Jones, Nilon reclaim Senior 27-Hole Challenge crown at Silver Creek
HELLERTOWN, Pa. â€” 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 eventâ€™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 â€” alternate shot, team aggregate and better-ball of partners.
â€śJust like anybody says, if you win a GAP event, then youâ€™ve done pretty well. You beat a lot of the guys you know and a lot of the guys youâ€™ve played with forever,â€ť Jones, 64, of Collegeville, Pa., said. â€śWe kept it in play most of the time and werenâ€™t in much trouble. We played really well.â€ť
â€śWe played hard all day. It was hot,â€ť 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 Umaniâ€™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 didnâ€™t last.
During the eventâ€™s final leg, Nilon pummeled a 6-iron 150 yards uphill to 10 feet for birdie on No. 19 â€” the first hole (par 4, 356 yards) on Silver Creekâ€™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 teamâ€™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. Nilonâ€™s tee shot traveled in the opposite direction and settled behind a tree.
â€śIâ€™m not finding my ball and Iâ€™m thinking all of the bad things can happen now,â€ť 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.
â€śI know how to hit the 4-iron grounder. I knew if I could get it in a certain spot, it would bounce right,â€ť 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.
Itâ€™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 tournamentâ€™s Super-Senior title by 11 strokes.
â€śIâ€™ve been trying to talk Steve into playing in GAP events,â€ť Donatoni, 67, of Malvern, Pa., said. â€śI 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.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m honored to be able to play with Don,â€ť Tagert, 65, of Collegeville, Pa., said. â€śI know how well he does in GAP events. Heâ€™s the leader.â€ť
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 Mondayâ€™s result, more competitive ventures together may be on the horizon.
â€śWeâ€™ll have to come back and defend for sure,â€ť Donatoni, the two-time reigning Super-Senior Player of the Year, said. â€śI just have to get Steve out of the office. His game is ready to play in these events.â€ť
â€śI struck the ball well today. I missed maybe two fairways,â€ť 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 eventâ€™s inaugural year.
The Senior 27-Hole Challenge replaced the Senior Net Championship on the tournament schedule.
Golf Association of Philadelphia