Merion GCâ€™s Dendler takes 101st Open Championship
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa.â€“Graham Dendler, an assistant professional at Merion GC, turned a potentially disastrous situation on his 35th hole into the bogey of a lifetime to secure a victory in the 101st Open Championship at Aronimink GC (par 70, 7,125 yards) on Wednesday. Dendler finished the 36-hole stroke play event at 2-over par, one shot clear of John Pillar, Sr., the Director of Golf at Woodloch Springs GC, and two strokes ahead of amateur Clint Deibert of Doylestown CC and Overbrook GC professional Stu Ingraham.
"This is unbelievable," said a stunned Dendler. "This is by the far the biggest feat in my career."
On a hot, humid day, Dendler came to the 17th hole (par 3, 202 yards) in his final round at 1-over par, a shot clear of Pillar. His 4-iron, however, landed in the bunker short and right of the green leaving a pitch to a back hole location. Dendler bladed his blast and it landed in an area used to access the maintenance shed. With, in essence, the tournament in the balance, Dendlerâ€™s flop shot rolled up tight and he converted the putt for a bogey.
Dendler parred his final hole and Pillar posted a bogey-par finish on Nos. 8-9, his final two holes.
"I expected it to be out of bounds. If that was the case, it was definitely the tournament," said Dendler, 33, of Havertown, Pa. "It was an amazing up and down considering the circumstances."
Dendlerâ€™s lone challenger down the stretch was Pillar.
The 38-year-old resident of Hawley, Pa., found himself in a tie with two holes to go. Pillar, though, missed the green on the long par 3, 8th (237 yards), his 17th hole, and left a birdie chance from 25 feet an inch short on No. 9 (par 5, 556 yards).
"I made some sloppy mistakes," said Pillar. "I donâ€™t have a club for that 8th hole. I hit a 2-iron and it caught the tree [to the right of the green]. I hit a poor chip shot and made a nice five footer for bogey. Iâ€™m very happy with how I played, however."
Pillar registered the lone under-par round of the tournament with a 2-under 68 in the morning. That gave him a three-shot lead.
Deibert, the reigning Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur Champion, found himself in contention late with nine holes to go after carding a 2-under-par 33 on his front side in the afternoon. However, Deibert registered three straight bogeys on his back nine and two more bogeys in the middle of that inward swing to fall back.
"I tried to step on the accelerator and pin chase and short sided myself a couple of times," said Deibert on that final nine holes. "I hit it in places you couldnâ€™t hit it."
Deibert was looking to become only the second Amateur Champion to capture an Open Championship in the same year. Jay Sigel, in 1987, is the only one to turn that feat.
Dendler carded a 2-over-par 72 in the first round and was in a group of 10 players within four shots of the lead after the morning session. He carded three birdies and three bogeys in the final round to earn the biggest victory of his career and the $4,900 first-place prize.
A field of 45 professionals and 15 amateurs competed in the Open.