Tavistock tops Team Championship Qualifier at The ACE Club
LAFAYETTE HILL, Pa. â€” If the Golf Association of Philadelphiaâ€™s Team Championship Qualifier Tuesday needs a movie title, â€śThe Returnâ€ť fits the bill. To a T you can say.
Tavistock Country Club, absent from the final since 2012, topped the event at The ACE Club (par 72, 7,125 yards) with a 292 total. Thomas Gramigna, five months removed from a third hip surgery, led his team with a 3-under-par 69. Philmont Country Clubâ€™s Michael R. Brown, Jr., fresh off a co-runner-up performance in the Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf, earned individual medalist honors with a 5-under-par 67.
Joining Tavistock, which holds six Team Championship titles (1963, 1965-67, 2003, 2008), in the qualifying corridors are Commonwealth National Golf Club, Little Mill Country Club and Lu Lu Country Club. The 97th Team Championship will take place June 29 at Hidden Creek Golf Club.
â€śWeâ€™ve had a lot of down years at Tavistock. Players have gotten a little bit older and not quite as good,â€ť Gramigna, 46, of Haddonfield, N.J., said. â€śItâ€™s nice to get back [into the Team Championship]. Iâ€™m excited because I love Hidden Creek. Itâ€™s one of my favorite golf courses in the area.â€ť
Gramigna underwent a pair of surgeries on his right hip in 2014. He again went under the knife in January. Gramigna, who won the Middle-Amateur Championship and reached the BMW Philadelphia Amateur semifinals in 2010, works out with a physical therapist three days a week.
â€śThe recovery process has been hard. Itâ€™s been a long road,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m still not 100 percent but I can finally turn and start hitting normal shots. Last year I could only carry the ball 175 yards in the air.
â€śI havenâ€™t played very well in a while. I got a lot of good breaks today. That was as low as I could possibly shoot. I could barely walk last year. Iâ€™ve been out of competitive golf for two years. This is my first year back.â€ť
Gramigna, who started on No. 10 (par 4, 450 yards), declared his return emphatically by inking a 33 coming in. He knocked a gap wedge 105 yards to six feet for a birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 365 yards). On the strenuous par 5, 571-yard No. 2, Gramigna executed a 10-footer for a 4 after splashing out of the left bunker. He nearly aced No. 6 (par 3, 152 yards), tattooing a 7-iron into tap-in territory. Gramigna also birdied the par 3, 210-yard 12th hole following a 5-iron to 12 feet. The conversion atoned for a three-putt bogey on No. 10.
Lu Lu , fertilizing a revival of sorts, filed a 295 total to advance. The North Hills, Pa. venue lost its clubhouse to a fire in October 2015, but gained a plethora of fiery talent. A trio of former Commonwealth National members and Team Championship winners â€” Scott McLaughlin, Michael Moffat and Glenn Smeraglio â€” joined in the offseason. Brandon Matthews, one of the regionâ€™s top amateurs, also calls Lu Lu home.
McLaughlin, on the heels of a Top 5 finish in the Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf, led the Lu Lu contingent with a score of 70.
â€śI havenâ€™t been playing recreational golf really well; itâ€™s the tournament golf I seem to gear up for,â€ť McLaughlin, 36, of Hatboro, Pa., said. â€śMy game is coming around. Iâ€™m hitting the ball better and making some putts. Lag putting was really difficult today. The greens are real tricky out here and tough to read. It was tough to gage the speed.â€ť
Only three of those greens (Nos. 1, 11 and 15) stumped McLaughlin â€” the trickiness synonymous with three-putt bogeys. He tamed the trying slopes by rattling off five birdies on the day. McLaughlin hit an 8-iron 165 yards to eight feet on No. 2 (par 4, 448 yards). A pair of par 3s also yielded impressive conversions. On the 204-yard 14th hole, McLaughlin whipped a 5-iron to 15 feet. He drilled a 7-iron to 35 feet below the No. 12 flagstick.
â€śIt was a little right-to-left. I thought it was going to be uphill into the green and it turned out it was pretty flat,â€ť McLaughlin said of the birdie putt. â€śThank God it hit the hole and went in.â€ť
Lu Luâ€™s lone Team Championship appearance came in 2000; it placed fourth at Laurel Creek Country Club.
â€śTo be honest, we have 10-20 guys who are really good players,â€ť McLaughlin said. â€śThat was the main reason why I made the transition over there from Commonwealth. I wanted it to be a little more competitive.
â€śHopefully we can bring Lu Lu back to where it was 10 to 15 years ago. I grew up playing there. I went to [Sandy Run Middle School] across the street. I use to walk over there after school and play. Itâ€™s come full circle.â€ť
Brown, 43, of Maple Shade, N.J., nearly brought his club into the Team Championship circle with his performance. Philmont, along with Bala Golf Club, finished a shot back.
â€śI played a pretty clean round. I felt pretty in control for most of the day,â€ť Brown said.
Commonwealth National will make its fifth straight and sixth overall Team Championship appearance. It took titles in 2009 and 2014. Little Mill, the reigning BMW GAP Team Matches champion, advanced in 2005 and 2011.
The Team Championship Qualifier determines which four member clubs will compete in the Team Championship. Participants must field at least six players to be eligible. The low four scores of each team make up the qualifying total. In the event of a tie, the fifth playerâ€™s score is used.
The Championship proper features eight-man teams playing an alternate shot format in the morning, with singles matches in the afternoon.
Golf Association of Philadelphia