Flight risk: Spring Fordâ€™s Pochet hangs on, wins Christman Cup
ELVERSON, Pa. â€” Benjamin Pochet didnâ€™t play a hole at Stonewall (North) Friday. He wasnâ€™t even in the state of Pennsylvania when the Christman Cup presented by GlobalGolfPost concluded.
Nevertheless, the Spring Ford Country Club youngster emerged victorious from the weather-delayed, 36-hole affair. Pochet, one of seven players who completed play yesterday, filed a 1-over-par 141 total to ultimately prevail. He edged Austin Barbin of the GAP Junior Players Club and Ron Robinson of Commonwealth National Golf Club by a stroke. Both Barbin and Robinson finished Round Two Friday.
Pochet was on a plane destined for Kansas and couldnâ€™t be reached for comment Friday. He is competing in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, set for July 17-22 at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan.
Lightning in the area suspended Round Two at 4:40 p.m. yesterday. Thirty-five players returned to Stonewall (par 70, 6,448 yards) Friday morning to finish the event. A handful of that collective, including Barbin and Robinson, stood within armâ€™s length of clipping Pochet at the top of the leaderboard. None managed to do so.
Pochet, runner-up in the Christman Cup a year ago, stated his redemption intentions immediately with a birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 419 yards), where he knocked a gap wedge 120 yards to 12 feet. A yanked 4-iron and bladed chip tossed double bogey debris onto the stage. Pochet cleared it by firing three straight birdies. On No. 4 (par 4, 383 yards), he hit a sand wedge 105 yards to six feet on the volcanic complex. He deposited another six-footer on No. 5 (par 4, 390 yards) after a crisp 9-iron from 155 yards. On the downhill par 3, 145-yard No. 6, Pochet used the slope to advantage, stopping a pitching wedge in kick-in range. He nullified a bogey on the next hole by showcasing his length on the par 5, 530-yard No. 8. Capitalizing on Stonewallâ€™s forgiving fairways throughout the day, Pochet powered a 3-wood 260 yards to 40 feet and two-putted. A booming hybrid and a chip to four feet netted another par 5 birdie (No. 18 (par 5, 524 yards).
â€śI played the front nine relatively well today. I love a lot of those shots,â€ť Pochet, 17, of Royersford, Pa., said. â€śIn the practice round [on Tuesday], I actually thought it was the harder of the nines."
Amid heat as severe as 94 degrees, Pochet withstood Mother Nature â€” and a feisty field â€” to become the eventâ€™s 18-hole leader at 2 under. Robinson, 18, of Hatfield, Pa., carded a 1-under-par 69 to become his closest chaser.
Round Two, at the outset, told a different Pochet tale.
Starting on the back nine, Pochet missed four-footers for par on Nos. 10 (par 4, 350 yards) and 15 (par 4, 395 yards). A 4-iron into the water hazard on the par 3, 200-yard 13th caused a double bogey in addition to leaderboard flux.
â€śBeing 4 over through six holes was frustrating because I thought had I hit one bad iron shot,â€ť Pochet, a soon-to-be senior at Spring Ford High School, said. â€śAt that point, I just wasnâ€™t putting well. I wasnâ€™t getting my putts to the hole. I didnâ€™t really have a good hole on that nine. It was just rough but I made the birdie on No. 1 to settle down.â€ť
That he did, this time lifting a lob wedge 100 yards to two feet. He turned a bogey on the par 5, 526-yard No. 3 into an afterthought by firing back-to-back birdies on Nos. 5 and 6 â€” a stretch that favored his eye Thursday. Pochet again grabbed a 9-iron from 150 yards on the first, stopping it three feet from the hole location. An encore pitching wedge on No. 6 set up a six-footer. A three-putt from 20 feet on the next hole (par 4, 425 yards) left Pochet on the clubhouse ledge at 1 over.
Late afternoon lightning forced Golf Association of Philadelphia officials to halt play, minutes after Pochet posted his 36-hole total. With two holes remaining, Robinson, who started Round Two on the back nine, also carried a 1 over in his pocket. The reigning Harry Hammond Award winner, however, bogeyed No. 8 after playing his third shot over the green and into a tedious lie. On No. 9 (par 3, 158 yards), Robinson helplessly crumbled to his knees as his chip-in birdie attempt stopped inches from the hole.
Barbinâ€™s best chance to catch Pochet came on No. 8. Sitting greenside right in two, he floated a chip to five feet. Barbin, 16, of Elkton, Md., hunched over and stared in disbelief as his birdie putt teased the cup, but never tumbled in.
A Christman Cup champion, 30,000 feet in the air, was crowned.
â€śI knew the Christman Cup would be a fun tournament to play. The GAP runs great tournaments,â€ť Pochet said following his performance Thursday. â€śI knew I wanted to get back. I didnâ€™t play [Wednesday] so I felt rested and excited to come in here relaxed. I hit the ball pretty well today. I just felt comfortable out there, which was a change from some of the rounds I had earlier this year.â€ť
The Christman Cup is named in honor of J. Fred Christman, a longtime Director of Competitions for the Golf Association of Philadelphia who retired in January 2000.
Golf Association of Philadelphia