Four #BMWGTM Playoff tickets punched after thrilling Week Three action
There will be a new BMW GAP Team Matches champion crowned in 2019, though there is still a chance the title plaque could be raised at the same club.
After an influx of inclement weather and delays, Lu Lu Country Club 1, Huntingdon Valley Country Club 1, Overbrook Golf Club 1 and Philadelphia Cricket Club 2 all advanced to the BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff set to begin this Saturday.
Lu Lu downed two-time reigning champ Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 in the third and final match to capture Division 1. Cricket 2 recorded a 3-0 mark to advance from Division 2 and keep the club’s hope of retaining Team Match supremacy alive. In Division 3, Overbrook snuck past Llanerch Country Club, 96.5–92 – the two teams tied in Week 2; and in Division 4, Huntingdon Valley Country Club registered a perfect 3–0 mark to move on.
Lu Lu has quickly become the talk of this year’s matches after slaying the two-time winning Team 1 Cricketeers. Lu Lu completed its half of the match last week, but weather forced the Cricket portion to be played this Saturday. In the constant rain two Sundays ago, Lu Lu gained control of its fate with a scintillating 21.5–5.5 victory at its home club. When the match was completed at Cricket last Saturday, they added 11 points, needing only six to advance.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Scott McLaughlin, Lu Lu’s captain of four years. “I don’t really know what to say other than we are really excited.”
McLaughlin pointed out Glenn Smeraglio making birdie on the final hole at Lu Lu in the rain to give his side the better-ball victory, followed by the team of P.J. Acierno and Matt Crescenzo sweeping each of their individual matches and the better-ball contest.
McLaughlin and Mike Moffat earned seven of a possible nine points. McLaughlin and his side both trailed 2-down at the turn. Both scores were turned around by the final hole.
“I think with this squad there is an expectation of winning,” said McLaughlin, 39, of Ambler, Pa. “We are trying to get Lu Lu back on the map. We are looking to get our piece of the pie.”
Huntingdon Valley remains the gold standard in the world of BMW GAP Team Matches. It holds a record 32 titles. A chance at No. 33 lies ahead.
“We are always shooting to get to the championship but we had a tough bracket with teams like Glenmaura National [Golf Club] and Little Mill [Country Club] in the group. We thought it would be a battle and it was,” said Dan Pinciotti, Jr., the captain. “All the matches were close. We just won enough points to continue.”
HVCC defeated Glenmaura, 29–25, in Week Two and Little Mill, 34–19, last week to advance.
“Away [at Little Mill] is what put us over the top this week,” said Pinciotti. “They gave the home team such a big lead. Vince Kwon and Ben Smith going ‘back home’ really helped.”
Kwon and Smith are both former Little Mill members. Kwon won all three singles points and along with partner Connor McGrath, took all three better-ball points. Smith took an individual point and helped his team to two better-ball points.
“Lu Lu’s a super power. It’s going to be difficult for all us,” Pinciotti, 47, of Ivyland, Pa., said. “There is nothing given in the Team Matches. We’ll see what happens.”
The only Playoff-bound team to complete play two weekends ago, Overbrook broke even in Week Three with Llanerch Country Club, 27-27. That tie ended up being crucial, giving Overbrook the nod over Llanerch (1.5-1.5) in the final standings. It also garnered the club their first Playoff appearance since 2015.
“We played on two Sundays ago in the rain, cold and wind. It was absolutely a grind and true endurance test. We started off being pulled off the course after the first hole because the course was unplayable, waited out the delay, then took five hours to finish the rounds under those conditions. It was painful,” said Overbrook captain Oscar Mestre, this year’s Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross) Senior Champion.
“In the end, we’re incredibly relieved with the result. If you had told us at the beginning of the year, down an incredible player in Ray Thompson, that we would make it, I would have said it was very unlikely. But to get to the Playoff, it’s an extreme surprise and accomplishment for us.”
It’s been a mix-and-match management style for Overbrook this season, turning into a healthy mix of veterans and young talent en route to their Division’s top spot. Mestre has deemed Overbrook “David going against three Goliaths” heading into Playoff action.
“This is definitely the most varied lineups we’ve made the Finals with. That goes to show how much depth we have at the club. I asked a few guys who traditionally played on our second team to move up this year to play on the first team, and generally, they’ve stepped up when we needed them. That’s great to see,” said Mestre, 59, of Berwyn, Pa.
Philadelphia Cricket 2 closed out Commonwealth National 1 this past Saturday to punch their Playoff ticket. A couple of must-get putts fell for the Cricketeers late, resulting in a hard fought, one-point victory over Commonwealth, 27.5-26.5.
“There were a few putts in the end that we needed to get, and our guys stepped up and hit them. It was impressive to have guys step up like that,” said Cricket captain Dan Feeney. “Our team obviously isn’t built on having the lowest handicappers, because those guys are on Cricket 1. Instead, we take the grind-it-out mindset. We go after every single point available, and that’s what was on display this week. It was a great way to finish.”
With Cricket 1 failing to get out of their Division, it’s now Cricket 2’s turn to represent the #BMWGTM powerhouse club.
“There has been no bad blood between the Cricket teams whatsoever. Instead, they were there Saturday cheering us on and hoping we got through. That was really cool to see,” said Feeney, 38, of Ardmore, Pa. “Some of those [Cricket 1] guys are eligible to play for us in the Playoff, but it was voted against. The guys who got us here are going to be the ones playing. The other three teams who we’ll be playing against are very talented, so it’s shaping up to be very interesting.”
#BMWGTM Playoffs must be completed by June 1.
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 fifth year as the event’s presenting sponsor.
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.