Spring Ford's Tagert triumphant in Chapman (Gross) Supers playoff
GLENSIDE, Pa. â€“ At the end of a hard-fought day with little leaderboard separation, extra holes were needed in order for the Super-Senior Champion to surface in the Frank H. Chapman Memorial Cup (Gross).
William Lawler of Fox Hill Country Club, James Prendergast of Bellewood Country Club, Steve Tagert of Spring Ford Country Club and Alan Van Horn of Commonwealth National Golf Club jousted on the first playoff hole â€“ Lu Luâ€™s 11th hole â€“ for the right to the crown. In the end, it was Tagert who prevailed Thursday at a beautifully-recovering Lu Lu Country Club (par 71, 5,966 yards).
Playing in the morning wave, Tagert was the first competitor to obtain the popular 2-over number of 73. He waited â€“ sometimes patiently, sometimes restlessly â€“ in the scoring area until it was time to get his swing warm again for the sudden-death session.
â€śFive long hours,â€ť said Tagert, 67. â€śIt ended up being worth it. I never thought I would end up in a playoff, and I even almost left a few times while looking at the leaderboard this afternoon.â€ť
Good thing he didnâ€™t.
On Lu Luâ€™s No. 11 (par 4, 345 yards), the closest to the current makeshift-clubhouse area, Tagert went right off the tee. Lawler and Van Horn found the short stuff to the left. Prendergast played it out way right to find a favorable angle in. With wedges in their hands and approach shots of less than 90 yards across the board, only Lawler and Tagert were left with good birdie chances.
Lawlerâ€™s attempt came from 12 feet above the hole, leaving him with a lightning fast attempt for the three. It was no good. Prendergast holed out for par. It was Tagertâ€™s time to shine. His four-foot winner found the bottom of the cup and a fist bump quickly followed. Itâ€™s now safe to say Tagert, a preseason selection as a â€śPlayer to Watchâ€ť by the Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine, is living up to the nomination in result of todayâ€™s triumph.
â€śOf course, there have been a bunch of jokes from my friends and clubmates about [the Player to Watch]. Iâ€™m 67 years old now. Itâ€™s finally time to start watching me,â€ť joked Tagert.
The Collegeville, Pa. resident started his round with a bogey train ride on Nos. 11-13. That journey didnâ€™t last long.
A birdie on the 299-yard, par-4 16th arrived shortly after. Tagert drilled a drive there, leading to a 77-yard wedge approach that left him with just three feet for the short red number.
â€śI knew getting back to 2 over was big. Although, I still had a lot of regrets about going bogey-bogey-bogey to start,â€ť said Tagert, who won the Super-Senior Tournament of Champions title last fall at Concord Country Club.
Despite a â€śgood bogeyâ€ť on No. 5 (par 4, 418 yards), all he would need to reach the magic number of 73 was another red number on No. 9 (par 4, 300 yards). A driver-wedge equation there left him with a short tap-in birdie to grab the early clubhouse lead.
â€śI was very disappointed in my showing in the Warner Cup, which was played at my home club. But today, I really felt good with my play and the number I put up,â€ť he said.
After 46 years at the helm of Aqua Pennsylvania, where Tagert worked alongside two-time reigning Chapman Champion Don Donatoni of White Manor Country Club, he hung up his briefcase at the end of 2016. He and Donatoni won the 2015 Senior 27-Hole Challenge together at Silver Creek Country Club, and that camaraderie showed once again at Lu Lu. It was Donatoni who was Tagertâ€™s biggest fan during extra holes, following closely in support and embracing him after the winning hole out.
â€śHeâ€™s such a good player and is so hard to beat,â€ť said Tagert about Donatoni, who posted a 7-over 78 today. â€śHeâ€™s also not too bad of a guy to play a round of golf with.â€ť
Retirement, as predicted, means more golf to be played. Championship golf.
â€śI was only able to play in two events last year, in addition to the [BMW GAP Team Matches] in the spring, so Iâ€™ve been really looking forward to this year, getting more playing opportunities. Iâ€™ve really been enjoying it so far,â€ť said Tagert. â€śThe GAP has so many good Super-Seniors playing at the moment, so itâ€™s really just an honor to win anything.â€ť
Frank H. Chapman, a Whitemarsh Valley Country Club member, served as the Associationâ€™s secretary-treasurer for 23 years. He died on June 7, 1955 at the age of 88. The Gross tournament, now in its 12th year, is held in his honor.
Golf Association of Philadelphia