June 19, 2018
BLUE BELL, Pa. — Just 12 hours before his qualifying round tee time in the 104th Junior Boys’ Championship, Matthew Lafond was on the putting green at his home club.
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Blue Bell’s Barr tops Junior Boys’ Qualifier |
This extra practice paid off in an opening round 74 for the Blue Bell Country Club member and Blue Bell, Pa. native. He qualified for match play in the First Flight.
“My putting was really good today, especially inside of 10 feet,” said Lafond. “I came to the putting green last night at around 7 p.m. because I knew I would have a lot of 10-foot putts today. I was here until a little after 8 p.m. My putting is usually my strength but it needed some fine-tuning.”
Lafond, 16, is a rising junior at La Salle College High School. His ultimate goal, like any competitor, would be to win, but he wants to take the week one shot at a time and make as many pars as possible.
“It was awesome to come out here and represent my home club in a big tournament,” said Lafond. “It gives me a great opportunity to show what I can do. There is some added pressure in having to post a good score because it is the course you play every single day.”
There were a total of eight Blue Bell members in the field Tuesday. One of those eight, Anthony Barr, claimed medalist honors and earned the top seed in the Championship Flight with a bogey-free round of 4-under-par 67.
Barr and Lafond, along with Buddy Hansen, IV (75), claimed the Junior Team Championship with a score of 3-over-par. This is Blue Bell’s first Junior Team Championship. It took the title away from Spring Ford Country Club, which won two of the previous three and had 10 members in the field, the most of any club.
The Junior Team Championship runs concurrently with the qualifying round of the Junior Boys’ Championship.
“The camaraderie between the Junior golfers here at Blue Bell is awesome,” said Lafond. “We play out here basically every day. We all will be rooting for each other no matter what happens. These guys are good so we are all pushing each other to get better each time we tee it up together.”
Brotherly love continues at #GAPJunior
In last year’s Junior Boys’ Championship, Patrick Isztwan caddied for his older brother Brian, who lost in the final to Dawson Anders of Indian Valley Country Club at Spring Ford.
This year, the roles are reversed. Brian, in his white Huntingdon Valley Country Club caddie bib, was looping for his younger brother, also a member of Huntingdon Valley, in the Junior Boys’ Championship qualifying round at Blue Bell.
Brian kept Patrick calm after a 4 over start en route to an opening-round 73. Patrick only hit a total of six greens and shot 2 over, using his putting prowess and Brian’s brotherly advice to guide him.
“We like to caddie for each other,” said Brian, 18, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. “We always joke that we would rather have another caddie if we could find one but having your brother as a backup is pretty cool. We play together a lot and I drive him around a lot. We have grown up with this game together and I think that is why we are so close on the golf course. There aren’t many times where we get frustrated with each other.”
Due to other tournaments, Brian was unable to commit to the tournament. His next best option? Caddying for his brother, whom Brian says has the golfing talent in the family.
“It seems like Patrick always plays better when I caddie for him,” said Brian. “I like to keep it light and tell jokes and maybe that helps him relax.”
Outside of Brian hitting him by accident with the flagstick on No. 5 (par 4, 359 yards), it was a pretty smooth day for the youngest member of the Isztwan family.
“Last year, I didn’t make match play so I caddied for him the rest of the way,” said Patrick, 15, a rising sophomore at Penn Charter High School. “If I am going to have someone on the bag, I want someone who knows a lot about golf.”
Another pair of brothers representing the eight total duos in the field was Jacob and Michael Zeng of Applecross Country Club.
The Downingtown, Pa. natives are only separated by 18 months with Michael being the elder, but their relationship has a formidable foundation.
“We do everything together,” said Jacob, 16. “Having a sibling close to you in age can create a friendly but competitive spirit. It puts some pressure on each of us but it helps us improve our golf games.”
“We are always there for each other,” said Michael. “I caddied for him once in the Junior-Junior Boys’ Championship, and that was a lot of fun. It was such good time.”
In addition to golf, the Zeng brothers play lacrosse, tennis and basketball together. It doesn’t stop there.
“We definitely play a lot of video games together,” said Michael, 18. “We play a lot of Fortnite but I won’t tell you who wins.”
But as Michael approaches his senior year at the Episcopal Academy and Jacob sets his sights on his junior year, their time together may become limited as the years go by. But that doesn’t faze this dynamic duo.
“I don’t think anything will change when we move on past high school,” said Michael. “We will stay together and keep in touch. I don’t think that jeopardize what we have.”
The Junior Boys’ Championship is the premier Major in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Division. It is open to GAP Member Club golfers aged 14-18 who have not started their college education and who hold a handicap index of 14.4 or lower. Sixteen players qualify for match play; an additional 16 advancing into the event’s First Flight.
The Junior Boys’ Champion is awarded the Peg Burnett Trophy, named in honor of the Association’s Executive Secretary from 1951-76. Ms. Burnett was an ardent Junior golf supporter who emphasized sportsmanship and respect for the game. “I was very strict about checking the rule book. I didn’t make the rules, but since they are there, you have to abide by them.”
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) 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 260 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across Eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. 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.