Talamore’s Griffin captures Christman Cup, breaks scoring record
ARDMORE, Pa. — Jalen Griffin turned the Christman Cup, presented by Global Golf Post, into a runaway record-setter Friday. The Talamore Country Club youngster carded a tournament-low 7-under-par 133 on Merion Golf Club’s West Course (par 70, 5,919 yards) to win the event’s 13th edition. Griffin’s total eclipsed the previous benchmark, set by Eric Schmehl of Moorestown Field Club in 2000, by a whopping seven strokes.
Moreover, Griffin, a regular on the American Junior Golf Association tour, surpassed the 60-player field by five strokes. A poignant mixture of crisp ball-striking, sharp approaches and deft putting launched the Ambler, Pa. resident into the record books.
“The last two years I always seem to really struggle in GAP events, and winning this is a huge relief for me,” Griffin, 16, said. “And to shoot this number is crazy and very unexpected.”
Although he measures a mere 5’5”, Griffin towered over his fellow Christman chasers. He emerged as a contender immediately with an opening birdie on No. 12 (par 4, 335 yards). Griffin nearly holed a 50-yard lob wedge for eagle. Ten pars, four birdies and three bogeys later, he ended the first round as one of three players in red figures. Griffin carded a 2-under-par 68, one stroke shy of 18-hole leader Jack Gregor of Huntingdon Valley Country Club.
“I knew I had to make up some ground, being one back,” he said.
Griffin more than made up ground; he forged his own lot. Griffin fired nine birdies in the afternoon session, studying greens meticulously and executing mid-to-long range putts with vigor. After finding his first birdie on the par 4, 404-yards No. 2, Griffin stumbled with a double bogey on the next hole (par 5, 492 yards). He skied a 9-iron from 140 yards over the green, chunked a chip out a troubling lie and missed a six-footer to save bogey. Griffin stuck a 4-iron to 12 feet for birdie on No. 4 (par 3, 201 yards). The next par 3 (No. 6, 117 yards), though, had the opposite effect. Griffin steered a pitching wedge left and failed to get up-and-down for par. He came back strong by drilling a gap wedge 108 yards to three feet for birdie on the narrow No. 7 (par 4, 284 yards). Griffin nearly drove the No. 8 (par 4, 242 yards) green and guided a chip to nine feet for a 3 to grab the tournament lead. Gregor, playing a group ahead, stood two shots back at that point.
With nine holes to play, Griffin finished in a flurry. He birdied No. 10 (par 4, 368 yards), nearly holing a pitching wedge from 120 yards. He hit a lob wedge 50 yards to seven feet for a 3 on No. 12. Griffin sunk a six-footer for birdie on the par 4, 337-yard 13th hole following a solid 120-yard gap wedge shot.
“That really got my adrenaline going. That was a huge putt,” Griffin said.
Gregor remained Griffin’s closest pursuer at 4 under thru 16 holes. Griffin, however, squashed any drama on the par 5, 460-yard 16th hole. He hammered a 3-wood 223 yards, lofted a 10-yard chip to five feet and cleaned up the birdie putt to move to 7 under. A three-putt for bogey on No. 17 (par 3, 140 yards) proved ultimately meaningless as Griffin capped his record-setting day with a sensational birdie on No. 18 (par 4, 350 yards). He nailed an 8-iron 120 yards to six inches.
“I knew the adrenaline was going,” he said. “I hit a high cut. I knew it was going right at the flag. That was one of the best shots I’ve hit.”
Comfort and familiarity also contributed to Griffin’s performance.
“Coming into this tournament, I knew that I loved this course,” Griffin said. “I played in the Merion Junior Invitational, shot 67 and won that. I knew this could be a course where I could score really well at. Irons are such a huge key on this course.”
Gregor and Cole Berman of Philadelphia Cricket Club posted respective 2-under-par 138s to place second. Berman, 16, of Haverford, Pa., scaled the leaderboard thanks to a bogey-free 4-under-par 66 in the afternoon. His effort also provided Berman with the Harry Hammond Award, which is given to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the qualifying round of the Junior Boys' Championship, the Christman Cup and the Jock MacKenzie Memorial. Berman led that race from gate-to-wire.
“It feels good to win and to be on that list with so many great players,” Berman, an incoming junior at The Haverford School, said. “I knew what I had to do. I stayed consistent every GAP round.”
Berman registered four birdies in the afternoon. He nestled a chip to six feet on No. 3 after almost reaching the green with a 3-wood from 245 yards. Berman powered a drive to the front of the No. 8 green and left a chip eight feet shy. He knocked a lob wedge 50 yards to 10 feet. He rolled in another 10-footer on No. 17 after a smooth 7-iron. Berman nearly converted an eight-footer for birdie on his last hole.
“I regrouped after the morning and wanted to go low,” Berman said. “I rolled it better in the afternoon and didn’t make any mistakes.”
NOTES — Play was delayed an hour and a half due to unplayable course conditions … The Christman Cup is named in honor of J. Fred Christman, a longtime Director of Competitions for GAP who retired in January 2000. It is a 36-hole stroke play event.
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.