Persistent Pochet makes history, defends Christman Cup crown
EXTON, Pa. — Benjamin Pochet ended 2017 as the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Player of the Year — a distinction of merit, one based on exceptional and consistent play.
| Junior POY standings | Harry Hammond Award standings |
But Thursday, the incoming Drexel University freshman received an email from men’s golf coach Ben Feld that he, among other team members, wasn’t performing at the level expected for the Division I program.
“There’s definitely some pressure to keep performing now that I am on Drexel’s team,” said Pochet. “Drexel bases their fall lineup to start based on how you play in the summer because of how late they start school. Coach Feld sent an email today that said that two of the guys have separated themselves and the others haven’t been good. Today definitely helped me a lot.”
Pochet erased all doubt by carding a sizzling final round of 67 to claim the 19th Christman Cup at Whitford Country Club (par 72, 6,601 yards). He filed a 3-under-par 141 to clear The Springhaven Club’s Kevin Smith by three strokes.
Pochet’s Christman record is sensational: runner-up (2016) and back-to-back victories.
Through the first 13 holes of his first round, Pochet stood at 5 over after going triple bogey-bogey on Nos. 12 (par 5, 500 yards) and 13 (par 3, 143 yards). He sailed his 3-wood out-of-bounds on the first. At that point, Pochet had one steep hill to climb to get himself back into contention.
“So far this season, it has been a little bit of a grind,” said Pochet, 18, of Royersford, Pa. “I had a bad hole in the Spring Ford Club Championship qualifying this weekend and I bounced back from that well. I knew I could recover.”
Pochet played the final five holes of his first round in 3 under, including consecutive birdies on Nos. 17 (par 3, 183 yards) and 18 (par 4, 390 yards): a 7-iron to 40 feet, a wedge 120 yards to 10 feet on the latter. Pochet said he felt that he put himself back into the tournament and gained some momentum with that run.
He sure did.
Pochet birdied the first four holes of his second round (Nos. 10-13), making it six consecutive if you included the two that closed his opening round. With how he had been playing to start the year, you wouldn’t think this was the same golfer.
“I had no expectations coming into this tournament,” said Pochet. I wasn’t feeling great last night and I had a fever. I just ate a good meal and went to bed. To be honest, since I haven’t been playing well this year I think that helped me.”
Pochet rolled in a 40-footer on No. 10 and a 30-footer on No. 11 each for birdie. That was the kick-start he needed. Pochet launched a hybrid onto the No. 12 (par 5, 500 yards) fringe and two-putted for a 4 there. He stopped a pitching wedge at 12 feet on No. 13 (par 3, 149 yards) to tie Smith for the lead at 2 under.
After turning in 31, Pochet kept the pedal to the floor by converting a 12-footer for birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 377 yards) as a result of a pure 8-iron from 167 yards.
Pochet gave two shots back on the only par 3s on the front nine: Nos. 2 (192 yards) and 5 (117 yards). A misjudged 7-iron left him short-sided in the front greenside bunker on No. 2 and a three-putt cost him a shot on No. 5.
He approached No. 9 (par 5, 499 yards) with a good idea of what he needed to do to close out his final-round charge.
“Knowing that someone else might come in at 1 or 2 under, I thought if I parred No. 9 I would have a good chance to win,” said Pochet. “I played it safe just like I did this morning and hit a 4-iron off the tee. I missed it 10 yards right of my line and hit a punch to 90 yards. I just wanted to put good speed on the 12-footer for birdie after a solid wedge shot. I was fine with a two-putt but it was nice to see it go in.”
Pochet’s final round included nine birdies, a personal best in tournament play, as well as six birdies on an individual nine, which was also a personal best.
For someone who struggled to find his way early in this tournament season, the lesson is that perseverance conquers.
“It’s really cool,” said Pochet about being the first to win consecutive Chirstman titles. “I don’t believe I have ever defended a title in my career. This event has been good to me in my time as a Junior.”
Through 54 holes of the Harry Hammond Award race, both Pochet and Smith are tied at even-par 215. The last leg of the Harry Hammond is the Jock Mackenzie Memorial on July 16 at Sandy Run Country Club.
The Harry Hammond Award is presented to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the qualifying round of the Junior Boys' Championship, the Christman Cup and Jock MacKenzie Memorial.
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