Philly Senior: Bartolacci emerges

WALLINGFORD, Pa. (Sept. 3, 2008)--Thomas Bartolacci, Jr., of Saucon Valley CC survived a frenetic final stretch on Wednesday to take the 38th Senior Amateur Championship at The Springhaven Club (par 70, 6,507 yards). Bartolacci’s three-foot par save on the final hole helped the 57-year old emerge from an amazingly crowded and fluid leaderboard in which six players, competing in the last four groups, all had an opportunity to claim victory on the final hole.

"It’s a personal accomplishment for me and I feel very satisfied. I’m very luck to win," said Bartolacci, who finished at 2-over par for the 36 holes to take his first Senior Amateur title. "It’s not easy for players like myself to win in Philadelphia because there are so many great amateurs. Historically, there have always been guys that are a cut above and that set the bar so high. This is special."

Gary Daniels of Saucon Valley CC, Thomas DiCinti of Links GC, the first-round leader, Don Donatoni of White Manor CC, Frank McFadden of Overbrook GC and Craig Scott of Huntingdon Valley CC all finished tied for second at 3-over par.

Bartolacci’s tournament-clinching putt gave him a final-round 71. A round best described as mundane, that is until the last four holes. He opened with nine pars before registering a bogey on No. 10 (par 4, 425 yards) after his drive found the left trees. A tap-in birdie on No. 12 (par 5, 518 yards) got Bartolacci that stroke back before craziness ensued.

Bartolacci, after coming up just short of the green on No. 15 (par 4, 382 yards), missed a 2½-foot par putt, yes it was that short, to fall two shots back of leader DiCinti.

However, quickly forgetting that mystifying miss, the Washington Crossing, Pa., resident responded in style with an 8-iron on No. 16 (par 3, 160 yards) to eight feet for birdie.

"That was a good putt," he said with a laugh.

As the final group began 17, the whole tournament started to go a little askew.

Donatoni, on No. 18 (par 4, 382 yards), failed to get up-and-down from the right greenside bunker and finished at 3 over. Scott then stunningly missed a three-foot par putt on No. 17 to also fall to 3 over. Daniels, playing with Scott, had a couple of good looks but failed to convert any of his late birdie tries. Daniels and Scott both parred the final hole to post 3 over totals.

That’s three players at 3 over.

Meanwhile, McFadden, in the last group with Bartolacci and DiCinti, dropped to 2-over with a bogey on No. 16 (par 3, 160 yards) after he missed the green short and right. With two holes to go, DiCinti stood at even par and Bartolacci at 1 over.

After relatively decent drives on No. 17 (par 4, 371 yards), Bartolacci pulled a 9-iron left of the hole and was left with a 30-foot birdie try. DiCinti caught a 9-iron flyer from the left rough, clipped a tree in back of the green and faced an impossible chip. McFadden’s approach shot landed short and in the left greenside bunker.

DiCinti had first play and ran his pitch across the green. His ensuing chip stopped four feet shy of the hole and he missed that for a six. McFadden went next. He left his bunker effort 15 feet short of the cup and watched his par try slip by for a bogey. Bartolacci appeared to be in great shape after his first putt stopped about three feet above the hole, however, he then watched in disbelief as his short par try missed.

That brought the final grouping to 18. Bartolacci and DiCinti stood at 2-over par and McFadden at 3 over.

Off the tee, Bartolacci and McFadden found the fairway and DiCinti the right fairway bunker. Bartolacci went first and sent a 6-iron from 167 yards just over the green. DiCinti caught some bad luck in the bunker with a lie too close to the edge and saw his 8-iron clip the lip. McFadden launched a short iron to about 12 feet right of the hole to give himself a look at birdie.

DiCinti knocked his third shot just in the back fringe and his ensuing chip stopped a couple feet shy. He became the fourth player to finish at 3 over. Bartolacci guided his delicate pitch to a couple of feet leaving McFadden to go next with his birdie opportunity. McFadden’s stroke was solid but his chance went wide leaving Bartolacci with a gimme for the win.

"Toward the end it got really hard to make putts and pars. I missed a couple of real short putts and was lucky to come out in the end," said Bartolacci. "Believe me, the one on 18 was not easy to make after missing two that short. Thankfully it went in."

Bartolacci now heads to the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship set for Sept. 20-25 at Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Last year, Bartolacci advanced to the Round of 16 in the national championship. He qualified for this year’s edition with an amazing 66 on Aug. 25 at Cedarbrook CC.

Donatoni may have come up a stroke shy of the Senior Amateur crown but did walk away with the Senior Silver Cross Award after carding the day’s low round of 70.

The Senior Silver Cross goes to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Warner Cup (Gross), Chapman Cup (Gross) and two rounds of the Senior Amateur Championship.

"To me [the Senior Silver Cross] is a Major," said Donatoni, 60, of Malvern, Pa. "It’s something you have to work hard at for four rounds. When you accomplish what you set out to do there is no better feeling. Even though I came up a shot short today, it’s still gratifying to be able to win the Silver Cross. It’s still some of the best senior competition around."

Donatoni defeated Andy Thompson of Overbrook GC by three strokes for the award.

O. Gordon Brewer, Jr. of Pine Valley GC made it three wins in three Super-Senior tournament tries with a resounding five-shot Senior Amateur Championship victory on Wednesday at The Springhaven Club.

Brewer finished at 1-under par for the 36 holes after carding a second-round, 1-over 71. Richard Smith of Philadelphia CC placed second with a 4-over total of 144 and Curt Fromal of The Springhaven Club was third at 10 over.

The victory was Brewer’s third Golf Association of Philadelphia Super-Senior title this year. The 71-year-old resident of Pine Valley, N.J., also captured the Chapman Cup and the Brewer Cup, an event named in his honor, in his other two 2008 tournament appearances.

"It was a very special year," said the soft-spoken Brewer. "I don’t think I’ve ever won three events with the Golf Association in a given year. It’s a tremendous honor especially because you don’t know how many more opportunities you are going to have."

ABOUT THE Philadelphia Senior Amateur

Format: 36-hole individual stroke play over two days.

Eligibility: Open to GAP Member Club golfers who are 55 years of age and over as of the first day of the championship. Players must have a handicap index of 7.0 or lower, super-senior 7.0 or lower handicap index. A Super Senior (65 years of age and older) may play in the "Senior tournament," play to be from the Senior tees.

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