Philadelphia Am: McDermott tops Hicks
GAP Photo
GAP Photo
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Michael McDermott added a second Amateur Championship title to his proliferate portfolio on Saturday at Aronimink Golf Club. McDermott, 38, of Merion Golf Club, defeated 20-year-old collegiate Alexander Hicks of Wildwood Golf & Country Club, 5&4, for the prestigious J. Wood Platt Trophy. McDermott is the 17th player in Golf Association of Philadelphia history to win more than one Amateur title having taken the 2008 championship. This Amateur was his ninth Major victory (including Silver Crosses) and second of the season.

“When I saw Aronimink was the venue I definitely thought it was a course I could play well at,” said McDermott, who won the Association’s first 2013 Major, the Middle-Amateur Championship in May. “[The Amateur] is a fun one to win. It’s a hard one to win. Getting No. 2 sounds really good. One is good, but two validates it a little bit.”

J. Wood Platt himself holds the Amateur Championship record with seven titles.

Hicks is a rising junior at The College of William & Mary where he finished runner-up in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship this spring. This was his first Amateur final. Last year, in his only other Amateur appearance, he fell in a playoff to make match play.

“Today is obviously a little disappointing. I wanted to win but it was an awesome week,” said Hicks, a former Middle Township High School standout and class valedictorian. “It was firm, fast and the pin locations were brutal. It was definitely a test out there today.”

Challenging course conditions, fatigue (this was the fifth straight day of golf for the final twosome) and the pressure of winning the Association’s most prestigious title weighed on both players from the outset in the 36-hole final. In the 32 holes played or 50 possible fairways, the two players hit only 19. In the first 18 holes, Hicks hit 8 of 14 fairways, McDermott just three. Wet weather early in the week forced golf on the typical off-day Friday before the final.

“I think the one thing is I’m physically exhausted, which added to the less than stellar play, but I think Alex is mentally exhausted. He looked like the week was wearing on him mentally,” said McDermott, a veteran of three Amateur final matches. “I’ve played a lot of matches in my life so I guess that’s where guys like me had an advantage.”

Hicks won the second hole with a par before McDermott did the same on No. 3 (par 4, 446 yards) to even the tally. The deficit was McDermott’s first in 56 holes of match play this week. It was also the first hole McDermott lost in his last 30 played to that point. The match tilted McDermott’s way, in what turned out to be for good, on No. 7 (par 4, 385 yards). He saved par after hitting his approach just long to a tough back-center hole location. McDermott cozied a 20-foot putt through a small swatch of fringe for an easy par. Hicks was doomed by a 35-foot three putt. It was tough sledding all day on the ultra-quick greens.

The two exchanged wins six more times over the next 10 holes with McDermott remaining 1-up heading to No. 18 (par 4, 429 yards). On the final hole of the morning, McDermott hit it long of the green but made a nice chip up to 8-feet for par. Hicks found the right fairway bunker and didn’t reach the green until his fourth shot. McDermott stood 2-up.

“It was probably a rare time when both players were ok with the outcome,” said McDermott of the morning 18. “We both weren’t playing well and I was 2-up and he’s probably thinking he wasn’t playing well and he’s only 2-down.”

McDermott moved 3-up with a par on No. 19 (No. 1, par 4, 420 yards) to start Round 2 but Hicks immediately responded on No. 20 (No. 2, par 4, 413 yards) with an 8-iron from 160 yards to four feet for birdie. Hicks found the fairway and, playing first from the fairway, hit his approach on the 21st (No. 3, par 4, 446 yards). He knocked a gap wedge from 142 yards to 15 feet below the hole. With momentum seemingly swinging Hicks’ way, McDermott, again found himself familiar with the left rough off the tee. That was his miss all day. However, he drew a good lie and cranked a 56-degree wedge from 130 yards to seven feet. Hicks missed his try. McDermott drained his birdie putt and re-extended the lead to 3-up.

“The turning point in the afternoon was the third green. I had 130 yards but it was a soft sand wedge with the way the course was playing today. The front fringe was 115 yards so I was really only playing a 105-yard shot,” said McDermott. “You had to land a sand wedge on the front of that green to hold it.”

The two halved the next three holes with pars before McDermott won No. 25 (No. 7) with a bogey after Hicks missed the right greenside rough and left the next one short of the putting surface as well.

Both Hicks and McDermott commented on how much harder and different the course was playing form prior rounds.

McDermott went dormie on the 30th hole. He was 6-up with six holes to play and was even-par in the second round to that point. McDermott, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., clinched the title two holes later, on the 215-yard, par 3 14th, albeit in an unconventional manner. Hicks, up first, found the devastating right greenside bunker. McDermott shanked, yes shanked, a 6-iron onto the cart path 135 yards from the green.

“The match was spiraling out of control at the point. That was a violent shank,” said McDermott. “The next shot was really a great shot. I chose to keep it on the rock path. I hit a nice little cut to about 30 feet. I was a little afraid I was going to shank that one, too.”

McDermott’s place in Association history is already well established. He is a four-time Mid.-Am. champ (2001, 2004, 2008, 2013) and now two-time Amateur winner (2008, 2013). In fact, he is the only player to win the Middle-Amateur and Amateur back-to-back. And he’s done that twice. He also has won two Silver Crosses (2003, 2007) and a Patterson Cup (2007).

“I don’t think about where it ranks me, but to be honest, I’m appreciating that its special I won nine Majors now,” said McDermott, who won the Crump Cup at Pine Valley Golf Club last fall. “I think of it more if my kids play golf. That’ll be something that they’ll look at. That’ll be fun if they are into golf and see that.”

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