HUNTINGDON VALLEY, PA (July 22, 2016) -- Sometimes, champions get lucky. Other times, champions make good things happen when it matters most.
You can say both applied to Philadelphia Publinks GA’s Buck Jones, Ravens Claw Golf Club’s Jim Yenser, and Philadelphia Country Club’s Michael Nilon and Jim LeBoeuf on Friday at Philmont Country Club (par 70, 6,189 yards). Wielding a team-oriented style of play, the foursome stepped up at the right time to win the 27th playing of the Senior Four-Man Team. A total of 42 teams – up from 29 last year – competed in an 18-hole, two best balls of four, stroke-play format.
The first group of the morning, which included an all-Wilmington Country Club foursome of Donald MacKelcan, Steve Walczak, Brett Koelle and Bob Hackett, Jr., turned in the first 9-under card of the day. The winning foursome, who teed off as the last morning-wave group, turned in their scorecard, noticed a tie and anxiously waited for word on who would claim the top spot if the results held.
Since both teams started on the back nine, meaning identical 9-hole scores, the last six holes on the back became the tiebreaker as suggested by the United States Golf Association. The champion’s last six edged out the Wilmington group's score, 34 to 36. Their 5-under total over that stretch ended up being the winning difference.
The title-claiming round started off with a bit of rust, including a few makeable birdie putts that were missed on Nos. 1 (par 4, 374 yards) and 2 (par 4, 382 yards).
But soon after, a spectacular 25-yard chip by Yenser got the group into red on No. 12 (par 5, 490 yards) when his ball landed within inches of the cup. A tap-in birdie followed.
On No. 15 (par 4, 371 yards), Yenser landed near the front of the green, about 18 feet away, and drained a tough birdie look. Jones followed suit, dropping his five-foot attempt from behind the hole.
Another double-birdie score, one of “the keys of the round”, arrived on No. 18 (par 4, 332 yards). After well-placed approach shots with wedges, Jones jarred one from eight feet while Yenser dropped his putt on top of him from four feet.
On the group’s closing nine, reinforcements arrived. Nilon carded a 1-under 34 on the back, equipped with two crucial red numbers, to help will his team to victory down the stretch.
The first sign of Nilon’s resurgence came on No. 3 (par 3, 151 yards) thanks to a 20-foot birdie bomb. After a 30-footer from Jones was converted on the par-4, 345-yard 13th, Nilon dropped in a 25-footer of his own to make the group 2 under on the hole.
The winning birdie arrived on No. 8 (par 3, 130 yards), although the group didn’t quite know it at the time. Yenser’s wedge off the tee nestled 20 feet from the flagstick there. Facing a left-to-right attempt, Yenser sent the ball to the bottom of the cup.
Talk about clutch.
Most of the group is battle tested at Philmont. Yenser, a certified Club Champion fitter who has an extensive background in that field, made his debut on the Huntingdon Valley, Pa. track. He fired an even-par 70 on his own ball.
“The approach shots are difficult. The greens are difficult,” said Yenser, 55, of Birdsboro, Pa. “I knew about it through some people telling me about the course – it’s a classic Philadelphia course – but the greens ended up playing harder than what people have said.”
Today marked the first time this Four-Man team has played together in competition. When Philly Country’s Don Ashley, a frequent Four-Man teammate of Jones and Nilon, was forced to drop out, Jones knew who his first phone call would go to.
That phone call went immediately to super-sub Yenser, his good friend.
“We were pretty happy with the production we got out of him today. We’ve played as Better-Ball teammates before, so it was great to have him on the team today,” said Jones, 65, of Collegeville, Pa.
“I had it blocked off in my schedule. I wanted to play, but I didn’t know who to get in with. It’s easy to get a partner but it’s harder to get a full four,” said Yenser.
LeBoeuf rounded out the foursome, adding a 2-over-round of 72 to the mix. His birdie on No. 13 (par 4, 327) yards helped steady a hole where the others struggled.
Jones and Nilon have competed together roughly “35 times”. They know what it takes to be successful in this unique playing format with all of that experience to their names. Nilon, especially, as he took home the title in 2007 at The Springhaven Club.
“You can take a break for a while and then show up. That’s always nice in this event,” said Nilon. 67, of Gladwyne, Pa. “It’s a fun one, because you’re out there with four guys you’re friends with, and there is less pressure on you. That mindset helped us out today.”
“We all took turns going on vacation today,” said Yenser. “The thing is, our bad holes never overlapped. There was always someone there to make par and keep us going.”
View results for Philadelphia Senior Four-Man Team Championship