2015 GAP Senior winner Steve Walczak (GAP photo)
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Steven Walczak of Wilmington Country Club doubled up on Senior Amateur glory.
Walczak, the reigning Delaware State Golf Association Senior Champion, added the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s top 55-and-older prize to his cache of treasures. Walczak converted a testing downhill right-to-left par save on the final hole (No. 18, par 4, 375 yards) to edge David West of Whitford Country Club by a stroke for the 45th Senior Amateur Championship crown on Wednesday at a demanding Union League Golf Club at Torresdale (par 70, 5,848 yards).
Walczak finished at 1-over for the 36 holes, carding a closing 1-over-par 71. West, in the group ahead, finished at 2-over 72. Roc Irey of Lookaway Golf Club made a late surge to get into contention finishing in a tie for third with defending champion Chip Lutz of LedgeRock Golf Club. Both players were 3 over. Irey carded a Round 2 low 2-under 68.
Walczak joins Sandy Knapp of DuPont Country Club as the only player to win both area titles in same year. Knapp did so in 1996.
“I had never won a Golf Association of Philadelphia event. I have won a couple Delaware events (Mid Open championships) in the past. To win the two [Senior Amateurs] in the same year is phenomenal,” said Walczak, 58, of Greenville, Del. “There are so many good players in Philly, to come out on top is difficult and challenging. It’s a year I’ll remember forever.”
Walczak opened the second round two strokes behind leader Bert Kosup of The Ridge at Back Brook but took the lead by the third hole and never relinquished it.
Walczak, playing with Kosup, opened with a birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 339 yards) when he knocked a 94-yard gap wedge to six inches.
“I had a stress free birdie to get me started and that feels good,” Walczak said.
Kosup, in the meantime, carded two bogeys in his first three holes. Even his par on No. 1 was a bit of a disappointment after hitting his approach next to the cup and spinning it off the green.
Walczak, a very deliberate player, turned in a round representative of his style of play. He followed the birdie with six straight pars. Walczak made bogey on No. 8 (par 4, 448 yards) after a poor second shot but immediately answered with another gimme birdie on No. 9 (par 3, 158 yards). He dropped an 8-iron to a couple feet.
“When I made the turn I saw Chip [Lutz] was 1 over and I was 1 under,” said Walczak. “He’s liable to go 2 or 3 under on the back nine. Wherever I was [on the leaderboard] I knew I needed to keep playing. I didn’t think about a score, I just needed to keep making golf shots.”
Two squirrely 4-irons, one on No. 11 (par 3, 208 yards) and another on No. 14 (par 3, 186 yards), resulted in a bogey and double-bogey, respectively, and cut a three-shot lead to one. Irey, Lutz and West were the closest pursuers. However, Walczak answered in true championship style on the short par 4, 15th (300 yards). He found the fairway and followed that up with a 90-yard gap wedge to three feet.
“The swing on the 15th tee was tough after you fan one right [on the hole before],” said Walczak. “I hit a really good shot and was fortunate enough to make birdie.”
On No. 18 (par 4, 375 yards), Walczak found the right treeline off the tee and chipped out to 67 yards. His lob wedge then tracked five feet past the hole, and after consulting with an official about his standing on the leaderboard, Walczak calmly drained the putt.
“It was a little left to right downhill putt. I’ve been working on those putts and all the work paid off,” said an elated Walczak who thrust his fist in the air after making it. “To go through your routine and hit a good solid shot when it’s very meaningful is something I’m proud of.”
West, who finished second to Irey in the Senior Silver Cross standings, had it to 2 over for the tournament with three holes to go, but just couldn’t find another birdie despite good looks at Nos. 16 (par 5, 546 yards) and 17 (par 3, 198 yards).
“I’m happy. I certainly had my chances but I couldn’t get too many putts to drop,” said West, 55, of Exton, Pa. “All in all, I can’t complain with second place in my first Senior Am.”
View results for Philadelphia Senior Amateur Golf Championship