Jones, Nilon reclaim Senior 27-Hole Challenge crown at Silver Creek
HELLERTOWN, Pa. — Buck Jones and Michael Nilon made an indelible mark in the Senior 27-Hole Challenge Monday at Silver Creek Country Club (par 72, 6,360 yards). The longtime friends became the event’s first multi-winners by carding a 2-over-par 145 to triumph.
Jones and Nilon also won in 2013 at Bala Golf Club in a sudden-death playoff. The Senior 27-Hole Challenge, now in its eighth year, features three formats: selective drive — alternate shot, team aggregate and better-ball of partners.
“Just like anybody says, if you win a GAP event, then you’ve done pretty well. You beat a lot of the guys you know and a lot of the guys you’ve played with forever,” Jones, 64, of Collegeville, Pa., said. “We kept it in play most of the time and weren’t in much trouble. We played really well.”
“We played hard all day. It was hot,” Nilon, 66, of Gladwyne, Pa., added.
Temperatures mirrored those of 2013: mid-90s with a baking sun and limited cloud cover. The Jones and Nilon team started shaky with a bogey on No. 1 (par 4, 403 yards). Nilon, a Philadelphia Country Club member, nuked a 5-wood greenside right, leaving Jones shortsighted behind a bunker. A difficult flop shot translated into a lengthy par putt, which Nilon lipped out. But he and Jones, of Philadelphia Publinks GA, weathered the wobbliness with eight straight pars.
The team aggregate portion yielded a pair of red figures. Jones, with a read from playing partner Richard Umani’s putt, drained a 20-footer for birdie on the par 3, 162-yard 13th hole. Nilon inked a 4 on No. 15 (par 5, 566 yards) by smacking a sand wedge to 15 feet. The Jones and Nilon team stood a shot back of leaders Mark Quigley of Manufacturers Golf & Country Club and Alan Van Horn of Commonwealth National Golf Club after 18 holes.
The distance didn’t last.
During the event’s final leg, Nilon pummeled a 6-iron 150 yards uphill to 10 feet for birdie on No. 19 — the first hole (par 4, 356 yards) on Silver Creek’s Hill Course. Jones followed with a birdie of his own, hitting a sand wedge 73 yards and brushing in a delicate 10-footer on No. 20 (par 5, 490 yards).
Unwanted shades of Bala swirled through the team’s mind as it departed the No. 8 (par 4, 347 yards) tee-box. Jones blasted a drive into a batch of thick brush to the left of the fairway. Nilon’s tee shot traveled in the opposite direction and settled behind a tree.
“I’m not finding my ball and I’m thinking all of the bad things can happen now,” Jones said.
At Bala, the Jones and Nilon team experienced misfortune on its 26th hole overall. Nilon steered a drive out-of-bounds and sent his next two shots into the hazard, eventually carding a 9.
The memory remained a memory Monday. Nilon lined a 4-iron onto the green and two-putted from 15 feet for a crucial par.
“I know how to hit the 4-iron grounder. I knew if I could get it in a certain spot, it would bounce right,” he said.
In addition to a pair of Senior 27-Hole Challege titles, the Jones and Nilon team also won the Senior Four-Ball Stroke Play in 2006.
It’s usually a business outing that brings Don Donatoni and Steve Tagert onto a golf course together. That changed Monday when the Aqua America, Inc. colleagues and friends of 20 years competed in the Senior 27-Hole Challenge.
Donatoni, of White Manor Country Club, and Tagert, of Spring Ford Country Club, registered a sizzling 6-under-par 137 total to take the tournament’s Super-Senior title by 11 strokes.
“I’ve been trying to talk Steve into playing in GAP events,” Donatoni, 67, of Malvern, Pa., said. “I think his game is solid enough. He can compete. I thought this was a good opportunity for the two of us to team up for the first time and to get him into a GAP event. He played wonderfully. I was very pleased he accepted my invitation.”
“I’m honored to be able to play with Don,” Tagert, 65, of Collegeville, Pa., said. “I know how well he does in GAP events. He’s the leader.”
Tagert led by example as well at Silver Creek. He converted a 25-footer for birdie on No. 10 (par 4, 347 yards) to move the team to 4 under. Tagert and Donatoni both struck a red rig on the par 5, 450-yard 15th hole. The former swept in a four-footer for birdie. After powering a rescue flag-high right, Donatoni flopped a 58-degree wedge to six feet. Tagert brought the team to 4 under for the aggregate portion with a 3 on the par 4, 343-yard 18th hole. He cranked a pitching wedge 124 yards to 20 feet below the flagstick.
Donatoni and Tagert completed the better-ball leg in 1 over. Highlights included dual birdies on the par 5, 490-yard No. 2 and a Donatoni birdie on No. 6, where he converted a left-to-right slider from 10 feet following a pitching wedge from 120 yards.
Given Monday’s result, more competitive ventures together may be on the horizon.
“We’ll have to come back and defend for sure,” Donatoni, the two-time reigning Super-Senior Player of the Year, said. “I just have to get Steve out of the office. His game is ready to play in these events.”
“I struck the ball well today. I missed maybe two fairways,” Tagert added.
Donatoni teamed with Carl Everett to win the Super-Senior title a year ago. That team also captured the Senior Division crown in 2008, the event’s inaugural year.
The Senior 27-Hole Challenge replaced the Senior Net Championship on the tournament schedule.
Golf Association of Philadelphia