Glenmaura’s Barone beams in Over/Under 50
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The AGA/GAP Over/Under 50 Tournament, by name alone, calls forth the image of prop bets being made at a casino. Had the bookie set the line for the number of John Barone victories on Wednesday at 1.5, those taking the over would certainly have found their wallets a little bit plumper.
Barone picked up two titles at Elmhurst Country Club, winning the event’s team portion alongside fellow Glenmaura National Golf Club member Kevin Haag. He also notching individual honors in the Under 50 Division. Barone and Haag finished 7-under-par 65 in the better-ball competition; Barone fired a 3-under-par 69 on his own ball. In the Over 50 portion of the event, Art Brunn of Wyoming Valley Country Club and Robert Gill of Fox Hill Country Club shared first place honors with respective 1-under-par 71s.
For Barone, who played frequently at Elmhurst growing up, the tournament was filled with nostalgia. This sentiment furthered when the Dunmore, Pa. native made birdies on the opening two holes.
“I just stepped on the tee and I felt really comfortable,” Barone said. “I’ve had that start so many times playing golf at Elmhurst. I’m never worried I’m not going to make birdies out there.”
Barone’s exceptional play comes despite a significantly reduced practice regimen. Currently completing his master’s degree at Temple University, most of Barone’s days are spent at accounting, not golf, courses.
“I haven’t been practicing as much as when I was playing college golf,” Barone, a former member of Temple’s golf team, said. “I put so much pressure on myself in college and now my expectation is a little lower. I just have a different mentality when I go out there and play. Golf is a crazy thing. You’re easier on yourself and next thing you know you’re making a lot of birdies out there.”
A lot of birdies indeed. Barone totaled seven on his way to a one-shot victory over reigning AGA/GAP Men’s Player of the Year Eric Williams in the event’s individual portion.
His brilliant play was a welcomed sight for Haag, who “was there to make pars and watch the ride.” Despite Haag’s humble words, the 52-year-old secured a couple of crucial pars for the first-time teammates — none more vital than No. 3 (par 4, 405 yards).
When Barone got stuck in the fescue off the tee, an error unfounded since his sophomore year of high school, it was up to Haag to bail his teammate out. He did just that, launching a 9-iron out of the left rough 165 yards to 20 feet to secure the two-putt-par.
“At that point, at least I felt like I was going to have John’s back a little bit,” Haag, of Hummelstown, Pa., said. “He didn’t need much of it.”
In contrast to the Under 50 and Team divisions, a conclusive victor was not found among players 50 years of age or older. Brunn and Gill, a pair of longtime competitors, could not be separated on the leaderboard.
“Bob [Gill] and I have competed against each other for probably the better part of 30 years,” Brunn, 52, of Hanover Township, Pa., said. “We know each other quite well. Bob has been a really good player for a long, long time.”
Gill, 60, of Shavertown Pa., verified his competitor’s compliment by opening his day with consecutive birdies on Nos. 1 (par 4, 369 yards) and 2 (par 5, 459 yards). He picked up additional shots on Nos. 7 (par 4, 400 yards) and 10 (par 5, 454 yards), putting him at 3 under at that point in time. Back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 10 (par 5, 530 yards) and 11 (par 4, 408 yards) subsequently set him back, however.
Resilient, and ever consistent, Gill would close by hitting the final six greens in regulation, recording a par on each.
On a golf course which was playing firm and fast, especially during a strong afternoon breeze, Gill’s conservative approach paid dividends.
“I hit a lot of 3-woods off the tee to keep the ball in play, so I could spin the ball off the fairway,” Gill said. “[It] seemed to pay off.”
Although ultimately shooting the same number, Brunn’s closing stretch was a bit more dramatic. After birdieing No. 17 (par 4, 351 yards) by stuffing a sand wedge from 80 yards to two feet, the 52-year-old dropped back to 1 under when a 9-iron flew over the 18th green, leading to a bogey.
“It wasn’t a great way to end the round, but it is what it is,” Brunn said.
For both Brunn and Gill, Wednesday’s victory adds to an already sizeable list of wins on the AGA/GAP circuit. For his part, Gill is a former winner of the Under 50 portion of the very same event, back when it was still named the Mid-Am/Senior Tournament. He also is a three-time champion of the Senior Division in the AGA/GAP Stroke Play Championship. Brunn, also a multiple time AGA/GAP champion, recorded his most notable triumph in the 2018 Men’s Coal Scuttle Championship.
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.