PAOLI, Pa. – Ben Feld has spent the last seven years with the Drexel University men’s golf team. After playing for the Dragons from 2009-13, of which he was captain for the last two years, Feld served as an assistant coach following graduation. He then assumed the role of interim coach prior to this year’s Spring season.
He lives and breathes Drexel Dragon golf.
This Monday, Feld was given his shot to lead the team he played for; he was named head coach.
“I got a voicemail from the athletic director’s office last week that he wanted to meet with me on Monday, so I figured that it was either really good, or they were going to go in a different direction,” Feld said. “We went into his office and had a good conversation. He told me that they had faith in me to take the program forward and I told them, ‘Hey, that’s why I interviewed for the job.’”
The Green Valley Country Club member followed his promotion by carding an even-par 71 on Wednesday in the first round of the 33rd Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf. This is Feld’s first year eligible to compete in the event. He recently turned 25 years old.
It’s been quite the start to the Golf Association of Philadelphia season.
Feld earned medalist honors in the first Middle-Amateur Qualifier at Concord Country Club to gain a spot in the Championship proper. He followed that performance a few weeks later, by shooting a 1-under-par 70 to earn co-medalist honors in the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship Qualifier at Blue Bell Country Club.
“I’m finally getting to practice a little bit. I kind of found a way to manage my way around the golf courses in the qualifiers for this tournament and the [Amateur],” Feld said. “I’ve gotten some good practice in, and I’m starting to hit it a little bit, so things are kind of starting to come together.”
His Middle-Amateur debut comes a day after his promotion was announced at Drexel’s team banquet, held at the Union League Golf Club at Torresdale, the Dragons’ home course.
“We had the university president there. It was really cool. He made a public announcement there and it was just a really special night for the program,” Feld said. “It’s awesome; they were all really excited for me. We’ve made some really great progress the last couple years.”
While Feld will look to gain some ground on the leaders tomorrow as he sits in a tie for sixth place, he knows his work is still beginning with the program that’s helped his game get to the healthy place it is.
“We really want it to be the premiere program of Philadelphia. That’s what I told our Athletic Department, kind of the place to go for really good players locally,” Feld, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., said. “Day one on the job, I’m out here playing, but I’m just really excited to get going and see what we can do.”
After a brief stint at the professional level, Nathan Sutherland is back in the amateur golf circle. He’s also in prime position, thanks to an even-par-round of 71 today, for a chance at the GAP Mid.-Am. title and his first moment of amateur glory.
“I’m excited to be in the heat tomorrow,” Sutherland said. “I love final rounds, and competitively I haven’t had much going on the past two years. It feels great to get the juices flowing again. It’s a nice rush.”
Sutherland, who plays out of Heidelberg Country Club, regained his amateur status in the fall of 2014. He jumped around the professional ranks after four accomplished years on the University of Miami (Ohio) golf team. Now, golf is a completely different game to the former RedHawk.
“I realized that I wasn’t going to play golf for a living anymore, and I wanted to get back into competitive golf,” said Sutherland, who now resides in Wyomissing, Pa. “Last year, my work schedule didn’t permit me to play much. Luckily, this year, it looks like I’m going to have some time, and I’m hoping to play a decent amount and get back into the swing of things.”
The 26-year-old is no stranger to competitive golf at Waynesborough. The club hosted the 2009 Pennsylvania State Amateur; an event Sutherland impressed at with a fourth-place finish and three-round total of 212. Another competitive appearance at the Paoli, Pa. track came in a 2013 U.S. Open Local Qualifier; he failed to advance.
In GAP competition, Sutherland’s best finish came in the 2007 Joseph H. Patterson Cup, where he finished as co-runner-up at Berkleigh Country Club and Moselem Springs Golf Club.
Winning a Major title in his return to amateur competition would go a long way in healing any hard feelings the game has provided Sutherland. No matter the outcome tomorrow, good or bad, be assured Sutherland will be breathing easy.
“It’s different than what I used to do. When I realized that I wasn’t going to be playing golf for a living anymore, it became different,” said Sutherland. “The game is just a lot less stressful this way.”
A staple of the Golf Association of Philadelphia is its volunteers.
Many of these individuals have been assisting the Association with running events for years. They assume the roles of standard bearers, checkpoint officials and scoring assistants. These familiar faces have become easily recognizable.
This year, however, a new, younger face will be appearing at events as a volunteer.
Carey Bina, who made his volunteering debut Wednesday, is believed to be the youngest volunteer in GAP’s history at 20 years old.
“I’ve been playing in GAP events for a few years now, probably four or five years,” Bina said. “Two summers ago, I started caddying. Last summer, I worked at a golf club. But I wanted to get the tournament side of it this summer. In general, anything I do involving golf that’s not me playing or practicing is to understand the other side of it.”
Aside from volunteering, the Villanova, Pa. resident has qualified for the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Merion Golf Club. He also looks to qualify for the Open Championship, Joseph H. Patterson Cup and the U.S. Amateur Championship in the coming months.
A rising senior at Elon University, Bina is well-versed, majoring in math and minoring in Spanish, while also studying music. Through volunteering, he looks to gain a better understanding of the tournaments he grew up playing in.
“In general, I like to find ways to empathize with people,” Bina said. “Understanding the experience, I feel like, is the best way to do it if you have the opportunity to. I can understand as a competitive golfer what goes into the tournaments I play in or the tournaments I want to play in.”
Bina served as a volunteer at the pace of play checkpoint on the 18th green at Waynesborough. On Thursday, he will work as a starter. No matter the position, Bina is happy to assist the Association.
“I think it’s a template for creating opportunities for someone like me to pursue what they’re passionate about, but in a very well-run way,” Bina said. “This is just one of the best-run organizations, not even just golf, that I’ve been involved in.”
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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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