Splendid St. Davids set for 114th Open Championship
One is 121 years old. The other is 114.
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Despite that longevity, both will meet for the first time July 18-19 when St. Davids Golf Club (121) welcomes the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Open Championship (114). It is the third Major of the Association’s tournament season and 13th overall (seven Joseph H. Patterson Cups, four BMW Philadelphia Amateurs, one Middle-Amateur) to be contested on the exquisite Donald Ross design.
“The whole club is excited. The club knew that it was an honor to host this championship: the biggest championship in Philadelphia with all of the best players,” Dean Kandle, who is in his eighth season as St. Davids golf professional, said. “We’re looking forward to it. I know the members are looking forward to seeing how the golf course plays and how the players do. That will be an intriguing part for our membership.”
The Open Championship is a two-day, 36-hole stroke play event — a change initiated in 2017. The field of 136 players (92 amateurs, 44 professionals) will be cut to the low 60 and ties after Round One.
Saucon Valley Country Club’s Matthew Mattare returns as the event’s defending champion. He became the eighth consecutive amateur winner and ninth in the last 11 editions a year ago at Philadelphia Country Club. Mattare, the reigning William Hyndman, III Player of the Year, set a competitive course record in an opening 63 en route to a two-stroke victory.
“When you have a year like last year, your expectations just go up. You may be going out there and shooting 68s and 69s and playing well, but when the previous year you’re shooting 64s and 63s, suddenly the 68s and 69s aren’t cutting it,” Mattare, 32, of Jersey City, N.J., said. “I’m feeling way better about where my game is as opposed to where it was a month ago. It’s just been inconsistent. If I can peak in a couple of weeks at St. Davids, that would be the ideal.”
St. Davids seems like an ideal setting for Mattare when it comes to high-pressure tournaments. He finished as runner-up in the 2008 Patterson Cup, then a one-day, two-site event held at St. Davids and Waynesborough Country Club. Mattare also qualified for his first national event, the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur, at the Wayne, Pa. venue.
“There are certain courses that you just feel very comfortable on. For whatever reason, St. Davids is one of them,” Mattare, the 2016 GAP Middle-Amateur Champion, said. “I’ve always liked the course. It’s one where if you put the ball in play, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to make birdies. There are three or four ‘hold on for dear life’ holes you have to get through, but otherwise it’s a course where if you’re hitting the ball well, you can put up some numbers.”
The notoriously difficult Ross greens will assuredly influence those numbers.
“Players often find that the length on the scorecard isn’t necessarily indicative of the challenge out here. It plays longer than the scorecard says,” Kandle, 40, of Pottstown, Pa., said. “I think players find a little bit more of a challenge than sometimes what they think they’re going to get at St. Davids. Our golf course superintendent, Joe Nattle, does a fantastic job, so the golf course is going to be in great condition. The greens are going to be firm and fast, assuming we still keep this mostly hot, dry weather.”
Kandle is one of five St. Davids representatives in the field. He will be joined by Michael Paukovits, the club’s teaching professional, and amateurs Stephen Dressel, Brian Gillespie and Regan Papariello.
Mattare is set to tee off at 8:50 a.m. He is one of eight former titleholders in the field. Other past champions include amateurs Michael R. Brown, Jr. of Lu Lu Country Club (2010) and Andrew Mason (2011-12) and Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley Country Club (2016); professionals Terry Hertzog of Country Club of York (2001), Stu Ingraham of MGOLF Driving Range and Learning Facility (1994), David Quinn of Philmont Country Club (2006) and Rich Steinmetz of Spring Ford Country Club (2009).
GAP Hall of Famer R. Jay Sigel holds the most Open titles at six. He won all of those as an amateur. Overall, amateur players triumphed on 20 occasions.
Ninety players secured a spot in the field by qualifying at either Berkshire Country Club, Burlington Country Club or Woodstone Country Club & Lodge. The remaining 46 earned exemptions based on previous results. Participants include professionals who are members in good standing of the Philadelphia Section PGA, head professionals of GAP Member Clubs and amateurs who are members of Member Clubs and carry a handicap index of 7.0 or less.
Total purse for the Open is $30,000. The low professional receives $6,000.
As always, the public and media are welcome to attend.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 260 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across Eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. 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.