Marc Mandel (left) and Ryan Gelrod (GAP photo)
GREENVILLE, Del. — Ryan Gelrod and Marc Mandel etched their names in Golf Association of Philadelphia history Monday. The Philadelphia Cricket Club members became the first tandem to win back-to-back Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship titles. Gelrod and Mandel carded a 9-under-par 62 to take the tournament’s 44th edition at a fabulous Fieldstone Golf Club (par 71, 6,282 yards). They also prevailed a year ago at Metedeconk National Golf Club.
“[Being the first back-to-back winners] is an amazing stat. We’re honored and proud,” a humbled Gelrod, 43, of Ambler, Pa., said.
“We had no idea about it. We probably didn’t have that many expectations either going into today,” Mandel, 33, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., added. “It shows that if you don’t have expectations it sometimes works out. Ryan’s been playing well all summer and I haven’t.”
Mandel assuredly played well Monday; he carded seven birdies on his own ball.
“Marc’s a great partner. He’s one of the best putters I’ve ever seen,” Gelrod said. “You get a guy like that, and you know he’s going to make his fair share. I just always try to chip in where I can.”
“Coming into today, he was hoping I would do something,” Mandel added jokingly.
Boy did he ever.
Starting on No. 10 (par 5, 530 yards), Mandel, standing far left of the fairway with an obstructed view of the rising green, drew a hybrid 220 yards to 30 feet and two-putted for birdie. He and Gelrod both inked 3s on the next hole (par 4, 275 yards): Mandel from greenside left and Gelrod from the back fringe. The team’s lone bogey occurred on No. 13 (par 3, 187 yards), but consecutive birdies made it an instant afterthought. Mandel powered a hybrid 207 yards to 10 feet on No. 14 (par 4, 457 yards) and a lob wedge 65 yards to 20 feet on No. 15 (par 4, 409 yards).
Gelrod added a pair of red figures to cap the team’s outward tour. On No. 17 (par 4, 399 yards), he spun a 54-degree wedge 92 yards to two feet. Gelrod, who advanced to the Round of 16 in this year’s BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship, dropped a 20-footer from the back fringe in the heart on the demanding par 5, 498-yard 18th hole.
The Gelrod and Mandel team birdied three of its next five holes to slightly separate from a crowded leaderboard. On No. 1 (par 4, 415 yards), Mandel lifted an 8-iron out of the right fairway bunker — 150 yards from the flagstick — to eight feet. Gelrod matched his teammate’s hybrid mastery with a 235-yard shot on No. 2 (par 5, 527 yards) that settled 35 feet below the hole. He eased the eagle attempt into kick-in range.
To maintain the par 5 mojo, Mandel, with his teammate out of the hole, pulverized a hybrid greenside right and knocked a chip to five feet on No. 5 (505 yards). Gelrod converted a decisive birdie on No. 9 (par 4, 415 yards), the team’s last hole. He hit a 9-iron 143 yards to 15 feet and drained a downhill, left-to-right breaker.
Pat Curiale of Medford Village Country Club and Andrew Dietz of Laurel Creek Country Club carded an 8-under-par 63 to finish a shot back. The team posted a 31 coming in.
With their victory Monday, Gelrod and Mandel became only the third team to win the Four-Ball twice. They join Francis Donohue and Paul “Bucky” Erhardt, III (1979, 1984) and Blaise Giroso and Davis Sezna (1985, 1988).
“I made a decision a couple weeks ago to try and start playing the fade again,” Mandel said. “I’ve been keeping it in play and making putts. I definitely had a good putting day today.”
“I’ve been working hard on my game,” Gelrod added. “I picked up some distance with some swing changes that I’ve made. I’ve been waiting for the putter to heat up, and I made a few today, which is nice. I’ve had a couple of close calls the last week or two. It’s nice that we got over the hump here.”
View results for Philadelphia Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship