The Golf Association of Philadelphia kicks off its Major season when the 35th Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf visits Llanerch Country Club May 23-24.
“With all of the rain we will have the week prior to the Middle-Amateur, Llanerch will play a lot different than normal,” Stephen Seiden, one of Llanerch’s eight members in the field and the club’s 2012 men’s champion, said. “The tree removal has exposed some nice vistas and the hazards, which is nice. The difficulty of hitting the small greens will be a challenge for everyone. Llanerch requires a really good short game and knowing where to miss it because of how severe the green complexes are.”
Llanerch will host the Middle-Amateur for the first time. It previously hosted the BMW Philadelphia Amateur (1931, 1934, 1998, 2015), Open Championship (1942, 1951, 2006) and the Joseph H. Patterson Cup (1980, 2009). Merion Golf Club’s Michael McDermott won two of his record-four Middle-Amateur titles as a member of Llanerch (2001, 2004).
Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Ben Feld enters the 2018 edition as defending champion. In 2017, he outlasted Stephen Dressel, Chris Lange, Jr. and Jeff Osberg by two shots to claim his first GAP Major at Overbrook Golf Club. Feld, Drexel University’s men’s golf coach, said he was surprised how many people, golfers or not, knew about his maiden triumph.
“It is really amazing how close the Philadelphia golf community is,” Feld, 27, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., said. “Regardless of whether you are a competitive golfer or not, it seems that everyone has a good pulse of what’s going on. It has been humbling and a neat experience to have that under my belt. To fall into that category of great players in Philadelphia is certainly an honor. Winning last year taught me that the hunger is still there to win.”
Feld’s tournament schedule so far this year has only included a week of BMW GAP Team Matches and a U.S. Open Local Qualifier May 10 at DuPont Country Club. Although Feld fell four shots short of moving to Sectional qualifying, he said he wasn’t displeased with how he played but needed to clean up some mistakes.
“I really don’t know how the game is doing, honestly,” Feld said. “The last few weeks I have been getting back out to practice and work on my game to see where it is at. At this point, we have about a week left to cram in prep for the Middle-Amateur.”
Feld has been around and coached some of the better players in the Philadelphia region. He is a close friend of Chris Crawford, former Drexel Dragon, 2015 Patterson Cup Champion and two-time U.S. Open qualifier (2016-17). In Feld’s run to his second BMW Philadelphia Amateur semifinal appearance in 2014, he needed 20 holes to defeat Crawford in the Round of 32. He was also a semifinalist in 2012.
“There is a level of accountability I hold on myself in the culture we are creating at Drexel and being able to carry out those values on a daily basis,” Feld said. “There is no beating around the bush in that I have learned an incredible amount from being around Chris the last few years playing with him and caddying for him. Although I am not as physically gifted as he his, I have applied some of his habits to my game.”
Overbrook’s Chris Lange is the only individual to win back-to-back Middle-Amateur Championships (2005-06). Feld hopes his game will travel to Llanerch.
“I’ve played Llanerch about 10-15 times throughout the years,” Feld said. “It is a place that fits my game and a place I feel comfortable at although I haven’t played well there recently. You have to chip and putt well there and that fits into the strong suits of my game.”
Other former champions in the field include Matthew Mattare of Saucon Valley Country Club (2016), Scott McNeil of Bala Golf Club (2015), Peter Barron, III of Stone Harbor Golf Club, Michael McDermott (2013, 2008, 2004, 2001), John Brennan of Philadelphia Cricket Club (2012), Glenn Smeraglio of Lu Lu Country Club (2011) Thomas Gramigna of Tavistock Country Club, Michael R. Brown, Jr. of Lu Lu Country Club (2009), Chip Lutz of LedgeRock Golf Club (1998, 2007), Chris Lange (2005, 2006) and Oscar Mestre (2002) of Overbrook and Neil Gordon of Five Ponds Golf Club (1999).
As always, the public is welcome to attend. Aside from offering live scoring on its website, the Association will provide Middle-Amateur updates via Twitter. Follow @GAofPhilly and connect by using the hashtag #GAPMidAm. Watch live broadcasts via Periscope as well.
The inaugural Middle-Amateur Championship was held in 1984, three years after the United States Golf Association (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 Middle-Amateur 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. Players must have a GAP/USGA Handicap Index of 7.0 or lower.
For more information on the Middle-Amateur Championship, contact the GAP office at 610-687-2340.
Callaway Golf was founded in 1982 by the late Ely Callaway, a visionary entrepreneur who operated under a simple but profound business promise: Deliver Demonstrably Superior, Pleasingly Different products and services. That philosophy turned what was originally a boutique manufacturer of high-quality wedges and putters into the world’s largest maker of premium, performance golf products. The Callaway mission and vision has remained the same; we passionately pursue advanced, innovative technologies that help golfers of all abilities find more enjoyment from the game. Under the Callaway and Odyssey brands, Callaway manufactures and sells golf clubs and golf balls, and sells golf apparel, footwear and accessories in more than 110 countries worldwide.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 260 Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. 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.
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