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Pieczynski takes shortened Open; McDermott finishes as low amateurBUCKINGHAM, Pa.ĖIntense lightning and rain forced Greg Pieczynski to wait 90 minutes before completing his one and only round of the weather-shortened Open Championship Wednesday at a scenic and challenging Lookaway GC (par 72, 6,901 yards). Pieczynski, a teaching professional at the Academy Golf School, stood at a tournament best 5-under par with his ball in the right rough on the final hole when players were forced off the golf course.
When play resumed, the 25-year-old Kingston, Pa., resident, didnít miss a beat, smacking a smart 8-iron and stroking two solid putts for a par to register the greatest victory of his short professional career.
"Even though I was in the prime position when I was sitting in [the clubhouse during the delay] I wasnít assuming it was only going to be one round," said Pieczynski, an aspiring PGA Tour hopeful. "You always have to assume itís going to go the distance. I was playing so well I was looking forward to going back out there."
The Golf Association of Philadelphia tournament committee decided to reduce the championship from 36 to 18 holes after the lengthy stoppage and the threat of more weather loomed. Torrential rains and treacherous lightning stopped play at 2:38 p.m. The final two groups to complete their initial 18 holes of play returned to the golf course at 3:58 p.m. It was determined any more stoppages, and another was looming, would result in a lack of daylight.
"That was the goal but itís still kind of a shock when you do it," said Pieczynski of winning the 104th Open. "Iíve been playing well all summer and had a good feeling [coming in here]."
Pieczynski announced his championship intentions early. He hit a "hard" sand wedge from 120 yards on No. 1 (par 4, 378 yards) to six feet for birdie and then made a nice up-and-down from the greenside bunker on No. 3 (par 5, 573 yards) to get to 2 under.
On No. 6 (par 3, 183 yards) Pieczynski rocketed a 6-iron to six feet for another birdie. He knocked his sand wedge over the green on No. 7 (par 4, 394 yards) to drop a shot, but responded in style on No. 9 (par 4, 355 yards) with a 40-foot birdie. He headed to the backside at 3-under and tied for the lead on a crowded scoreboard. At one point, four players were at 3-under par.
A poor approach on No. 10 (par 4, 337 yards) resulted in a second bogey before Pieczynski birdied three of the final six holes. He lofted a gap wedge from 82 yards on No. 13 (par 5, 587 yards) to 10 feet; launched a 7-iron on No. 15 (par 3, 166 yards) to 20 feet and rocketed a 9-iron from 156 yards to 10 feet on No. 16 (par 4, 409 yards). He made a nice par saving 12-footer on No. 17 (par 5, 520 yards) after a poor drive and then after waiting an hour and a half, knocked his 8-iron from 168 yards on No. 18 into the center of the green.
"I didnít take anything for granted. Some goofy things have been known to happen. I knew if I knocked it on the green and tried to make a birdie I would make an easy par," said Pieczynski, who has attended the PGA Tourís Q-School the last two years. "And fortunately, thatís what happened."
McDermott, who in addition to holding the 2008 Amateur trophy, is also the reigning Middle-Amateur (2008) and Patterson Cup (2007) champion, was looking to become the first individual to hold all four of the Associationís Major titles at once. Instead, he finished as the Low Amateur for the third time in his career (2000, 2003).
After a non-descript even-par front side, McDermott, 33, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., turned up the dial on No. 10 with a sand wedge from 100 yards to 10 feet for birdie. An 8-iron miss to the left of the green on No. 11 (par 3, 175 yards) temporarily stopped his momentum, but McDermott rebounded in a hurry with three birdies in his next four holes. He knocked a pitching wedge from 135 yards to 15 feet on No. 12 (par 4, 390 yards); hit a sand wedge to 10 feet on No. 13 (par 5, 587 yards) and an 8-iron to 10 feet on No. 15. McDermott had a chance to go even lower when he reached the par 5, 17th in two but three putted from 20 feet for a disappointing par.
"No question," said McDermott if the weather was in the back of his mind. "I said letís play hard for 18. I got off to kind of a slow start, not bad, but I just wasnít hitting it great. Then I played a great back nine. I knew that that score was going to be around it and if someone played really well, like Greg did, then it was beatable."
NOTESĖThe 72-player field was comprised of 40 amateurs and 32 professionals from the Philadelphia Section of the PGA of America or head professionals of GAP Member Clubs. Of those 72 players, 24 were exempt entrants and 48 were qualifiers from one of three sites. The Open carried a purse of $40,000 for the professionals Ö this was the first time the Open Championship has been competed at a Bucks County course Ö defending champion Mark Miller of Yardley CC struggled with the putter and finished at 3-over-par 75.
---Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 136 Member Clubs and 56,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The purpose of the Association is simple: To promote, protect and preserve the game of golf in the region.