Kyle Vance showed expert bunker play on way to win
Photo courtesy of GAP
TELFORD, Pa. — Kyle Vance loves the beach, so it stands to reason that the GAP Junior Players Club member embraced the sand at Indian Valley Country Club.
With exceptional bunker play and an impeccable putter to boot, Vance defeated a determined Max Siegfried of Aronimink Golf Club, 4&2, to capture the 101st Junior Boys’ Championship Wednesday.
“My bunker game was awesome this week,” a thrilled Vance, 16, of Audubon, Pa., said. “I was never mad that I was in a bunker. I’d rather be in a bunker than short of the green. When I was on the green going for birdie or needed a putt here and there, I luckily rolled them in. I love these greens. They’re rolling really nice and I could read them.”
“To be [in the runner-up position] is kind of odd. I was looking from the outside in with eight holes left to play in the stroke play qualifier,” Siegfried, 17, of Villanova, Pa., said. “I fell short. It’s not really what I’m looking for. I have next year, but I definitely wanted to win this.”
The final, contested amid sunny skies and receptive conditions, told a tale of two putters.
Vance, a rising junior at Methacton High School, propagated pars while Siegfried, a rising senior at The Haverford School, saw his flatstick falter. On No. 3 (par 5, 473 yards), a Vance par save from the front bunker trumped a Siegfried three-putt from 30 feet. Vance moved to 2-up on No. 6 (par 3, 208 yards), where Siegfried deposited a 19-degree hybrid into the right greenside bunker and failed to get up-and-down.
Distance control added to Siegfried’s putting woes. He lost Nos. 9 (par 4, 367 yards) and 10 (par 4, 368 yards) — spinning wedges that bred three-putts.
“The greens are very receptive, so it’s tough to gauge how far to hit,” Siegfried said.
Vance extended his lead to four following a birdie on the par 5, 510-yard 12th hole. He hammered a 4-iron 219 yards and landed in a patch of rough buffering the right greenside bunker and green. Vance then brushed a wedge to three feet.
The match’s final two holes revealed its backbone. Holding a 3-up edge on the 15th (par 5, 546 yards) tee, Vance pulled a 3-iron to remove the out-of-bounds possibility. He saw it settle inches from the cart path. Instead of taking relief for stance, Vance, all smiles regardless of circumstance, elected to play down the adjacent 16th hole. He navigated a 58-degree wedge 50 yards through a tree chute and two-putted from 20 feet. Siegfried left a 17-footer for a birdie and hole victory short.
“My putting has been good all week. I hadn’t missed anything inside four or five feet,” Siegfried, a Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine Player to Watch in 2015, said. “He was making everything, and that doesn’t help either. When you’re down, you have to make birdies and pars. Today I just didn’t do it. The speed wasn’t on today.”
Poetic that Vance prevailed with a spectacular sand shot on the par 3, 155-yard 16th hole.
“I didn’t really know where to land it,” Vance said. “I tried to put a little spin on the hill. I came out of that bunker and knew it was going to be nice. It went down and almost went in, about three feet or so.”
Vance’s victory culminated an off-season’s worth of practice and growth. He gained 30 yards in distance and three inches in height. Confidence and invigoration joined that list Wednesday.
“It feels unbelievable,” Vance said. “Going against Max in the Final was really fun. He’s a great player. To have my name on that trophy with all of those other champions is an awesome privilege.
“I’ve been golfing for the last three weeks, everyday to make sure my game’s there. This tells me that I’m there, and if I keep at it, I can win a few tournaments like I did today.”
Semifinals Siegfried converted a 30-footer for birdie on the par 4, 392-yard 17th to squeeze past Jack Melville of Lu Lu Country Club, 1-up, in the semifinals. He hit a knockdown 5-iron from 198 yards before the decisive stroke fell. Despite the loss, Melville, 17, of Maple Glen, Pa., feels encouraged by his performance at Indian Valley.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster for future tournaments,” Melville, a soon-to-be senior at Upper Dublin High School, said. “I’m definitely more confident with my short putts. I’m trying to knock them in and save a lot of strokes.”
In a back-and-forth bout between a pair of curly-haired crushers, Vance outlasted Roland Massimino of Jericho National Golf Club, 1-up, to gain the Final.
“I didn’t play nearly as well as I did the last two days, which is a bummer,” Massimino, 18, of Lumberville, Pa., said. “I had opportunities. I just didn’t take advantage of them. It was disappointing.”
Massimino, the 2013 Junior Boys’ Champion, is a recent New Hope Solebury High School graduate. He will attend Kansas State University in the fall.
First Flight In the day’s First Flight Final, Nick Gianelos of Radley Run Country Club defeated Daniel Rieger of Sunnybrook Golf Club, 4&2.
Gianelos, of West Chester, Pa., struggled early in the week because of unfamiliarity with the course layout, but battled back to win all of his matches in the First Flight.
“I got my game back. I made a couple of mistakes in the 1ualifying round not knowing the course,” said the 15 year old. “My matches were mostly close, but I was able to fight them out.”
The sophomore-to-be found success as the No. 3 player for Unionville High School this past season, reaching PIAA Regionals. He plans to play in more GAP Junior events moving forward.
“It was a great week, a lot of fun, and my first time doing a GAP event,” Gianelos said. “I’ll definitely have to schedule some more.”
Rieger, also a rising junior, plays on the same high school team as Vance, where the duo plays out of the top two positions.
“We’ve got two more years, and we both want to make it to states each year,” said Rieger, of Collegeville, Pa. “We want to get the team there too because we’ve got some new guys coming in and we should have a pretty nice team next year.”
The 16 year old had high praise for his teammate and close friend who lifted up the Peg Burnett Trophy on Wednesday.
“Kyle has always been a heck of a player,” Rieger said. “He’s very, very consistent and always playing well, and he played really well once again this week.”
The Junior Boys’ Championship is the premier Major in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Division. Now in its 101st year, it is open to GAP Member Club golfers aged 14-18 who have not started their college education and who hold a handicap index of 14.4 or lower. Sixteen players qualify for match play; an additional 16 advancing into the event’s First Flight.
The Junior Boys’ Champion is awarded the Peg Burnett Trophy, named in honor of the Association’s Executive Secretary from 1951-76. Mrs. Burnett was an ardent Junior golf supporter who emphasized sportsmanship and respect for the game. “I was very strict about checking the rule book. I didn’t make the rules, but since they are there, you have to abide by them.”
Golf Association of Philadelphia 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 151 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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