GALLOWAY, N.J. — Jim Kelleher and Joseph Roeder played a lot of basketball together, which isn’t surprising. Both stand a dunk-friendly 6-foot-4. But these days, golf is the sport of choice for Kelleher and Roeder, both of Little Mill Country Club.
On Tuesday, the two towered over the 80-team field in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 42nd Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship. They carded a stellar 7-under-par 64 at Galloway National Golf Club (par 71, 6,605 yards) to triumph. Kelleher’s putter caught fire; he made seven birdies on his own ball.
“I recently got a tip from a really good friend of mine, Eddie O’Brien,” Kelleher, 56, of Medford, N.J., said. “I used it today, and it was just one of those days where everything’s going in. The speed was perfect. The greens were quick enough that you really didn’t have to hit it hard.”
“I just enjoyed watching him. It was a treat to watch him play that way,” Roeder, 52, of Marlton, N.J., said.
The putting spectacle began on No. 1 (par 4, 395 yards), where Kelleher hit a wedge 105 yards to 15 feet for a 3. He drilled a 9-iron 120 yards to 25 feet on No. 3 (par 4, 370 yards) and watched his ensuing putt ride the right-to-left break perfectly. The Kelleher and Roeder team capped its outward tour with back-to-back birdies. Kelleher stopped a 6-iron at 10 feet on the par 3, 173-yard No. 8. He and Roeder reached the No. 9 (par 5, 515 yards) green in regulation. Roeder, eight feet inside of his partner’s golf ball, decided to putt first, hoping to show his teammate the line. It paid off as Kelleher executed a 15-footer after a sand wedge set-up from 90 yards.
The lighthearted moment on the next par 5 (No. 11, 508 yards) kept the Kelleher and Roeder team in the moment. After sending his second shot onto the bank of the water hazard, Roeder removed his shoes and socks, took his grimy stance and played his third shot.
“It actually really motivated him (Kelleher) to start playing well,” Roeder, a pilot, said jokingly. Right on cue, Kelleher powered a 3-rescue 215 yards over the green and lofted a downhill chip to 10 feet for a 4.
A pair of par saves from Roeder allowed the team to remain atop the leaderboard. On No. 13 (par 4, 425 yards), Kelleher’s drive caught the right fairway bunker. He exhausted three strokes in the extrication process and then relied on Roeder, who reached the green in regulation and executed a solid two-putt from 40 feet. Roeder converted a sand save on the par 3, 193-yard 14th hole. Kelleher’s thanks came in the form of a birdie on No. 15, where he smashed a 7-iron 145 yards to 20 feet and drained the right-to-left breaker.
“I thought I missed it right and I started walking to the ball as it was rolling. It just curved and went in,” Kelleher, a business manager for Lockheed Martin, said.
Galloway’s 18th hole (par 4, 420 yards), as any formidable closing hole does, decided the tournament’s outcome. Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Benjamin Smith and Little Mill’s Paul Tighe, playing in the group ahead, stood at 5 under when they arrived. Smith hit a downwind wedge 125 yards to six feet and converted the birdie putt. The Kelleher and Roeder team, thinking it held a three-shot lead at the time, responded with a wild 3 of its own. Kelleher smacked an 8-iron 152 yards to 17 feet and sunk the right-to-left slider.
Kelleher and Roeder last competed in the Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship in 2007. They decided to re-enlist given the venue, which Roeder previously played. It was Kelleher’s first time on the course.
“It was great coaching him around,” Roeder said.
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