Flight risk: Spring Ford’s Pochet hangs on, wins Christman Cup
ELVERSON, Pa. — Benjamin Pochet didn’t play a hole at Stonewall (North) Friday. He wasn’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 couldn’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 arm’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 Stonewall’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).
“I played the front nine relatively well today. I love a lot of those shots,” Pochet, 17, of Royersford, Pa., said. “In 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 — and a feisty field — to become the event’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.
“Being 4 over through six holes was frustrating because I thought had I hit one bad iron shot,” Pochet, a soon-to-be senior at Spring Ford High School, said. “At that point, I just wasn’t putting well. I wasn’t getting my putts to the hole. I didn’t really have a good hole on that nine. It was just rough but I made the birdie on No. 1 to settle down.”
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 — 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.
Barbin’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.
“I knew the Christman Cup would be a fun tournament to play. The GAP runs great tournaments,” Pochet said following his performance Thursday. “I knew I wanted to get back. I didn’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.”
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