ARDMORE, Pa. – In a titanic title clash that lived up to the pre-match hype, Michael McDermott rallied from a late-deficit to upend good friend Jeff Osberg, 1-up, in the 36-hole final of the 116th BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Merion Golf Club (East). McDermott, who won the Amateur title in 2008 and 2013, becomes the eighth player to capture three or more J. Wood Platt trophies. The Amateur record for victories is seven, held by J. Wood Platt himself.
“I’m still a little bit speechless because it was such a dream week with such a wild [final] match,” said McDermott, a Merion member. “I said earlier that beating Jeff in 36 holes actually took a lot of belief that I could do it. I was up a good chunk of the day. I led the first 28 or so holes. I knew he was going to bring it and he did. I just dug deep and really am blown away it was able to turn around for me.”
Said Osberg, of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, “Obviously the goal at the beginning of the week is to get to Saturday [and the Final]. It was great I was able to get into the weekend.”
Heading into Merion’s famed quarry-hole stretch, Osberg was 2-up with four holes to play and poised to grab a second Amateur victory in three years. He won the 2014 Amateur. Osberg won seven of the first 14 holes of the second round to turn a 3-down deficit into a two-hole lead.
At that point, a higher calling seemingly took over.
On No. 33 (No. 15, par 4, 409 yards), Osberg knocked a smooth chip to inches for a conceded a par after his approach came up short of the green. McDermott’s sand wedge from 98 yards stopped 15 feet from the cup; he then faced a treacherous left-to-right slider.
“It had to go in,” said McDermott, 41, of Bryn Mawr, Pa. “[Maybe it’s] coincidence or something, but [my son Brad] was literally kneeling on my line in the distance. I’d make [it] 1-out-of-10 times. He had never seen me play before so I just said, ‘This putt has to go in.’ For it to go in was incredible.”
“I had it on my mind I needed to make birdie to either put a really good stranglehold on the match or halve him,” said Osberg, 31, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., of the 15th hole. “He hit a really great putt at the perfect time.”
McDermott, who’s short-game was stellar all week, and really the reason he reached the Championship Match, was a bit rocky at times in the Final.
On No. 34 (No. 16, par 4, 428 yards), the magic reappeared. He knocked a 6-iron from 216 yards to the back of the green after Osberg played first and came up 40-feet short of the hole location. McDermott, who said he knew playing from behind the hole was easier, cozied his 60-foot putt up to inches for a conceded four. Osberg putted up the incline, but watched his ball roll away on the down slope to some 10-feet past. He missed the comebacker and the match was All Square.
“He hit a beautiful iron shot there. I learned a lot from it because he hit a perfect golf shot but the wind was stronger than we gave credit,” said McDermott. “He landed right in the hill and the ball came down. Local knowledge tells you that that’s a really tough putt because it gets up that big slope and runs away from you. It’s very deceiving.”
McDermott’s mojo continued on the dangerous 17th (No. 35, par 3, 209 yards). He laced a 6-iron over the gorge to the center of the green and made par. Osberg found the right greenside bunker, blasted out to 12 feet and watched his par effort roll over the lip. McDermott, somehow, was now 1-up. Three holes. Three victories.
The final hole is a timeless treasure in golfing history – most famously known as the site of Ben Hogan’s famous 1-iron shot in the 1950 U.S. Open. McDermott went fairway and green, clubbing a 5-iron from 226 onto the putting surface. Osberg’s tee ball trickled into the left rough and his 2-iron approach from 235 yards stopped on the front collar of the green.
Osberg went first. His 80-foot chipped tracked, caught the left side of the cup and rolled all the way around to the back edge before stopping inches away. A gallery of 200 spectators gasped in disbelief.
McDermott, with two putts to win, stared at his 60 footer.
“It had 10 feet of break and was lightning fast,” said McDermott.
His first putt ended three feet from the cup. Staring at that for a win, McDermott approached, stepped back, and then approached again. In it went.
“I was about to pull the trigger and I realized that I was gripped [the club] so tight that I would never be able to make the putt. I stepped away and regrouped. The hole got in the way. I was fortunate.”
This was the third time McDermott and Osberg have faced each other in a competitive environment, once in a Crump Cup and the other in last year’s Amateur. All three matches have gone the distance. And McDermott has won all three.
“That was a really tough putt. When you have something that [you want and is] right in front of you,” said McDermott of the closing stroke. “I was nervous. I knew I didn’t want to play anymore holes with Jeff.”
NOTES–This was the first BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship to visit Merion’s East Course since 1954 … another founding member of the Association, Philadelphia Cricket Club and its Wissahickon Course, will host the 2017 BMW Philadelphia Amateur.
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 151 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of 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.
3. Michael McDermott, Merion Golf Club, d. 5. Jeff Osberg, Huntingdon Valley Country Club, 1-up.