Pennsylvania Am: Mason's great play continues

LANCASTER, Pa.(July 27, 2011) -–It’s been a life altering – golf wise – eight days for Andrew Mason of Huntingdon Valley CC.

Fresh off a smashing triumph in the 103rd Golf Association of Philadelphia Open Championship, the 22-year-old Huntingdon Valley, Pa. resident added the 98th Pennsylvania Golf Association Amateur Championship sponsored by Penn National Insurance title to his rapidly rising profile on Wednesday.

Mason entered the third and final round at an extremely challenging Lancaster CC (par 70, 6,850 yards) two strokes behind leader Adam Hofmann of Fox Chapel GC. He closed the 54-hole event at even par, finishing with a third-round best 1-over 71 on a day when an astounding 77.3 was the scoring average. Thick rough and quick green speeds resulted in brutal conditions.

Mason secured the win with a 20-foot, up-the-hill par save on No. 18 (par 4, 470 yards) to edge local Lancaster County hopeful Matthew Burkhart of Meadia Heights GC by a shot. Hofmann, the 2007 Amateur Champion, placed third.

"It’s hard to put it in perspective right now,” said the soft-spoken Mason. “Obviously it’s the best week of my golfing career. It’s really just an honor. I’m really happy.”

On a day when bogeys reigned and pars were the score du jour, Mason skyrocketed to the front with a remarkable front side 2-under 33, five better than the average. He birdied No. 2 (par 4, 377 yards) from a foot after punching an 8-iron on from 152 yards; hit a 105-yard sand wedge to three feet on No. 5 (par 4, 392 yards) and two putted from 30 feet on No. 7 (par 5, 529 yards). Mason held a three-stroke lead over Hoffman, his closest pursuer with nine holes to play.

The outcome, however, became a bit unclear as the field traversed the backside.

Mason miscues on Nos. 11 (par 4, 478 yards) and 12 (par 3, 181 yards) dropped the former Temple University golfer to 1 under. Meanwhile, Burkhart, who stood at 1-over after 45 holes, birdied Nos. 12 and 13 (par 5, 517 yards) to move into challenging position. It became clear the Amateur trophy would wind up with one of these two.

Mason converted clutch par saves on each of the next three holes to remain one clear of the field before recording a bogey on No. 17 (par 3, 182 yards) after finding the left bunker. When Burkhart, in the final group and just behind Mason, drained a miraculous 45-foot twisting birdie on No. 16 (par 4, 357 yards) the pair was tied at even.

“When I made that putt I’d be lying if I didn’t say maybe it’s meant to be,” said Burkhart, 20, of Lancaster, Pa. and a junior at Messiah College. “It almost felt like it was fate. I still had two difficult holes to go though.”

Mason found the 18th (par 4, 470 yards) green with an approach that stopped 50 feet left of the hole before Burkhart hit on No. 17 (par 3, 182 yards). Facing a treacherous and unstoppable downhill putt, Mason left himself a 20-foot comebacker, which fell dead in the heart, to finish at level par. Burkhart, in the meantime, flared his 6-iron into the right greenside bunker, knocked his sand shot out to 15 feet and missed the par save. On No. 18, Burkhart came up just a couple yards short of the green with his 7-iron from 190 yards out in the left rough. His chip stopped three feet short to make Mason’s coronation official.

The key to Mason’s meteoric rise seems pretty simple.

“Keeping my focus and playing pretty conservative,” said Mason.

For most of the day, he made it look that easy.

ABOUT THE Pennsylvania State Amateur

First played in 1909, the Pennsylvania Amateur is 54- hole stroke play event open to any male amateur golfer who is a member of a club belonging to the Pennsylvania Golf Association. Non exempt players must qualify through a sectional qualifying event a month prior. There will be a cut to the low 40 and ties after the second round.

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