Philadelphia Cricket 1 retains BMW GAP Team Matches title
Group text messages and driving range banter added spice to Philadelphia Cricket Clubâs success Saturday in the BMW GAP Team Matches.
As the first facility to ever field two teams in the Playoff, the chatter, as expected, ran rampant leading in. Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 set its sights on defending the BMW GAP Team Matches title â its team two brethren among the finalists. Add Huntingdon Valley Country Club and Llanerch Country Club, familiar faces and friendly foes, and the day seemed more like a social gathering.
Trophy on the line? Hard to tell given the jovial yet competitive camaraderie.
When the smiles, swings and sunny skies settled, Philadelphia Cricket 1 (72.5 points), the projected favorites in the eventâs 118th playing, emerged with its fourth title in the last six years by knocking off Huntingdon Valley (58), Philadelphia Cricket 2 (46) and Llanerch (39.5) in the Playoff. It also triumphed in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
The BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff includes teams from Division AA, the eventâs top tier. Three players of each participating club play at each venue. Each player competes in a four-way match against one foe from another team.
âItâs the first time we defended,â Kevin Kelly, Philadelphia Cricket 1 team captain, said. âWe lost a couple of guys this year. Everyone was concerned about the second team not being as strong, and obviously that was not the case. When you lose veterans like [former captain] Rob Savarese, P.J. Bartholomew, Jack Wallace and Joe April, the next man up has to step up. Weâve had a lot of guys step up. Everybody scored points, and thatâs what you need.â
âTo see the level of enthusiasm to play in the Team Matches, it just makes you really push yourself hard. To come back and to win two in a row with the expectations that we had going into the year is really gratifying,â Scott Storck, 48, of Philadelphia, Pa., said.
Philadelphia Cricket 1 lost veterans, but not its firepower. Storck, who played on the second team a year ago, received a call-up in 2018 and made his presence felt. He ranked in the Top 5 in regular season scoring. With his team holding a slight edge over Huntingdon Valley in the Playoff, Storck, playing in the No. 3 spot, posted 8.5 points assure back-to-back triumphs. He totaled 27 putts and relied on course knowledge as a weapon.
âIâve been rolling the putter really well. I continued to putt well today,â Storck said. âI think course knowledge really benefits a player when youâre at home. I didnât put myself in bad spots. I played a solid round of golf today. I love playing match play. I think of myself as an underdog in every match.â
Like Storck, Steve Oh represented Philadelphia Cricket 2 during the Challenges a year ago. Kelly requested his first-team services once the aforementioned veteran clique departed. Oh willingly obliged and made a statement Saturday, swiping 6.5 points at Llanerch.
âIt was nice to be able to perform. There were a lot of expectations, so I can definitely say that puts a lot of pressure on you,â Oh, 41, of Philadelphia, Pa. said. âBut I just try to play my own game. If itâs good enough, then itâs good enough, and if itâs not, itâs not. Iâve played on the second team the last two years. I know how competitive it is.â
Oh trailed in all three of his matches until a birdie on the par 4 No. 5 at Llanerch. He hit a gap wedge 100 yards to 20 feet.
âAt that point, I felt like, âGame on.â I felt comfortable and played pretty good golf coming in,â Oh said.
With six players traversing its Wissahickon Course, the Playoff proved to be a literal homerun for Philadelphia Cricket 1. Brendan Borst, Sam McFall and Gregor Orlando earned a combined 24 points.
âWe had six guys play at home either two or three times during the regular season, and the way the course is set up, we thought it was a big home-field advantage to keep those six guys here,â Kelly, 51, of Horsham, Pa., said. âWith the second team being in the Playoff, there really werenât a lot of decisions to make.â
Orlando, the reigning BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion, set the stage by grabbing 8.5. in the No. 1 spot at home. He didnât lose any of his matches on the front nine. Orlando closed out Llanerchâs Brian McDermott on No. 15 with a sand save, Huntingdon Valleyâs Andrew Mason with a routine par on No. 16 and Cricketâs own Ryan McDonald with another two-putt par on No. 17.
A match among pals made it more college, less championship.
âIt was kind of like a comfort zone. You come out and you have one of your own guys playing in your group. It made me feel a little more at ease,â Orlando, 27, of Philadelphia, Pa., said.
âWe were very pleased when it lined up as Huntingdon Valley and Llanerch [in the Playoff]. Theyâre just guys who we all seem to play golf with and having fun playing with,â Kelly added. âItâs just a lot of guys who you socialize with. A lot of friendships have been formed. It makes it all the more enjoyable.â
Philadelphia Cricket 1 is the first team to win consecutive titles since Little Mill Country Club did so in 2011-12. A threepeat is next on the agenda â Philadelphia Cricket 2 Playoff-presence preferred.
âWe all have been working very hard this year to capitalize on what we did last year. We wanted to go back-to-back,â Orlando said. âItâs a huge success for us.â
âWithout organizing anything, guys just wanted to practice for a couple hours out here yesterday. We were all pretty focused,â Conrad Von Borsig, 31, of Philadelphia, Pa., added. âI think weâre a great team, but we failed to repeat any of the last four years. It was something everybody wanted to do â to solidify the dynasty.â
BMW GAP Team Matches
Golf Association of Philadelphia