ARDMORE, Pa. – Win or lose, it’s championships like the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship that can change an amateur golfer’s life in a matter of days.
| Match Play Bracket | Epic Final set: McDermott vs. Osberg |
Llanerch Country Club’s Stephen Seiden didn’t end up with the top prize this week. Instead, he claimed lifelong memories, while hitting some of the best golf shots of his career, on one of the biggest stages the game has to offer.
“To play against the best players in the world, and in Philadelphia, while also advancing … that’s good enough for me,” said Seiden. “I think this is the best accomplishment of my Amateur career. I’m thrilled with the week I had here. I honestly can say I’ll never forget it.”
On Day 3 at Merion Golf Club (East), Seiden’s quarterfinal and semifinal matches were ones many in attendance won’t be forgetting, either.
In the quarterfinals, Seiden outlasted Wild Quail Golf & Country Club’s Jay Whitby in 21 holes – the second time he’s done so in the past two days after defeating Stone Harbor Golf Club’s Peter Barron, III on the second extra hole in the Round of 32. Both of those playoff triumphs came thanks to consistency off the tee.
“When you’re on the bag with Steve, it becomes a mentality of ‘fairway, green, fairway, green’ as his caddie,” said Jack St. Amour, a former Golf Association of Philadelphia intern, who was on the bag for Seiden this week. “Our motto all day long, and this week, has been ‘center stripe’. He hit so many drives in the center of the fairway, both days, it just became a game of consistency.”
Dead center in the short stuff is always a good place to be. Seiden added that accuracy to a simple, yet smart, playing style this week.
“If he’s going to play aggressive all day, I’m going to play conservative all day, and then my opponent is going to have to try and find ways to beat me,” said Seiden, of Newtown Square, Pa. “That was mentality out there.”
The bracket then called for a semifinal matchup with Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Jeff Osberg, a common foe that Seiden also calls friend. Seiden pulled off the upset versus Osberg in the 2012 Men’s Club Championship at Llanerch. He then collected the club title with a defeat of James Robertson, the 2007 Joseph H. Patterson Cup winner, in the proceeding Final Match.
“It was when I was new to the club, and Jeff had only been there a few years, too,” he said. “We kind of knew that’d we’d run into each other there eventually. He was winning, and never really lost any matches over there. I went 2-down early against Jeff but ended up playing the rest of the round in 2 under to win it.”
During today’s rematch, it just wasn’t meant to be for Seiden. He fell to Osberg’s power and putting prowess, 5&3.
“Jeff played awesome today. He couldn’t miss a shot and his speed control on the greens today was unbelievable,” he said. “I was very comfortable out there playing against him, especially it being on a stage like the semifinals. It was good to have a friend on the other side and he just outplayed me. Kudos to him. He’s going to be really hard to beat in the Final.”
Seiden sees bowing out in the semifinals as a major accomplishment for himself. His Final Four appearance sounds even better when you hear that Seiden hasn’t played in many GAP Majors lately, even though those missed appearances haven’t been based on talent. The 34-year-old hadn’t tried for the Amateur the previous three years due to his work obligations as a pharmacist.
Memories were forged with his play, but the support that followed Seiden as the week made it all worthwhile. A good number of his family and friends were on hand to watch it all unfold.
“I invited a bunch of people out to come watch and just enjoy Merion. You can walk around this place, take in the views, and I wanted other people to experience it that will never get to play here,” he said. “As the week went on, the text messages came in as I kept winning, and supporters kept coming out. Llanerch sent out an email last night, which was awesome of them, and people came out for me. There were a bunch of Llanerch guys there that were cheering for both Jeff and I, and it was great to see people just getting out here to watch good golf.”
There aren’t many tracks better than Merion’s to spectate on, and Seiden wasn’t shy in sharing his affinity for the host club.
“I honestly just got the chills thinking about this place,” said Seiden. “I’m just happy to now be a part of history. Other people have done some amazing things here, and the best who have ever played this game have played here, which is incredible. This week is something that I’ll never forget.”
Davis finds positives in another difficult defeat
Michael Davis of Aronimink Golf Club and Merion’s Michael McDermott have played multiple of rounds of golf together at the famed East Course.
None of those rounds, however, had a trip to the final of the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship on the line.
Davis, last year’s runner up, met McDermott, a two-time winner of the J. Wood Platt Trophy (2008, 2013) in the quarterfinals a year ago. In the end, McDermott was able to withstand a late push from Davis, taking the match, 2&1.
“It was a great match,” Davis, 20, of Newtown Square, Pa. “I hit a lot of good shots today. I didn’t get a couple of putts here and there. Overall, I was pretty happy with the way I played. It’s just tough to play against a guy like that.”
The rising-junior at Princeton University fell behind early in the match. By the time the pair reached the 4th (par 5, 603 yards) tee-box, Davis was already three holes down.
“I kind of struggled a little bit early,” Davis said. “Michael got off to a good start and had me a few down. When you get down to a guy like that, it’s tough to fight back, kind of keep the hammer down.”
Davis found a rhythm by the turn, however. He won Nos. 12 (par 4, 400 yards) and 14 (par 4, 445 yards) to move to within one. Davis was unable to keep the momentum moving forward, as he found the greenside bunker with his second shot on No. 15 (par 4, 420 yards). McDermott was able to par the hole and the duo halved the next two, denying Davis the opportunity to avenge 2015’s Final defeat.
“I definitely wanted to get back there and get another shot,” Davis said. “But I can’t be disappointed, really, with the way I played this week. I just lost to a great player today. It’s hard to be disappointed. I know I’ve got plenty of years left to keep going at this. Hopefully I will get it one year.”
This match was a repeat of the same stage in last year’s Amateur. Davis was able to outlast McDermott in a 20-hole thriller en route to the Final. This year, Davis was unable to repeat.
“We got to play together last year and I got him,” Davis said. “This year, he got me, so right when we finished he said, ‘Alright, now we’re even.’ I’m sure we’ll be able to do it again soon.”
Davis, a member at Merion since 2005, has seen McDermott as a role model during his time spent at the club, with the latter providing key advice on how to handle the spotlight.
“He’s been a huge mentor to me,” Davis said. “Ever since I was about 13 years old or so, we’ve been playing together. He’s been really helpful to me in playing in these types of big events and big situations.”
Throughout his time watching McDermott, Davis has also been able to pick up on the strengths of the nine-time GAP Major champion’s play.
“People always talk about his length because of how far he hits it,” said Davis. “Really, I think the best part of his game is his short game. A lot of this little chips, just off the green, he’s really good with. I think there’s something to be said for that. People don’t really don’t quite notice that.”
Although Davis’ title run is over, his time spent on the course with McDermott is not. Already the two are planning their next round at Merion, possibly with the addition of two other GAP Major titleholders.
“Cole Berman, Jeff Osberg, Michael and I were just talking; we had a match last year, 36 holes after the Amateur, before the Philly Open,” he said. “We were talking about trying to set that up again, so it should be fun.”