Pennsylvania Mid-Am: Comeback Victory for Sullivan

MALVERN, Pa (Sept 7, 2006) -–James Sullivan, Jr. of Huntingdon Valley CC expected a phone call from his pregnant wife, who is only a week shy of her due date, announcing the impending arrival of the couple’s fourth child. If that had happened at some point of the second and final round of the 13th Pennsylvania Golf Association Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Your Pennsylvania Toyota Dealers at Applebrook GC on Thursday, Sullivan said he would have packed up his clubs and headed to the hospital.

Just a few weeks earlier, in fact, a false alarm forced Sullivan to withdraw from the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Joseph H. Patterson Cup at Philmont CC while he still was in contention.

Sullivan’s phone never rang, however, and the first-round co-leader overcame a four-shot mid-round deficit to Paul Schlachter of The Club at Nevillewood for his first state championship.

Sullivan finished the 36 holes at 6-under-par. He carded a second-round 4-under-par 67 to outdistance second-place finisher Schlachter by two strokes. Michael McDermott of Merion GC finished third at 2-under par. Jeff Daniels of Dauphin Highlands GC was the only other finisher under par. He posted a 1-under 141 total.

A field of 120 players competed.

“This means so much to me,” said Sullivan, 31, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. “To go head-to-head with guys like Paul [Schlachter] and Michael [McDermott], two of the top four or five players in the state for the last five or 10 years, and win is special.”

Ten holes into the final round, Schlachter, who along with Sullivan and James Bohn of Bucknell GC were paired in the final group, appeared headed for his sixth state championship.

Schlachter birdied six of his first nine holes to make the turn at 7-under par for the tournament while Sullivan was at 3 under for that span. Both players also went on to birdie No. 10 (par 5, 573 yards).

“I didn’t get wrapped up in it,” said Sullivan of Schlachter’s unbelievable first 10 holes. “I wasn’t panicking. That wouldn’t do any good. I was playing pretty well myself.”

The tournament was ultimately decided on the challenging three-hole stretch of 13-15.

On the 13th (par 4, 453 yards), a poor drive and a short par putt miss by Schlachter brought Sullivan within two strokes. On the treacherous 14th (par 4, 444 yards) momentum clearly swung Sullivan’s way when Schlachter’s tee ball found the right fescue. Sullivan split the fairway. Schlachter then needed two shots to get out of the junk and registered a double bogey six. Sullivan watched his 20-foot birdie chance slide right but when the hole was over, the two competitors were tied.

“I had a good lie. The ball was sitting up,” said Schlachter, 57, of Bridgeville, Pa., who was bidding to become the third person to repeat as Mid-Am Champion, “but my 56-degree wedge went right underneath it. It surprised me. I thought I could get it out.”

Sullivan watched his 4-iron on the lengthy 16th (par 3, 224 yards) stay just on the front portion of the green and he two putted for his par. Schlachter rocketed a 17-degree rescue wood to the top, right of the green and was left with a difficult 50-foot downhiller. His first effort came up five-feet short and he missed the par putt. Sullivan had the lead.

Sullivan poured it on with birdies on No. 16 (par 5, 578 yards) and 17 (par 3, 179 yards). Schlachter watched birdie chances on 17 and No. 18 (par 4, 454 yards) just slip past the edge of the cup.

The win capped a rebirth, of sorts, for Sullivan in the amateur ranks.

Sullivan was reinstated as an amateur almost exactly a year ago after competing on various mini-tours for a few years. He submitted his amateur status papers in October of 2002 and his first tournament back in the amateur ranks was the Pennsylvania Mid-Am last year.

Sullivan won the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Silver Cross in 1996 and the Amateur Championship in 1999.

NOTES In addition to last year’s Middle-Amateur Championship victory, Schlachter won the Senior Amateur Championship in 2004 and 2006, the 1998 Amateur Championship and 2005 Senior Better-Ball Championship with clubmate Bill Kinsman … the 2007 Mid-Am is set for Huntsville GC next September.

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ABOUT THE Pennsylvania Mid-Amateur

36-hole stroke play event open to open to any male amateur golfer who is a member of a club belonging to the Pennsylvania Golf Association and is 25 years of age or older. Qualifying is required for those who do not meet the exemption criteria.

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