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49th Senior Amateur Championship Day One: Little Mill

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MARLTON, N.J. – Not even a putting grip change can slow down Chris Fieger’s 2019 good vibes. A robotically consistent ball-striker, Fieger, fresh off a U.S. Senior Amateur Championship match play appearance, lapped the 49th Senior Amateur Championship field with a 3-under par 68 in the opening round Tuesday at Little Mill Country Club (par 71, 6,594 yards). He holds a commanding five-shot lead on Jeff Allen (2 over) of Wild Quail Golf & Country Club and six-shot edge on Tom Hyland of host Little Mill.

Fieger, Allen and Hyland begin their second and final round at 1:10 p.m.

To demonstrate how exceptional Fieger’s play was, the course average was a robust 82.84 strokes for the 80 players that finished.

“About three weeks ago, I switched to [putting] cross handed,” said the understated Fieger, 56, of Denver, Pa. “I played the Pennsylvania State Senior Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur cross-handed. I three-putted twice [in my last five holes] at the U.S. Senior and said I’m going to go back to conventional. I three-putted the 17th and 21st hole to lose [my match]. And there goes the cross-handed.”

Fieger carded rounds of 73 and 72 at the U.S. Senior Amateur at Old Chatham Golf Club, Durham, N.C. He tied for ninth in stroke-play qualifying. He hit 31 of 36 greens (and fringes). As the No. 10 seed, he then fell in 21 holes to Victor Minovich of Thornton, Colo., in the Round of 64.

“It’s taken me a lot of years but you can’t win tournaments by ball striking alone,” said Fieger. “You just can’t hit it good enough. You have to make some putts.”

He didn’t make a ton of putts Tuesday, but did make enough to give the field fair warning that this week’s task will be tough.

Starting his round on the back nine, at No. 11 (par 3, 152 yards), he knocked an 8-iron to 20 feet in the fringe before draining the lengthy try. All was quiet until No. 15 (par 4, 425 yards) when Fieger made his lone bogey on the day after flying the green long with his second shot.

Turning for home, he birdied No. 2 (par 4, 406 yards) with gap wedge from 115 yards. His approach stopped 2 1/2 feet from the cup. He then opened up some daylight on the field with a scintillating eagle on No. 7 (par 5, 514 yards). He ripped a 4-iron from more than 200 yards out and watched it rolled up to eight feet. A putt later, yielded a fist pump and additional space on the leaderboard. Looking to end his round on a positive note, on No. 9 (par 3, 168 yards), he dropped a 20-footer from the back fringe to save par after missing the green.

In last year’s Senior Amateur, Fieger was the first-round leader, but three-putted the final hole to miss the playoff by a shot. Tomorrow, he said, he’s going to concentrate on fairways and greens. And hopefully raising his first GAP trophy.

Allen’s round consisted of three birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey. The double coming on No. 18 (par 4, 392 yards) when he miscalculated his carry yardage from the tee. His drive found the left trees. A few nervous swings later resulted in a 6.

Prior to that hiccup, Allen was straight and true.

He birdied Nos. 4 (par 5, 548 yards) and 5 (par 4, 401 yards) and made the turn at 1 under. It could have even been better. On the fourth hole, his 9-iron from 124 yards landed in the cup but popped out to eight inches. He tapped in the eagle. On No. 10 (par 4, 308 yards), Allen knocked a gap wedge from 110 yards out to eight feet. He actually landed his second shot 20 yards short of the green and watched it rolled up to the cup.

Allen has placed in the Top 6 in the previous two GAP Senior Majors. He finished in a three-way tie for second at the Warner Cup (Gross) before tying for sixth in the Chapman Cup (Gross). In last year’s Senior Amateur at Riverton Country Club, Allen tied for seventh.

“Honestly, I thought my finish in the Senior Amateur last year was my best [GAP finish] because of the strong fields in Philadelphia,” said Allen.

Two 5-over 76s take Super-Senior lead after Day One action

Unlike the Senior Division, separation didn’t surface in the 45-player Super-Senior field.

Leading the way were two contenders finishing at 5-over 76: Lu Lu Country Club’s Thomas Bartolacci, Jr. and Limekiln Golf Club’s John Gonsior. Both players utilized a pair of birdies en route to the Day One lead, and will now sleep on a single-shot lead in result. A total of nine players are within two shots of the lead.

For Bartolacci, whose battled a bad back for years, it was back-to-back birdies on Nos. 4 and 5 that mattered the most. On the par-5, 516-yard 4th, he hit a good drive and approach shot before skulling a wedge to the back of the green. A 40-foot jarred make followed suit. Another highlight red figure arrived on the par-4, 367-yard 5th, thanks to a 10-foot conversion after an 8-iron beauty from 145 yards out.

“It could have been better, but it could have been worse. It’s a really hard golf course, and you have to keep it in front of you,” said Bartolacci. “But [my] 76 is the low score for the Super Seniors today, so that kind of tells you something.”

Bartolacci, a two-time Senior Amateur Champion in the Senior Division (2008, 2013) has been battling back issues as of late, including surgery last July that caused him to shut down his game last season. Now with the back pain subdued, he’s ready to make a run for the top of GAP leaderboards once again.

“I think it’s really improved a lot after the surgery about a year ago. I said when [the doctor] went in there, he took my golf game,” said Bartolacci, 68, of Washington Crossing, Pa.

If today’s performance was any indication, it appears the golf doctor has also paid Bartolacci a visit.

“It could be another 76 or 86, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he said.

Gonsior, still gunning for his first GAP title, got birdies to fall on his second nine.

On No. 12 (par 4, 406 yards), Gonsior hit a perfect drive followed by a 6-iron approach that led to a 15-foot make. On the par-5, 482-yard 16th, his approach shot found the left rough, meaning a tough 40-yard wedge over a bunker came next. That flipped wedge ran out and nestled up to a foot, resulting in another birdie. Two pars coming in led to the day’s second 76.

“The course was playing incredibly firm today, and for us old guys, it’s tough to put spin on the ball. The approach shots were very tough to get close, especially to the front pins,” said Gonsior, 67, of Horsham, Pa. “Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to land it short and run it up to some back hole locations.”

Gonsior struggled with the flatstick all summer long. Something clicked Tuesday at Little Mill, though, and the 67-year-old hopes the good mojo continues on Day Two.

“This is the worst putting summer I’ve ever had,” he said. “Today I made some really nice ones.”

After spending the last two weeks down the shore in Ocean City, N.J., and away from the game, he came away “pleasantly surprised with today’s round.”

“It’s refreshing [to be away from golf for two weeks,] but I’d rather be playing golf. We had a good time in Ocean City, went to some rides, and had a blast,” said Gonsior.

The co-leaders will tee off Wednesday at 9:20 a.m.

GAP
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.

Senior Division
Name, clubScore
Christopher Fieger, Sr., Philadelphia Publinks GA68
Jeffrey Allen, Wild Quail Golf & Country Club73
Thomas Hyland, Little Mill Country Club74
Doug Jones, Little Mill Country Club75
Gary Smith, Pine Valley Golf Club75
Glenn Smeraglio, Lu Lu Country Club75
Paul Rogowicz, Yardley Country Club76
Joseph Coulson, Wedgewood Golf Course76
Oscar Mestre, Overbrook Golf Club77
Steve Walczak, Wilmington Country Club77
Ray Pyontek, Mercer Oaks Golf Course77
J.Kirk Luntey, Merion Golf Club78
Scott Carney, Commonwealth National Golf Club78
Christopher Clauson, Lu Lu Country Club78
Brian Rothaus, Philmont Country Club78
Rich Thon, The Springhaven Club79
Doug Fedoryshyn, Concord Country Club79
Rand Mendez, Fieldstone Golf Club79
Michael Quinn, Philadelphia Publinks GA79
Gregory Buliga, Yardley Country Club79
Stephen O’Sullivan, Philadelphia Cricket Club79
Dennis Konczyk, Union League Golf Club at Torresdale79
Carlos Ochoa, Little Mill Country Club80
Joseph Roeder, Little Mill Country Club80
Mark Kosko, Little Mill Country Club80
Bob Beck, Lehigh Country Club80
William McGuinness, Tavistock Country Club80
Perry Landis, Moselem Springs Golf Club80
Robert Amen, Philadelphia Publinks GA80
Alan Wagenschnur, Loch Nairn Golf Club80
Joseph Weiscarger, Wyoming Valley Country Club80
Byron Whitman, Berkshire Country Club81
John Alterman, Commonwealth National Golf Club81
Jim Gavaghan, Commonwealth National Golf Club81
John Psillas, Moselem Springs Golf Club81
Timothy Burns, Country Club of Scranton81
Jim Yenser, Raven’s Claw Golf Club81
Tim Sindorf, Laurel Creek Country Club82
Greg Guyer, Philadelphia Cricket Club82
John Duke, Sandy Run Country Club82
Brian Corbett, Country Club of Scranton82
Gerry Baldachino, Old York CC at Chesterfield82
Michael Decker, Mercer Oaks Golf Course82
Andrew Dietz, Laurel Creek Country Club83
Ron Weaver, Bent Creek Country Club83
Robert Wagner, Merion Golf Club83
Pierce Herbst, Sea Oaks Country Club83
Dan Lawruk, Stone Harbor Golf Club83
Richard Atcavage, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club83
Douglas Oberg, Stone Harbor Golf Club84
David West, Wyncote Golf Club84
Michael Vassil, Country Club of Scranton84
Jeff Poet, Country Club of York84
Marlin Detweiler, Lancaster Country Club84
Mark Cubberley, Mercer Oaks Golf Course84
Norman Charlesworth, Running Deer Golf Club84
Andrew Sterge, Applebrook Golf Club85
Drew Panebianco, Five Ponds Golf Club85
John Conway, Little Mill Country Club86
John Nottage, Commonwealth National Golf Club86
Richard Holstein, Rolling Green Golf Club87
Paul Hess, Hartefeld National87
Andy McCormick, Lancaster Country Club87
Rocky Dare, Running Deer Golf Club87
Rob Cook, DuPont Country Club87
Andy Lykon, Makefield Highlands Golf Club88
Robert Harrington, Merion Golf Club88
Patrick O’Brien, North Hills Country Club89
Robert Tredinnick, Commonwealth National Golf Club90
Bob Enders, Running Deer Golf Club90
Timothy McCabe, Bon Air Country Club90
Ed Kahn, Little Mill Country Club91
Paul Berg, The Springhaven Club91
Bryan Dilcher, Hartefeld National92
Steve Jones, Applebrook Golf Club92
Timothy Dickens, Five Ponds Golf Club93
Bill Boyle, Metedeconk National Golf Club94
Gerald Henderson, Blue Bell Country Club94
James Lewis, Little Mill Country Club95
Edward Erickson, Makefield Highlands Golf Club99
Michael Tash, The Springhaven ClubWD
William Davis, Aronimink Golf ClubWD
Andy Thompson, Overbrook Golf ClubWD
Rufino Rosal, DuPont Country ClubWD
Robert Gill, Fox Hill Country ClubWD
John Donnelly, Concord Country ClubWD
Jeffrey Pelesh, Rolling Green Golf ClubWD
Bryan McClaskey, Merchantville Country ClubWD
John Gosselin, Kennett Square Golf & Country ClubWD
Bob Arthur, Tavistock Country ClubWD
Todd Anderson, Wilmington Country ClubWD
Arthur Kania, Jr., Merion Golf ClubWD
Super-Senior Division
Name, clubScore
Thomas Bartolacci, Jr., Lu Lu Country Club76
John Gonsior, Limekiln Golf Club76
Robert Dietrich, Loch Nairn Golf Club77
Daniel Burton, Lancaster Country Club77
Robin McCool, Saucon Valley Country Club77
Richard Umani, Honeybrook Golf Club78
Howard Press, Little Mill Country Club78
Elliot Sheftel, Lehigh Country Club78
James Muller, Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club78
Dave Jacobson, Medford Village Country Club79
Robert Billings, Rolling Green Golf Club79
Don Donatoni, White Manor Country Club79
Raymond Pawulich, Little Mill Country Club80
Thomas Humphrey, Wilmington Country Club80
Joe Cordaro, Saucon Valley Country Club81
Tom DiCinti, Mercer Oaks Golf Course81
Michael Nilon, Philadelphia Country Club82
Rich Colaguori, Moselem Springs Golf Club83
Steve Meyer, Rolling Green Golf Club83
Buck Jones, Philadelphia Publinks GA83
Charles McDowell, Wilmington Country Club83
Charles Caparo, The 1912 Club84
Gary Daniels, Applebrook Golf Club84
Jay Howson, Jr., St. Davids Golf Club84
Tom Borsello, Hartefeld National84
Steve Tagert, Spring Ford Country Club84
Jon Mabry, Moorestown Field Club85
Kevin Pappas, Mercer Oaks Golf Course85
Joe Culley, The Springhaven Club85
Frank Polizzi, Aronimink Golf Club85
Michael Moser, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club85
George Collins, Stone Harbor Golf Club86
Bennett Meyer, Rolling Green Golf Club87
Joel McFadden, Philadelphia Publinks GA91
Bill Holt, III, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club92
Charles McClaskey, Philadelphia Publinks GA93
Mike Miklinevich, Greate Bay Country Club93
James Prendergast, Bellewood Country ClubWD
Steve Levine, Greate Bay Country ClubWD
Terrence Sawyer, Lu Lu Country ClubWD
John Owens, Tavistock Country ClubWD
Robert Brusco, Sr., Medford Village Country ClubWD
Craig Aronchick, Rolling Green Golf ClubWD
O. Gordon Brewer, Jr., Pine Valley Golf ClubWD
Donald Ashley, Philadelphia Country ClubWD
WD-withdrawal