Huntingdon Valley's Feld takes 34th #GAPMidAm title
VILLANOVA, Pa.-Moments after Ben Feld secured the 34th Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf, his mentor Mike Dynda hugged his prodigy and broke down in uncontrollable tears. Just minutes before, a comparable scene occurred when mom Jill Kurtzman was overcome with emotion as the result became official. It was a predictable and expected scenario to anyone who knows Feld’s followers. And a big part of his success.
“The support system is incredible. I play for myself, but I also play for them,” said an emotional Feld, 26, after registering the biggest victory of his young career.
Dynda, Kurtzman and younger brother Max (who sometimes caddies) are the usual spectator crew for the Philadelphia, Pa. resident. Today, stepfather Chip Kurtzman was also in attendance, serving as Feld’s looper.
“I’m not here without [the support of my family] and Mike Dynda, who’s been the only coach I’ve ever had. To do this with them here …” said Feld.
There wasn’t a certainty today would even happen for Feld or any other Mid.-Am. competitor. A 2 hour 20 minute rain delay in the morning at Overbrook Golf Club (par 70, 6,400 yards) resulted in wet and boggy conditions. Tournament administrative talks ranged from a full cancellation to waiting out the storm. When the skies cleared and the golf resumed, Feld carded a scintillating 3-under 67, the day’s low score. Added to an opening¬-round 1-under 69, he finished the two days with a 136 total, two shots clear of runner-ups Stephen Dressel of St. Davids Golf Club; Chris Lange, Jr. of Overbrook and Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley Country Club. Osberg teed off on the final hole a stroke behind Feld, but drew a nasty lie atop the right fairway bunker after hitting his drive right and never recovered. Dressel, the Day 1 leader, was steady all day but failed to register a final-round birdie and posted a 2-over-72 and Lange, the top home club hopeful, made five birdies but also two double bogeys en route to a 69.
“Unbelievable,” said Feld, who ironically replaced Dynda as the Drexel University Men’s Golf Coach last May. “Winning a GAP Major is something I’ve thought about plenty of times before. I’ve been in some positions where maybe I would have had a chance. To actually do it, it’s really unbelievable.”
Feld’s top finish in a Golf Association of Philadelphia Major prior to Thursday’s crowning achievement was a pair of semifinal appearances in the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship in 2012 and 2014.
“I knew I wasn’t going to back pedal into [the title],” said Feld. “Nothing is given in the GAP; you really got to go earn it.”
And he did.
All six players in the final two groups, including Feld, opened with pars.
That’s when the Huntingdon Valley Country Club member started making moves. He birdied Nos. 5 (par 5, 538 yards), 6 (par 4, 445 yards) and 7 (par 3, 192 yards) to force a four-way tie atop the leaderboard with Dressel, Lange and Osberg.
Feld knocked a pitching wedge from 110 yards on No. 5 to 12 feet; converted a 30-foot curler on No. 6 and stopped a 6-iron at six feet on No. 7.
The championship picture remained a bit muddled at the turn with Osberg at 4 under and one clear of Dressel and Feld. However, the title hunt started to come into a clearer focus on the driveable No. 13 (par 4, 253 yards). Feld and Osberg exchanged birdies and Dressel saved par. Both Feld and Osberg had eagle opportunities after driving the green, Osberg with 25 feet and Feld at 12 feet, but couldn’t convert.
After 13 holes, Osberg was 5 under, Feld 4 under and Dressel 3 under.
Osberg bogeyed Nos. 15 (par 3, 173 yards) and 16 (par 4, 402 yards), however, the result of poor tee shots. Feld went par, par and was now a shot ahead.
Feld finally grabbed the lead for good on No. 17 (par 4, 317 yards), when he almost drove the green, coming up 20 yards short. His chip was perfect and almost dropped, stopping inches away.
He now had a two-shot advantage heading home.
“I didn’t know where I stood until the 17th tee that both Jeff and I were at 4 under,” said Feld. “It actually alternated my strategy slightly. I decided to hit driver. I hit a good one. I hit a really good pitch and thought it had a chance to go in for a minute. It left me a tap-in. I guess it gave me a little wiggle room I needed to play 18 a little sloppy, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.”
Osberg re-rallied and made birdie on No. 17 after getting up-and-down from the greenside bunker. His made his 15-foot birdie putt.
Feld bogeyed 18 after pushing his drive right and hitting a heavy second shot left and short of the green. The nerves were evident. Osberg, as previously stated though, couldn’t take advantage of Feld’s closing bogey, drawing an impossible lie when his tee ball drifted to the right.
“I hit a bad drive, I hit it hard though and unfortunately it went through the bunker into the grass above it. I didn’t have a stance. I whiffed the first one and fell into the bunker,” said Osberg. “I barely advanced the second one.”
In addition to his family’s presence, Feld cited some self-used college coaching advise.
“I just kept saying over and over again in my head, focus on the task, not the outcome,” said Feld. “It kind of fell into place. Once I got over the shot I was able to feel that calm and able to execute.”
Yes, he did.
Golf Association of Philadelphia