PAOLI, Pa. – When Matthew Finger approached the 14th green during his final round of the Middle-Amateur Championship on Thursday, he noticed a small bug resting on his golf ball. The persistent pest forced Finger to remark his ball. | Recap | Scorecards | History | Day 2 Video |
He didn’t mind the bug. It reminded him of a larger presence.
That moment turned out in his favor when he jarred the 10-foot birdie putt to, at the time, regain the tournament lead at 1 under. It appeared as though somebody had been watching over him.
Finger had a personal loss lingering in his mind the past few weeks. His father-in-law, John Curchian, passed away 10 days ago from a stroke suffered while sleeping. He was 75.
“I felt that there was a little help there and the ball went in the middle of the hole,” Finger said. “Then I got a good break on the next hole. I’m not very superstitious, but with the emotions of the week and all that was going on, that was really the first time today where I was like ‘Wow, there might be a bigger force out there.’”
The 38-year-old used the emotions of the last week-and-a-half to finish in a tie for second place with Michael R. Brown, Jr. of Philadelphia Publinks GA after starting the day as co-leader. He finished the tournament with a two-day total of 143 (69-74).
“I think [the emotions] helped,” Finger, of Woolwich Township, N.J., said. “I knew what I needed to do on the last hole, I just didn’t get it done. I was running on adrenaline. I’ve been playing a lot of golf the last couple of days. So, I was running out gas, especially in the playoff.”
Finger competed in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club last week, playing 90 holes while reaching match play. He and partner Michael Korcuba fell to defending champions Todd White and Nathan Smith, 6&5, in the Round of 32.
The amount of golf he has played in the past few weeks, added to the loss of a loved one, might warrant the excuse of exhaustion from some. But not Finger.
“I really pride myself on preparing and eating right and drinking extra fluids,” the DuPont Country Club member said. “I’ve learned through the years to do that. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, but this one is really going to hurt. You put yourself in these situations to see how you’re going to react and hopefully next time it’s better.”
Finger will compete next in the New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur on June 7-9 at Montammy Golf Club. He is also exempt into the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Merion Golf Club (East) as well as the Joseph H. Patterson Cup at Huntingdon Valley Country Club.
Despite not walking away with a Major trophy at day’s end, Finger knows there are bigger things in life than golf. After being on the road for the past two weeks, he looks forward to spending some time at home with his family… and maybe his lawn.
“I’ve had a fair number of close calls like this, and I’ll get it done one day, but this was my day to get it done and I didn’t,” Finger said. “I’ll take it like a man and I’ll move on. It won’t define me or my life. I’ll go home and play with my kids and mow my lawn, which is way over due, and try to figure out how to get over this quickly.”
Gregor Orlando and his grandfather, Roland “Chic” Ciacchini, have bonded over a golfing tradition unlike any other.
“We’ve been going to the Masters [Tournament] for years. It’s very special to us,” said the 90-year-old Ciacchini. “For myself, I’ve been 25 times. With him, we’ve been around eight or nine times.”
But it was at Waynesborough Country Club, a track roughly 700 miles from Augusta, Ga., where Orlando’s bond with his grandfather grew even stronger. A dedicated Ciacchini made the seven-hour trek across the state from Erie, Pa. to see Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Orlando play for the first time since 2012.
“I drove up here on Tuesday; left at 11 a.m. and checked into my Holiday Inn at 6:30 p.m.,” said Ciacchini. “I’ve been watching him play golf since he was 12 years old. It’s always been a lot of fun and we’ve both enjoyed it a lot.”
Orlando, a former four-year player at the University of Virginia, got news early this week that he’d have a special guest on hand for his GAP Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf debut.
“I haven’t seen him in a while. He hit me up early this week and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to drive down and watch you play,’” said the 25-year-old. “I mean, the guy’s just a bull. He loves golf. He’s 90 and he’s out here, walking around, watching me play in 90-degree weather.”
It was when Orlando was just 14 years old, at the Erie Amateur Championship, when Ciacchini knew his grandson possessed something special.
“When Gregor graduated the eighth grade, he said to me, ‘I’d like to get in that.’ I told him, ‘Those are men. They have a ton of experience! I don’t know.’ I gave in and said, ‘Oh, just get in there,’” said Ciacchini. “He ended up winning that tournament and he wasn’t even in the ninth grade yet. That was the first really meaningful tournament where I realized his talent.”
Ciacchini was an avid golfer himself, but had to give up the game recently.
“He stopped playing about six or seven years ago,” said Orlando. “He couldn’t hit it far anymore because of his age. That aggravated him.”
Similar to his grandfather, Orlando took a quick hiatus from competitive golf after his college-playing days. Now, living in Philadelphia, Pa. and playing high-level golf once again, he was selected as a GAP Player to Watch at the beginning of the season. He teed off his season with a Top 5 Major finish at Waynesborough thanks to a two-round total of 144 (70-74).
His next appearance will be in the highly-anticipated BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Merion Golf Club (East) on June 13-15 and 18.
“I’m familiar with Merion, and I’m ready,” he said.
It’s still up in the air whether or not his No. 1 fan will be in attendance.
“I found out that the next tournament Gregor is playing in falls on the same week of the U.S. Open,” said Ciacchini. “That one is going to be a tough decision for me.”
NOTES: Four-time winner Michael McDermott of Merion Golf Club tied for low score on Day 2 with a 1-under 70. Michael R. Brown, Jr. of Philadelphia Publinks GA and Scott McLaughlin of Lu Lu Country Club also carded 1-under 70 … two-time winner Chip Lutz of LedgeRock Golf Club, who shared the lead with Finger at 2 under after Day 1, carded a 10-over 81 on Day 2 and finished T20 … Reigning GAP Player of the Year Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley Country Club finished T4 after a two-round total of 144 (71-73) … this was the first time the Mid.-Am. has been held at Waynesborough … two homeclubs players were in the field (Hunter Hanson, Andrew Zoeller) … Philadelphia Cricket Club had the most players in the field (12) … 67 GAP Member Clubs were represented … this was the fifth time a playoff decided the Championship (1992, 1993, 2009, 2013) … 12 former champions were in the field this week.
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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.
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