Jun 12, 2009

Merion GC’s McDermott returns to Stonewall; ready to defend Amateur Championship title

  For only the second time in its 109-year history, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Amateur Championship comes to celebrated Stonewall in Elverson, Pa. on June 15-17 & 20.

  Who will emerge from the 125-player field as the victor? Defending champion Michael McDermott of Merion GC hopes that history can repeat itself.

  Well, sort of.

  In the 2000 Amateur Championship, McDermott fell to Michael Hyland of Little Mill CC in 38 holes at Stonewall. On No. 17, McDermott made a 40-foot putt for par, but Hyland carded a birdie to keep the match alive. On No. 1, Hyland drove it into fescue about two-feet high, leaving McDermott to think that he could seal a victory.

  “Hitting it in there was like hitting it out-of-bounds,” McDermott said. “He found it, chipped it out and made a 30-foot putt to again keep the match alive. I bogeyed the next hole. Those present would say it was probably one of the exciting matches they’ve ever seen.”

  McDermott referred to his second-place finish as perhaps the “most heartbreaking loss in golf for me.”

   “It was tough,” he said. “But for me, I have great memories because I got out of school in 1997. I hadn’t won anything in amateur golf. For me, to make the final was a great accomplishment. That was a springboard for me.”

  McDermott has since won five GAP Majors and earned five William Hyndman, III Player of the Year Awards. He holds “reasonable expectations” entering this year’s Amateur Championship at Stonewall.

  “The Amateur [Championship] is one you have to go into with modest expectations,” McDermott said. “Match play is a difficult format to win. You have to take it one step at a time.”

  In last year’s final, McDermott defeated Cole Willcox of Philadelphia CC, 6&4, to win the Amateur title. Willcox plans on entering this year’s tournament with a level mentality.

  “I just want to get through qualifying, put down good rounds and get into match play,” he said. “I’m going to try to keep playing my game.”

  Since falling short in the 2008 final, Willcox feels that his golf game has been “OK at best.”

  “I really struggled with ball striking. So far this spring, I haven’t been playing great,” he said. “But my game has been coming around lately. I changed my swing — nothing crazy, but just enough to give myself a little trouble. I’m still working on it.”

  McDermott, too, is coming off a tough performance. He finished seventh in the Middle-Amateur Championship three weeks ago. McDermott led the tournament at 2-under-par 70 after Day One, but struggled on the second day of play and shot 5-over-par 77.

  “I haven’t topped any tee shots since then,” McDermott said, referring to his drive on the first hole at Tavistock CC that barely cleared the tee box. “I’ll put it behind me.”

  Michael Brown, winner of the 2009 Middle-Amateur Championship, hopes to stay hot at Stonewall.

  “I am preparing for the year’s biggest Major the same way I always do,” Brown, of Philadelphia Publinks GA, said. “Stonewall is no pushover and will surely test all parts of everyone’s game. It will be a long week for the winner. Whoever wins will have excelled physically and mentally.”

  The 109th Amateur Championship is scheduled for June 15-17, with the 36-hole final set for Saturday, June 20. Qualifying on the first day is 36 holes, 18 at each Stonewall course (Old and North). The low 32 finishers advance into the match play draw.

  First and second-round matches are set for June 16. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be held June 17.

  In addition to determining the match play field, the Amateur Championship Qualifier also serves as first two rounds of the Silver Cross Award.

  GAP encourages both the public and media to attend.

  NOTES-Stonewall has yet to field an Amateur Champion. Jim Simmons is the only player representing Stonewall who will compete in this year’s championship.

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