|Delaware Blue Hens Jack Melville (left) and R.J. Wren teamed up Monday.|
NOTEBOOK: #GAPOpen Day 1
GLADWYNE, Pa. - Three University of Delaware Blue Hens flocked to Philadelphia Country Club on Monday.
| Results | History |
Little Mill Country Club’s Blaine Lafferty, a senior-to-be, flew solo in the morning wave en route to making the Day 2 cut with a 3-over 74.
Later in the afternoon two of Lafferty’s understudies, Jack Melville and R.J. Wren, both who just recently finished their freshman campaigns at Delaware, hit the track as teammates once again instead of opponents.
“R.J. volunteered to come out here today to caddie for me. He didn’t qualify for the Open when he tried at Radnor Valley Country Club (Wren missed the cut by five strokes) but he still came out here and really helped me out, especially when I needed to calm down a bit,” said Lu Lu Country Club’s Melville.
A talk down was needed today in one stretch in particular. After making the turn at a solid 2-under par, Melville missed an eight-foot birdie look on No. 1 (par 4, 324 yards) by inches. What would be considered a “not Top 10 play” followed.
“I didn’t make birdie on what I thought was a pretty easy hole. I walked up to the ball sitting on the lip and kind of topped [the par putt],” said Melville. “After that I was in a haze. I asked myself, ‘What just happened? Did I really just miss that?’ I tapped in for bogey and I was pretty mad.”
“That was a wakeup call for him. The big thing was to make sure I calmed him down after that. He was able to, and finished pretty strong,” said Wren, 19, of Morgantown, Pa.
Melville fired a 1-under-round of 70, strong enough for a tied Top 5 finish after Day 1.
The soon-to-be sophomore teammates spent their first year at Delaware also as roommates. They knew each other going in to school through playing GAP events, but their relationship truly blossomed during practices during the season – one that neither made an official team appearance in.
“We kind of knew each other coming in, but over the course of the year we got really tight, going to practice together and just hanging out. It became a really good relationship,” said Applecross Country Club's Wren. “We’re really excited about the future.”
Today’s red-number result is one that has been rather common this summer for the Maple Glen, Pa. resident. Melville says, “It’s all kind of coming together right now.” Perfect timing.
“My game is definitely the most consistent it’s ever been right now,” said Melville, a #BMWPhillyAm Quarterfinalist this year at Philadelphia Cricket Club. “I feel like I’ve really gained experience out here, and now, instead of just being happy to qualify for the [GAP Majors], I feel like I’m competing at the top.”
The good news is he’ll have his Blue Hen teammate back on the bag tomorrow. The more impressive news is Melville will have him by his side despite Wren rocking a hand cast.
“On the Fourth of July, I slipped on my hand down a staircase. I broke my right pinkie,” said Wren, a #BMWPhillyAm Quarterfinalist himself in 2016. “I’m going to the doctor soon and the goal is to be back playing before the [Joseph H. Patterson Cup].”
Melville will begin his second round tomorrow at 10:10 a.m., seven strokes back of leader Matt Mattare of Saucon Valley Country Club.
Open Owls continue to impress
Temple University has been a mainstay in the Open Championship throughout the last six playings, five of them being won by an Owl.
Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Andrew Mason (2011-12), Commonwealth National Golf Club’s Matthew Teesdale (2014) and now PGA TOUR LatinoAmérica pro Brandon Matthews (2013, 2015), won five consecutive titles. The streak was broken by Mason’s fellow club mate Jeff Osberg in his victory in the 2016 Open at the Ridge at Back Brook.
Soon-to-be Temple sophomore Marty McGuckin wanted to keep the trend going.
The Valley Forge, Pa. native carded an opening round of 1-under-par 70 to post the best score of any of the other five Owls, past and present, in Round 1.
“It is definitely good representing Temple as best as I can,” McGuckin said. “There are six of us in the field including past Owl Andrew Mason. It would be great to have a couple of us finish high in the Open Championship to try and continue the run that Temple has had in this tournament recently.”
McGuckin got off to a perfect start by birdieing No. 1 (par 4, 324 yards) and No. 2 (par 4, 353 yards). McGuckin said he has played here a couple of times previously and had birdied the first five holes a time or two.
McGuckin was able to take advantage early after going 3-under-par through his first 13 holes and closed with two bogeys on his remaining four holes to finish at 1-under.
“It is always nice to get off to a good start here on this golf course,” McGuckin said. “You know that the last five holes coming in are really tough, so taking advantage of some easier holes early put me in a good position to play well today.”
McGuckin said he had some solid looks out there for birdie that he wasn’t able to convert on but as one of the total eight players under par, he has put himself in a good position to take a crack at the title tomorrow.
In addition to the aforementioned Owls out on the golf course, their leader and head coach Brian Quinn was on the bag for Lu Lu Country Club’s Connor McNicholas, who finished at 4-over-par.
A total of 47 club professionals competed in the first round of action at Philadelphia Country Club. While McGuckin plays in many tournaments each year, the Open offers a different type of feel with the professionals in the field.
“I think playing in an event with professionals is much different than a regular college tournament,” McGuckin said. “It is a different atmosphere because the pros have caddies and those caddies are able to help them out a lot and we aren’t allowed to have caddies in college, so it is definitely different.”
New two-day format makes its debut
It’s been 77 years since the #GAPOpen was conducted over a two-day period but the 113th version of the Championship reverted back to its multiple-day roots this week.
Previously, the 36-hole format was played in a single day and featured just 78 players. This year, 133 players are vying for the title over two days. Tomorrow’s second round will feature 60 players and ties, which brings the total to 65 competitors for Tuesday.
”The new format allowed more players the opportunity to qualify and ultimately play in another one our GAP Major Championships. We’re hoping that the more participation that we get will also positively effect the purse as well,” said Director of Competitions Kirby Martin. “We believe it to be the best change for all parties involved, and we think our players appreciated the switch to two days this year.”
The early return from player’s coming into scoring was positive. Here’s what a few had to share with us:
“I love the change in format. I am getting older and I know that is a weird thing to say but it is really hard to play 36 holes in this kind of heat in one day. It is a nice change for sure.” – Professional Tony Perla, 29, East Norriton Township, Pa., Philadelphia Cricket Club.
“I am a huge fan of the change to two days of stroke play instead of one 36-hole day. I definitely benefitted from the change because I was part of the 20 exemptions into the field instead of the original seven spots available for exemptions. It would be a tournament that I would solely miss had it not been for the exemption that got me in the tournament.” – Amateur Michael R. Brown, Jr., 44, Maple Shade, N.J., Lu Lu Country Club.
“I like the change because it crowns the best golfer over two days and eliminates fatigue. The idea of having a two-day tournament like this to crown a major champion is the way to go. You will have the three best scores in the final group battling it out, which is good.” – Amateur Geoff Cooper, 44, of Erdenheim, Pa., North Hills Country Club.
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.