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Fox Hill’s Matthews defeats Trenton’s Erhardt to win 97th Junior Boys
PITTSGROVE TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Brandon Matthews of Fox Hill CC made his first appearance in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Boys’ Championship a memorable one. The DuPont, Pa. resident outlasted a resolute Reilly Erhardt of Trenton CC, 1-up, to take the tournament's 97th edition at Running Deer GC (par 72, 6,595 yards) Friday.
“It feels awesome,” Erhardt, 14, said. “Brandon is a tough player. It’s tough to match his 330-yard drives.”
Matthews established an early edge thanks to an Erhardt error on No. 2 (par 4, 417 yards). Erhardt, of Newtown, Pa., missed the green right with a 6-iron from 165 yards out. His ensuing chip darted past the hole location and Erhardt three-putted to card a double bogey. A bogey on the par 4, 386-yard No. 6 gave Matthews a 2-up advantage, but Erhardt cut it in half with a victory on No. 9 (par 5, 515 yards). A 30-yard bump-and-run shot settled nine feet from the flagstick. He executed the birdie putt.
Matthews, meanwhile, decided to rely on his length. The sizeable-smasher parted two trees with a 240-yard 4-iron shot. A delicate chip left Matthews staring at a four-footer for birdie, but he left it short.
“I struggled badly with the putter. I missed 15 four-footers today,” Matthews, 16, said.
Erhardt couldn’t plug into the newfound spark. A 165-yard ghost haunted the slender swinger on No. 10 (par 4, 395 yards). He missed the green with his approach 6-iron and failed to get up-and-down. Holding a 2-up lead entering the difficult par 4 11th hole (345 yards), Matthews stayed aggressive. He attempted to drive the green, but his tee ball didn’t carry enough and dropped into the water hazard. Erhardt, though, couldn’t take advantage of the miscue. He followed suit by veering a pitching wedge from 100 yards out into the hazard. Matthews managed to can a seven-footer for a 5 and a key victory.
“After seeing his tee ball in the pond, I figured I could get one back on him,” Erhardt, a soon-to-be freshman at The Hun School, said.
Erhardt talked himself off the ledge on No. 12 (par 4, 400 yards). His smooth 7-iron sailed 155 yards and settled 12 feet from the hole location. Erhardt, 14, cleaned up the birdie try.
“It was the best putt of the day,” he said. “It broke a little bit to the left and then back hard-right. I got a great read from my caddie [and brother] Regan.”
A Matthews mistake on the par 4, 336-yard 15th hole increased Erhardt’s comeback chances. He again showed an aggressive attitude by ripping a driver, but his tee ball grabbed a patch of thick rough beneath a tree. Matthews used a 62-degree wedge to address the tough lie.
“I had to come so inside that I almost touched my right foot with my backswing,” Matthews said. He came up short of the putting surface, and a routine par was all Erhardt needed to win the hole.
Erhardt’s final window of opportunity opened on No. 17 (par 5, 523 yards). He flew a 54-degree wedge 95 yards to 10 feet below the front hole location. Erhardt’s birdie putt burnt the left edge. Matthews left his third shot 30 feet shy. A soft chip stopped inches from the jar, and the two halved the hole. Both players showed signs of fatigue on No. 18 (par 4, 442 yards). Erhardt steered his approach left of the green and couldn’t make a birdie press to force extra holes. A handshake ensued.
“It’s been a great week,” Erhardt said. “It feels awesome. Being the medalist was very prestigious to me. This is a huge tournament, and to be mentioned in the history of it is a great feeling.”
Matthews is the first Fox Hill CC member to win the Junior Boys' Championship.
Steven Altieri of Hopewell Valley GC knocked off Connor Goodrich of Merchantville CC, 1-up, to win the First Flight. The Montgomery, N.J. resident quelled a late Goodrich-charge to triumph.
“It’s just great because last year, I was one putt away from getting to the finals in the First Flight,” Altieri, a soon-to-be junior at Montgomery High School, said. “This year was just as close and I was in the same position. I played well.”
“It’s been a great week,” Goodrich, 14, of Woodbury, N.J., said. “Steve’s a tough competitor. He was just solid from tee-to-green.”
Erhardt defeated Sean Fahey of Overbrook GC, 1-up, to gain a spot in the finals. He fired a seven-footer for birdie on No. 9 (par 5, 515 yards) to even the contest. Consecutive Fahey struggles thrust Erhardt into the driver’s seat. On No. 10 (par 4, 395 yards), Fahey threw his tee shot into the fairway bunker. He attempted to extricate himself with a 7-iron, but his golf ball clipped the lip and landed 60 yards short. Fairway bunkers again gave Fahey fits on No. 11 (par 4, 345 yards). He overpowered a sand wedge 120 yards to the back of the green and failed to get up-and-down.
A string of hole-halving pars was all Erhardt needed to keep Fahey, 15, at bay.
“It’s been a great week,” Fahey, a junior at Episcopal Academy, said. “It’s the first time I’ve played in the tournament. It’s fun to come out and do pretty well.”
Matthews held off a relentless T.J. Summers of Commonwealth National GC, 2-up. Summers, of Doylestown, Pa., birdied No. 3 (par 4, 350 yards) after knocking a 9-iron 138 yards to 20 feet to grab an early advantage. Momentum and leads changed drastically throughout the match. The strenuous par 5, 523-yard 17th hole proved decisive. After an extensive ball search, Matthews found his tee ball and powered his 3-wood to 12 feet in front of the hole location. He would two-putt for birdie. Summers downhill, left-to-right sweeper from 15 feet didn’t fall.
“It went from what I thought was a definite win for me to trying to save a halve,” Summers, a senior at Central Bucks West High School, said. “It’s been a long week. It means everything to make it to the semifinals. It’s been a good experience.”