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Gillespie, Tash advance to Amateur Championship final

HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa.-Brian Gillespie of St. Davids GC and Michael Tash of Tavistock CC advanced to the 36-hole final of the 103rd Amateur Championship at 8 a.m. on Saturday at Philmont CC (North). Gillespie defeated John Robinson of Commonwealth National GC, 4&3, and Michael Tash of Tavistock CC edged Michael McDermott of Llanerch CC, 19 holes, in the semifinals on Thursday.

This will be the second Amateur final appearance for Gillespie, who captured the 2011 Amateur title. It will be Tash’s first championship opportunity.

“This means a lot,” said Gillespie, 28, of Wayne, on advancing the final. “I didn’t play too well last year and you start to lose your confidence a bit. It feels good beating some of the best players in the area and knowing you have the game both physically and mentally to get back to the top.”

For Tash, the No. 6 seed in match play, a victory would cap an exhausting and magnificent week. Tash rallied from a two-hole deficit with two holes deficit with two holes to go to defeat McDermott in 19 holes in the semifinals. That followed his quarterfinal victory earlier in the day, in which he also needed an extra hole to stop Steve Owens of Wildwood G&CC.

“For me it’s the most important event of the year. It’s the one I target the most out of all the Golf Association of Philadelphia events,” said Tash, 41, of Glassboro, N.J. “This is the only GAP event I haven’t won. All the tournaments are important, but this is the one I want [to win].”

Tash, the reigning Player of the Year, appeared to be heading for the exit in his match with McDermott, when fortune took a turn to his side. On No. 15 (par 4, 397 yards), McDermott, a two-time Player of the Year himself and the No.2 seed, missed a four-foot birdie putt that would have put the 28-year-old resident of Havertown 3-up. Tash still trailed by two on No.17 (par 3, 188 yards) when a par sent the match to No. 18 (par 4, 343 yards).

“I haven’t putted well the entire tournament,” said Tash. “I just wanted to hit a good, solid putt and it went in.”

That putt was on 18. After struggling with the putter all day, Tash found his stroke and drained a 15-foot birdie to square the match.

On the 19th hole (No. 1, par 4, 399 yards), a dog leg right, Tash pulled his drive into the left trees and McDermott failed to clear the corner with his driving iron. Both players chipped over the green with their second shots, and Tash was first to play. He knocked his 20-foot chip to two feet. McDermott failed to get up and down.

“After he missed that putt on 15, I said I dogged a bullet, I’m still in the hunt,” said Tash, the 2002 Patterson Cup winner. “On [19], I thought that chip was actually going to go in.”

Gillespie, the No. 8 seed, entered the Amateur with a news swing thought and driver in the bag.

Since Tuesday, they’ve both been producing winning results.

“I was getting the club stuck behind me before,” said Gillespie pro Steve Wright for that. And the driver: a new Titleist 989E.

Gillespie held a 2-up advantage on Robinson through No. 8 (par 3, 132 yards) in the semifinals when he grabbed the match for good on No. 9 (par 5, 574 yards). In the left bunker, he chipped out to 20 feet and saved par. Robinson, looking at par for the win originally, watched his putt slide for bogey.

Robinson, the 13th seed, grabbed No. 10 (par 4, 322 yards) with a birdie, before the duo exchanged pars on the next two holes. Two Gillespie pars and two Robinson bogeys on the ensuing couple of holes pushed made the lead four.

“This validates last year,” said Robinson, who fell in the Amateur final to Billy Stewart a year ago. “When you do something once it could be lucky. To get back again validates my game and that’s the most important thing.”

In the quarterfinals:

Gillespie rallied from a three-hole deficit after nine holes to stop defending Amateur Champion Billy Stewart of Llanerch CC, the top seed, 1-up.

Gillespie went par, par, birdie on No. 10 (par 4, 322 yards), No. 11 (par 3, 223 yards) and No. 12 (par 5, 491 yards) while Stewart recorded three bogeys. A birdie by Gillespie on No. 15 (par 4, 397 yards) gave him the lead for good.

“I was proud because people recognized me as the Philadelphia Amateur champion,” said Stewart, 19, of Devon. “I wish I could have kept it another year but Brian got in the way.”

Robinson trailed after the first four holes of his quarterfinal contest with James White of Philadelphia Cricket Club, the No. 5 seed, but netted a birdie on No. 8 (par 3, 132 yards) from 12 feet to make the turn at 1-up. Another birdie on No. 10 (par 4, 322 yards), this time from 18 feet above the hole, pushed his advantage to 2-up, before pars on No. 14 (par 4, 450 yards) and No. 15 (par 4, 397 yards), closed the match out.

This was White’s first visit to the quarterfinals. White is 34 years old from Horsham.

McDermott defeated P. Chet Walsh of Philadelphia CC, the seventh seed, 1-up. McDermott converted a difficult up and down on No. 11 (par 3, 223 yards) from the left side to keep the match All Square, before making a birdie on No. 16 (par 4, 451 yards) to take the lead for good.

Walsh, 38, of Norristown, was making his fourth trip to the the quarterfinals. In the other quarterfinal match, Tash needed 19 holes to survive Owens.

The Tash-Owens match was either All Square or 1-up on either side the entire way.

For Owens, 36, of Philadelphia, this was his first quarterfinal appearance.

Semifinals

8. Brian Gillespie, St. Davids GC, d. 13. John Robinson, Commonwealth National GC, 4&3 6. Michael Tash, Tavistock CC, d. 2 Michael McDermott, Llanerch CC, 19 holes

Quarterfinals

8. Brian Gillespie, St. Davids GC, d. 1. Billy Stewart, Llanerch CC, 1-up 13. John Robinson, Commonwealth National GC. d. 5. James White, Philadelphia Cricket Club, 4&3

2. Michaels McDermott, Llanerch CC, d. 7. P. Chet Walsh, Philadelphia CC, 1-up 6. Michael Tash, Tavistock CC, d. 30. Steve Owens, Wildwood G&CC 19 holes