ELVERSON, Pa. – Conrad Von Borsig of Concord CC opened a sizeable early advantage before steadying himself late to close out James Kania, Jr., of Overbrook GC, 6&4, in the 109th Amateur Championship final on Saturday at a wet and, for a fair portion of the match, rainy, Stonewall (Old Course). Von Borsig, 22, of Swarthmore, Pa., and a recent University of Virginia graduate, is the first Concord CC member to raise the J. Wood Platt Amateur Championship trophy.
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“It’s awesome. I didn’t realize until three days ago that it was the 109th GAP Amateur. It’s as old as the U.S. Open. It’s pretty cool,” said the typically low-key Von Borsig. “I’m honored. It’s really interesting how grueling it is. This is my eighth round out here. I think I finally realized how to play the course.”
Kania, Jr., 20, of Haverford, Pa., and a junior at the University of Kentucky, was looking to join his father James, Sr., who won the 1995 Amateur, as the first father-son duo to both win the Amateur Championship. James, Sr., took the 1995 Amateur.
“It was definitely special having him [my dad] out here with everything he’s done in the Association,” said Kania of having his dad in attendance. “With Father’s Day tomorrow it was pretty cool having him and my grandfather watching.”
Kania was looking to join a long list of past Overbrook GC Amateur winners, the last being Andy Thompson in 1998.
It’s not often that a 36-hole match sees a decisive sequence within the first nine holes but it’s also not often that one side builds a 6-up advantage in such a short stretch.
Von Borsig moved 1-up after one hole when he chipped his approach on No. 1 (par 5, 531 yards) to three feet and was conceded the birdie after Kania failed to get up-and-down from the left greenside bunker. Kania, maybe showing some early nerves, found the left fescue with his initial tee shot of the day and had to chip out for his second shot.
As the rain gained intensity, from about the third hole through No. 8 before a 1:57 suspension of play was called, Von Borsig seemed to thrive.
On No. 4 (par 4, 370 yards), both players lied in the fairway and were only a few yards apart. Kania, from 135 yards, was up first and sent a 9-iron flier into the back bunker. Von Borsig found the green with his 125-yard pitching wedge approach, and after Kania blasted out and missed his par try, drained a 20-footer for birdie to move 2-up. On No. 5 (par 3, 192 yards), both players put their 5-irons toward the front of the green. Kania had a 60 footer but rolled his attempt to the back hole location 10 feet past. Conrad made a solid eight footer to save par and move 3-up. The sixth hole (par 4, 433 yards) proved to be over early as Kania drove his ball left into the hazard. Kania eventually registered a six. Von Borsig would play safe and make a five to move 4-up. Von Borsig dialed in his first of three fantastic early-round iron shots on No. 7 (par 3, 168 yards) when he ripped a 7-iron to four feet. Kania found the left greenside bunker and missed the ensuing 20 footer for bogey. He conceded Von Borsig his birdie. Von Borsig then capped off a perfectly scripted front side when he found the green on the difficult and treacherous No. 9 (par 3, 233 yards) with a 17-degree rescue club. Kania pulled his rescue drive a touch and found the water. Von Borsig was 6-up.
“I made a couple of bad swings and I guess I let the rain get me a bit and I dug a hole that was way too big to come back from,” said Kania of his early struggles. “I played some pretty good golf from there but obviously the hole was way too big. Conrad hit some really solid shots when he had. He deserves it. Once the rain went away and I got out of that front nine I kind of got back into form a little bit, but it was too little too late.”
The two exchanged five of the next seven holes with Kania cutting his deficit to 5-down after 16. In that stretch was a Von Borsig 7-iron approach from 157 yards on No. 13 (par 4, 454 yards) that stopped 18 inches from the cup. Von Borsig, though, quelled the first of two Kania uprisings with a par on No. 17 (par 3, 136 yards) and on No. 18 (par 4, 452 yards) drilled another 7-iron, this time from 187 yards, to a foot. Kania found the left fescue off the final hole tee and never recovered. The match stood Von Borsig, 7-up, after 18 holes.
“I thought the turning point early was on No. 4,” said Von Borsig. “It was raining pretty bad and [James] hit one in the back bunker. I’ve blown a lot of shots on that hole [in the past] and made birdie. That gave me a jolt of confidence. I was pretty much in cruise control for awhile until it got interesting again.”
Von Borsig moved 8-up on the 19th hole, No. 1, when he knocked his second shot over the green and made par. Kania, who went first, pushed his drive into the right water and recorded a six.
However, from the 22nd hole on, a resilient Kania slowly chipped away. He won three of the four ensuing holes to cut his deficit to 5-down. Kania birdied No. 4, the 22nd hole, with a wedge from 119 yards; No. 5 with a par after Von Borsig found the water hazard; and No. 7 with a spectacular 7-iron to eight feet. Kania even gave himself a chance to be a bit closer by draining an 18-foot birdie on No. 6, the 24th hole, but watched as Von Borsig drained an eight-foot birdie on top of him.
“It’s a 36-hole match and you are fighting for the Philly Am. You are never going to give up,” said Kania. “I made a couple of birdies. Obviously, 8-down it would have taken something astronomical [to come all the way back].”
The two halved No. 8 (par 4, 428 yards) before Von Borsig moved 6-up again by winning No. 9 on a bogey when Kania found the water again.
But just when the match looked over, Kania re-rallied. He won No. 10 (par 4, 446 yards) with a par and No. 11 (par 5, 484 yards) on a conceded birdie to move 4-down. The duo halved No. 12 (par 4, 324 yards) with pars after both had makeable birdie tries, before the wind finally came out of Kania’s sails.
On No. 13 (par 4, 454 yards), Von Borsig knocked his second shot from the right rough to about 12 feet. Kania, playing second had an 8-iron in hand from 155 yards, but the wind picked up just for a minute or two, and his approach went long. He chipped up to four feet and had a chance to halve the hole, but watched his par effort slide by. Von Borsig moved 5-up with five to play.
On the very next hole, No. 14 (par 4, 386 yards), both players had short shots into the green and left themselves birdie opportunities; Kania 10 feet below the hole and Von Borsig four feet from above. Kania missed his and conceded Von Borsig’s birdie with a handshake and a hug.
“James really put the pressure on me. He might not have thought it but I was feeling a lot pressure about,” said Von Borsig. “I guess on hole seven on the second [18 holes I started to feel it]. He birdied three out of four holes there. I was 8-up and figured if I could get through seven [8-up] I would be OK but [as it turns out] I was only 5-up and he was puring it.
“On the 11th tee, I blocked [my drive] right. I wasn’t feeling good. I pretty much benched the driver for the rest of the round after that. Then on 12, [the par] kind of settled my nerves. If he could have stuck that wedge shot there, that could have been really big trouble. I was reeling. I was getting really exhausted. [On No. 14] I had a perfect yardage so I hit it right at the hole from 110 yards.”
Added Kania, “Conrad’s always been a great friend. He’s a great guy. For him to win it couldn’t happen to a better guy. He’s been a class act since I’ve met him, however, many years ago.”
NOTES–The Amateur victory earned Von Borsig an exemption into the Golf Association of Philadelphia Open Championship on July 22 at Bent Creek CC.
28. Conrad Von Borsig, Concord CC, d. 11. James Kania, Jr., Overbrook GC, 6&4