Huntingdon Valley stays hot, helms Team Qualifier
POTTSTOWN, Pa. — Momentum hoisted Huntingdon Valley Country Club atop Tuesday’s Team Championship Qualifier at a picturesque Bellewood Country Club (par 71, 6,738 yards).
Two days removed from securing a record 33rd BMW GAP Team Matches title, Huntingdon Valley filed a 5-over-par 289 to lead the 12-team field. Connor McGrath, an incoming sophomore at Temple University, carried the flag with a 3-under-par 68. He shared individual medalist honors with Commonwealth National Golf Club’s Ron Robinson.
In addition to Huntingdon Valley and Commonwealth National (294), defending champions Philadelphia Cricket Club (294) and 2017 winners Lu Lu Country Club (296), by virtue of a fifth-score tiebreaker against Blue Bell Country Club, also qualified Tuesday.
The 100th Team Championship will take place June 26 at Bent Creek Country Club.
“The guys were really pumped after the Team Matches win, including myself. Coming into here and feeding off that energy, off how much we enjoyed that … we wanted to make it happen again,” McGrath, 19, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said. “Getting to [represent Huntingdon Valley at Bellewood] was just a fun experience. The weather was perfect, and the greens are rolling really well. I’m just happy that I could help our team out as best as I could.”
Help? McGrath’s performance made Huntingdon Valley’s qualifying status a foregone conclusion.
His subpar steamroller started, in earnest, with a birdie on the par 5, 548-yard No. 7, where McGrath knocked a sand shot to four feet. An 80-yard wedge to four feet on No. 9 (par 4, 439 yards) allowed the Temple advertising major and men’s golf team member to make the turn in 1 under.
McGrath, who cited a more relaxed attitude as an x-factor Tuesday, missed a few red calls before dropping a 30-footer on the downhill par 3, 187-yard 14th hole. After his 3-wood cleared a harrowing tree on Bellewood’s 15th hole (par 4, 396 yards), McGrath hit a 60-degree wedge 70 yards to two feet for another birdie.
After finishing collegiate obligations April 29, McGrath represented Huntingdon Valley at Lu Lu during the BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff. The result there contrasted his result at Bellewood.
“I played [reigning William Hyndman, III Player of the Year] Mike Brown, who’s a heck of a player. He beat me pretty good,” McGrath said. “The team took care of me then, so I was trying to return the favor.”
Huntingdon Valley will make its 43rd appearance in the Team Championship, its last coming in 2015. It holds 13 titles overall.
A ragged Robinson did his part to boost Commonwealth National into the Team Championship for the 10th time in the last 13 years. The rising Monmouth University junior competed in U.S. Open Sectional qualifying yesterday at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. He missed the cut.
“This morning, I definitely wasn’t feeling great. I got here 10 minutes before my tee time, hit two drivers and went off,” Robinson, 20, of Hatfield, Pa., said. “With how hard Woodmont played yesterday, it definitely made today a little easier. I had a lot of wedges in today. I only had 4-iron in yesterday.”
Robinson, a seismic smasher, capitalized on Bellewood’s par 5s. On the monstrous No. 2 (par 5, 505 yards), he powered a 3-iron short of the green and flipped a wedge to 10 feet for birdie. He converted another 10-footer on No. 7 (par 5, 548 yards) following another 3-iron, this time from 240 yards to greenside left. A driver off the deck on No. 10 (par 5, 582 yards)? Well, that facilitated a 40-yard wedge shot to five feet for birdie. Robinson punctuated Bellewood’s par 5s by rolling in an eight-footer on its closer (548 yards).
Robinson joined Commonwealth National three years ago. The camaraderie/competition there continues to contribute to his golf growth.
“All of the guys are great. They treat me with respect,” Robinson, a two-time Harry Hammond Award winner (2016-17), said. “Even though I didn’t play my greatest yesterday, I was getting texts from some of the guys telling me how proud they were.”
Pride is a talking point among Philadelphia Cricket, especially of late. It fell to Lu Lu in Week Three of the BMW GAP Team Matches, thereby nullifying a hopeful three-peat in that event.
A repeat remains possible in the Team Championship.
“We’re trying defend our title, so it’s very important to be back again. In the Team Matches, we lost to a better team] in Week Three. It is what it is,” Scott Storck, who carded an even-par 71 to lead Cricket at Bellewood, said. “We have a lot of guys with a lot of pride. We’re not going to let one setback hurt us too much.”
A pair of chip-in birdies, not to mention 24 putts on the day, gave Storck the torque Cricket needed.
“My first shot of the day, I tried to lay back with a hybrid and I hit it in the fescue. I could barely find it,” Storck, 49, of Blue Bell, Pa., said. “I nudged an 8-iron just right of the green. I chipped it and it rolled in.”
A Lu Lu 75 chipped away Blue Bell’s fifth score (83), thus affording the former a spot in the Championship proper.
The Team Championship Qualifier determines which four GAP Member Clubs will compete in the Team Championship. Participants must field at least six players to be eligible. The low four scores of each team make up the qualifying total. In the event of a tie, the fifth player’s score is used.
The Championship proper features eight-man teams playing an alternate shot format in the morning, with singles matches in the afternoon.
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.