Brotherly love aplenty at Coatesville
COATESVILLE, Pa. — Evan Barbin and Connor Bennink collided in the quarterfinals of the First Flight bracket in a match-up between two families that have snatched the spotlight during the 105th Junior Boys’ Championship, part of the Junior Series presented by Citadel, at Coatesville Country Club (par 70, 6,286 yards).
Evan, 15, is joined by his older brother Austin in this year’s match play portion, while Connor, 17, is accompanied by his twin brother, William.
Although golf is a fundamental aspect of the sibling relationships for both Austin and Connor, the age of each of their brothers makes for two different dynamics.
Evan, the youngest of the Barbin brothers, and a member of Loch Nairn Golf Club, has watched and learned as both Austin, 18, of Elkton, Md., and Zach, 20, navigated the Junior golf experience ahead of him.
“They teach me a lot,” Evan, an incoming sophomore at Red Lion Christian Academy, said. “They critique me a lot, in a good way. They’re always helpful here and there. They can be hard on me sometimes, but it’s always good in the long run.”
Connor, being a twin, has had a different experience with his own sibling. The Bennink brothers, who each play out of Kennett Square Golf & Country Club, have grown simultaneously as players, remaining close in ability throughout their competitive golf careers.
“Overall we both were trending upwards at kind of the same time,” Connor, of Kennett Square, Pa., said. “He [William] played a little bit better than me this week. Some weeks it’s the other way around.”
Despite the fact that they are twins and of similar skill level, Connor, who will attend Gannon University, and William, who is set to begin at Wheaton College in the fall, go about their games a bit differently.
“My strengths are typically off the tee, but he [William] is a better iron player than I am,” Connor said.
While Connor and Evan each have unique relationships with their respective siblings, one thing they can both count on is never being short a partner out on the course.
“We play almost every day,” Evan, of Elkton, Md., said, regarding his pair of older siblings. “It’s always a competition between us. We’re always betting on every hole. It’s just a good time.”
“It’s nice to always have someone to play with and someone who is around your ability level,” Connor added, in respect to his own brother.
Although the Benninks were each eliminated in their respective matches on Tuesday afternoon, the Barbins will continue play on Wednesday in the Semifinals. With Evan competing in the First Flight and Austin in the Championship bracket, the possibility of a Barbin sweep looms .
“That would be awesome,” Evan said.
Former Williamson Cup teammates battle
A simple glance at the golf bags of frequent playing partners Austin Barbin and Nikita Romanov reveals that the pair have something in common. Barbin and Romanov’s identical, blue and gold bags were given as flashy keepsakes to members of Delaware State Golf Association’s Williamson Cup team (2017-18).
The Williamson Cup, a prestigious Junior event held annually, features four-man teams from 11 state and regional golf associations, including GAP.
As teammates in the tournament, Romanov and Barbin not only carpooled together the last two years for the Williamson Cup, but also helped lead the team from Delaware to a fourth place finish in 2017 at Pittsburgh Field Club.
The parallels do not cease with their identical golf bags, however. Both Barbin and Romanov are each members of Loch Nairn Golf Club, 18 years of age, and headed to play collegiate golf next year.
It was such similarities that added to the intrigue when Barbin, of Elkton Md., and Romanov, of Wilmington, Del., faced off in Tuesday’s Round of 16 at the 105th Junior Boys Championship, part of the Junior Series presented by Citadel.
Barbin, an incoming freshman at the University of Maryland, ultimately defeated Romanov, who will attend La Salle University in the fall, 5&4.
Despite the unusual circumstances of competing against such a familiar opponent, both Romanov and Barbin felt little discomfort during their match.
“Other than adding the competitive aspect to it, it’s just us playing,” Romanov, a recent Mount Pleasant High School graduate, said.
“I kind of just treat it like me playing the course,” Barbin added. “It was nothing really new because we played match play together in high school matches. It was just more of a higher stage.”
On Tuesday, Barbin and Romanov found themselves playing a similar game stylistically out on the golf course.
“We were in play most of the round,” Barbin said. “We really didn’t have too many wayward shots.”
In the end, it was the two friend’s performances on the greens, not their golf bags, that proved to be the difference.
“It was just a putting contest the whole time,” Romanov said.
The Junior Boys’ Championship is the premier Major in the GAP Junior Division. It is open to GAP Member Club golfers aged 14-18 who have not started their college education and who hold a handicap index of 14.4 or lower. Sixteen players qualify for match play; an additional 16 advance into the event’s First Flight.
The Junior Boys’ Champion is awarded the Peg Burnett Trophy, named in honor of the Association’s Executive Secretary from 1951-76. Ms. Burnett was an ardent Junior golf supporter who emphasized sportsmanship and respect for the game. “I was very strict about checking the rule book. I didn’t make the rules, but since they are there, you have to abide by them.”
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.
Citadel is a credit union that has provided banking, investments, and insurance services to the Greater Philadelphia community for more than 80 years. At over $3 billion in assets, Citadel is one of the area’s largest locally owned, not-for-profit financial institutions, proudly serving residents of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. Citadel has been ranked number one among all credit unions in Pennsylvania for providing value to customers by Callahan & Associates, and was named one of the best performing credit unions in the nation by SNL Financial. To explore products and services, visit www.CitadelBanking.com.