WEST CHESTER, Pa. – Two days of golf complete, two GAP Junior-Junior Boys` Championship Semifinals ahead. Defending champion and qualifying medalist Jack Homer of Wilmington Country Club advanced and will take on Jackson Puskar of Kennett Square Golf & Country Club in one semifinal. J.P. Hoban (above) of McCall Golf Club faces Paul Reilly of Hidden Creek Golf Club in the other. Each player won two nine-hole matches Tuesday at West Chester Golf and Country Club (par 36, 2,456 yards).
The semifinals begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The 18-hole Final is set for 8 a.m. Thursday.
Homer defeated Evan Hawkes of Yardley Country Club, 3&1, and Nick Linkchorst of Golf Course at Glen Mills, 3&2, to move forward. The opponent waiting for him next is a familiar foe in Puskar, who defeated Mark Heinz of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, 1-up, and Ian Larsen (son of 1987 and 1988 #GAPJrJr winner Scott Larsen) of Honeybrook Golf Club, 11 holes.
Homer and Puskar were both members of the 2018 PGA Junior League`s Team Delaware, that competed in the 7th PGA Jr. League Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Az.). Two years later, former teammates find themselves with a spot in 73rd GAP Junior-Junior Boys` Championship Final at stake.
“I know Jack pretty well just from playing with him and seeing him at various tournaments,” said Puskar, the 13-year-old Kennett Square, Pa., native. “I know I`ll have my hands full with a tough opponent tomorrow.”
“Tough” may be a bit of an understatement. Homer followed up Monday`s brilliant performance (4-under-par 32) with two workman-like victories in match play. The southpaw standout`s game plan was to notch pars or better all day. Homer wasn’t able to totally achieve his goal – he carded six bogeys on the day – but he capitalized on his opponent’s mistakes and lost only three holes in his two matches.
With three par 5s on the course, Homer figured his height, age and robust driving skills would give him a big advantage. It did. He carded three pars and two birdies on the five par 5s he played (he closed his quarterfinal match out before getting to the third par 5). He won four of the holes and halved the other.
It was No. 6 (par 4, 240 yards), though, that was a turning point in each of Homer`s two matchups. In the Round of 16 contest, his drive landed 15 feet from the hole on the fringe of the green. He would take the hole with a conceded eagle when Hawkes had some trouble.
“I choked down and drove a nice shot up the right fringe,” Homer, 13, of Wilmington, Del., said. “My opponent struggled with the hole, and I was rewarded with an eagle.”
Homer and Hawkes both carded bogeys on No. 7 (par 3, 138 yards) before a Homer birdie on No. 8 (par 5, 400 yards) ended the match.
When Homer teed off on No. 6 in his quarterfinal contest against Linkchorst, he lost his first drive in the fescue up the hill to the left. No worries though, Homer circled back, re-teed and drove the green again, landing in a similar spot as the first time. Linkchorst three-putted for bogey and Homer drained the putt for an all-world par.
“I can`t even explain how crucial that hole was,” the rising eighth grader at The Tatnall School said. “I almost conceded the hole, but luckily I didn’t, because I won the hole.”
Homer responded to Linkchorst`s bogey on No. 7 (par 3, 138 yards) with a part to close out the match.
Before his hard-hitting battle with Homer in tomorrow`s semifinal, Puskar competed in an 11-hole dogfight against Ian Larsen in the quarterfinals. Puskar notched his first-ever eagle on No. 1 (par 5, 409 yards) in his first match in the morning. His second eagle came on that 11th hole, No. 2 (par 5, 376 yards). He found the greenside bunker in two and splashed out and into the cup for victory.
“I hit a hybrid about 190 yards into the bunker but saved it with a 40-foot chip shot,” said Puskar. “It’s nice to be on the winning side of a playoff at the Junior-Junior. I lost in a playoff last year and failed to make match play. “
Larsen was upset his run ended courtesy of that eagle in extra holes but couldn’t help but admire the game winning chip Puskar converted.
“It stinks to lose in the playoffs on a crazy shot like that,” the 11-year-old Glenmoore, Pa., resident said. “But it was an amazing shot and I am very happy for Jackson.”
J.P Hoban defeated Sean Curran of Merion Golf Club, 10 holes, before he won a battle against his younger cousin Liam McFadden of Overbrook Golf Club, 2&1.
“The matchup against my cousin did not even feel like a tournament game to me,” said Hoban, 13, of Havertown, Pa., said. I had so much fun because we were less tense and just went with the flow. I don’t think I ever talked that much during any round I`ve ever played in.”
A fun round with his cousin was a good way to set up an intense semifinal contest against Paul Reilly.
Reilly began the day by besting Evan Gross of Applecross Country Club, 1-up. In his second match, he defeated Fletcher Jones of Wilmington Country Club, 4&2.
A quick start was critical for Reilly`s quarterfinal victory. He notched two red-figures on Nos. 1 (par 5, 409 yards) and 2 (par 5, 376 yards).
“On my first birdie, I went driver, hybrid, 7-iron to about 10 feet out, and sunk a straight putt,” said Reilly, 12, of West Creek, N.J., said. “On the second birdie, I started with the driver and hybrid again, but I landed in the bunker and used my 9-iron to chip it out and set up a five-foot putt.”
After tying the next three holes, Reilly claimed victories on No. 6 (par 4, 240 yards) and No. 7 (par 3, 138 yards) to take the match.
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 288 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.
1. Jack Homer, Wilmington, d. 8. Nick Linkchorst, Glen Mills, 3&2.
13. Jackson Puskar, Kennett Square, d. 12. Ian Larsen, Honeybrook, 11 holes.
7. J.P. Hoban, McCall, d. 15. Liam McFadden, Overbrook, 2&1.
6. Paul Reilly, Hidden Creek, d. 3. Fletcher Jones, Wilmington, 4&2.
Round of 16
d. 16. Evan Hawkes, Yardley, 3&1.
8. Linkchorst d. 9. Zach Moua, St. Davids, 1-up.
13. Puskar d. 4. Mark Heinz, Huntingdon Valley, 3&2.
12. Larsen d. 5. Brady Crow, Moorestown, 3&2.
15. McFadden d. 2. Nick Werner, Wyoming Valley, 2-up.
7. Hoban d. 10. Sean Curran, Merion 10 holes.
3. Jones d. 14. Devin Carpenter, GAP Youth on Course, 10 holes.
6. Reilly d. 11. Evan Gross, Applecross, 1-up.