Little Mill takes Senior Club Team Challenge
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A rainy-day field trip to the home of a fellow finalist exemplified Little Mill Country Club’s commitment to the Senior Club Team Challenge. Jack Conway, Bill Cregar and captain Carlos Ochoa (pictured above) embarked on an hour-long trek in the name of reconnaissance.
“None of us had really played Five Ponds (Golf Club), so we wanted to get a feel for the layout,” Ochoa, 57, of Marlton, N.J., said. “As soon as we found out Five Ponds was in the Final, I scheduled a tee time. The three of us went over there and scouted it out. I think it gave us a little bit of an edge, just having more familiarity.”
Little Mill returned to a familiar spot atop the GAP Senior Club Team Challenge. It posted 44.5 points to defeat Commonwealth National Golf Club (36), Laurel Creek Country Club (35) and Five Ponds (28.5) in the Final Oct. 26. Little Mill also won in 2014 and 2016.
“Even just to have the chance to compete with friends on some of these magnificent GAP courses in the fall is really fabulous. Being fortunate enough to prevail in a hard-fought Final is really the icing on the cake,” Ochoa said.
The Final features two members of each team competing at each site.
Little Mill, for starters, adhered to a motto that serves it well during the BMW GAP Team Matches: defend at home. Team members Doug Jones and Howard Press did just that, combining for a 13.5-point haul — eight of which came from Jones in the singles portion.
Little Mill’s Joe Roeder continued his Senior Club Team Challenge dominance in the Final. He swept at Laurel Creek Country Club to earn all nine points. The Roeder card reads as follows for the 2019 Senior Club Team Challenge: nine points, eight and a half points, nine points.
“Having the full season behind you, everyone is used to playing. The courses are usually in fantastic shape this time of year,” Roeder, 58, of Marlton, N.J., said. “I have no answer on why I played better. As the year goes on, most guys get their game a little bit more in gear.”
“Joe is so steady. He hits a tremendous number of fairways and greens. He’s a solid putter,” Ochoa said. “He’s definitely one of the rocks of our team, no question about it.”
Plenty of rocks in Little Mill’s quarry. And no stone left unturned when it came to lineup selection.
“That was actually part of the challenge as well. We have at least 10, if not 12 or 13, real solid Senior players who play in a lot of GAP and New Jersey State Golf Association events. A number of them have had some success in the Senior and Super-Senior brackets,” Ochoa said. “[Vice-captains Roeder and Tom Hyland] and I decided that in the first two weeks especially, we were going to try and get everybody in as much as possible. We want to compete, but we also wanted to give everyone that wanted to participate at Little Mill the opportunity to play.”
“Carlos had some hard decisions to make because there are so many really good Senior players at Little Mill. He did a fantastic job,” Roeder said.
The following members represented Little Mill during the Senior Club Team Challenge: Conway, Cregar, Hyland, Charles Jennings, Jones, Ed Kahn, Mark Kosko, Ochoa, Raymond Pawulich and Press. Chatter among the collective surfaced in the spring. Daily scat games at the club amplified the excitement.
“I started bugging Kirby [Martin, GAP Director of Competitions] back in May about the application process and making sure we were registered in time,” Ochoa said. “There are a lot of senior players in the GAP who want to have a team. I’m sure it will keep expanding year after year. We’re real fortunate to have won it three of the last six years. We just want to keep competing.”
Open to GAP Member Clubs, the Senior Club Team Challenge features teams of eight; format is singles match play (gross only). Matches are scored as a Nassau with one point awarded for each of the nines. Participating clubs each host a pair of foursomes on Saturdays in October. Those foursomes are slotted in a four-team bracket, with the winners of each section competing in the Senior Club Team Challenge Playoff. Brackets are regionalized.
Merion Golf Club also holds three (2015, 2017-18) title in the event’s brief history.
“Any time you can be added to a trophy that has Merion on it is special,” Roeder said.
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.