Cricket’s Brennan battles back from injury
HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa. — Medalist honors in the 2017 BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship Qualifier had John Brennan eyeing the coveted Silver Cross Award. A fractured wrist sustained just a couple weeks later denied such aspirations.
“I had such a great start to the year in 2017,” Brennan, 40, of Collegeville, Pa., said. “You think you got a chance in the Silver Cross, all those things out there and it just goes by the wayside. It was frustrating.”
Forced out of golf from July through September, Brennan, the 2012 Middle Amateur Champion, sat out the final two Majors that year. It took doctors two weeks of both x-rays and MRIs just to determine the nature of the injury.
He returned in 2018, but with limited success. Brennan tied for 26th at the Middle Amateur, was unable to participate in match play at the BMW Philadelphia Amateur and missed the cut at the Open.
In 2019, however, a new golf season has brought an end to the underwhelming performances that followed Brennan’s involuntary hiatus.
On Thursday, the Spring-Ford Area High School social studies teacher of 15 years schooled onlookers with respect to the demands Huntington Valley Country Club (par 70, 6859 yards). Brennan carded a 2-under-par 68 to finish tied for third with Applebrook Golf Club professional David McNabb in the 115th GAP Open Championship. The result marked Brennan’s second Top-10 finish in a Major this year. He tied for eighth in the Middle Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club in May.
“I’ve played some good golf here in 2019,” Brennan said. “I’m really happy about it.”
Taking advantage of a familiar track, Brennan, who qualified at Huntington Valley for the U.S. Middle Amateur in 2014, followed his opening round 70 with a performance that included four red figures.
Birdies on Nos. 1 (par 4, 386 yards) and 4 (par 4, 362 yards) had the Philadelphia Cricket Club member turning in 2-under-par and vaulting up the leaderboard. He added birdies on Nos. 13 (par 3, 185 yards) and 16 (par 4, 401 yards) to cancel out a couple of bogeys on the back side.
“This is a golf course I’ve played a lot,” Brennan said. “I always tell people this is a feast or famine course. I just happened to have two good rounds. I kept the ball in front of me. [I’m] just really happy with the way I was able to grind this thing out.”
With his play this week, Brennan officially can leave his ailments in the past. An already established player on the GAP circuit is back in form — and as a result — his competitors should take notice.
Age is just a number for Radnor Valley’s Forster
George Forster and Jeff Osberg’s birth dates are separated by 28 years. Despite this age differential, Forster found himself in close physical proximity to this year’s GAP Open Champion, as the two played alongside Applebrook’s David McNabb in Thursday’s final pairing.
The 63-year-old Forster, who also appeared in the final grouping of last year’s GAP Open, once again showed that he remains one of the top golfers in the Philadelphia area. Forster finished the day in a tie for 12th in the 115th GAP Open at Huntington Valley. He believes he has a format change in 2017 to thank for his recent success in GAP’s third oldest championship.
“I feel a little rejuvenated that it’s not 36 [holes] in one day,” Forster, of Villanova, Pa., said. “When it used to be 36 in one day, I’d be dreading it. When they went to two days, I felt like, ‘I can do this.’”
The steady veteran displayed remarkably solid golf over the tournament’s two days, finishing with a 2-over-par total of 142. He even would have notched a Top-5 finish had it not been for back-to-back bogeys on the day’s two closing holes.
“I was pretty pleased with my play because I hadn’t been playing well all year,” Forster said. “Yesterday I was really tired out there and I was able to birdie the last two holes and that made me feel good. Today [I] hung in there all day until the last two holes.”
Forster, who has served as Radnor Valley Country Club’s head professional for the past 36 years, supplemented his opening round 70 with Thursday’s score of 72.
As the oldest player in the field this week, he admittedly was at a significant disadvantage in terms of his length of the tee. Nevertheless, Forster managed the circumstances with excellence.
“You’re envious of that [distance from competitors],” Forster said. “You’re like, ‘Man if I could just hit it like that,’ but I’ve been dealing with that my whole career so it’s nothing new.”
Skillful touch on Huntington Valley’s slippery putting surfaces allowed Forster to keep up with his younger counterparts on the leaderboard.
“I actually made a lot of putts,” Forster said. “That’s the best I’ve putted this year.”
He now adds this week’s result to a wide array of past accomplishments. Forster has appeared in 12 Major Championships on the Champions Tour, a total which is comprised of 10 Senior PGA Championships and two starts in U.S. Senior Opens.
In 2013, Forster made the cut at the U.S. Senior Open at Omaha Country Club, finishing in a tie for 50th. He credits the supportive members of Radnor Valley with allowing him to pursue his own playing career in conjunction with his responsibilities at the club.
“The members are great,” Forster said. “They’ve supported me in my playing career since I’ve started [at Radnor Valley]. They never once gave me a hard time for being away from the club. They always wanted me to play and do well.”
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 274 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.