stepped into the sand and swung. His golf ball cleared the lip and chased into the cup.
“I tried to hit it close and win it. I had a decent lie in the trap. I just took a swing at it and it went in,” Beck said.
“I hit a good shot up there, and I thought at the very least, we’re going to continue in extra holes because he’s a good bunker player. He can get up-and-down,” Clauson said. “The hard part is when somebody is out-of-bounds, then they’re in the middle of the fairway, and then they somehow miraculously make a birdie. How do you collect yourself and give the best effort? I thought I did that.”
He sure did.
After taking relief from a sprinkler head, Clauson, who stares at the hole as he putts, rolled a birdie attempt to match and shuddered as it stopped four inches in the heart.
The wild ending seemed apropos given the chain of events that preceded it. Beck and Clauson stood All Square on the 14th (par 4, 316 yards) green when the siren sounded. Lighting in the area suspended the Final for an hour and 15 minutes. When both players returned to the course, their solid play stayed in the clubhouse. Beck and Clauson traded victories on the next four holes, the latter drawing even with a conceded 3 on No. 17 (par 4, 359 yards) following a sawed-off wedge from 108 yards.
“We should have warmed up beforehand. We were not ready,” Clauson said. “We gave each other holes back and forth.”
Both finalists appeared ready and fueled at the outset. A birdie-birdie-par start translated into an instant 3-up edge for Beck. On No. 1 (par 4, 381 yards), he lifted an 8-iron 155 yards to nine feet. The next hole (par 4, 348 yards) unfolded similarly, with Beck knocking a 9-iron 138 yards to six feet. A Clauson three-putt on the par 3, 190-yard No. 3 succumbed to a Beck two-putt from 30 feet right of the hole location. Despite the miscue, Clauson kept up with his opponent’s fiery play. He gained one back on No. 4 (par 4, 434 yards) with a birdie of his own, hammering a utility club 198 yards to four feet. The contest maintained its tee-to-green efficiency; its’ combatants combined for nine fairways and seven greens in regulation over the next five holes.
Bunker issues for Beck made matters All Square. He deposited a 6-iron into the left greenside structure on the downhill par 3, 179-yard No. 10 and missed 14-footer on the high side. Beck failed to get up-and-down from the right greenside bunker on No. 11 (par 4, 439 yards).
Those sand shots aren’t the ones he’ll remember, however.
“I don’t go into anything planning on winning. If I come out of it with a win, that’s great,” Beck, a Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine Player to Watch in 2016, said. “I know I’m not as good as these guys. There are some great ball-strikers [in the Senior Division]. I’m a realist. My goal is to just try and compete against them and come out on top. For me, [this week] was one shot at a time and one match at a time. It obviously worked out.”
Clauson relied on a consistent short game to nip Michael Vassil of the Country Club of Scranton, 3&2. He moved 2-up after nearly acing the par 3, 179-yard 10th hole and remained steady down the stretch.
“He scrambled his way to pars and took advantage of every mistake I made. He never really gave me a chance to get close,” Vassil, 59, of Dalton, Pa., said. “Surprisingly, I felt very comfortable all three days. I just missed a couple of shots I would’ve expected to hit better.”
Beck held a 1-up advantage on Lancaster Country Club’s Kenneth Phillips through 14 holes when the day’s first suspension occurred. Both players halved the next two holes before Phillips lost the par 4, 359-yard 17th hole. He missed the green right from 105 yards and failed to match Beck’s routine 4.
“I tried to hit a hard wedge. The grass is so wet that the ball just slid right up the face,” Phillips, 57, of Lancaster, Pa., said. “Bob played great. He’s a solid player and didn’t make many mistakes.”
Severe weather first pulled competitors off the course at 10:43 a.m. Play resumed 40 minutes later. At 2:24 p.m., the horn sounded once more. Play resumed at 3:45 p.m. … The Brewer Cup, launched in 2008, is named in honor of O. Gordon Brewer Jr., a veteran of 42 USGA Championships and two-time U.S. Senior Amateur Champion (1994, 1996). He also won Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur titles in 1967 and 1976 as well as the 1997 Senior Amateur Championship, which earned Brewer Player of the Year honors that year. He was inducted into the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
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.
14. Bob Beck, Lehigh CC, d. 5. Christopher Clauson, Lu Lu CC, 19 holes
5. Christopher Clauson, Lu Lu CC, d 9. Michael Vassil, CC of Scranton, 3&2
14. Bob Beck, Lehigh CC, d. 2. Kenneth Phillips, Lancaster CC, 2&1