Philadelphia Amateur: Hargrove, Osberg reach final
MALVERN, Pa. – Two players with a reputation for muscling a golf ball around the course clash on Saturday in the 114th Amateur Championship Final. Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley Country Club and Nelson Hargrove of Gulph Mills Golf Club each registered, 5&4, semifinal victories to advance to Saturday’s 36-hole title match at White Manor Country Club.

Osberg defeated Ray Thompson of Overbrook Golf Club, who at age 62 was looking to become the oldest Amateur winner in modern history. Hargrove stopped Ben Feld of Green Valley Country Club, who was making his second Amateur semifinal appearance.

It is the first final for both winners. The Amateur Final begins at 7:30 a.m. Spectators are welcome (walking only).

“The whole history of Philadelphia golf is on that [J. Wood Platt Amateur Championship trophy],” said Osberg, 29, of West Chester, Pa., on what it would mean to win. “To have your name associated with it, your name will be there a hundred years from now. That’s pretty special.”

Added Hargrove, 23, of Haverford, Pa., a recent Brown University graduate, “I knew I was playing well coming into the week. I lost in a playoff for the Ivy League Championship recently. I’ve been putting in a lot of good work the last couple weeks at home. My game’s been getting sharper.”

Osberg opened up significant daylight in his prior two matches en route to a pair of comfortable victories. The semifinal was no different. He moved 2-up after five holes with pars on Nos. 3 (par 3, 246 yards) and 5 (par 4, 423 yards) and grabbed complete control with victories on Nos. 7-8. On the par 4, 313-yard 7th, Osberg drove the green and two putted from 50 feet for birdie. Holding honors, Osberg found the peninsula green on No. 8 (par 3, 160 yards). Thompson, of Drexel Hill, Pa., mishit an 8-iron and found the water. Osberg made the turn 4-up.

On No. 10 (par 4, 417 yards), Osberg knocked a gap wedge from 115 yards to a foot for a conceded birdie to move 5-up.

Thompson, who twice this week rallied from substantial deficits, won No. 11 (par 5, 526 yards) with a birdie but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Osberg took No. 12 (par 3, 183 yards) with a par and closed the match out two holes later with a fantastic 4-iron on No. 12 (par 3, 183 yards) to seven feet.

“I think I’ve played better in each of the matches I’ve played in,” said Osberg, the 2010 Patterson Cup Champion and Silver Cross Award winner. “It’s been a dream to play in the final. I’m excited to play on Saturday morning.”

Osberg, who was a 2010 Amateur semifinalist, blitzed Michael Carr of Plymouth Country Club, 6&4, in the quarterfinals. He moved ahead for good after winning No. 4 (par 4, 370 yards), was 4-up after No. 9 and closed Carr out on No. 14.

Osberg’s health is finally in good form after having a pair of back surgeries the last two years to alleviate leg numbness.

Last season, he was forced to the sidelines in late May after a U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier. He noted he started playing golf again this January and ramped up his efforts in March when the weather broke.

“Playing three straight days of 36 holes walking has definitely taken its toll,” said Osberg of his health status. “I definitely thought it would take a lot longer [to get back]. I definitely thought it would be tougher with the short game and putter. [However], it hasn’t been that tough to regain the form. My swings changed a little bit. It’s been tougher to rotate and I can’t bring the club back as far.”

Hargrove’s semifinal foe was a friendly faced Feld. The two are similar in age and have played golf in the same circles since their Junior days.

The duo exchanged victories over the course of the first four holes before Hargrove won No. 6 (par 5, 550 yards) when he reached the green in two with a 4-iron from 240 yards and two putted for birdie. He was 1-up. On No. 8, similar to the other semifinal match, Hargrove, ahead and with honors, found the green. Feld, similar to Thompson, landed in the water and lost the hole. Hargrove moved to 3-up on No. 11 with a clutch downhill eight-foot birdie putt and won Nos. 13 (par 4, 458 yards) and 14 to close out the victory.

“Every single day I wake up trying to get a little bit better,” said Hargrove. “You think of a long goal but you keep doing the little steps. It’s gotten me this far.”

Feld, 23, of Blue Bell, Pa., is a former Drexel University player and current graduate assistant. He made the semifinals in 2012 before losing to eventual champion Brian Colbert in 19 holes.

Hargrove’s quarterfinal match was also against a longtime friend, 23-year-old Matt Teesdale of Commonwealth National Golf Club.

The two player’s games are very similar. Hargrove edged Teesdale, 1-up, in a tightly contested match.

“The last three guys I’ve played I’ve known. They are good guys and good friends and really good players,” said Hargrove. “I knew I had to play great golf to beat them.”

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