|*GAPTV: Glenn Smeraglio Interview|
*GAPTV: Andy Achenbach Interview
*Player of the Year standings
*2011 Middle-Amateur Media Guide
*Day One recap
Smeraglio surges to victory in 28th Middle-Amateur ChampionshipMT. LAUREL, N.J.â€“Itâ€™s been a decade of heartbreaks for Glenn Smeraglio when it comes to the Mid-Am. Eight times in the prior 10 years heâ€™s finished in the Top 11 with no victories, including a second-place showing in 2002. On Thursday at a challenging Laurel Creek CC (par 71, 6,704 yards), Smeraglio made certain this yearâ€™s Middle-Amateur Championship wouldnâ€™t get away.
The 51-year-old Newtown, Pa. resident played his last 10 holes in 4-under par to surge past the Day 1 leaders, post a final-round 69 and clinch his first, and long awaited, Middle-Amateur title. He finished at 2-under (140 total). Andy Achenbach of RiverCrest GC & Preserve posted a spectacular final-round 66, the tournamentâ€™s low score, to finish a stroke back in second. Chip Lutz of LedgeRock GC and Michael Hyland of Little Mill CC tied for third at even par. Defending Mid-Am Champion Tom Gramigna of Tavistock CC tied for 12th place.
Smeraglio cited a par save on No. 8 (par 4, 366 yards) as the genesis for his dramatic late-round push. His 122-yard wedge shot bounced long and to the back of the green complex, leaving a difficult 50-foot birdie chance. His first putt stopped 10-feet short, but Smeraglio converted the ensuing par save to get things going.
â€ś[My approach] went all the way to the back of the green," he said. "Iâ€™d been struggling with my longer putts all day, the last two days actually. I putted it and again left it 10 feet short. [My playing partner] Lou Giovi made a great putt [on my line] that didnâ€™t go in. Mine trickled in and I thought at that point maybe something can happen. I hit it close on No. 9 for an eagle [try] and missed it but I hit a good putt. I birdied No. 10 and that was the start of good things. It was more on the eighth than the 10th hole that started [the momentum].â€ť
Smeraglio, who works in financial planning, trailed leaders Hyland and Ryan McCarty, also a Little Mill CC member, by three strokes at that point (They were 3 under). First-round leader Brian Gillespie had slipped out of contention and only a handful of the 74 competitors who made the Round 2 cut were still in the hunt. However, as the wind kept steady and the pressure of a Major championship reared its head, Smeraglio was just getting started. He went on a birdie bonanza on holes 13-15 to, in essence, seal his fate. On No. 13 (par 4, 397 yards) he punched a 7-iron from 152 yards to six feet. He followed that with another punch 7-iron on No. 14 (par 3, 165 yards) that, too, stopped a short distance away. On No. 15 (par 5, 521 yards), after almost losing his drive in the rough, Smeraglio found his ball, regained his composure and lifted a third shot, a sand wedge from 88 yards, to eight feet.
Three holes, three birdies and, at that point, the outright lead. Hyland stood at even par and McCarty was at 1 under.
â€śI was making quality shots and hitting quality putts,â€ť said Smeraglio.
Two brilliant up-and-downs on the treacherous 16th (par 4, 428 yards) and 17th (par 3, 219 yards), one from 60 feet and the other from 50 feet, respectively, kept his train going. He made clutch mid-range putts on both holes.
By this point, only Lutz, a two-time Mid-Am champion himself, remained close at 1-under par. He was two groups behind Smeraglio.
On No. 18 (par 4, 440 yards), Smeraglio parted the fairway but watched his 9-iron bounce long and 50 feet away from a difficult front hole location. He would three putt after leaving his first try 15 feet short.
Lutz converted a fantastic 10-foot par save on No. 17 to stay at 1 under but pulled his drive slightly on the last hole and missed the green left with his approach. His 40-foot chip, which he needed to force a playoff, rolled past the hole, securing a Smeraglio title.
This was Smeraglioâ€™s third Major win. He won the 1998 and 2008 Patterson Cup and is a three-time Silver Cross winner.
â€śTo win another Major is big for me,â€ť said Smeraglio. â€śFor an old guy itâ€™s not too bad. I like to compete and still think I can compete with everyone. I held my own this week. Itâ€™s good to get a W.â€ť
Achenbach, 38, of Royersford, Pa. almost pulled the ultimate sneak attack.
Teeing off an hour and a half before the final group, he eagled No. 5 (par 5, 505 yards) with a 5-iron from 215 yards to four feet; birdied No. 6 (par 4, 437 yards) with a wedge from 140 yards that stopped 12 feet from the cup and birdied No. 7 (par 3, 189 yards) with a 6-iron that ended 15 feet away. He would add a birdie on No. 9 (par 5, 553 yards), two putting from 40 feet, to make the turn at 5 under for the day and 1 under for the tournament. A poor approach on No. 13 (par 4, 397 yards) resulted in a bogey but birdies on Nos. 14 (par 3, 165 yards) and 15 (par 5, 521 yards) made him a strong contender for his first Major victory.
The final three holes are as tough as any around, and for Achenbach, a teacher at Radnor Middle School, it was No. 17 that dragged him down. He pulled his tee shot left, after hitting it right and into the hazard yesterday. He made bogey.
â€śI canâ€™t complain about anything today. I got lucky a lot of times finding my ball,â€ť said Achenbach, who hit five provisionals on the day and didnâ€™t use one of them. â€śObviously with the way I hit it and how little Iâ€™ve played this year I canâ€™t complain about a thing. I wish I was one or two better, though.â€ť