MALVERN, Pa. — Don Donatoni received a late birthday present Thursday: the Super-Senior title in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 79th Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross). Donatoni, who turned 65 five days ago to become eligible for the division, posted a 3-over-par 74 at White Manor Country Club (par 71, 6,212 yards) to prevail by two strokes.
“Being a rookie on your home course, I was able to deliver,” Donatoni said. “It’s not a score I was terribly proud of, but it still got the job done. I couldn’t stop Father Time. It’s caught up to me. All in all, I was pretty proud of the way today turned out. It feels great.”
Donatoni’s Super-Senior baptism at White Manor presented a double-edged sword. He was familiar yet unfamiliar, if you will.
“There’s a certain comfort level,” the Malvern, Pa. resident said. “The expectations are high because your fellow competitors expect you to play well. The club’s membership kept reminding me that this is to my advantage. Those kinds of things go through your head when you’re playing. You have to be able to deflect that pressure and realize it’s still a game. I tried hard today to play position golf. As a Super-Senior, I was hitting from tees I never played before at White Manor.”
A veteran in a now foreign land, Donatoni posted four bogeys against a birdie on the day. He missed the No. 5 (par 4, 371 yards) green left with a pitching wedge from 120 yards, left a chip six feet short and failed to save par. Donatoni rebounded with a red figure on the par 5, 506-yard No. 6, powering a 3-wood 260 yards to 50 feet and cozying the eagle try into tap-in territory. Donatoni made a miracle four on No. 8 (par 3, 116 yards). His “worst shot of the day” – a pitching wedge – caught a gust of wind and landed in a bed of sand instead of an adjacent water hazard.
“I hit the rocks in front of the green, and it ricocheted up in the air,” Donatoni said. “It could’ve gone in any direction, but it went in the right-side bunker, which is no picnic. Now you have to get it over that high mound, downhill with water on the other side.” Donatoni held the green with his sand shot and two-putted for bogey.
At that point, Donatoni stood tied with RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve’s Terry Fair and one shot back of Tavistock Country Club’s John Owens, who made the turn at even. Donatoni logged a bogey on the par 5, 500-yard 11th hole. His 40-yard wedge shot didn’t carry enough steam to clear a slope on the green, which resulted in a deflating three-putt. Donatoni blocked a drive right on No. 16 (par 4, 400 yards), caught the left greenside bunker with his approach and failed to get up-and-down.
Both Fair and Owens gradually scaled down the Super-Senior leaderboard, thus bringing Donatoni to the top. Unaware of his position Donatoni felt he needed to press for birdies. His heart sank once his 25-footer for 3 on No. 18 (par 4, 352 yards) stopped short of the jar.
“I figured I had to shoot 1 over to have a chance to win,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I had achieved what I expected to do and what others expected of me. To come in and find out I had won was a relief. I had a lot of wedges into greens, and my wedge play was not sharp. If it had been, I think I could’ve scored better. I had a lot of lengthy putts today. My lag putting was very good.”
Merion Golf Club’s Carl Everett, Fox Hill Country Club’s William Lawler and Talamore Country Club’s Michael Rose, the reigning Super-Senior Player of the Year, posted 6-over-par 77s to share the second place seat.
Francis B. Warner of Philadelphia Cricket Club served as secretary-treasurer for the Golf Association of Philadelphia for 18 years. After his death in 1933, the Association started the Francis B. Warner Cup, an 18-hole stroke play Senior event, as an ongoing tribute in his memory.
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 143 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
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