May 19, 2011

Laurel Creek CC set to stage 28th Middle-Amateur Championship

  The Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 28th Middle-Amateur Championship heads across the Delaware River to Laurel Creek Country Club May 25-26.

GAP President Rich Meehan (left) presents
2010 Champion Tom Gramigna of Tavistock
CC with the Middle-Amateur
Championship trophy.

  It’s a pair of firsts as the Mount Laurel, N.J. venue welcomes the Association’s first Major of the 2011 season for the first time. A field of 132 players will navigate rolling fairways, tall fescue and multiple water hazards hoping to the capture two-day, 36-hole affair. Among those competing is Tom Gramigna of Tavistock CC, the reigning Middle-Amateur Champion.

  “I hope to be competitive and defend my title hopefully,” the Haddonfield, N.J. resident said. “I certainly hope to be in the mix at the end. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.”

  Last year on Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Militia Hill Course, Gramigna bypassed a spot in the final mix by firing birdies on five of his final nine holes to prevail. It isn’t necessarily a circumstance he seeks to revisit this time.

  “Sometimes I do well under pressure and sometimes I don’t. I guess that’s just the way golf is,” Gramigna said. “Last year, that was a special nine holes that may never happen again in my lifetime. It just happened to work out. The stars were all aligned at that time.”

  Gramigna certainly appears poised for a title defense. He finished tied for second in Division AA scoring with 17.5 points in the GAP Team Matches. Gramigna was also runner-up in the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Middle-Amateur Championship.

  “I was playing pretty well end of April and the beginning of May,” he said. “Hopefully, my game will continue to be good.”

  Gramigna is set to tee off alongside a pair of fellow former champions: Lookaway GC’s Michael Brown (2009) and Merion GC’s Michael McDermott (2008), who returns to the GAP circuit following a year-long absence.

  “I just decided not to dedicate any time to golf last year, so it makes this year sort of interesting or exciting because I haven’t played in tournaments in 18 months,” the Bryn Mawr, Pa. resident said. “My time (last year) was best spent not even worrying about golf. It was a great move. This year, I feel like I can give it a good effort, which I didn’t think I would last year. And I know that I need to give it a good effort because guys like Gramigna, Brown and (Jeff) Osberg are really playing great golf. I’ve been watching them closely over the past year, even though I haven’t been playing myself.”

  A year-long absence doesn’t diminish McDermott’s confidence entering the Middle-Amateur Championship. The five-time William Hyndman, III Player of the Year feels “pretty good” about his golf game right now.

  “I always historically thought I played better in competition than in social rounds, but that was because I played a lot of competition,” McDermott said. “Now that I’ve taken time off, that’ll certainly be tested next week. Hopefully, I wake up on the right side of the bed and I have a swing and putting stroke. I don’t think one year off is going to have a dramatic impact.”

  Both Gramigna and McDermott must overcome a strong field to either retain or reclaim Middle-Amateur glory. Among those also vying for the crown are David Brookreson of Huntingdon Valley CC, a two-time Middle-Amateur Champion; Brown, the reigning William Hyndman, III Player of the Year; Brian Gillespie of St. Davids GC, the 2001 Amateur Champion; Chris Lange of Overbrook GC, a two-time Middle-Amateur Champion who has won all four GAP Major titles; Chip Lutz of LedgeRock GC, the reigning Senior Player of the Year; Osberg, the reigning Patterson Cup Champion and Glenn Smeraglio of Mercer Oaks GC, a three-time Silver Cross winner and two-time Marston Cup Champion.

  This year’s tournament at Laurel Creek features an influx of freshly-eligible faces. Seven players, including Kyle Davis of Fieldstone GC, the 2006 William Hyndman, III Player of the Year, and Matthew Mattare of Saucon Valley CC, a two-time Mason-Dixon Matches participant, will make their Middle-Amateur debuts.

  “I’m excited to be out there,” Mattare, of Bethlehem, Pa., said. “It’s kind of weird. I feel old playing in the Mid-Am and at the same time, I’m going to feel young because I’ll be the youngest guy out there.”

  For Mattare, playing in the Middle-Amateur Championship is a refreshing addition to his competitive schedule. It’s a chance to accrue precious points toward the prized William Hyndman, III Player of the Year Award.

  “I’m excited to be able to play in the Mid-Am because it gives me one more chance,” Mattare, who finished in last year’s POY Standings, said. “I’m hoping to finally break through. I’ve been knocking on the door the last three years. The goal has been to be in the hunt for the Player of the Year, and being younger than 25 puts you at a disadvantage really.”

  Ryan McCarty, who captained Little Mill’s victorious GAP Team Matches squad, is also a Middle-Amateur newcomer. He, too, views it as a welcome opportunity.

  “I’m excited that I’m eligible for this tournament because I’m not going to be playing much tournament golf in the middle of this summer because I’m taking the bar exam,” McCarty, of Voorhees, N.J., said. “It’s nice to have a tournament in the beginning of the summer that I can prepare for. I feel like I’ll actually be ready for this one. I’ve played Laurel Creek a lot. It’s a familiar course, and that helps. It’s visually intimidating off the tee, but there’s more room to hit the ball than it appears.”

  The Middle-Amateur Championship is for players 25 years of age and older. It started in 1984, three years after the USGA created the U.S. Mid-Am as a formal championship for post-college amateurs. The Association followed suit with the USGA in creating a Mid-Am, but initially differed in its administration of the tournament in a couple of respects.

  The most obvious difference was the age requirement. Prior to 2001, the GAP Mid-Am was for players 30 years of age and older.

  The Association’s Executive Committee reviewed and revised that age requirement in 2001 to match the USGA’s guidelines of 25 years of age or older for eligible players. Also at that point, the Committee changed the format of the event to a two-day stroke play tournament (instead of a one-day medal play event) with a cut to the low 70 players and ties after the first round. The field begins with 132 players. Players must have a GAP/USGA Handicap Index of 7.0 or lower.

  Members of the media are encouraged to attend this year’s event. Aside from offering live scoring on its Web site, the Association will also provide Middle-Amateur updates on its Facebook and Twitter pages. Search “Golf Association of Philadelphia” and Like Us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @GAofPhilly. Also check out the GAP Press Pass Blog for insights and analysis live from Laurel Creek.

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