Group text messages and driving range banter added spice to Philadelphia Cricket Club’s success Saturday in the BMW GAP Team Matches.
Trophy on the line? Hard to tell given the jovial yet competitive camaraderie.
When the smiles, swings and sunny skies settled, Philadelphia Cricket 1 (72.5 points), the projected favorites in the event’s 118th playing, emerged with its fourth title in the last six years by knocking off Huntingdon Valley (58), Philadelphia Cricket 2 (46) and Llanerch (39.5) in the Playoff. It also triumphed in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
The BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff includes teams from Division AA, the event’s top tier. Three players of each participating club play at each venue. Each player competes in a four-way match against one foe from another team.
“It’s the first time we defended,” Kevin Kelly, Philadelphia Cricket 1 team captain, said. “We lost a couple of guys this year. Everyone was concerned about the second team not being as strong, and obviously that was not the case. When you lose veterans like [former captain] Rob Savarese, P.J. Bartholomew, Jack Wallace and Joe April, the next man up has to step up. We’ve had a lot of guys step up. Everybody scored points, and that’s what you need.”
“To see the level of enthusiasm to play in the Team Matches, it just makes you really push yourself hard. To come back and to win two in a row with the expectations that we had going into the year is really gratifying,” Scott Storck, 48, of Philadelphia, Pa., said.
Philadelphia Cricket 1 lost veterans, but not its firepower. Storck, who played on the second team a year ago, received a call-up in 2018 and made his presence felt. He ranked in the Top 5 in regular season scoring. With his team holding a slight edge over Huntingdon Valley in the Playoff, Storck, playing in the No. 3 spot, posted 8.5 points assure back-to-back triumphs. He totaled 27 putts and relied on course knowledge as a weapon.
“I’ve been rolling the putter really well. I continued to putt well today,” Storck said. “I think course knowledge really benefits a player when you’re at home. I didn’t put myself in bad spots. I played a solid round of golf today. I love playing match play. I think of myself as an underdog in every match.”
Like Storck, Steve Oh represented Philadelphia Cricket 2 during the Challenges a year ago. Kelly requested his first-team services once the aforementioned veteran clique departed. Oh willingly obliged and made a statement Saturday, swiping 6.5 points at Llanerch.
“It was nice to be able to perform. There were a lot of expectations, so I can definitely say that puts a lot of pressure on you,” Oh, 41, of Philadelphia, Pa. said. “But I just try to play my own game. If it’s good enough, then it’s good enough, and if it’s not, it’s not. I’ve played on the second team the last two years. I know how competitive it is.”
Oh trailed in all three of his matches until a birdie on the par 4 No. 5 at Llanerch. He hit a gap wedge 100 yards to 20 feet.
“At that point, I felt like, ‘Game on.’ I felt comfortable and played pretty good golf coming in,” Oh said.
With six players traversing its Wissahickon Course, the Playoff proved to be a literal homerun for Philadelphia Cricket 1. Brendan Borst, Sam McFall and Gregor Orlando earned a combined 24 points.
“We had six guys play at home either two or three times during the regular season, and the way the course is set up, we thought it was a big home-field advantage to keep those six guys here,” Kelly, 51, of Horsham, Pa., said. “With the second team being in the Playoff, there really weren’t a lot of decisions to make.”
Orlando, the reigning BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion, set the stage by grabbing 8.5. in the No. 1 spot at home. He didn’t lose any of his matches on the front nine. Orlando closed out Llanerch’s Brian McDermott on No. 15 with a sand save, Huntingdon Valley’s Andrew Mason with a routine par on No. 16 and Cricket’s own Ryan McDonald with another two-putt par on No. 17.
A match among pals made it more college, less championship.
“It was kind of like a comfort zone. You come out and you have one of your own guys playing in your group. It made me feel a little more at ease,” Orlando, 27, of Philadelphia, Pa., said.
“We were very pleased when it lined up as Huntingdon Valley and Llanerch [in the Playoff]. They’re just guys who we all seem to play golf with and having fun playing with,” Kelly added. “It’s just a lot of guys who you socialize with. A lot of friendships have been formed. It makes it all the more enjoyable.”
Philadelphia Cricket 1 is the first team to win consecutive titles since Little Mill Country Club did so in 2011-12. A threepeat is next on the agenda — Philadelphia Cricket 2 Playoff-presence preferred.
“We all have been working very hard this year to capitalize on what we did last year. We wanted to go back-to-back,” Orlando said. “It’s a huge success for us.”
“Without organizing anything, guys just wanted to practice for a couple hours out here yesterday. We were all pretty focused,” Conrad Von Borsig, 31, of Philadelphia, Pa., added. “I think we’re a great team, but we failed to repeat any of the last four years. It was something everybody wanted to do — to solidify the dynasty.”
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 fourth year as the event’s presenting sponsor.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) 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 200 Full Member Clubs and 70,000 individual members are spread across Eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. 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.