LAFAYETTE HILL, Pa. – Michael McDermott can finally cross that elusive Amateur Championship off his to-do list.
At Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, the home of legendary Golf Association of Philadelphia figure J. Wood Platt (a record seven-time Amateur winner), McDermott carved out his own piece of history by defeating Cole Willcox of Philadelphia CC, 6&4, on Saturday for the 108th Amateur Championship.
The victory cemented McDermott’s status as the top player in Golf Association of Philadelphia circles. He has now won four straight Major Golf Association of Philadelphia titles spanning the past two seasons. He ended 2007 with Patterson Cup and Silver Cross wins. And just a few weeks ago, he took his third Middle-Amateur title.
He is also the first player to hold Amateur, Middle-Amateur and Patterson Cup titles at the same time. And he replaces Michael Tash of Tavistock Country Club as the last player to hold Amateur (2003) and Patterson Cup (2002) crowns concurrently.
“I felt like this was my time,” said McDermott, 33, who fell in the 2000 Amateur final to Michael Hyland in 38 holes. “I felt deep down I was playing as well as anyone. To have the four amateur major trophies [of the Association] at the same time is pretty neat.”
In addition to those championship victories, McDermott is also a four-time William Hyndman, III Player of the Year.
“It was an incredible week,” said Willcox, 20, of Berwyn, Pa. “I thought if I could come out for the second 18 and get a couple under par, Mike was going to have to win it. And that’s what he did. I didn’t lose it, he won it.”
McDermott certainly did.
After a slow start in the morning session, which saw McDermott scramble from places he didn’t know even existed, the Bryn Mawr, Pa., resident put on a spectacular display of power and finesse.
From the 11th hole of the a.m. round through the seventh hole of the afternoon 18, he birdied nine of the 15 holes. McDermott went from 1-down to 5-up in that span.
Willcox actually was 2-up after 10 holes but his advantage could have been much greater had his flat stick not failed him. He had 20 putts in the first 10 holes.
“I could have easily been 5-down,” said McDermott. “I made pars from places on Whitemarsh I’ve never seen. Cole was hitting it perfect and I was just hanging in there. I finally hit a tee shot on No. 11 that I was capable of hitting and I followed with a really strong 5-iron. That’s where it went from getting away with bad golf to playing some good golf.”
McDermott’s display over the final 21 holes wasn’t good, it was spectacular.
It all started on the uphill No. 11 (par 5, 510 yards) in the morning round when he rifled a 5-iron from 207 yards to 12 feet, and was conceded a birdie after missing his eagle try. That cut his deficit to one.
On the next hole (No. 12, par 3, 198 yards), Willcox responded with a tight iron shot to seven feet and McDermott stopping 15 foot away. McDermott missed his birdie try and Willcox, with a chance to move 2-up, did the same.
“I would say that miss was the turning point,” said Willcox, a red-shirt sophomore at the University of Virginia. “I needed to make it to get back up. He made me pay on the next hole. That was a big switch.”
On No. 13 (par 4, 372 yards), McDermott drew even when he dropped a wedge from 125 yards to 15 feet and made birdie. Willcox had a chance but missed his 25-footer.
McDermott grabbed the lead for good on No. 14 (par 4, 383 yards). He went tee to fairway to green for a conceded three as Willcox deposited two balls in the hazard.
On No. 16 (par 3, 140 yards), McDermott’s 9-iron stopped seven feet long and right of the hole and Willcox’s tee ball spun off the right side of the green into the rough on the bank. McDermott two-putted and Willcox failed to get up-and-down. McDermott moved to 2-up.
McDermott then ended the final 18 in style after bombing a drive on No. 18 (par 4, 466 yards) 321 yards. His 9-iron from 147 yards stopped six feet to the right of the hole and he drained the putt for a 3-up lead.
Willcox tried to get back in it in the afternoon with birdies on No. 1 (par 4, 355 yards) and No. 4 (par 3, 240 yards) but McDermott answered with red figures of his own on No. 2 (par 4, 433 yards) and No. 3 (par 5, 570 yards). On No. 5, the 23rd hole (par 5, 498 yards), McDermott all but sealed his fate. He hit an 8-iron from 190 yards to 12 feet and recorded a birdie. Willcox struggled around the green before chipping in for five.
McDermott carded a birdie on No. 7 (par 4, 440 yards) with a 52-degree wedge from 132 yards to six feet. Willcox got a hole back on No. 11, the 29th of the match, with a birdie, but McDermott made a nice up-and-down par on the next hole to go back to 5-up. He closed the match out on No. 14 with a lob wedge from 100 yards to eight feet.
“Cole played great. Anyone who doesn’t look deeper at scorecard could be fooled,” said McDermott. “I won my first couple of matches because I hit it good. I won this match because I putted very well.” McDermott averaged 1.5 putts per hole.
Taking a look at the scorecard, Willcox was 2 over in his morning round and 2 under in the afternoon. McDermott was 2 under in the morning and 5 under in the afternoon.
Next year’s Amateur Championship is set for Stonewall.
The victory by McDermott was the first time a player with Merion next to his name has won the title since Max Marston, a representative of Merion Cricket Club, took the 1923 Amateur. Willcox was hoping to become Philadelphia CC’s first champion since Lee McEntee won the 1997 Amateur.
NOTES–This is the Centennial anniversary for Whitemarsh Valley CC. This was the 15th time the club has hosted the Amateur title.
7. Michael McDermott, Merion GC, d. 4. Cole Willcox, Philadelphia CC, 6&4