Running Deerâ€™s Hanzel, Meares capture The Deeg Sezna
LAFAYETTE HILL, Pa. â€” Chris Meares sees a bit of his teenage self in Jacob Hanzel: a golfer exceptional in ability, embryonic in mentality. Since The Deeg Sezna is the Golf Association of Philadelphiaâ€™s marquee mentoring event, what better outlet for the Running Deer Golf Club member to impart psychological lessons onto his younger reflection.
Hanzel and Meares fed off one anotherâ€™s strengths Tuesday, carding a 4-under-par 68 to triumph at The ACE Club (par 72, 6,490 yards). Sandy Run Country Clubâ€™s P.J. Acierno and Tom Conboy, Jr., the eventâ€™s 2013 titleholders, birdied their final four holes to finish a stroke back.
The Deeg Seznaâ€™s format is selective drive/alternate shot.
â€śIâ€™ve been trying to almost mentor him,â€ť Meares, 36, said. â€śHe has a little trouble in the mental game, so Iâ€™ve been trying to work with him since Iâ€™ve learned from all of my mistakes over 36 years. I was a mental midget when I was younger, so I donâ€™t want him to be a mental midget. I want him to understand the mental side of the game. I was excited for the opportunity to play with him.â€ť
â€śI thought Chris fit all of the requirements, and heâ€™s a great player,â€ť Hanzel, 15, added. â€śIâ€™ve played with Chris a million times at Running Deer. Heâ€™s the club champion. Everyone knows heâ€™s the best, so I decided to ask him to play.â€ť
The Washington Township, N.J. residents executed a preconceived plan to perfection. Hanzelâ€™s ball striking gelled with Meareâ€™s set-up shotmaking.
â€śWe played really well together because he hit the ball really well off the tee. He was killing all day in the fairway,â€ť Meares, who is a vice president for a consulting firm, said. â€śThe biggest strength of my game is wedge play. If I could have him drive the ball for me every time, Iâ€™d probably be a pretty good player.â€ť
â€śI was just trying to set him up with as many wedges as possible,â€ť Hanzel, a rising junior at Washington Township High School, added.
And he did.
Hanzelâ€™s length catered to Mearesâ€™ strength immediately; the latter bumped a wedge 40 yards to two feet for birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 342 yards). Meares hit another one 85 yards to eight feet for a Hanzel-stamped 3 on the par 4, 363-yard No. 5. On the reachable No. 8 (par 4, 287 yards), Hanzel hammered a drive to fairwayâ€™s farthest edge. Meares delicately nudged a wedge 30 yards and watched it ride the receptive complex before stopping a foot from the cup. The par 4, 376-yard 15th hole revealed a similar scenario; Meares knocked a wedge 80 yards to six inches. Although he didnâ€™t equip a wedge, Meares maintained his set-up status on No. 9 (par 5, 501 yards), drilling an 8-iron 156 yards to 20 feet. Hanzel lagged the eagle attempt into kick-in range.
Only one of the teamâ€™s six birdies presented a role reversal. Hanzel extracted a gap wedge from 129 yards out of the left rough to 20 feet on No. 15 (par 4, 376 yards). Meares sensed a forthcoming right-to-left breaker.
â€śHe had the read as soon as we walked up to the green,â€ť Hanzel said.
â€śI asked him if it was uphill, and he said it was,â€ť Meares added. â€śIt wasnâ€™t, but I still made it.â€ť
A pair of par 3s provided the duoâ€™s only problems Tuesday. Meares missed a four-footer for par on No. 6 (152 yards). On the 176-yard 12th hole, he exited the right greenside bunker, but Hanzel failed to convert a 10-footer.
Hanzel and Meares often play at Running Deer on Sundays, with the former calling the latter for transportation to the course. Throughout their tour Tuesday, Hanzel learned a lot from his mentor.
â€śI feel like on a normal day, if I was coming down the stretch this amount under par, Iâ€™d be feeling it,â€ť Hanzel said. â€śKnowing that as long as it hit a ball in the fairway, Chris was going to hit a wedge tight â€¦ it was a lot easier to play.â€ť
â€śWeâ€™ve had intentions of playing together [at the club], but our schedules just havenâ€™t aligned,â€ť Liebezeit, 44, of Berwyn, Pa., said. â€śThis is a great opportunity that I wanted to jump at because it was a chance to play with one of our Juniors from Aronimink. Case fits at the top end of [our Junior program]. Heâ€™s done wonderful things over the last few years. I only expect him to get better and better. Iâ€™m looking forward to playing with him more often.â€ť
â€śIt was really fun. It was good to play with someone older and more experienced,â€ť Hummer, 13, of Glen Mills, Pa., added. â€śHe gave me some tips on my swing. I learned a few mental things, too.â€ť
The Hummer and Liebezeit team carded three birdies on the day. A two-putt on No. 8 (par 4, 254 yards) followed a monster drive from Liebezeit. Hummer whacked a wedge 60 yards to eight feet on No. 10 (par 4, 351 yards). Following a Liebezeit chip from the front of the 16th (par 5, 528 yards) green, Hummer canned an uphill, left-to-right bender from 20 feet.
Hummer, a rising eighth grader at Episcopal Academy, earned better-ball hardware in consecutive days. He and Joseph Morganti of Llanerch Country Club took home the Junior-Junior title in yesterdayâ€™s Francis X. Hussey Memorial.
The Deeg Sezna celebrates the mentorship of the older generation for its younger counterparts. It is named in honor of Davis "Deeg" Sezna, Jr. of Hartefeld National, who lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001 in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Deeg, an avid golfer long a mentor to his younger brothers Teddy and Willy, and a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University with a degree in economics, was in his sixth day of work on the 104th floor of the South Tower when the terrorists struck.
To memorialize his name, the Golf Association of Philadelphia and his father, Davis Sezna, Sr., established the Deeg Sezna, pairing a junior player and an older amateur in a better ball competition, with a minimum age difference of 10 years and the stipulation that the younger player be 21 or younger. The goal is to give experienced golfers quality time with the next generation, and vice versa.
Golf Association of Philadelphia