Apr 19, 2011

GAP Team Matches: The old and the new highlight Week Two

GAP Team Matches: The old and the new highlight Week Two

  Week Two of the Golf Association of Philadelphia Team Matches simplified a Playoff path for two baby faces and complicated one for a pair of grizzled veterans.

  Division AA newcomers Fox Hill Country Club (2-0) and Little Mill Country Club (2-0) remain undefeated and in command of their respective sections. Both clubs moved one step closer toward claiming their first Team Match title.

  Things aren’t as matter-of-fact for Merion Golf Club (1-0.5) and Philadelphia Cricket Club (1-0.5). The two dueled to a 27-27 tie in a marquee bout between two of the Association’s founding member clubs.

  “We were really happy to walk away with a tie,” Chris Kallmeyer, Philadelphia Cricket’s captain, said. “We certainly would’ve preferred to get the victory, and I’m sure there are some guys on the team, me included, that look back and think, ‘if I would have made this putt, or if I would’ve won that particular hole, it could’ve turned the match for us.’ I’m sure there are an equal number of guys on Merion who feel exactly the same. It really shows how great the team match format is — that two great teams that were well-matched up walk away with a tie. It’s poetic, on some level.”

  “I can’t say that I’m totally surprised,” Michael McDermott, Merion’s captain, said. “You never expect a tie, but when I looked at the teams, I could see how either team would win by just a few points, whichever way it went. To see it end in a tie was close to what anyone who knew the teams would expect.”

  It was the third contest this year to end in a tie. The most previous Team Matches tie occured 2008, when Waynesborough 2 and Whitemarsh Valley 3 exchanged matching 33.75s in a Division D contest. Quarter-point bonuses for the number of holes a match is won by were eliminated this year.

  Kevin Cahill led Merion individually by collecting three singles points. Mark Peterson, the Association’s Executive Director, headed Cricket’s corps with three singles points as well. And in a clash between former GAP Middle-Amateur Champions, Robert Savarese, Jr. (2003) grabbed half a point against McDermott (2001, 2004 and 2008).

  The deadlock between Merion and Philadelphia Cricket makes the Section D playoff picture more convoluted. If Merion defeats Llanerch Country Club in Week Three, and Philadelphia Cricket does likewise against Laurel Creek Country Club, then the team with the largest point sum advances to the Playoff. If Merion wins and Philadelphia Cricket loses, or vice versa, then the victor advances.

  Don’t count Llanerch (1-1) out, either; the club knocked off Laurel Creek Country Club (0-2), 37.50-16.50, in Week Two and holds a 1.5 point advantage over Philadelphia Cricket. A sizeable win over Merion, coupled with a Cricket loss, puts Llanerch in the Playoff.

  “It’s probably the most exciting race I’ve seen in all of my years playing in the GAP (Team) Matches,” McDermott said. “A team without a loss could not make the Finals, which is really amazing. I’m sure this week, everyone is sort of agonizing over the little putt they missed — any chance to make that difference to break that halve.”

  For McDermott personally, facing Llanerch in Week Three with a playoff spot on the line is bittersweet.

  “My family is on the team and a lot of my closest friends play on the team,” he said. “Now, we’re going head-to-head. It’s a predicament. They’re a great team. They may be the best team in our division. They just happened to lose the first week, so we really have our hands full against them. I know they’re probably coming out trying to blow us out and get themselves in that top spot.”

  Cricket, too, is keenly aware of what’s at stake in Week Three.

  “We know we have our work cut out for us,” Kallmeyer said. “We have to walk away with a victory against Laurel Creek, and we know Llanerch needs to keep it close against Merion. We feel that Llanerch matches up pretty well with Merion. We were happy to beat Llanerch in Week One. That match could’ve gone either way. They’re a terrific team. So I think Merion has a tough match, and if we take care of our match against Laurel Creek — if we do that and make up 11 points, then we can walk away with the section.”

  Back to the baby faces. Fox Hill prevailed over Hartefeld National (1-1), 39.50-14.50, in Section 1.

  “It’s very surprising, especially how we won against a great team like Hartefeld,” Answini said. “We hung with them neck-and-neck away. Our guys at home obviously played a lot of good golf.”

  A dominant 26-point outpouring at home propelled Fox Hill. Matthew Hoover and John Mulhern, Jr., a five-time club champion at Fox Hill, ignited the club’s home spark. They collected three better-ball points as well as three singles points apiece.

  “They got us out to a really good start,” Answini said. “It kind of set the tone. The rest of the guys just followed suit.”

  Fox Hill’s road team also held its own at the Avondale, Pa. venue. Answini paired with Tony Clapps, and the duo salvaged 2.5 better-ball points to open. Brandon Matthews and Jason Miller ensured a halve result by posting three better-ball points and three singles points each to boot.

  “Jason’s a grinder, and Brandon hits the ball 300 yards on the fly,” Answini said.

  Fox Hill sits in the driver’s seat heading into its Week 3 match-up against Commonwealth National Golf Club (0-2), the 2007 and 2009 Team Match titleholder. History doesn’t work in the club’s favor, as Commonwealth won the last two meetings in Division AA. In 2005, Commonwealth clipped Fox Hill’s Playoff hopes with a 46.50-21 triumph, and in 2007, it posted a lopsided 58.50-12.50 result.

  “We’ve had some bad experiences at Commonwealth,” Answini said. “We just want to make sure we protect ourselves, and if we end up with a loss, we come up with enough points to stay on top.”

  Fellow Division AA newcomer Little Mill Country Club also picked up a critical Week Two victory over a formidable opponent. It edged Overbrook Golf Club, 29.50-24.50. Michael LaGrasso and Jeffrey Zalis literally “brought it home” by earning three better-ball points at Little Mill.

  “We didn’t even know [that we won] until the final group came in,” Ryan McCarty, Little Mill’s captain, said. “Just that alone is evidence of how close the teams were matched. It really could’ve gone either way. It was so close.”

  Little Mill managed to depart Overbrook with 9.5 points to its name, and a 13-point margin of victory at home proved enough to fend off the six-time Team Match champions.

  “Overbrook has a history of racking up a lot of points at home, so we wanted to just try and neutralize them away,” McCarty said. “Our home players really came through for us on this one.”

  Little Mill controls its own destiny as it prepares to face a struggling Moselem Springs team in Week Three. Such power doesn’t add pressure to the circumstances, according to McCarty.

  “There’s definitely more excitement,” he said. “You know that you have to win all three of your matches to give yourself a chance of making it to the Finals. It’s kind of like you have to control your fate every week. Now, we’re a little bit closer. We definitely don’t want to let up for the third match because any team can beat anyone in this division.”

  Amid the surging newcomers and stalwart mainstays stands Tavistock Country Club (2-0), which defeated RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve (1-1), 38-16. Its road squad amassed a hefty 24 points, with all six players earning more than two singles points. John Cobb, Ryan Jordan, Thomas Gramigna, the 2010 GAP Middle-Amateur Champion, and James Meyers added a combined six better-ball points to the cause.

  Tavistock now holds a 12-point lead over Glenmaura National Golf Club (1-1) in Section 3. The two will square-off in Week Three, which is set for Sunday, May 1. Tavistock is looking to officially return to Team Matches glory. It’s captured four titles in the past seven years.

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