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.
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.
|Christopher Fieger, Sr., Philadelphia Publinks GA||68|
|Jeffrey Allen, Wild Quail Golf & Country Club||73|
|Thomas Hyland, Little Mill Country Club||74|
|Doug Jones, Little Mill Country Club||75|
|Gary Smith, Pine Valley Golf Club||75|
|Glenn Smeraglio, Lu Lu Country Club||75|
|Paul Rogowicz, Yardley Country Club||76|
|Joseph Coulson, Wedgewood Golf Course||76|
|Oscar Mestre, Overbrook Golf Club||77|
|Steve Walczak, Wilmington Country Club||77|
|Ray Pyontek, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||77|
|J.Kirk Luntey, Merion Golf Club||78|
|Scott Carney, Commonwealth National Golf Club||78|
|Christopher Clauson, Lu Lu Country Club||78|
|Brian Rothaus, Philmont Country Club||78|
|Rich Thon, The Springhaven Club||79|
|Doug Fedoryshyn, Concord Country Club||79|
|Rand Mendez, Fieldstone Golf Club||79|
|Michael Quinn, Philadelphia Publinks GA||79|
|Gregory Buliga, Yardley Country Club||79|
|Stephen O’Sullivan, Philadelphia Cricket Club||79|
|Dennis Konczyk, Union League Golf Club at Torresdale||79|
|Carlos Ochoa, Little Mill Country Club||80|
|Joseph Roeder, Little Mill Country Club||80|
|Mark Kosko, Little Mill Country Club||80|
|Bob Beck, Lehigh Country Club||80|
|William McGuinness, Tavistock Country Club||80|
|Perry Landis, Moselem Springs Golf Club||80|
|Robert Amen, Philadelphia Publinks GA||80|
|Alan Wagenschnur, Loch Nairn Golf Club||80|
|Joseph Weiscarger, Wyoming Valley Country Club||80|
|Byron Whitman, Berkshire Country Club||81|
|John Alterman, Commonwealth National Golf Club||81|
|Jim Gavaghan, Commonwealth National Golf Club||81|
|John Psillas, Moselem Springs Golf Club||81|
|Timothy Burns, Country Club of Scranton||81|
|Jim Yenser, Raven’s Claw Golf Club||81|
|Tim Sindorf, Laurel Creek Country Club||82|
|Greg Guyer, Philadelphia Cricket Club||82|
|John Duke, Sandy Run Country Club||82|
|Brian Corbett, Country Club of Scranton||82|
|Gerry Baldachino, Old York CC at Chesterfield||82|
|Michael Decker, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||82|
|Andrew Dietz, Laurel Creek Country Club||83|
|Ron Weaver, Bent Creek Country Club||83|
|Robert Wagner, Merion Golf Club||83|
|Pierce Herbst, Sea Oaks Country Club||83|
|Dan Lawruk, Stone Harbor Golf Club||83|
|Richard Atcavage, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club||83|
|Douglas Oberg, Stone Harbor Golf Club||84|
|David West, Wyncote Golf Club||84|
|Michael Vassil, Country Club of Scranton||84|
|Jeff Poet, Country Club of York||84|
|Marlin Detweiler, Lancaster Country Club||84|
|Mark Cubberley, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||84|
|Norman Charlesworth, Running Deer Golf Club||84|
|Andrew Sterge, Applebrook Golf Club||85|
|Drew Panebianco, Five Ponds Golf Club||85|
|John Conway, Little Mill Country Club||86|
|John Nottage, Commonwealth National Golf Club||86|
|Richard Holstein, Rolling Green Golf Club||87|
|Paul Hess, Hartefeld National||87|
|Andy McCormick, Lancaster Country Club||87|
|Rocky Dare, Running Deer Golf Club||87|
|Rob Cook, DuPont Country Club||87|
|Andy Lykon, Makefield Highlands Golf Club||88|
|Robert Harrington, Merion Golf Club||88|
|Patrick O’Brien, North Hills Country Club||89|
|Robert Tredinnick, Commonwealth National Golf Club||90|
|Bob Enders, Running Deer Golf Club||90|
|Timothy McCabe, Bon Air Country Club||90|
|Ed Kahn, Little Mill Country Club||91|
|Paul Berg, The Springhaven Club||91|
|Bryan Dilcher, Hartefeld National||92|
|Steve Jones, Applebrook Golf Club||92|
|Timothy Dickens, Five Ponds Golf Club||93|
|Bill Boyle, Metedeconk National Golf Club||94|
|Gerald Henderson, Blue Bell Country Club||94|
|James Lewis, Little Mill Country Club||95|
|Edward Erickson, Makefield Highlands Golf Club||99|
|Michael Tash, The Springhaven Club||WD|
|William Davis, Aronimink Golf Club||WD|
|Andy Thompson, Overbrook Golf Club||WD|
|Rufino Rosal, DuPont Country Club||WD|
|Robert Gill, Fox Hill Country Club||WD|
|John Donnelly, Concord Country Club||WD|
|Jeffrey Pelesh, Rolling Green Golf Club||WD|
|Bryan McClaskey, Merchantville Country Club||WD|
|John Gosselin, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club||WD|
|Bob Arthur, Tavistock Country Club||WD|
|Todd Anderson, Wilmington Country Club||WD|
|Arthur Kania, Jr., Merion Golf Club||WD|
|Thomas Bartolacci, Jr., Lu Lu Country Club||76|
|John Gonsior, Limekiln Golf Club||76|
|Robert Dietrich, Loch Nairn Golf Club||77|
|Daniel Burton, Lancaster Country Club||77|
|Robin McCool, Saucon Valley Country Club||77|
|Richard Umani, Honeybrook Golf Club||78|
|Howard Press, Little Mill Country Club||78|
|Elliot Sheftel, Lehigh Country Club||78|
|James Muller, Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club||78|
|Dave Jacobson, Medford Village Country Club||79|
|Robert Billings, Rolling Green Golf Club||79|
|Don Donatoni, White Manor Country Club||79|
|Raymond Pawulich, Little Mill Country Club||80|
|Thomas Humphrey, Wilmington Country Club||80|
|Joe Cordaro, Saucon Valley Country Club||81|
|Tom DiCinti, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||81|
|Michael Nilon, Philadelphia Country Club||82|
|Rich Colaguori, Moselem Springs Golf Club||83|
|Steve Meyer, Rolling Green Golf Club||83|
|Buck Jones, Philadelphia Publinks GA||83|
|Charles McDowell, Wilmington Country Club||83|
|Charles Caparo, The 1912 Club||84|
|Gary Daniels, Applebrook Golf Club||84|
|Jay Howson, Jr., St. Davids Golf Club||84|
|Tom Borsello, Hartefeld National||84|
|Steve Tagert, Spring Ford Country Club||84|
|Jon Mabry, Moorestown Field Club||85|
|Kevin Pappas, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||85|
|Joe Culley, The Springhaven Club||85|
|Frank Polizzi, Aronimink Golf Club||85|
|Michael Moser, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club||85|
|George Collins, Stone Harbor Golf Club||86|
|Bennett Meyer, Rolling Green Golf Club||87|
|Joel McFadden, Philadelphia Publinks GA||91|
|Bill Holt, III, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club||92|
|Charles McClaskey, Philadelphia Publinks GA||93|
|Mike Miklinevich, Greate Bay Country Club||93|
|James Prendergast, Bellewood Country Club||WD|
|Steve Levine, Greate Bay Country Club||WD|
|Terrence Sawyer, Lu Lu Country Club||WD|
|John Owens, Tavistock Country Club||WD|
|Robert Brusco, Sr., Medford Village Country Club||WD|
|Craig Aronchick, Rolling Green Golf Club||WD|
|O. Gordon Brewer, Jr., Pine Valley Golf Club||WD|
|Donald Ashley, Philadelphia Country Club||WD|