Spring Ford CC’s Mike Lebow named June Player of the Month - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

Jun 28, 2004

Spring Ford CC’s Mike Lebow named June Player of the Month

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Player Of The Month

  “Mike who?”

  That was the question of more than one observer looking at the 5-under-par 67 posted on the morning leaderboard at the June 14 qualifier for the Philadelphia Amateur Championship at Philadelphia Cricket Club.

  Mike McDermott? Tash? Rose?

  None of the above.

  It was 20-year-old Mike LeBow of Royersford, Pa., a member of Spring Ford CC and All-American golfer and straight-A, 4.0 business student at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., who had never won anything before at a GAP tournament, or even his own club championship.

  But right now, he’s on a two-month tear, with an old, borrowed driver, a “quirky” pre-shot routine that works, and a new, matured, “grown up” outlook on the game of golf. As a result, he’s GAP’s Player of the Month.

  “It’s just an awesome feeling,” he said.

  It all began in May, after a “pretty poor” spring in which “I really didn’t play much good golf,” LeBow (pronounced LeeBow) said, when he borrowed an old Titleist driver from a teammate at Emory, and progressed from hitting less than 50 percent of fairways off the tee to more than 70 percent, and gaining “a lot of confidence.”

  He proceeded to shoot 299 over four rounds during the NCAA Division III Championships at the PGA at Oak Valley, Calif., placing 18th in the nation and winning All-American honors. His team finished fifth, four shots out of second against the nation’s elite college golf programs.

  Then in June came the Amateur qualifier at Philadelphia Cricket Club, where he added an even-par, afternoon 71 to his morning 67 (“the best round of golf I’ve ever shot in my life”) to win the qualifying medal at 138.

  He was three shots better than Dan Walters of the Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association, and four better than the likes of perennial powerhouse Chris Lange of Overbrook GC and 18-year-old Kyle Davis of Kennett Square G&CC, who the week before had won the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s inaugural R. Jay Sigel Match Play Championship at Aronimink GC.

  He then beat Tom Borsello of Fieldstone GC, 3&1, and Doug Zelner of Coatesville CC, 8&7, to reach the tournament’s Elite Eight. Zelner had ousted this year’s Mid-Amateur Champion and last year’s GAP Player of the Year Michael McDermott in the first round.

  Although he was just 1-over-par in 15 holes, LeBow lost in the quarterfinals, 3&2, to the eventual champion, Scott Ehrlich of Meadowlands CC. At one point, they both eagled No. 13 (par 5, 480 yards) at the Militia Hill Course, Ehrlich first with a 60-foot chip shot and LeBow topping him with a sand shot out of a greenside bunker.

  “That was the most incredible hole in golf I’ve ever seen,” he laughed.

  But the roll continued on June 21when LeBow earned medallist honors, carding a 7-birdie, 4-under-par 68 at Berkleigh CC to win the medal in one of six qualifiers for the Pennsylvania State Amateur Championship to be held in July in Pittsburgh.

  “That was the second best round I ever shot,” he mused.

  He had also won the medal qualifying for the Spring Ford club championship before losing in the final. That makes three medals in two months and the designation as an All-American.

  OK, what’s up? Why all this recent success?

  “I think I finally matured,” he said. “I’ve grown up a little bit. I don’t let bad shots get to me anymore. I try not to get frustrated. I’ve stepped it up”

  It helped being part of a college team, he added. “You learn that you’re part of a team, that even if you’re not playing well, and getting frustrated, you’ve got to hang in there for the team.”

  That learning kicked in at Berkleigh, he said, when he crunched a drive down the middle of a blind par 4, only to find his ball in a creek crossing the fairway. Usually, he said, he would have been angry at the bad break and probably lost it. “But this time, I just didn’t let it get to me.”

  Then there is his distinctive pre-shot routine. “I used to start it from the top,” he said, “closing the club face at impact and hitting a lot of snap hooks.”

  Now, before each shot, instead of taking full practice swings, he takes the club back only half way a couple of times, concentrating on the position of his hands to make sure they are square before impact. “It’s a little quirky,” he said, “but I don’t hit snap hooks anymore.”

  But it’s also in the family genes.

  Mike’s grandmother, Adele LeBow, 81, is a 10-time club champion at Spring Ford, and former president of both the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania State Women’s Golf Association. Last year, she became the first female to receive the prestigious USGA Joe Dey Award, given since 1996 in recognition of meritorious service to the game of golf.

  The award is named after the late Joseph C. Dey Jr., who served as USGA executive director for 35 years and was later commissioner of the PGA Tour.

  It really is a family affair. Mike’s father, Roger, and his mother, Patty, both play at Spring Ford and caddy for their son in tournaments. Mom had LeBow’s bag for the Philadelphia Amateur qualifying rounds. Dad took over in match play.

  LeBow and his dad attended the USGA award ceremony for Adele LeBow in Orlando, Fla., in February. “It was really cool,” Mike said. “I was proud.”

  In accepting the award, Adele LeBow said, “I am so humbled. I don’t know why I should get an award for doing something I’ve loved.”

  Equally humble, Mike LeBow, despite his recent golf success, said his goal right now is simply to return to Emory (a 12-hour drive after competing in the Pennsylvania Amateur), improve his academic standing (“I was 4.0 in my sophomore year, but my cumulative so far is only 3.9”), concentrate on the business curriculum, and continue to contribute to the golf team’s success.

Honorable mention
  Scott Ehrlich, Meadowlands CC –
Ehrlich defeated defending champion Michael Tash of Tavistock CC, 5&4, in the Amateur final. It was the 24-year-old Ehrlich’s first Amateur Championship title. The Blue Bell resident held a 3-up advantage after the initial 18 holes of the 36-hole final, but needed a spectacular bunker shot on the par 3, 5th hole of Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Militia Hill Course to regain the momentum, and, eventually, the title.

  Chris Lange, Overbrook GC – Lange’s stirring second-round charge at the Middle-Amateur Championship created quite a buzz at Gulph Mills GC. Lange, 49, carded a 5-under-par 66 on the treacherous putting surfaces in the final round and finished a shot back of eventual champion Michael McDermott. He later would share qualifying co-medalist honors for the Philadelphia Open.

  Michael McDermott, Llanerch CC – The reigning Player of the Year started the season in style, taking the Middle-Amateur Championship at Gulph Mills GC on May 26-27. The 29-year-old Havertown resident birdied the par 5, 18th to ensue a one-shot victory over Chris Lange of Overbrook GC.

  Charles McClaskey, Wyncote GC – McClaskey became only the seventh player in the 70-year history of the Warner Cup to claim the event’s title at least three times. McClaskey fired a 3-under-par 68 at Bellewood GC.

  Michael Tash, Tavistock CC – Maybe his game wasn’t as sharp as the year before, but nonetheless, Tash gave himself an opportunity to repeat. A victory would have made him only the 10th player in the 104-year history of the Amateur to accomplish such a feat. Tash fell to Ehrlich, 5&4, in the final, but gutted out victories over Frank McFadden of Overbrook GC and Roc Irey of Cedarbrook CC just to reach the championship final.

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