First round leader amateur Matt Mattare
GLADWYNE, PA (July 17, 2017) - Amateur Matt Mattare gave himself a stern talking to after a rough BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship showing last month. His game wasn’t the issue, but his mental state was.
“After the Philly Am., I took a week off and reset. My attitude was bad. I was putting too much pressure on myself,” said Mattare, 31, of Jersey City, N.J. “[Golf] is not a career. [I said to myself] come out here and relax. When you relax and swing smooth good things happen.”
In the first round of the 113th Open Championship on Monday at Philadelphia Country Club (par 71, 6,902 yards), there were many good things, as in birdies. Mattare made nine total and just one bogey en route to setting a new Philly Country competitive course record of 63. Mattare’s scintillating performance gave the Saucon Valley Country Club swatter a four-shot lead heading into Tuesday’s second and final round.
Tony Perla, an assistant professional at Philadelphia Cricket Club, is Mattare’s closest challenger after carding a 67. Amateurs Michael McDermott of Merion Golf Club and David Hicks of Stone Harbor Golf Club are 2 under and tied for third.
Eight of the 128 players to begin the tournament finished in red figures.
The cutline fell at 4-over 75. A total of 65 players made the cut – 38 amateurs and 27 professionals.
This is the first year of a revamped Open format, which included the expansion of the field to 130-plus players (up from 78) and administration of the tournament over two days instead of one.
“The biggest thing is there was a month where I really didn’t play well culminating with the Philly Am. So there comes a time when you either adjust your attitude or stop putting all this time and effort into it,” said Mattare. “That adjustment has a made a huge difference, obviously.”
The 63 was a personal competitive best as well, said Mattare.
The prior Philadelphia Country competitive course record was 64. That was set by Charlie Beljan in the 2005 U.S. Amateur Championship when Country was the second qualifying site. Merion Golf Club (East) was the main venue that year.
Mattare stated his intentions early and often under Monday’s sunny skies. He made six birdies on the first nine holes to turn in 6-under 30. Strong wedges and a red-hot putter set the Philadelphia Country grill room abuzz when word started getting out.
“When I rolled in the birdie on 7 [is when I thought it could be a special day],” said Mattare. “I had a 10-footer that broke about a foot and a half. And I just buried it dead in the heart. Once you get to 5 under you start getting greedy. “The way I play is nice and relaxed and in control. I try not to press the issue. Especially since this is the first round of a 36-hole tournament.”
Mattare had 11 putts on the front nine.
On the back side, Mattare chipped it to a foot on No. 12 (par 5, 579 yards); knocked a lob wedge from 104 yards to 15 feet on No. 13 (par 4, 378 yards) and rolled in a 20-footer on No. 17 (par 4, 444 yards) after finding the green with a pitching wedge from 155 yards away. He also made three up-and-down par saves on Nos. 14 thru 16.
Mattare’s lone blemish came on the final hole.
He found the fairway on No. 18 (par 4, 392 yards) but spun a 52-degree wedge from 124 yards off the left side of the green, approximately 30 feet to the left of the hole. The ball stopped between the collar and rough. Mattare’s chip left him with 20 feet for par and he missed to the low side.
He had 12 putts on the back side.
“The big question when you come here is putting,” said Mattare, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley. “These greens have a lot of grain in them and it’s not something you are used to dealing with. I had a great caddie in [Ted Decker]. I got a couple rolling early.”
Mattare’s top prior Open finish was a tie for third in 2016 and 2011.
Mattare’s been on a bit of a roll since that low point early in the season. He tied for second in the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Ike Championship (three-rounds of stroke play) soon thereafter and captured Saucon Valley’s stroke play championship event recently.
Perla, 30, of East Norriton, Pa., put himself in contention for both the Open title and low pro honors with a stellar 30 on the back nine. He turned in 1-over par but birdied Nos. 12-16 to find a spot near the top of the leaderboard. Perla was in the first group to tee off in the morning.
In a case of good symmetry, Mattare was in the first group of the afternoon wave.
McDermott, a five-time William Hyndman, III Player of the Year and multiple Major Champion, is still in search of his first Open title.
He’s six shots back.
McDermott’s been close a number of times in the Open, including five Top 3 finishes in the last 13 years.
Defending champion Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley Country Club is at 3 over.
Total purse for the Open is $35,000. The low professional receives $7,000.
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ABOUT THE Philadelphia Open
Format: 36-hole individual gross stroke play, two
event. With a cut after the first day to the low 60
Eligibility: The field will consist of professionals who
are active members of the Philadelphia Section PGA
in good standing (the A-4 classification is not
eligible), Head Professionals of GAP Member Clubs,
Assistant Professionals of member clubs who are
active members of the New Jersey Section PGA and
amateurs who are members of member clubs and
have handicap index of 7.0 or less. Non-exempt
players must prequalify.
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