Stephen Dressel leads Philadelphia Mid-Amateur by One
James Gillespie will begin the final round one shot back <br>(GAP Photo)
James Gillespie will begin the final round one shot back
(GAP Photo)

VILLANOVA, PA (May 24, 2017) - In the opening round of the 34th Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf at Overbrook Golf Club (par 70, 6,568 yards) Wednesday, Stephen Dressel’s fixed flat stick guided him to a 4-under-par 66. He needed just 28 putts.

“I played in the [BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship Qualifier at French Creek Golf Club on Monday] and the putting wasn’t too good (he registered 35 putts). I had to get dad on the hotline to talk it through and figure out what to work on,” said Dressel, of Wayne, Pa. “We worked on the putting green for an hour and a half or so [yesterday]. I was able to find something.

“It’s usually alignment with putting. Most good players will tell you if your alignment gets out of whack it starts to wreak havoc on everything else. [We worked on] keeping my head down, extending the putter out to the hole and holding it there. That’s all I was focusing on all day.”

Dressel has a one-stroke lead on surprise contender James Gillespie of Little Mill Country Club (67). Gillespie, 43, of Turnersville, N.J., hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

Two shots back after opening 68s are Jeff Osberg, 32, of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, the two-time reigning Player of the Year in search of a first Middle-Amateur title, and Michael Carr, 30, of Philadelphia Cricket Club. Chris Lange, Jr., 33, is the low host-club hopeful at 1 under.

Defending champion Matt Mattare, 31, of Saucon Valley Country Club finished at even par.

The cutline fell at 6-over 76 with 72 players advancing to the second and final day tomorrow.

With impending weather in the forecast, the Association decided to utilize a two-tee start beginning at 7:30 a.m. The final pairing of Dressel, Gillespie and Osberg tees off at 9:20 a.m.

Dressel, who carded a 66 at Overbrook in the 2014 BMW Philadelphia Amateur Qualifier, dropped the gauntlet early at a course that obviously fits his eye. He turned in 3-under-par 32 registering two birdies, an eagle and a bogey. He knocked a wedge on No. 4 (par 4, 434 yards) from 130 yards to eight feet for a 3; jarred a 35-yard sand wedge for eagle on No. 5 (par 5, 541 yards) and added another red figure on No. 8 (par 4, 415 yards) when he lifted an 8-iron from 163 yards to 10 feet and made the putt. His lone blemish was a bogey on No. 7 (par 3, 202 yards) when his 5-iron missed the green right.

On the back side, Dressel birdied No. 14 (par 4, 315 yards) after knocking a 58-degree wedge to 12 feet. He used the back stop to slow his approach after his tee ball found a divot. Two holes prior, Dressel went for No. 12 (par 5, 518 yards) in two shots. He flopped his third into the bunker but drained a 10-footer to save par after escaping the sand.

“I left the ball on the downslope in the bunker. I had to hit a pretty good bunker shot to get it to 10 feet,” said Dressel. “I was fortunate enough to roll one in. That was really key to keeping the momentum going for the rest of nine.”

This isn’t Dressel’s first voyage on the Middle-Amateur leaderboard. Two years ago, at his home club, he finished in fifth place.

What did he learn?

“Be patient. You can only control what you do in golf. You can’t play defense,” said Dressel. “I’ll just try to draw on the experience I had today and keep it going into tomorrow.”

Gillespie, a regular in Association tournaments, surprised himself a bit with his consistency. He carded three birdies and 15 pars.

Starting his round on the back side, he lifted a pitching wedge on No. 11 (par 4, 437 yards) from 130 yards to a foot.; knocked his greenside bunker shot on No. 12 to a tap-in and on No 14 dropped a lob wedge from 80 yards to six inches.

Gillespie said the closest he came to registering a bogey was on his 17th hole, No. 8 (par 4, 415 yards). He was right off the tee and had to get up-and-down from 90 yards, which he did.

“We have great players at our course. I’m a nice player,” said Gillespie. “I always seem to have two or three holes that take me out of everything. If I can get rid of them, you have today.”

Tomorrow may depend on Mother Nature. Rain is forecasted for a majority of the day.

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ABOUT THE Philadelphia Mid-Amateur

Format: Thirty-Six hole individual gross stroke play, two day event. With a cut after the first day to the low 70 and ties.

Eligibility: Open to Member Club golfers who are 25 years of age and over with a USGA Handicap. Nonexempt players must prequalify. Index of 7.0 or lower.

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