PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. — Three days, two pieces of hardware, one rightful champion. This week belonged to Josh Ryan.
After earning medalist honors on Monday, followed by strong performances on Day 2 of match play, Ryan defeated Applecross Country Club’s Ben Saggers, 2&1, on Wednesday in the Championship Flight Final of the 69th GAP Junior-Junior Boys’ Championship at Phoenixville Country Club (par 70, 5,334 yards).
“Coming out here and winning a trophy is always a great thing,” said Lu Lu Country Club’s Ryan, of Norristown, Pa. “This is my first GAP event, so it was nice to have shown up and played well this week.”
The No. 1 overall seed got through match play with power and precision. He managed to translate that to the 18-hole Final, for the better part of the match. But the title was not won without his worthy opponent putting up a fight.
It was apparent nerves were present when bogey starts on Nos. 1 (par 4, 350 yards) and 2 (par 3, 135 yards) showed up. After a pair of pars on the next two, Saggers gained a 1-up edge – his only of the match – after Ryan pushed his approach shot on No. 5 (par 5, 460 yards) out-of-bounds to the right.
“I was trying to hit a cut shot but it just went straight. It just barely rolled out, but that’s golf,” said the 13-year-old.
Down early, Ryan couldn’t have picked a better time to flex his muscles to get back on track. He stepped up to Phoenixville’s long par 3s, Nos. 6 (183 yards) and 7 (205 yards), a stretch which proved pivotal for him all week.
“I’ve played really well there. It’s definitely an advantage, and was all week, with my length,” said Ryan. “The course is pretty tight, so I haven’t been hitting many drivers, but on [Nos. 6 and 7], it’s been a good advantage for me. I felt good going into those two.”
Ryan would go on to par both holes, while Saggers bogeyed, quickly swinging the match in favor of the top seed. A double bogey on No. 9 (par 4, 383 yards) gave Ryan, who finished the front nine with a 3-over 38, a 2-up lead making the turn.
“There was a lot of golf left to play. I wasn’t really feeling up or down after [the first nine],” he said.
Ryan would go on to struggle early – a double on No. 10 and bogey on 11, the 9-hole course’s first two holes – where he found trouble the first time around. The match was back to level. Saggers, the No. 15 seed, continued to play steady, matching Ryan’s pars on Nos. both 12 (par 4, 335 yards) and 13 (par 4, 290 yards.
Then arrived Phoenixville’s par-3 stretch. Ryan stepped up to the tee feeling as comfortable as ever. He’d go on to grab those two holes again after his bogey-par combination bettered Saggers’ double bogey-bogey. Dormie Ryan.
After smashing driver on No. 17 (par 5, 425 yards), it took Ryan three shots to get around the green, where his ball nestled up to the top of a mound. A beautifully-played elevated chip trickled down toward the cup, leading to a Ryan tap-in for the victory.
Saggers tipped his cap and shook the champion’s hand, knowing he had made a nice run of his own.
“I knew that Josh is a really good, talented player. I was happy I was able to get it to 17 holes. Before the round, I didn’t think I had much of a chance,” said Saggers, 12, of West Chester, Pa. “I’m happy I was able to battle, but in the end, it just didn’t work out. This gave me some confidence going into the rest of the summer.”
Saggers’ scouting report on the champion was spot on. Ryan is not only “talented and accomplished ”, but also experienced, having played on a handful of big stages.
Ryan recently competed in the U.S. Kids Teen World Championships at Pinehurst No. 5, where he finished tied for fifth. He’s even played on one of golf’s most revered tracks , Augusta National, where he finished in third place as a 10-year-old in the 2014 Drive-Chip and Putt National Finals. Ryan has also notched appearances in the 2015 and 2016 PGA Junior League Championships at the Palms Course at Walt Disney World Resort (Orlando, Fla.) and Grey Hawk Golf Club (Scottsdale, Ariz.).
“I’ve played in some big tournaments. I’ve also got some goals. I’ll be starting my freshman season at Norristown High School in August , and I’d like to get through Districts there,” said Ryan.
The title marks the first Golf Association of Philadelphia trophy for Ryan, who has caddied for his brother Caleb in “at least six GAP events” before. After a strong performance this week, Ryan hopes to continue to make noise wherever, and whenever, he competes. He’d also like to make some new friends along the way.
“I’m good friends with a bunch of these guys out here. It’s been really fun,” said Ryan. “Golf is a sport where you can make relationships and that’s really fun for me. There’s some rough patches at times but it’s cool to try and get through them,” said Ryan.
First Flight Final
In the First-Flight Final, Matthew Homer of Wilmington Country Club defeated Talamore Country Club’s Eric Fryer, 5&3.
With his brother Jeffrey on the bag, who Matthew defeated in 10 holes in the semifinals, the title run was completed despite a faulty putter.
“The putter let me down today but I was still able to grind it out. Overall I’m happy with my play this week,” said Homer, 12, of Wilmington, Del. “I’m finally happy to win my first trophy.”
Matthew was glad to have his twin sibling on his side during the Final. After all, it was either carry Matthew’s bag or watch on the sidelines.
“It wasn’t a hard decision for him,” said Matthew. “It was either make some money while helping me or just stand around and watch today.”
Now in its 69th year, the Junior-Junior Boys’ Championship is open to players from Member Clubs who are 10 to 13 years of age.
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 151 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. 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.
1. Josh Ryan, Lu Lu CC d. 15. Ben Saggers, Applecross CC, 2&1.
11. Matthew Homer, Wilmington CC d. 1. Eric Fryer, Talamore CC, 5&3.