Jun 26, 2012

Junior Boys’ semifinals: Medico v. Kovach, Conners v. Thornton

 PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Call him “Mariano the Magician.” Less than a week removed from carding a superb double eagle in a Pennsylvania Golf Association Amateur Qualifier, Mariano Medico is conjuring up tricks and triumphs in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 98th Junior Boys’ Championship.

  The Fox Hill Country Club member ousted reigning GAP Junior Player of the Year Reilly Erhardt of Yardley Country Club, 3&2, in the Round of 16 before upending a surging No. 16 seed Zachary Melnick of Plymouth Country Club by the same score in the quarterfinals. Medico will face Berkshire Country Club’s Brock Kovach in one of two semifinals, which begin at 8 a.m. tomorrow at Torresdale-Frankford Country Club.

   “I feel like when I’m over a golf shot, I have complete confidence,” Medico, 16, of Shavertown, Pa., said. “My teacher Mike Molino (head professional at Huntsville Golf Club) has been helping me so much lately. I’m hitting the ball solid most of the time.”

  In his match against Melnick, Medico, an incoming junior at Holy Redeemer High School seized a 2-up edge following a birdie on No. 5 (par 4, 316 yards). He knocked a gap wedge 105 yards to five feet. A birdie on the par 4, 420-yard No. 8 gave Medico a four-hole advantage and command of the contest. He drilled a 9-iron 155 yards to 10 feet below the flagstick.

   “That really got me going,” he said. “That’s one of the toughest holes on the golf course.”

  Melnick, 17, of Blue Bell, Pa., bounced back with a birdie of his own on No. 11 (par 3, 200 yards), stopping a 3-wood at three feet. The recent St. Joseph’s Prep graduate mustered another birdie on the par 5, 533-yard 13th hole after an 87-yard, 56-degree wedge shot to four feet. The magical Medico then casted three par spells to secure a semifinal spot.

   “I just said to myself, ‘just keep making pars,’ and I got the job done,” he said.

  Medico is hoping to keep the Peg Burnett Trophy in Fox Hill’s corridors. Clubmate and good friend Brandon Matthews captured last year’s Junior Boys’ Championship at Running Deer Golf Club.

   “He told me a lot of good things about it,” “I thought I’d give it a go and see what happens,” Medico said. “I thought that if I could qualify, then I could do some damage in match play,” an enthusiastic Medico said. “I love match play.”

  Kovach is one of two Berkshire members in the semifinals. He defeated Chester Valley Golf Club’s Brendan Young, 1-up.

   “I’m thrilled. My goal was to make match play in the Championship flight because I knew once I got there, anything could happen,” Kovach, 16, of Wyomissing, Pa., said. “I’m just excited. I wanted to make a run.”

  A Kovach birdie on the 13th hole put the incoming Wyomissing High School junior at 4-up with five to play. However, Young cut that deficit in half with consecutive birdies on Nos. 14 (par 3, 187 yards) and 15 (par 4, 263 yards). Kovach’s lead continued to dwindle on No. 16 (par 5, 556 yards). He flew the green with a 56-degree wedge from 85 yards and failed to get up-and-down. Kovach choked down on a 5-iron on No. 17 (par 3, 198 yards) and left it 20 yards short of the green, allowing Young to equalize the match with a par.

  However, on the 18th hole, Young, in making his practice strokes on the green, touch his intended line of putt, which in match play, is a loss of hole penalty.

  Kovach’s clubmate Evan Thornton defeated Bala Golf Club’s Benjamin Kotler, 4&2, to advance as well.

   “It feels great,” the Wyomissing, Pa. resident said. “It’s a huge tournament, the biggest GAP tournament for juniors of the year.”

  Thornton never trailed in either of his matches Tuesday. In fact, he etched a fun fact in the tournament’s history. Thornton holed out for birdie on the par 4, 394-yard No. 3 using a 60-degree wedge from 80 and 44 yards, respectively.

   “The one in the morning landed three feet behind and sucked back into the hole,” Thornton, 16, an incoming senior at Wyomissing High School, said. “The second one landed and rolled right in.”

  Thornton will face Kevin Conners, Jr. of Whitford Country Club, who eliminated Drew Guarino of Burlington Country Club, 3&2, in the quarterfinals.

   “It means a lot to contend for the championship,” Conners, 15, of Downingtown, Pa., said. “I started out slow in both matches, but figured out my swing around the 6th hole each time. I stuck with it from there and tried to hit it straight.”

  If Berkshire’s Thornton and Kovach prevail tomorrow morning, it would be the first time in 20 years that members of the same club reached the Final. Llanerch Country Club’s Chris Hoyle and Sean Coyle battled for the title in 1992.

   “Now that we’re both in the semifinals, it’s really cool,” Thornton said. “We’ve grown up at Berkshire together.”

   “It would be awesome to play him in the finals if we’re lucky enough to make it there,” Kovach added.

Championship Flight
9. Mariano Medico, Fox Hill CC, d. 16. Zachary Melnick, Plymouth CC, 3&2.
13. Brock Kovach, Berkshire CC, d. 12. Brendan Young, Chester Valley GC, 1-up.
7. Kevin Conners, Jr., Whitford CC, d. 15. Drew Guarino, Burlington CC, 3&2.
11. Evan Thornton, Berkshire CC, d. 3. Benjamin Kotler, Bala GC, 4&2.
First Flight
9. Sean Fahey, Overbrook GC, d. 16. Shamus Gartley, Fox Hill CC, 4&3
12. Jake Van Arkel, Merion GC, d. 4. Joseph Rueter, Jr., Huntingdon Valley CC, 6&5
15. J.T. Twomey, Jericho National GC, d. 10. Brendan Papariello, White Manor CC, 3&1
14. Rayn Foll, Yardley CC, d. 6. Robert Firth, Jr., Commonwealth National GC, 7&6.

Round of 16
Championship Flight
16. Melnick d. 1. Cole Berman, Philadelphia Cricket Club, 19 holes.
9. Medico d. 8. Reilly Erhardt, Yardley CC, 3&2.
13. Kovach d. 4. Ethan Heller, Green Valley CC, 2&1.
12. Young d. 5. Cody Dazen, Little Mill CC, 4&2.
15. Guarino d. 2. Mac Ryan, Overbrook GC, 1-up.
7. Conners, Jr. d. 10. Austin Dunlap, St. Davids GC, 6&5.
3. Kotler d. 14. Paul Yun, Applecross CC, 19 holes.
11. Thornton d. 6. Kevin Kramarski, Riverton CC, 2&1.
First Flight
16. Gartley d. 1. R.J. Wren, Applecross CC, 4&2.
9. Fahey 8. Steven Altieri, Hopewell Valley GC, 5&4.
4. Rueter, Jr. d. 13. Justin Elwell, Running Deer GC, 19 holes.
12. Van Arkel d. 5. David Pontari, Whitemarsh Valley CC, 4&3.
15. Twomey d. 2. Luke McKeogh, The Bucks Club, 3&2.
10. Papariello d. 7. Jack Gregor, Huntingdon Valley CC, 1-up.
14. Foll d. 3. Thomas Fisher, North Hills CC, 2-up.
6. Firth, Jr. d. 11. Michael Barychewsky, Spring Mill CC, 1-up.

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