Jul 22, 2015

NOTEBOOK: Strong second-round performance, bucket-hat collection gets Cooley noticed

FLOURTOWN, Pa. – One of the more impressive rounds in the latter part of 111th Golf Association of Philadelphia Open Championship at Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Wissahickon Course came from a player who has become well known by the GAP faithful for his excellent choice in headwear.

Scorecards | History | Temple’s Matthews wins second Open title |

  Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Ben Cooley, donning his regular bucket-style hat, fired a loud round of 2-under 68 in the afternoon. Cooley, equipped with his washed red hat, placed tied for fifth – his best finish since a runner-up finish in the 2012 Patterson Cup at Philadelphia Country Club. 

  “It always feels better to shoot 74-68 then to shoot 68-74,” said the 22 year old. “This was the first tournament this year I’ve been putting my name up the leaderboard as the day went on instead of treading water around the teens. It definitely felt good coming down the stretch.”

  Cooley, who graduated this spring from the University of Pennsylvania, called upon his former golf coach, Bob Heintz, to caddie for him at the Cricket Club. 

  “This was our home course in college, although we played the Militia Hill course most, but I’m comfortable out here,” Cooley said. “He still gets me with some of my short game stuff. It was good to have his eyes out there.”

  While his second-round performance was more than notable, it was harder not to recognize yet another strong hat-performance from Cooley.

  “Last summer, I wasn’t exclusively bucket hat. This year, exclusively bucket hat,” he said. “I’ve got around 10 or 12. Any serious competition, I’m going bucket hat. It’s just kind of my thing.”

Stewart stands as runner-up professional

  The 2002 BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion Billy Stewart finished as the second lowest professional in the field Wednesday, submitting an even par score of 140 (73-67).

  Stewart finished runner-up in 2013 to Brandon Matthews in the Open Championship after a playoff at Waynesborough Country Club. While his morning score was not up to his standard, he found bright spots to carry him through the afternoon.

  “[In] the morning round, I hit it really, really well. I kind of reacted to the course,” said Stewart, 31, of Philadelphia, Pa. “I kind of kept going pin high, to the fat part of the green and I was about 15 feet on 16 of 18 greens. It was one of the best ball striking rounds I think I’ve had in a long time and I could just not make anything.”

  Stewart ultimately used his previous GAP Open experiences to his advantage.

  “This tournament is 36 holes and it’s always that afternoon round. I love the afternoon round,” said Stewart, who is in his second season as assistant pro at The ACE Club. “I got lunch and I just felt like the second round I would start making putts and I did.”

  After opening the afternoon session with two bogeys, Stewart made a 50-footer for birdie on No. 4 (par 4, 487 yards) that would kick-start his push to the top of the leaderboard.

  “That changed everything,” said Stewart.

  Stewart rattled off six birdies in nine holes to move himself to 1 under before giving two back with a bogey on each of the next two holes. On No. 16 (par 4, 425 yards), Stewart chipped his third shot to five feet before misreading his par putt, which lipped out right. The 17th hole (par 4, 451 yards) came down to an issue with speed.

  “I got a little overexcited and tried to drain a 30-footer and went by about seven feet,” said Stewart, who finished the round with a birdie on the 18th (par 4, 487 yards) to finish at even for the tournament. 

  The wind blew swiftly around the Wissahickon Course during the afternoon, but Stewart, whose 3-under 67 was the lowest of the field in Round Two, didn’t mind.

  “That’s why I love these tournaments so much because [if] you play 36 holes even par or under par, usually you’re in contention,” said Stewart. “It’s just tough conditions, but I like the challenge.”

South African family reunites at Cricket

  The Cricket Club served as host to not only a thrilling 111th Open Championship, but also a family reunion of sorts.

  Sakima Country Club’s Lodie Van Tonder, playing in his second Golf Association of Philadelphia Open, was able to play in front of his parents for the first time in 20 years on Wednesday. 

  “It was very special having my parents here from South Africa,” said the 36-year-old Van Tonder. “This is the first time they’ve seen me play since I was a Junior, almost 20 years ago. Honestly, it was pretty special.”

  Van Tonder, who now calls Pennsville, N.J., home, has lived in the States for six years. Back in his native country of South Africa, where he says the game is very popular, he grew up on a nine-hole course and played on local juniors tours.

  Van Tonder struggled in his first round of the Championship, but bounced back strong with a 5 over 75 to end his run in the Open. His parents, Johannes and Wikie, arrived in the United States on June 29, and will be flying back on Monday. 

  “I’m a proud American now and I love this country,” he said. “I love the golf here, and appreciate what [the GAP] does for all of us.”

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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