Saucon Valley’s Bartolacci nabs No. 1 seed in Brewer Cup
MOHTNON, Pa. — Though four days removed from his first trip to LedgeRock Golf Club, Thomas Bartolacci, Jr. handled its rolling fairways and exquisite greens like a savvy veteran. The Saucon Valley Country Club member carded a glittering 1-under-par 71, the day’s lone subpar score, to earn medalist honors in Monday’s Brewer Cup Qualifier at the Reese Jones' gem (par 72, 6,660 yards). Bartolacci will occupy the Senior Division’s No. 1 seed when match play begins at 8 a.m. tomorrow with the quarterfinals to follow.
“I never had the ball in the rough,” Bartolacci, 61, of Washington Crossing, Pa., said. “I hit the middle of the greens and didn’t have any three-putts. I left the ball in good places.”
With a field stroke average of 80, Bartolacci scored against the grain. He registered 14 greens in regulation, executed mid-range par putts fluidly and avoided danger at all costs.
“It’s such a penal golf course,” Bartolacci said. “You can make double bogey or worse on any hole. I hit a couple of loose shots early and got away with them. I kind of hung in there.”
Bartolacci’s scorecard displayed two circles (birdies) and a square (bogey), the latter of which occurred on the par 4, 25-yard No. 5. Bartolacci left a 200-yard 5-iron short, nudged a chip to eight feet and missed the ensuing par putt. He roared back with a birdie on No. 8 (par 5, 555 yards). Bartolacci powered a 3-wood 245 yards into right rough just off the green. He then guided a chip into tap-in territory. Bartolacci also inked red on the shortish par 4, 265-yard 12th hole. After driving his golf ball into a collection area left of the putting surface, the 2008 Senior Player of the Year eased a chip to three feet.
“I switched back to my belly putter yesterday and just putted very well today,” Bartolacci said. “It got tired of being in the garage.”
Bartolacci missed match play in last year’s Brewer Cup at Bellewood Golf Club, falling in a sudden-death playoff for the final spot.
“I’m striking the ball well,” he said. “I haven’t been putting well. I’d been giving shots away on the green, and today, I didn’t give any away, so that was really the key.”
Bartolacci will face Arthur Kania, Jr. of Merion Golf Club, the final survivor of a four-for-three sudden-death frenzy. The cut line fell to 78.
Two former Brewer Cup Champions and a division novice finished tied atop the Super-Senior leaderboard. Two-time reigning champion Charles McClaskey of Back Creek Golf Club, Jay Howson, Jr. of St. Davids Golf Club, the 2010 titleholder, and Frank Polizzi of Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, a Super-Senior sophomore, carded respective even-par 72s at the picturesque Berks County track (par 72, 6,144 yards).
Seeding was determined by the order in which scorecards were returned. Accordingly, McClaskey will be seeded No. 1, Howson second and Polizzi third.
Fairways were a common theme among the trio. They hit a combined 51 on the day en route to medalist honors.
A clutch par save on the first hole (par 4, 336 yards) settled Howson, 74, into his qualifying round. The Malvern, Pa. resident flew the green with a 4-hybrid, but left a downhill chip two feet from the jar. Howson carded birdies on Nos. 7 (par 5, 469 yards) and 10 (par 3, 125 yards) to overshadow bogeys on Nos. 9 (par 4, 340 yards) and 12 (par 4, 255 yards). His performance mirrored that of a year ago, when Howson grabbed medalist honors at Bellewood Golf Club. At that time, the 2009 Super-Senior Player of the Year felt his game peaking.
“The last couple of days, my game’s been the best it’s been all year,” Howson said. “I’m not sure we ever know in this game [why things click], but the rhythm, tempo and solidness of the hits have put me in a real good groove.
McClaskey bogeyed his first three holes as a result of poor club selections. But the Elkton, Md. resident showed his championship resolve, firing three frontside birdies to turn at even. McClaskey, the two-time reigning Super-Senior Player of the Year, stopped at 9-iron at four feet on No. 4 (par 3, 156 yards). He converted a 12-footer for birdie on No. 5 (par 4, 412 yards) and a seven-footer on No. 8 (par 5, 514 yards).
McClaskey maintained his bogeys-to-birdies ratio coming in. He bogeyed Nos. 10 (par 3, 125 yards) and 11 (par 4, 384 yards) thanks to missed greens. McClaskey fired a birdie on the par 3, 143-yard 14th hole after sticking a 9-iron to two feet. He hit a transition wedge to 12 feet for a 3 on No. 16 (par 4, 295 yards), bogeyed No. 17 (par 4, 370 yards) and finished with a birdie on No. 18 (par 5, 561 yards) after halting a wedge at 12 feet.
“I played really well today, so I hope I can continue that tomorrow,” McClaskey, 73, said.
Like McClaskey, Polizzi countered errors with execution for a well-balanced 72. The Plymouth Meeting, Pa. resident birdied No. 4 after knocking an 8-iron 150 yards to 12 feet. He nearly holed a pitching wedge from 120 yards for an eagle on the par 5, 561-yard 18th hole.
Polizzi’s competitive calendar is diverse. He competes on the Association’s Super-Senior circuit as well as amateur events such as the Middle-Amateur and Open Championship Qualifiers and U.S. Senior Open Qualifier.
“I think that helps me,” Polizzi, 66, said. “You’re playing 6,800-6,900 yards, and out here, you’re playing 6,100 yards, so that takes the pressure off. I think I’ve been playing well, but I haven’t been scoring well.”
Polizzi turned a few heads Monday, considering it was his first time playing LedgeRock.
“Maybe sometimes that helps,” he said. “I didn’t try to do anything but hit it in the fairway.”
This is the fifth annual Brewer Cup.
The tournament is named in honor of O. Gordon Brewer, Jr., the former president of Pine Valley GC, is a two-time U.S. Senior Amateur Champion and veteran of 42 USGA Championships. He’s captured two Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur Championship titles (1967, 1976), a GAP Senior Amateur Championship crown (1997) and a Senior Player of the Year (1997) as well as countless invitational titles. Three years ago he was recognized for his contributions to the game with the USGA’s Bob Jones Award.
The Brewer Cup is open to Senior players with a handicap index of 7.0 or less.
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 145 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.