PINE VALLEY, N.J. (July 23, 2012) -–The laurels of 2011 gave Andrew Mason of Huntingdon Valley Country Club some special opportunities this summer.
He’s spent the majority of this golf season traveling and competing in prestigious national amateur tournaments like the Sunnehanna Amateur, Porter Cup and The Players Amateur, to name just a few.
Monday, Mason made his 2012 Golf Association of Philadelphia debut in as smashing a style as his season of a year ago.
The reigning William Hyndman, III Amateur Player of the Year successfully defended his Open Championship in front of an appreciative crowd of 1,417 at historic Pine Valley Golf Club (par 70, 6,962 yards) with a 4-over-par 144 total for the 36 holes. He became the first player to defend his title since professional Frank Dobbs of Spring-Ford Country Club in 1990-91. He is the first amateur to go back-to-back since legendary R. Jay Sigel of Aronimink Golf Club in 1986-87.
“I think I’m just lucky I was able to play well two years in a row for an event I was geared up for,” said Mason, 23, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. “To win last year at my home club, Huntingdon Valley, meant a lot and to win it again this year at such a terrific venue is special.”
Travis Deibert, the head professional at Commonwealth National Golf Club, took home low professional honors and the first-place $10,000 check. The total professional purse was $50,000. Deibert, in the first group to finish, posted a 6-over 146 and watched as professional contenders for the top prize fell by the roadside.
“It’s a great honor to be here playing at Pine Valley and makes this all the more special,” said Deibert, 38, of Doylestown, Pa. “It’s a tough day and it’s just a matter of grinding it out and not trying to make a big number.”
Mason opened his defense with an even-par 70 in the morning, the tournament’s low score. He paired up bogeys and birdies, three each, the final red figure coming on the No. 18 (par 4, 475 yards) green when he hit a 7-iron from 180 yards to five feet and made the putt.
“That gave me a lot of momentum heading into the afternoon,” said Mason, whose top amateur invitational finish this year was a tie for eighth in The Players Amateur in Hilton Head, S.C.
As the golf course continued to firm up and wind started to become a factor, par became everyone’s friend.
Mason and groupmate Dave McNabb of Applebrook Golf Club, as it turned out, used strong play and the golf course to separate themselves from the field early in Round 2. McNabb, who posted a first-round 73, birdied two or his first four holes in the afternoon to move to 1-over overall and vault to the top of the leaderboard. Mason in that stretch stood at 2 over.
“I kinda knew the situation. I was pressing myself on the front nine in the second 18 because I was playing with Dave and he was scoring pretty well and I was 2 or 3 over,” said Mason. “As soon as I turned to the front side, I really started playing well. Until the last hole, I was 1 under on that side. Even on the last hole I knew where I stood.”
Mason made hay on the first five holes of the front side, his back eight, by playing that treacherous quintet in even par. McNabb was 4 over thru those five included a double bogey on No. 1 (par 4, 421 yards) after a poor drive.
Mason then sealed his place atop the Open throne for a second straight year with a birdie on No. 6 (par 4, 394 yards), his 16th hole, with a pitching wedge to eight feet that moved him to 3 over for the tournament and a three-shot lead. He bogeyed No. 8 (par 4, 326 yards), his final hole – players started from No. 9 on the back side – when he purposely went the conservative route.
“I was trying to win instead of trying to finish moderately,” said Mason of the biggest difference between the Open and those other summer invitationals. “This was by far the best I hit it all summer.”
Deibert’s low pro finish gave the five-year Commonwealth veteran his second biggest career pay day.
In 2010, Deibert won the Haverford Trust and its $45,000 winner’s share.
Deibert was 4 over in his first 10 holes of Round 2 - he started on No. 9 – but finished with eight straight pars to shoot up the leaderboard.
Included in that stretch was a fantastic up-and-down on No. 8 (par 4, 326 yards) from 92 yards after finding the brush left off the tee.
“I didn’t really know here I stood until my last hole” said Deibert, who is the proud father of a 1½ month old baby boy named Jackson. “I looked at the scoreboard on No. 8 and said this is a big [par] putt. I need to make this to save [par] and see what happens.”
The 72-player field was comprised of 41 amateurs and 31 professionals.
Play was suspended for 53 minutes at 6:21 p.m. when lightning was detected in the area.
NOTES–This marked only the fourth time the Open Championship visited Pine Valley (1923, 1941, 2002).In 2002, John Appleget, now a teaching professional out of Wildwood Golf & Country Club, bested John DiMarco, Laurel Creek Country Club’s head professional, in an 18-hole playoff by four strokes. Both players finished a demanding test tied at 4-over-par 144. The same score as this year’s winner.