Philadelphia Publinks GAâ€™s Brown wins Tournament of Champions
HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa. â€” Itâ€™s easy to see why Philmont Country Club is Michael R. Brownâ€™s favorite golf course in the Delaware Valley. He won the Golf Association of Philadelphiaâ€™s Open Championship at the venue in 2010 by defeating Greg Farrow, Deerwood Country Clubâ€™s head professional, in a marathon playoff (four-hole aggregate score followed by sudden-death).
On Friday, Brown returned to his successful surroundings and departed with another GAP trophy. The Philadelphia Publinks GA member etched a 6-under-par 64 to capture the 56th Tournament of Champions. Brown carded seven birdies â€” the most he's converted during a round this season â€” on the par 70, 6,457-yard layout and fell a stroke shy of tying Philmontâ€™s competitive course record.
â€śI certainly remember well three years ago, so I was probably more comfortable,â€ť Brown, 40, of Cheltenham, Pa., said. â€śI always feel good when Iâ€™m on this property. I just think itâ€™s a good, fair and difficult test. The greens are really difficult, and it makes you think on every shot. I just love the challenge of this place. I had a feeling I was going to play well today.â€ť
Those senses didnâ€™t let Brown down. He opened with back-to-back birdies, drilling a 6-iron 131 yards to 15 feet on No. 1 (par 4, 388 yards) and an 8-iron 142 yards to 25 feet on No. 2 (par 4, 407 yards). Brownâ€™s outward tour ended in identical fashion. He stopped a 52-degree wedge 25 feet above the No. 8 (par 3, 130 yards) flagstick and converted the downhill putt for a 2. On the difficult dogleg right No. 9 â€” a 564-yard par 5, Brown knocked a pitching wedge 113 yards to 15 feet for birdie.
â€śThe putter was as good as itâ€™s been all summer for me today,â€ť Brown, who operates a soft pretzel factory in Cherry Hill, N.J., said. â€śI havenâ€™t made a lot of mid-range putts, and they all came on the same day.â€ť
Brownâ€™s only blemish occurred on the par 3, 210-yard 11th hole, where a three-putt from 30 feet resulted in a bogey. But the 2010 William Hyndman, III Player of the Year bounced back with a birdie on the next hole (par 5, 487 yards), powering a hybrid left of the green and lofting a wedge to three feet. Brown smashed a 7-iron 161 yards to 15 feet and converted a right-to-left breaker on No. 14 (par 4, 430 yards). His last red figure came unexpectedly on the par 4, 439-yard 16th hole. Brown slammed an 8-iron 161 yards to 25 feet after nearly losing his ball off the tee.
â€śI didnâ€™t deserve to make birdie there,â€ť Brown said. â€śI hit a provisional there because I hit the ball right, and I donâ€™t know if it hit a tree, but I guess it did. That was a very timely break.â€ť
A well-deserved victory highlights an otherwise ordinary year. He earned medalist honors in a U.S. Open Local Qualifier at Whitford Country Club in May, but struggled to find a groove since.
â€śIâ€™ve had a pretty modest year, so this will make the winter feel good and not as long,â€ť Brown said. â€śItâ€™s been a frustrating year, and so have the last couple. Itâ€™s a direct reflection of the work Iâ€™m putting in, so thereâ€™s no reason other than that. I remembered how to play today.â€ť
Brownâ€™s 64 is a Tournament of Champions scoring record; Overbrook Golf Clubâ€™s Ray Thompson held the previous mark of 3 under 67, set in 2005 at nearby Huntingdon Valley Country Club.
Edgmont Country Clubâ€™s Michael Quinn registered a 2-over-par 72 to top the eventâ€™s Senior Division (par 70, 6,092 yards).
â€śItâ€™s unbelievable because of the competition,â€ť Quinn, 64, of East Fallowfield, Pa., said. â€śWeâ€™ve got the club champions from one of the best sections in the country, so I feel really lucky to be able to persevere.â€ť
Quinn, the 2013 Brewer Cup runner-up, carded three birdies against five bogeys on the day. On No. 2 (par 4, 377 yards), he knocked a sand wedge 108 yards to 20 feet and converted the downhill putt. An aggressive drive on the par 4, 316-yard 10th hole left Quinn on a patch of dirt 45 yards from the flagstick. He then stopped a 56-degree wedge at 30 inches. Quinn lifted a 56-degree wedge from 92 yards out of a divot and dropped a 15-footer in the heart for a birdie on No. 15 (par 4, 372 yards).
â€śIâ€™m happy with my play from tee to green,â€ť Quinn said. â€śI putted well today. The only thing that really held me back this year was putting. I really hope to work on my putting for next year to be more competitive.â€ť
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 tournamentâ€™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 143 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphiaâ€™s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphiaâ€™s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.