VILLANOVA, PA (July 12, 2016) -- Kenneth Phillips met Bob Beck, a Lehigh Country Club member, through his brother Wayne, who serves as the facility’s head professional. The two struck up a friendship that’s lasted 25 years and blossomed recently on the heels of a win in the Society of Seniors Ed Tutwiler, a national better-ball event.
Beck and Phillips will look to match congeniality with competitiveness when they meet in the Brewer Cup semifinals presented by Callaway Golf. Both posted two victories apiece Tuesday at Overbrook Golf Club to secure the match-up, which begins tomorrow at 8 a.m.
Lu Lu Country Club’s Christopher Clauson and the Country Club of Scranton’s Michael Vassil round out the Senior Division semifinalists. They will square off at 8:07 a.m. Wednesday.
“We play a bit of golf together and spend some time together with the wives and everything,” Beck, 56, of Allentown, Pa., said. “He’s such a nice guy. We kind of had a friendship, but it got closer the last couple of years because we’re seniors and looking for partners [in tournaments] and things like that. When you play and win something, it deepens the friendship.”
“I’ve gotten to know Bob because of my brother. He’s a good friend,” Phillips, 57, of Lancaster, Pa., added. “He’ll hit it 30, 40 yards by me. When he turned 55 last year I said, ‘Let’s play in some tournaments together.’ He’s a great driver of the golf ball. It will be a good time tomorrow.”
In the quarterfinals, Beck, a Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine Player to Watch in 2016, defeated Philadelphia Country Club’s John LeBoeuf, 3&2. Wins on Nos. 3-5 slammed Beck into an early deficit, but he soon settled the seesaw. Beck grabbed Nos. 7 (par 3, 202 yards) and 8 (par 4, 403 yards) with routine pars and moved ahead for good on No. 9 (par 4, 410 yards) once LeBoeuf encountered trouble in the right trees.
“I got down pretty quick, and then his putter got a little cold on him,” Beck said. “I kept getting pars, got a lead and held on. I played real solid and was just trying to hit greens and keep it in play.”
Stability steered Beck; sensational play secured a semifinals berth for Phillips. He carded the stroke play equivalent of 1 under, with the usual match play concessions, en route to a 4&3 triumph over Little Mill Country Club’s Thomas Hyland.
“I don’t think I can play much better than I did. I just hit the ball well today,” Phillip said. “With a field like this, I’m just happy to make match play. The Golf Association of Philadelphia is blessed with great players. To make match play is a goal, and then you take it one match at a time.”
In a well-played tussle between a pair of 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur participants, Phillips stood 3-up before forging a crucial halve on the gettable par 4, 253-yard 13th hole. He pulverized a drive into the right greenside bunker, splashed out and sunk a 20-footer for birdie. Phillips and Hyland shared nearly identical yardages into the No. 14 (par 4, 314 yards) green. Both sailed wedges over a tucked, back left hole location, but Phillips escaped with a par save and a hole victory.
In addition to a lifelong friendship and a passion for golf, Beck and Phillips hold backgrounds at the board level. Beck is a former GAP Executive Committee member (2000-02). Phillips is the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s Second Vice President.
Clauson and Vassil are slightly familiar with one another. The duo met two years ago while representing the Association during the Senior Challenge Matches, an honorary team event. Both claimed victory on Overbrook’s 18th hole (par 4, 389 yards) to assure another interaction.
“I felt like a Lilliputian in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ playing against David West and Doug [Fedoryshyn],” Clauson, 59, of Philadelphia, Pa., said. “It feels like there’s no pressure at this point. I haven’t been hitting the ball well, but I’m getting it in the hole somehow. It’s very exciting to be here.”
On No. 18, Clauson and Fedoryshyn, a Concord Country Club member, stared at practically parallel approaches. Holding honors, Clauson hit a 6-iron 161 yards to the back left of the sprawling surface. Fedoryshyn hit a heavy 7-iron into the left fairway bunker and nuked the ensuing sand shot. Clauson lagged his 60-footer for birdie for a concession.
“When your opponents right next to you, if you hit a shot up somewhere on the green, they don’t know exactly how close you are. I think it immediately puts pressure on the next guy,” Clauson said.
Vassil’s quarterfinal match against Craig Kliewer of Honeybrook Golf Club somewhat mirrored that finish. Both competitors reviewed yardages of 160. Kliewer, with honors, landed a 6-iron short of the flagstick.
“When he hit his shot and it came up on the front of the green, I got a little life in me. I knew it was going to be a tough two-putt,” Vassil said.
However, Vassil, the 2012 Senior Amateur Champion and Senior Silver Cross Award winner, sent a 7-iron out of a sidehill lie and into the left greenside bunker. The preceding hole, though, gave Vassil grain comfort. He spent time in the fairway and greenside structures, lost No. 17 (par 4, 359 yards) and gained a much-needed feel. Vassil’s extrication on No. 18 fed toward the hole and stopped at six feet.
“The putt that I had for the par to win it was the same putt that Bill Boyle had against me [in the Round of 16] to beat me that he missed. It just trickled off to the right,” Vassil, 59, of Dalton, Pa., said. “I’ve been playing pretty well the last month, so I was looking forward to making match play.
“This is a great match play event for the GAP. It’s a centerpiece on my schedule every year. Somedays it goes your way. Both of the matches that I played today we’re never more than 1-up or 1-down. It was that close.”
The Brewer Cup, launched in 2008, is named in honor of O. Gordon Brewer Jr., a veteran of 42 USGA Championships and two-time U.S. Senior Amateur Champion (1994, 1996). He also won Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur titles in 1967 and 1976 as well as the 1997 Senior Amateur Championship, which earned Brewer Player of the Year honors that year. He was inducted into the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
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