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Tavistock's Gramigna takes Tournament of Champions in playoff

LAFAYETTE HILL, Pa. (Sept. 29, 2010) -- Tavistock CC’s Thomas Gramigna penned the perfect final chapter in his 2010 golf memoirs Tuesday.

The Haddonfield, N.J. resident edged Brian Herman of Merchantville CC on the first playoff hole to capture the 53rd Tournament of Champions at Whitemarsh Valley CC (par 67, 6,158 yards). Both players carded respective even-par 67s in regulation to force a sudden-death session. Gramigna also won the Association’s Middle-Amateur Championship at nearby Philadelphia Cricket Club (Militia Hill), his first GAP tournament on the 2010 trail.

“It’s a great way to end the year,” he said. “Honestly, it was hard to get out of bed. I almost turned my car around about six times driving here. I really didn’t want to play. I thought the weather was going to be bad and I’m kind of golfed out. But obviously, things kind of worked out today.”

Over the past week, Gramigna competed as a member of New Jersey’s squad in the USGA Men’s State Team Championship at Mayacama GC. He also participated in the Crump Cup at Pine Valley GC. Ten consecutive rounds of golf left Gramigna weary entering Whitemarsh Valley.

But the fatigue didn’t cripple the 41 year-old, and things worked out as Gramigna earned his second piece of GAP hardware. On No. 1 (par 4, 354 yards), the first playoff hole, he hit his GAP wedge 92 yards to 15-feet. Gramigna’s uphill putt just flirted with the left edge. Meanwhile, Herman’s GAP wedge sailed 70 yards and settled 20-feet left of the flagstick. His birdie try gradually drifted right and stopped two feet on the high side. With Gramigna in for par, Herman, of Cherry Hill, N.J., watched helplessly as his putt to match burnt the left edge.

“The putting wasn’t there today,” Herman, 24, said. “I felt like I rushed through a lot of things. I’m happy to get out here and play, but the playoff was just a little disappointing. It was a great event. I was playing against a legend. I hear about Tom Gramigna all of the time. It was nice to finally nice to play with him.”

In regulation, Gramigna, a semifinalist in this year’s Amateur Championship at Saucon Valley CC, smashed his hybrid to 25-feet left of the lengthy par 3, 230-yard 4th hole. With a penchant for finesse, he chipped in for birdie.

“I surprisingly felt confident on that shot,” Gramigna said. “I didn’t think I’d make it, but it was a pretty easy chip.”

Gramigna again displayed a delicate touch on No. 9 (par 3, 115 yards). After his wedge settled in the fringe, Gramigna converted a 30-foot chip shot for birdie. A third red figure came on the downhill par 4, 370-yard 13th hole. Gramigna smacked his sand wedge 91 yards to eight feet. The 15th hole (par 4, 420 yards), however, evoked strategy as well as conflict. After electing to intentionally play his drive onto the adjacent No. 3 (par 5, 532 yards) fairway, Gramigna launched his 7-iron 145 to the left fringe. His 25-footer for birdie drifted two feet right of the jar. Gramigna watched his par effort skirt the left edge. But he recovered in red figure fashion on the lengthy par 5 17th hole (490 yards) by striking his 6-iron 204 yards to 30-feet and two-putting.

Nursing a 2 under on the scorecard, Gramigna caught a “bad break” in the form of a double bogey on No. 18 (par 4, 410 yards). He attempted to power his drive, but it didn’t travel as far as he anticipated.

“I thought I could carry the (fairway) bunker. I hit the top lip and it kicked back down into the bunker,” Gramigna said. “I had a horrendous lie, so I just pitched out to the fairway. Then I hit a pitching wedge (from 123 yards out) that I thought was perfect but it just went over the green.” Tuesday’s triumph seemed fitting for Gramigna, who finished third in the William Hyndman, III Player of the Year Standings. He assessed why success has followed him in 2010.

“Earlier in the year, I was driving it really good, and I think that set up the rest of my game,” Gramigna said. “I wasn’t three-putting a lot earlier in the year.”

Herman, who will earn a degree in psychology from Rutgers-Camden University next month, carded three bogeys and three birdies. All three hiccups occurred on his front nine. Herman attributed each one to “bad execution.”

“The putter wasn’t there for a little bit,” he said.

The flatstick returned to prominence on No. 8 (par 4, 445 yards). Herman crushed his 8-iron 150 yards to 20-feet and executed the ensuing birdie putt. His pitching wedge came up short on No. 9 (par 3, 115 yards), but Herman’s chip shot from the front fringe found the bottom of the cup. He nearly reached the No. 17 (par 5, 490 yards) green with an 8-iron from 163 yards out. He stopped a soft chip at eight feet and drained the birdie.

Senior Division

Don Donatoni of White Manor CC fired six birdies en route to a 3-under-par 64 score and the Senior Division crown.

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “I’ve been able to end the year with a win that means a lot to me. I’ve played in this a number of times in the Amateur Division, and I’ve come in second several times. I keep saying to myself, ‘if I just keep knocking on the door, I may actually win this thing once.’ I always thought Whitemarsh set up nice for me, and after I got off to a good start, I felt I had a good chance to win. I’m proud of the way I played today. It’s a great capper on my year.

Donatoni, of Malvern, Pa., set the red figure tone early by drilling his 9-iron 130 yards to 15-feet and converting a left-to-right breaker on No. 1 (par 4, 333 yards). After missing an eight-footer for birdie on No. 3 (par 4, 388 yards), Donatoni inked red on the scorecard on No. 3 (par 5, 526 yards). He knocked a wedge 110 yards to 15-feet.

Unfortunately for Donatoni, those good things came to an end as he encountered trouble on Nos. 4 (par 3, 193 yards) and 6 (par 4, 333 yards). He missed a two-footer to save par on No. 4 and steered his tee shot out-of-bounds right on No. 6, which led to a double bogey.

“The wind just took it,” Donatoni said.

Donatoni started to “put the pedal to the metal” on his inward tour, where he registered four birdies. He slapped his pitching wedge 100 yards to 12-feet on No. 11 (par 5, 489 yards) and executed a left-to-right breaker. Donatoni, 62, stuck his GAP wedge 100 yards to four feet on No. 13 (par 4, 354 yards). He fired back-to-back birdies on Nos. 16 (par 3, 128 yards) and 17 (par 5, 456 yards). A solid 9-iron left Donatoni 15-feet left of the hole location, and he rolled in a left-to-right breaker.

“It dropped in at 9 o’clock, which you love to see,” he said of the putt.

On No. 17, knowing that tee-mate Craig Scott of Great Bear G&CC was also playing well, Donatoni blocked his 4-iron into a difficult area between a set of fairway bunkers. With one foot in the sand and the other elevated, he choked down on a pitching wedge and ran it to six-feet below the flagstick. Donatoni answered the birdie call.

Donatoni’s performance led to his second on the GAP circuit in 2010. He, along with Carl Everett of Merion GC, Neil McDermott of Llanerch CC and Michael Rose of Philmont CC, won the Senior Four-Man Team at Bent Creek CC.

“I had a very good year, except for some of the Senior Majors,” Donatoni said. “I won the (Pennsylvania Golf Association’s R. Jay) Sigel Match Play Championship to start the year. I was sort of playing with the house’s money all year. I’ve been hitting it well all year. I just wasn’t scoring for some reason. I was hitting too many loose shots. But today, I only hit one loose shot. My ball striking was about as good as I’ve hit it all year.”

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