HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa.-Michael Tash of Tavistock CC stamped himself the preeminent player in the Golf Association of Philadelphia on Saturday with a 1-up victory over Brian Gillespie of St. Davids GC in the 103rd Amateur Championship at Philmont CC (North, par 70, 6,577 yards).
Tash, the reigning Player of the Year, has recorded two wins and a third in the last three GAP Majors. Last August, he captured the Patterson Cup, the Association’s stroke play championship, and, in May, finished third in the Middle-Amateur.
It is the first Amateur title for the 41-year-old resident of Glassboro, N.J.
“This is really important because it validates my resume,” said Tash, a longtime veteran of GAP tournament play. “I guess right now if you base [the best player] on results that would be accurate (Tash said when asked if he is the best in the area). A lot of times results don’t tell you who the best player is. I just consider myself a person who takes advantage of my opportunities.”
Gillespie, who captured the 2001 Amateur Championship, was attempting to become only the 19th player in GAP history with two or more Amateur titles. Chris Lange of Overbrook GC was the last to do so with back-to-back titles in 1993-94.
“I couldn’t get into a consistent rhythm,” said Gillespie, 28, of Wayne. “I was OK early and then shaky on the front nine in the morning, but I played pretty well on the back. My pull shot came back [in the second round] on No. 4-5-6-7 and I think that cost me the match.”
And that’s where Tash grabbed control of the 36-hole match play Amateur final.
The two finished the morning session All Square, and after exchanging victories on the first two holes in the afternoon, headed to No. 5 (par 4, 439 yards) still even. On the fifth hole, Gillespie’s pull returned and Tash, known for his conservative, yet steady play, started to grind. A pair of run of the mill pars coupled with two Gillespie bogeys on the ensuing two holes propelled Tash to a 2-up lead.
A birdie on No. 8 (par 3, 132 yards) by Tash extended his lead to three, before Gillespie stemmed the tide with an under par score of his own on No. 9 (par 5, 574 yards).
A pair of brilliant birdies on No. 10 (par 4, 322 yards) – Gillespie converted a left to right bending putt from 18 feet and Tash a flat four-footer that followed an exquisite approach shot from 87 yards – kept the Tash advantage at two.
On No. 11 (par 3, 223 yards), a neat chip by Tash coupled with an errant tee shot by Gillespie pushed his lead to three.
Gillespie took holes No. 12 (par 5, 491 yards) and No. 14 (par 4, 450 yards) to close the deficit to one, before the two went stroke for stroke on the final four holes.
In that stretch, Tash made a remarkable two-putt par on No. 17 (par 3, 188 yards) to keep his lead at one. His 6-iron landed 20 feet left and above the hole. Needing to keep it close with Gillespie staring at a three footer for par, Tash played a 15 foot break into his putt. It stopped four feet from the hole and he made the par putt to stay ahead.
Tash then matched Gillespie’s par on No. 18 (par 4, 343 yards) to secure the win.
In the morning round, the two exchanged jabs the entire way.
Gillespie took the first hole (par 4, 399 yards) with a 15-foot birdie.
Tash equaled the score on No. 3 (par 3, 160 yards) with a par after running his birdie try by eight feet.
Tash grabbed his first lead of the day on No. 6 (par 4, 369 yards) on a par after Gillespie failed to recover when his wedge found the hazard. The advantage moved to two holes on No. 9 (par 5, 574 yards) on a Tash par and some bad Gillespie luck in the right bunker. Gillespie’s approach shot rolled into a hole dug by a raccoon, leaving him with no other option but a punch out.
Gillespie birdied No. 10 to cut the deficit to one on a smooth downhill eight footer, before evening the match on No. 12 with a superb chip from the left rough to about a foot.
Gillespie then grabbed the lead with a two putt from 45 feet on No. 14 (par 4, 450 yard) after Tash failed to get up and down up for par.
Tash then squared the match on No. 17 (par 3, 188 yards) with a birdie. He knocked his 6-iron to eight feet behind the cup and drained the tricky downhiller.
Tash is the first Amateur winner from Tavistock CC since Bill McGuinness turned the trick in 1996.
6. Michael Tash, Tavistock CC, d. 8. Brian Gillespie, St. Davids GC, 1-up