PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. — Joshua Ryan made a mindless wardrobe change Thursday.
Switch to the striped orange RLX polo. The same shirt he wore three years ago when he captured the GAP Junior-Junior Boys’ Championship. Yes, it still surprisingly fits since those peewee days.
Shirt superstition, blended with Ryan’s faith and fiery play, bred a victory in the 106th Junior Boys’ Championship at The 1912 Club (par 70, 6,629 yards). Ryan defeated a headstrong Corey Haydu, 6&4, in the Final.
He is the seventh player in GAP history to capture both the Junior-Junior (2017) and Junior. Jericho National Golf Club’s Zachary Herr (2008, 2009) was the last to do so.
“That’s a pretty cool stat. I feel very blessed to win these events,” Ryan, 16, of Norristown, Pa., said. “It was by God’s grace that I just made it into the playoff [for match play] and through the playoff. God just blessed me throughout the whole week with all of the putts I made and gave me the ability and strength to go through this round.”
“I just didn’t play my best honestly,” Haydu, 17, of Doylestown, Pa., said. “Josh played great. I don’t even think that if I did play well, I would’ve won anyway.”
Ryan’s impervious ball-striking and effective putting set the bar. A weary yet willful Haydu, setback by a shaky start, never vaulted over it.
On No. 1 (par 4, 485 yards), Haydu found his ball on a bare spot greenside right. A clump of grass prevented clean contact. He lost the hole with a 6. A Ryan two-putt birdie on No. 3 (par 5, 520 yards) afforded a 2-up advantage. More Haydu miscues again clashed with a regimented Ryan. On No. 4 (par 3, 200 yards), Haydu lagged his birdie try down a back-to-front sloping green. His three-footer to match Ryan’s 3 lipped out. Haydu conceded a Ryan eagle on No. 5 (par 4, 437 yards) after pushing a drive into a penalty area and a subsequent approach out-of-bounds.
The par 3, 179-yard No. 7 (par 3, 179 yards) offered assurances. Ryan, a GAP Youth on Course member, knocked an 8-iron to 12 feet for birdie. Assurance the first: a 4-up lead. Assurance the second: Ryan’s confidence with each swing. Assurance the third: Haydu’s view of his opposition.
“I knew he was hitting the ball well. He was saying it was his best ball striking round in a while,” Haydu, a rising senior at La Salle College High School, said. “Everything was pure and hit the same exact same way. He really didn’t have any misses.”
Haydu, feet sore and bandaged due to blisters, mustered a handful of halves, but never momentum in its entirety. On the tempting 13th hole (par 4, 237 yards), a dogleg right with portions of timber for bumpers, Haydu found the right fescue with a 5-iron. He couldn’t extricate his approach. Ryan barely missed the green with a 4-iron; he chipped to eight feet for a 3. Ryan won the 15th hole (par 4, 318 yards) with a conceded birdie after landing a 5-iron 10 feet right of the hole location.
A bit ironic since he didn’t net that green the previous four passes.
“It was nice to finally get that one,” Ryan, a rising senior at Commonwealth Charter Academy, said. “I finished really strong. It was fun.”
Although Ryan cited the Final as his best ball-striking round at The 1912 Club, he owes credit to a putter consultation, too. A trip to Golf Galaxy on Tuesday, the eve of a seven-for-four playoff for match play, transformed his flatstick tact.
“I felt like my putter face was a little open, and I think I was doing something with my hands,” Ryan said. “I found out that the grip was one degree open. I fixed that and I’ve been putting great all week. I guess something that small can make a difference. I guess I’ll know for the future.”
It’s a future that may bear another GAP trophy. If the orange shirt still fits.
Haydu survived a 19-hole thriller against Metedeconk National Golf Club’s Christopher Dorey to advance to the Final. He stood dormie with two holes remaining before a putter tripwire. A Haydu three-putt on No. 18 (par 4, 430 yards) contrasted a “let’s go”/fist bump combination from Dorey.
On No. 1 (par 4, 485 yards), the first extra hole, Dorey, a rising senior at The Peddie School, tugged a drive out-of-bounds left and subsequently faltered.
“I was feeling the adrenaline. I hit two great drives on Nos. 17 and 18. I stepped up to the tee and don’t know what happened,” Dorey, 17, of Allentown, N.J., said. “I made a stupid mistake and kind of played myself out of it after that.”
On the other side of the bracket, Ryan kept the mistakes to a minimum en route to a 3&2 win over Aronomink Golf Club’s Jake Maddaloni. He chipped in for birdie on the par 4, 318-yard 15th hole. That conversion ultimately turned the tide, according to Maddaloni.
“Getting to the semifinals was a fun experience. I just wish I could’ve put on a better match for Josh,” Maddaloni, 17, of Newtown Square, Pa., said. “My putter let me down today. I was missing 10,15-footers.”
Maddaloni is a rising senior at The Haverford School.
Patrick Isztwan found himself 1-down to No. 1 seed Calen Sanderson of Jericho National Golf Club headed to the closing hole (par 4, 430 yards). Isztwan, a Huntingdon Valley Country Club member, tossed a wedge 120 yards to three feet for birdie, sending the match into extra holes.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good with my wedges, and I got a good number. I tried not to make a super adrenaline-rushed swing and it just worked out for me,” said Isztwan, 17, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa.
On the 19th hole, The 1912 Club’s opener, Isztwan executed a sand save from the right bunker, sinking an eight-foot par putt that bettered Sanderson’s bogey. The First-Flight trophy presentation followed soon after.
“I was definitely disappointed on Tuesday night in myself that I didn’t reach the Championship Flight because I’ve been there before. But I really wanted to take this as an opportunity to improve my game and get experience,” said Isztwan, who will head to the University of Richmond after his senior season at William Penn Charter School. “It was less pressurized. It just allowed me to relax and have fun out there.”
The Junior Boys’ Championship is the premier Major in the GAP Junior Division. It is open to members pf GAP Member Clubs 14-18 years of age 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 advance 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.”
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 288 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
13. Joshua Ryan, GAP Youth on Course d. 14. Corey Haydu, Spring Mill CC, 6&4
11. Patrick Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley CC d. 1. Calen Sanderson, Jericho National GC, 19 holes
13. Joshua Ryan, GAP Youth on Course d. 8. Jake Maddaloni, Aronimink GC, 3&2
14. Corey Haydu, Spring Mill CC d. 15. Christopher Dorey, Metedeconk National GC, 19 holes
1. Calen Sanderson, Jericho National GC d. 12. Jack Davis, Aronimink GC, 2&1
11. Patrick Isztwan, Huntingdon Valley CC d. 7. David Fitzgerald, Philadelphia CC, 6&4
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