Stone Harbor’s Barron wins 55th Tournament of Champions
BLUE BELL, Pa. — A trio of recent runner-up finishes left Peter Barron, III wondering if he’d ever find the winner’s circle in 2012. He placed second in the Eagle Oaks Golf & Country Club Invitational, the 15th Metedeconk Invitational and the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Tournament of Champions. Barron shattered those silver chains Friday. The Stone Harbor Golf Club member carded a 2-under-par 69 to win the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 55th Tournament of Champions at an enjoyable Meadowlands Country Club (par 71, 6,367 yards).
“I don’t mind winning one,” a delighted Barron, 36, of Mays Landing, N.J., said. “It feels good. I put a decent amount of work in over the last few weeks. Hopefully, next year will be a good year. I’ve always been a decent player, and hopefully, I can break through to the top tier.”
Seeing Meadowlands for the first time, Barron attacked its challenging landscape with a set of clubs that oozed consistency and pinpoint accuracy. He birdied three of his first four holes to establish a red figure rhythm. Barron hit an 8-iron 167 yards to 45 feet on No. 2 (par 4, 408 yards) and sunk an uphill, left-to-right slider. On the tenuous par 3, 165-yard No. 3, he knocked an 8-iron onto the back fringe and converted a 20-footer for birdie. Barron powered a hybrid 226 yards to eight feet on No.4 (par 5, 487 yards) and two-putted for a 4.
“I played pretty conservatively and putted well on the front,” Barron said. “I hit the ball solid all day. If I missed a fairway, it wasn’t unplayable. I always had a shot at the green.”
A pair of missteps hampered Barron’s outward gusto. He caught the right greenside bunker on No. 5 (par 4, 369 yards) with a gap wedge and failed to execute a sand save. Barron also bogeyed the dogleg left, par 4, 390-yard No. 9. A 122-yard wedge approach traveled long and left, leaving Barron with a dicey putt from 40 feet. He admittedly misread the birdie try, leaving it eight feet from the jar. Barron recovered nicely with a birdie on No. 10 (par 4, 375 yards) after drilling a 9-iron 151 yards to 10 feet. He assembled a string of eight pars to maintain a 2 under on the scorecard.
Barron, the 2011 Winter Series Player of the Year (Amateur Gross), felt that his game turned a corner late in the tournament season. He attributes the progressing transformation to Mike Dynda, a teaching professional out of Blue Bell Country Club and the men’s golf coach at Drexel University. Barron started taking lessons from Dynda three weeks ago.
“I knew that if I wanted to get better, I needed a teacher,” Barron said. “He gave me a ton of stuff to work on, and it’s not awful-feeling stuff. I started working with ‘aim point,’ which is a method to green reading. You figure out the angles and slopes. There’s a chart that tells you how far left or right to hit it. That’s given me a lot of confidence because I would get behind the ball, find my line, get over the ball and say that’s not right. I would always second-guess myself. Now I have something concrete to go on.”
Barron edged Loch Nairn Golf Club’s Robert Bechtold by a stroke. Bechtold, the 2002 Tournament of Champions victor, posted a 30 (5 under) coming in.
“It was nice to play better on the back nine. It felt good,” Bechtold, 41, of Avondale, Pa., said. “The course is in great shape. The greens were great. I really enjoy this event. It’s always a lot of fun.”
Earlier this week, Saucon Valley Country Club’s Robin McCool, at age 61, became the oldest player to capture the Lehigh Valley Amateur. The victory’s ripple effects carried McCool to the top of the Tournament of Champions’ Senior Division (par 71, 5,920 yards). He carded a 1-over-par 72 to claim his third crown. McCool won consecutive titles in 2006-07.
“I’m still on a bit of a high from the Lehigh Valley Amateur,” the Bethlehem, Pa. resident said. “Quite frankly, I took some things from that to the golf course today.”
McCool registered 14 greens in regulation on the day. He stopped a 4-iron at two feet on No. 6 (par 3, 180 yards) for birdie. On the par 4, 300-yard No. 8, he knocked a gap wedge 95 yards to eight feet for a 3. McCool missed a trio of two-footers to log bogeys on Nos. 2 (par 4, 386 yards), 5 (par 4, 358 yards) and 12 (par 3, 150 yards). The par 4, 389-yard 11th hole marked his only missed fairway, which resulted in a bogey. McCool fired back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 (par 4, 317 yards) and 14 (par 4, 356 yards). He drained a 10-footer on the first following a gap wedge approach, and a spiraling 12-footer on the latter following an 8-iron from 143 yards. An aggressive drive on No. 15 (par 4, 405 yards) put McCool one above the blue.
Open to current Member Club amateur champions, senior amateur champions and previous winners, the Tournament of Champions was initiated in 1962 in memory of Larry Malmed. The Association then accepted the event in 1984 after Al Porter, the tournament’s coordinator, was forced to retire because of an illness. The Golf Association of Philadelphia added a Senior Division in 1992.
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.