AMBLER, Pa. — To Stephen Cerbara, the Christman Cup sounded like a great opportunity to make his Golf Association of Philadelphia debut. The GAP Junior Players Club member knew the venue relatively well and consequently dedicated hours of wedge practice in anticipation of its demands.
Cerbara entered the Christman Cup, presented by Global Golf Post, as a rookie and exited as a champion. He led from gate-to-wire, carding a 5 under 137 total to take the tournament’s 14th edition at Talamore Country Club (par 71, 6,364 yards).
“This is a really big win for me,” Cerbara, 15, of Langhorne, Pa., said. “I’m really excited and proud. It means a lot. My caddie (Chris Kehrer) helped me throughout the day, reading putts and doing all the things a good caddie does. Without him, I may not even be in the tournament. I’m really grateful for him.”
Cerbara trumped Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Cole Berman by three strokes. Talamore’s own Stewart Rickenbach posted an even par 142-total to place third.
“I expected much going into this tournament,” Cerbara said. “When I went to Double Eagle Golf [a golf complex in Morrisville, Pa.], it has this little par 3 course, which is basically 40-60 yards in every time, and I just kept working on that. I knew if I could hit good drives today, I would have most of those shots. I just hit those really well today and made the putts.”
Cerbara turned heads with his red immediately. With his wedges well-calibrated, Cerbara rattled off three straight birdies to gain Christman command. He drove the No. 9 (par 4, 275 yards) green and two-putted from 35 feet. Cerbara whacked wedges 90 yards and 70 yards to 10 feet for 3s on Nos. 10 (par 4, 369 yards) and 11 (par 4, 388 yards). He posted a 4-under-par 67 in the morning session — four shots clear of closest chaser Rickenbach.
As temperatures climbed into the mid 90s, so did Cerbara’s lead over the 60-player field. His sharp 60-degree wedge produced birdies on Nos. 13 (par 5, 576 yards) and 17 (par 4, 327 yards). Cerbara knocked it 70 yards to 25 and 10 feet, respectively. He stood at a superlative 6 under thru 31 holes.
With a bit of wiggle room, Cerabara, an incoming sophomore at Holy Ghost Preparatory School, made a pair of ultimately uncostly errors. He missed the No. 1 (par 4, 418 yards) green left with a 6-iron from 170 yards and failed to get up-and-down. Cerbara flailed a 7-iron left on the par 3, 161-yard No. 4 — some 60 feet from middle right hole location. A three-putt resulted in a bogey, but Cerbara responded with a keen 4 on No. 5 (par 5, 549 yards), smashing a 3-wood 240 yards to 15 feet and nearly canning the eagle try.
Cerbara will next compete in the Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship at the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst Aug. 5-8. His performance Tuesday wasn’t an entire runaway, thanks to a Berman charge in the afternoon. The reigining GAP Junior Player of the Year carded a 3-under-par 68 to launch up the leaderboard.
“I had it going this morning, too. I birdied my first two holes,” Berman, 17, of Haverford, Pa. “I knew I could do it, and for the Harry Hammond Award, I knew I had to go low.”
The Harry Hammond Award is given to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the qualifying round of the Junior Boys' Championship, the Christman Cup and the Jock MacKenzie Memorial. Berman trailed Talamore’s Jalen Griffin by a three strokes entering Tuesday. The two, playing in the same group, traded blows throughout the day. On the 36th hole (No. 18, par 5, 500 yards), Griffin, 17, of Ambler, Pa., tapped in for birdie after reaching the green in two strokes. Berman rolled in a four-footer for a 5, thus forcing a deadlock between the two atop the Harry Hammond Award Standings. The two will vie for the prize in an 18-hole playoff, with the date and site to be determined.
“Jalen and I really kept each other going. It was fun,” Berman, an incoming senior at The Haverford School, said.
Berman’s effort resembled last year’s at Merion Golf Club’s West Course; he spent both afternoon sessions bogey-free. Berman powered a 4-wood 235 yards into the left greenside bunker, splashed out to five feet and swept in the birdie putt on the par 5, 549-yard No. 5. He mastered Nos. 10 (par 4, 369 yards) and 11 (par 4, 388 yards) at Talamore with 3s. He hit a 50-degree wedge to six feet, a 54-degree wedge to 15 feet on the first. Berman’s wedge game proved equally as vital on the latter; Berman knocked it 90 yards to a foot in the morning, 60 yards to 30 feet in the afternoon.
Berman implemented a mental lesson learned from his performance in yesterday’s Jock MacKenzie Memorial. He stood at 3 under — tied for the clubhouse lead — on the 18th hole, but carded a bogey to finish a shot back.
“I definitely tried to win it too hard. There were some things that cost me,” Berman said. “It made me back off a little bit today.”
The Christman Cup is named in honor of J. Fred Christman, a longtime Director of Competitions for GAP who retired in January 2000. It is a 36-hole stroke play event.
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.
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