Three cheers for the Cricketeers.
Joining Philadelphia Cricket in the Playoff are Huntingdon Valley Country Club (3–0) and Llanerch Country Club (3–0), which also prevailed in Week Three. The BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff includes teams from Division AA, the event’s top tier. Three players of each participating club play at each venue. Each player competes in a four-way match against one foe from another team.
The Playoff will take place Saturday, May 12. This is the 118th playing of the BMW GAP Team Matches.
“I can’t believe that Philadelphia Cricket has both teams in the championship. That’s crazy,” Dan Pinciotti, Jr., Huntingdon Valley’s captain, said. “It’s unbelievable. Good for them.”
Philadelphia Cricket is clearly abuzz — “awesome, cool, a little surprise, a lot of elation” among the reactions.
“Between the team one and team two guys, everyone was very excited and pumped up about it,” Dan Feeney, Philadelphia Cricket 2’s captain, said. “I got about 30 texts when that final score posted and we snuck in. I think everyone at the club is really excited about it. We’re really looking forward to Saturday. It’s going to be a fun day.”
“When we went into the season, we were a little concerned because we had lost some guys. We thought that would have an impact on the second team more so than the first team,” Kevin Kelly, Philadelphia Cricket 1’s captain, added. “But we’ve had a lot of guys step up and play great.”
Philadelphia Cricket 1 lived up to its insignia of defending BMW GAP Team Matches champion. It finished the 2018 campaign with a 3–0 record and the most points in Division AA (129.5). Philadelphia Cricket 1 returns to the Playoff for the seventh straight year seeking its fourth title (2013, 2015, 2017).
“Look at a day like yesterday. We either win or halve 11 of 12 individuals and we get points in the better-ball matches,” Kelly, 51, of Horsham, Pa., said. “It’s what you need.” Philadelphia Cricket 1 defeated Commonwealth National Golf Club (2–1), 44–10, in Week Three.
Philadelphia Cricket 2 needed a few cookies to crumble in Week Three. First, a win over Makefield Highlands Golf Club (0–3), which it achieved by an 18-point margin. Next on the wish list: a Glenmaura National Golf Club (2–1) loss, which took place at the hands at the Overbrook Golf Club (2–1). Third, an edge in point-total, which it eventually claimed — by three — over Overbrook.
“We felt like there was a good chance that Overbrook was going to beat Glenmaura,” Feeney, 37, of Ardmore, Pa., said. “Overbrook’s a really strong team. we knew we had to play really well yesterday. We had a lot of guys step up. We really didn’t expect to be here this year. Cricket lost a bunch of good players. We just had some new guys step up and play some awesome golf.”
Feeney cited Bryan Winsko, initially tabbed as a Philadelphia Cricket 3 member, and Ryan McDonald as key assets in the team’s Playoff path. Winsko swept two of his three singles matches. McDonald led Philadelphia Cricket 2 in scoring with 14.5 total points.
A bout among golf family and friends awaits.
“I had some text chains going with (Llanerch captain) Tom Spano. We play a lot of golf together — the Cricket guys, the Llanerch guys and a couple of Huntingdon Valley guys — when it’s not GAP season,” Feeney said. “It couldn’t be three better clubs in the Final. When Huntingdon Valley has its full line-up in, they’re as good as anybody. The Llanerch guys, I think, are an underrated team because maybe their handicaps don’t look as flashy. Those guys are as good as anybody.”
Facing a “win and you’re in” scenario, Llanerch (3–0) upended Little Mill Country Club (2–1), 31–23. Spano sensed in advance that the outcome depended upon whichever road team performed better. His intuition proved pinpoint as Llanerch registered a whopping 20 points at Little Mill.
“Little Mill’s a tough place to play. There’s a lot of local knowledge that goes into playing there,” Spano, 35, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said. “The team that I sent there, at least four of them had played the course over the last few matches against Little Mill. I just felt that the way to maximize points was to send the guys who were more familiar with the golf course. It was great to be able to report back to Llanerch, as we teed off two and a half hours before our home team got started, that we had won 20–7.”
Llanerch is ready to make its third Playoff appearance (2015-16) in the last four years.
“It’s sort of become an expectation, around our club and our team, that we want to play on the fourth week of Team Matches. It’s great to be back,” Spano said. “A lot of us from Llanerch have built relationships and friendships with the Cricket guys, so we’re very familiar with the golf course. It will be a fun day.”
Like Llanerch, Huntingdon Valley needed a Week Three win to assure a Playoff berth. It followed suit by dispatching LedgeRock Golf Club (0–3), 35–19. Brothers Douglas and Michael Gregor led the home contingent by earning 5.5 of six singles points and sweeping the better-ball portion. On the road, Benjamin Smith swiped two of three singles points against eight-time Senior Player of the Year Chip Lutz.
Pinciotti points to a Week One win over reigning Philadelphia Team champions Lu Lu Country Club as a pivotal Playoff launch point. It will need to rely on the grit it showed then for a chance at BMW GAP Team Matches title No. 33.
“Obviously we want to win. We’re not going to just show up,” Pinciotti, 46, of Ivyland, Pa., said. “We’re not going to have our best lineup going in. We don’t have a couple of young guys. We don’t have some of our top-tier guys. But everybody’s been battling all year. We’re just going to keep fighting. I would assume we’re not the favorite. If we’re going to win this thing, we’re all going to have to play our best golf. It’s going to be tough.”
BMW GAP Team Matches
Since 1897, the BMW GAP Team Matches has been contested annually, save World War II (1943-45) and the severe ice storm of 1994. The Association’s forefathers conceived the Matches to promote spirit, fellowship and camaraderie. It started with the four founding clubs — Belmont Golf Association (now Aronimink Golf Club), Merion Cricket Club (now Merion Golf Club), Philadelphia Country Club and Philadelphia Cricket — each fielding two teams with six players per side. First known as the Interclub Team Matches, the event changed to the Suburban League Matches in 1915 before adopting its current moniker in 1997. BMW returns for a fourth year as the event’s presenting sponsor.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) 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 200 Full Member Clubs and 70,000 individual members are spread across Eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.