A former resident will revisit the BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff neighborhood while three community members remain snug in their postseason homes.
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.
Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 again seems to be the on-paper favorite. Through three weeks of competition, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 amassed 137.5 points, a Division AA record since the elimination of quarter-point bonuses in 2011. It defeated Aronimink Golf Club (1–2), 45–9, in Week Three.
“The goal was to get back to the Playoff, and ultimately the goal is to win it,” team captain Kevin Kelly said. “We had some guys just play fantastic yesterday. Aronimink has such a stable of good players. Quite frankly, we were surprised at the score.”
With victory margins of 48, 29 and 36, Philadelphia Cricket Club enters the Playoff with consistent, commanding production on its side. Kelly attributes such results to a player stable with “just the right mix of guys who play a lot competitively at the club.” He will now look to assemble the proper mix for the Playoff ahead.
“It’s probably going to take us a couple of days to figure out the lineup. We’re working hard on trying to find the right horses for courses,” Kelly, 50, of Horsham, Pa., said. “Glenmaura is a little bit of a wildcard. We don’t have a lot of guys with experience up there. Little Mill is going to be set up short and you have to hit it straight. Huntingdon Valley has some nuances to it. Glenmaura and our place are really kind of set up for the bombers.”
As the BMW GAP Team Matches defending champion, Little Mill certainly carries credo into the Playoff. In a Week Three, winner-take-all showdown with previously unbeaten LedgeRock Golf Club (2–1), it prevailed by a score of 38.5–15.5.
“We got lucky. (LedgeRock team captain) Grant Skyllas kind of misplaced some players in certain spots,” Mike Hyland, Little Mill’s team captain, said. “Luckily, he sent six players that had never seen Little Mill before, so that was a huge advantage for us. [Little Mill member] Zach Arsenault played college golf at LedgeRock, so it was very nice and favorable for us. He wrote up a nice cheat sheet for everybody.”
The return of players such as Ryan McCarty and Troy Vannucci also aided Little Mill’s effort. McCarty earned two singles points and teamed with Hyland to sweep the better-ball portion. At LedgeRock, Vannucci and John Hornor, playing in the Nos. 3 and 4 spot, came away with nine points.
Like Little Mill, Huntingdon Valley faced a must-win scenario in Week Three against Philadelphia Cricket Club 2 (2–1). It came through with a decisive 43–11 victory.
“Everybody’s pretty excited that we got into the Playoff,” Daniel Pinciotti, Jr., Huntingdon Valley’s team captain, said. “We knew that going to play Cricket was going to be difficult, and all of the guys stepped up. Everybody played great. Everybody got points, which playing Cricket is always a challenge.”
At home, Huntingdon Valley saw clean sweep from its Nos. 5 and 6 spots, Benjamin Smith and Douglas Gregor. Sean Seese, playing in the No. 1 slot, earned three singles points as well.
Huntingdon Valley, which finished third in last year’s Playoff, holds a record 32 BMW GAP Team Matches titles. Securing No. 33 is the task at hand.
“It’s going to be very difficult to pull this off, but we’re going to do what we can,” Pinciotti, 45, of Ivyland, Pa., said. “Cricket’s always tough, and you have the defending champions in Little Mill. Add Glenmaura in there — I don’t think a whole lot of people have seen that place. We’re going to give it our best.”
Glenamaura National erased a six-year Playoff absence by squeezing 26.5 points out of its loss to Llanerch. Since 2013, it carried a 2–0 record entering Week Three, only to falter on the Playoff’s doorstep. The fortunes reversed in 2017.
“We’re all pretty excited to make it. It certainly wasn’t how we wanted to go in; we certainly wanted to win,” Matthew Dougherty, Glenmaura National’s team captain, said. “Llanerch is a very good team. They were in the Final last year and certainly have a lot of success in the GAP. We knew it was going to be a tough match. A combination of extremely poor weather and good golf on their part certainly challenged us to make sure we got every point we could. Luckily, we got to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the day.”
Dougherty points to the final group at Llanerch as a Week Three factor. Christian Davis and James Gardas gathered 2.5 better-ball points at Llanerch, with Gardas grabbing the same amount individually.
“Jimmy Gardas goes on the road every week. He lives almost an hour away from Glenmaura. It’s always an extra hour for him on his trip,” Dougherty, 38, of Dalton, Pa., said. “He continues to really be a strong road player for us. He doesn’t complain a lot about going. We’re fortunate to have guys like that.”
Glenmaura National is wholly familiar with the pedigree of Playoff opponents. Dougherty considers his troop “the underdogs.”
“We’re aware of the track records of success, the players on the teams. We’re aware of how strong those teams are and how deep they are across the board,” he said. “At the end of the day, you got to go play good golf. You have to treat it as a medal play event and put the ball in the hole as if you were posting a score out there. If you don’t shoot a good number out there, you’re going to likely lose. All you can do is put it in the hole and see what happens.”
In a smiliar vein, Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 is keenly aware of its four-point loss to the Little Mill in last year’s Playoff. That serves as motivation for redemption in 2017.
“We’re pretty excited about the Playoff. We like our chances, but everyone has to play well,” Kelly said. “We still remember that Saturday from last year. We don’t want to have that feeling again come Saturday night.”
Little Mill remembers the underdog classification it received a year ago. The three-time BMW GAP Team Matches champion will again use that label as gusto come Saturday.
“We still have a chip on our shoulder,” Hyland, 38, of Medford, N.J, said. “It will be fun. [The Playoff] is one of my favorite days of the year.”
NOTES—Concord Country Club, White Clay Creek Country Club and White Manor Country Club went undefeated across the board in the BMW GAP Team Matches. Concord fielded three teams; two apiece for White Clay Creek and White Manor.
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, 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 third year as the event’s presenting sponsor.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 153 Full Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, 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.