Jones, Nilon snag Senior 27-Hole Challenge in playoff at Bala
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Philadelphia Publinks GA’s Buck Jones and Philadelphia Country Club’s Michael Nilon defeated Merion Golf Club’s J. Kirk Luntey and Arthur Kania, Jr. in a sudden-death playoff to win the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 6th Senior 27-Hole Challenge Wednesday at a steamy Bala Golf Club (par 68, 5,430 yards).
Both teams withstood oppressive September heat to finish regulation tied at 6-over-par 140. The playoff began on No. 1 (par 4, 336 yards) and featured a select drive/alternate shot format. Jones, 62, of Collegeville, Pa., hit a wedge 97 yards to 15 feet right of the flagstick. Luntey, 35 yards ahead in the fairway, pulled a 64-degree wedge into the left greenside bunker.
Kania then splashed out to four feet to temporarily return the extra session’s pressure. Nilon, 64, of Gladwyne, Pa., left the team’s birdie putt short.
“I misread it,” he said. "I didn’t want it to run away from us, so I just kind of hit it high and it never broke.”
Luntey failed to convert his team’s putt, confirming an unexpected victory for the Jones and Nilon team. On No. 8 (par 4, 326 yards), its 26th hole overall, Nilon steered a drive out-of-bounds and sent his next two shots into the hazard to card a 9.
“It was a hopeless feeling after the next to last hole,” Jones said. “The first seven holes [in the aggregate portion], we were really solid. We were thinking we were going to win. Mike was even and I was 1 over. We were pretty much there.”
The Kania and Luntey team emerged as the 18-hole leaders at 4 under, two strokes clear of their playoff counterparts.
“We felt pretty good about how well we played,” Kania, 58, of Haverford, Pa., said. “We thought we were going to shoot under par again on our last nine. Unfortunately, my shoulder froze up, and it was a little dead weight on my part.”
“Artie had been driving his wedges in all day, so we considered hitting my drive [on the first playoff hole], but with his shoulder, we were trying to minimize the number of shots he hit,” Luntey, 56, of Ardmore, Pa., added.
A strong performance in the better-ball portion allowed the Jones and Nilon team to turn contentious. Nilon stopped a wedge from 100 yards on No. 8 at a foot for birdie. Jones followed by drilling a 7-iron to seven feet for a 2 on the par 3, 150-yard No. 9.
Jones and Nilon won the Senior Four-Ball Stroke Play in 2006.
A pair of GAP Super-Senior Player of the Year winners joined forces to claim the division’s crown Wednesday. Back Creek Golf Club’s Charles McClaskey (2011) and Talamore Country Club’s Michael Rose (2012) filed a 3-under-par 131.
“I always love playing with Charlie, and he said he was available, so I said let’s have some fun,” Rose, 66, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said. “It’s nice to win something. It’s been kind of an off year.”
“We enjoyed the day. We hit a lot of good shots,” McClaskey, 74, of Elkton, Md., added.
The Super-Senior stars closed the select drive/alternate shot leg with a birdie on No. 18 (par 4, 354 yards). McClaskey stuck a transition wedge from 113 yards to a foot, putting the team at 3 under entering the aggregate portion. Rose stopped a 5-iron at 18 feet for a 3 on the par 3, 172-yard No. 4. McClaskey added a red figure of his own on the next hole (par 4, 374 yards), sniping a 6-iron 167 yards to five feet. Both executed spectacular sand saves from the right bunker on No. 7 (par 4, 383 yards) to seal victory.
Both McClaskey and Rose credited their pairing as well. The two played alongside Pine Valley Golf Club’s O. Gordon Brewer, Jr. and Robert Housen, who captured the Super-Senior title in 2010 and 2011.
“For some strange reason, when I play with Gordon, my ugly game comes out,” Rose said. “I get it up-and-down. I start making putts.”
The Senior 27-Hole Challenge replaced the Senior Net Championship on the tournament schedule in 2008. An event for players 55 years of age and older, the Senior 27-Hole Challenge is a gross event consisting of three nine-hole stipulated rounds in three different formats: four-ball stoke play, selective drive — alternate shot, and aggregate. The tournament is open to seniors with a USGA Handicap Index of 7.0 or lower. Super-Seniors must have a USGA Handicap Index of 12.0 or less.
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 143 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.