Week Two sets up #BMWGTM showdowns
Week Two of the BMW GAP Team Matches is like “Avengers: Infinity War.”
The cliffhanger that leads into a blockbuster showdown ripe with plotlines and prominent players.
Two-time defending champion Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (2–0) rises among the cast. It remains in the Playoff conversation thanks to a 36–18 triumph over Aronimink Golf Club (0–2).
“We knew the first two weeks were very important. It’s all building to this final week: the battle against the Lu Lu all-stars,” Kevin Kelly, Philadelphia Cricket 1 team captain, said. “We had a good day yesterday. We got 2/3 of the team points and 2/3 of the individual points, which is fabulous.”
The aforementioned Lu Lu Country Club (2–0), steady ascenders in the BMW GAP Team Matches ranks, trounced Makefield Highlands Golf Club (0–2), 46–8, in Week Two. A cavalcade of GAP champions — from Middle-Amateur titleholders in Ben Feld (2017) and Glenn Smeraglio (2010) to former William Hyndman, III Player of the Year recipients in Michael R. Brown, Jr. (2010, 2018) and Matthew Teesdale (2014) — continues to deliver on expectations.
“We’re so deep. It’s not hard to set the lineup,” Scott McLaughlin, Lu Lu’s captain, said. “It’s been a collaborative effort. We all really want to win it this year.”
Philadelphia Cricket 1 isn’t short on star power, either. Exhibit A is three former BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champions in Cole Berman (2015), Gregor Orlando (2017) and Conrad Von Borsig (2009).
Lu Lu (78.5 points) and Philadelphia Cricket 1 (72.5) occupy the Nos. 1 and spots in Division AA scoring. A titanic battle clearly awaits in Week Three.
“It’s been the talk of the club for the last couple of months. A lot of guys are excited,” McLaughlin, 39, of Ambler, Pa., said. “Getting past Cricket is going to be a tall order. Hopefully we can give them a run and make it to the Playoff. We’re trying to build something long term at Lu Lu. This is a good start for us.”
“We’re excited. This is why you play,” Kelly, 52, of Horsham, Pa., said. “You tee it up and see how you do. They’re a very good team that continues to get better. It’s going to be a fun week. It’s a fun thing we have going, having won two years in a row. We’d certainly like to make it a third, but you can’t get to the Playoff until you win in Week Three.”
Huntingdon Valley Country Club (2–0), Overbrook Golf Club (2–0) and Philadelphia Cricket 2 (2–0) all posted Week Two victories to arrive at the Playoff’s doorstep. Battles against a trio of former BMW GAP Team Matches champions await.
For Huntingdon Valley, overcoming a recent Playoff participant in Glenmaura National Golf Club (1–1) set up a “win and you’re in” scenario against Little Mill Country Club (1–1), a three-time (2011-12, 2016) titleholder. A clutch road performance sparked Huntingdon Valley’s four-point victory in Week Two.
“We were sweating that one out,” Dan Pinciotti, Jr., Huntingdon Valley’s captain, said. “Going into the day, we knew it was going to be brutal. Glenmaura is a really good team with a home course advantage. Not a lot of our guys have played there. On top of that, it’s raining. It’s cold. The ball doesn’t go anywhere. It was pretty miserable all day. For our team to come through solid up there is impressive to me.”
Playing in the Nos. 5 and 6 positions at Glenmaura National, Andy Butler and Billy Reube swept the singles and better-ball portions. In fact, the last two lineup spots, both home and away, accrued 16 of 18 possible points.
“It basically propelled us to the win,” Pinciotti, 47, of Ivyland, Pa., said.
Perhaps some Little Mill knowhow can propel Huntingdon Valley to a Week Three win. A pair of team members in Vince Kwon and Benjamin Smith formerly belonged to the South Jersey venue.
“It’s an advantage, but Little Mill has such good players on its squad. They know that course like the back of their hand,” Pinciotti said. “Little Mill is tough. They want to be in the Playoff, just like we do. It’s going to be exciting.”
Exciting is a buzzword surrounding a Week Three matchup between Overbrook and reigning Playoff participant Llanerch Country Club (1–1). The former is in the driver’s seat following a 34–20 win over LedgeRock Golf Club (0–2) in Week Two.
“Everybody’s been playing with a heavy heart. We’re motivated this year by our good friend Ray Thompson’s passing,” Oscar Mestre, Overbrook’s team captain, said. “It’s the first time in a long time I actually had to worry about who to put No. 1 at home. [This BMW GAP Team Matches run] has been kind of fun. We didn’t have a ton of expectations, but we’re enjoying it day-to-day.”
Thompson, a regular GAP competitor and 12-time men’s champion at Overbrook, died suddenly in November 2018 at the age of 67. His brother Andy, 70, is among the Overbrook standouts through two weeks of BMW GAP Team Matches play.
“Obviously it’s taken a team effort to get us here. No one can do it by themselves, but Andy Thompson’s play has been mindboggling and dramatic, to say the least,” Mestre, 59, of Berwyn, Pa., said. “He’s eagled No. 14 [at Overbrook] two matches in a row. I don’t know of many people who can say they’ve done that. It’s been awesome. He shot his age in Week One and chipped in for birdie on No. 18 yesterday to shoot 69. That’s kind of like storybook stuff.”
The next chapter of Overbrook’s 2019 BMW GAP Team Matches storybook will include a familiar friend/foe in Llanerch.
“We know each other very well. We’re close geographically. There are a lot of strong friendships amongst the two clubs,” Mestre said. “There shouldn’t be any surprises. It will be a well-contested battle. You always want to get a shot at the Playoff. To go into Week Three having a chance is really all you can ask for.”
Philadelphia Cricket 2 asked its road representatives to keep the score close at Tavistock Country Club (1–1) in Week Two. That group exceeded expectations, posting 14 of the team’s 35.5 points in the win.
“Tavistock is a very good club. We were surprised that we won by as much as we did, that’s for sure,” Dan Feeney, Philadelphia Cricket 2’s team captain, said. “[Tavistock professional Patrick Butkus] told us that none of our six players on the road shot above 74. Winning on the road there against all of those veterans was absolutely huge. Our home guys all played great. It was a team effort across the board.”
A Playoff spot appeared clinched for Philadelphia Cricket 2 after Running Deer Golf Club (0–2) gained a 20–7 advantage over Commonwealth National Golf Club (1–1). However, the latter showed its championship grit by issuing 21.5 points at home for a three-point win over Running Deer.
As a result, Philadelphia Cricket 2 now faces a “win and you’re in” scenario in Week Three against Commonwealth National, BMW GAP Team Matches champions in 2007 and 2009.
“We anticipate a tough match. We’re going to have to have some guys step up and play well,” Feeney, 38, of Ardmore, Pa., said.
Week Three is a BMW GAP Team Matches endgame for some — one of epic proportions for all.