Kyle Henofer, the 2017 Philadelphia TOC champion
EXETER, Pa. — Indian Valley Country Club’s Kyle Henofer defeated Glenmaura National Golf Club’s Patrick Mitchell in a sudden-death playoff to win the 60th Tournament of Champions at Fox Hill Country Club (par 71, 6,508 yards) Tuesday. Both players carded respective 1-over-par 72s in regulation.
“It was very nerve-racking, so I’m really relieved and happy. I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out,” Henofer, 23, of Sellersville, Pa., said. “I kind of stayed in the moment and got it done.”
The nerves avalanched after Henofer, with tee honors, hooked his drive on No. 1 (par 4, 401 yards), the first playoff hole. The Arcadia University junior ran to the edge of the tee-box, crouched and prayed for a safe landing. His golf ball landed in the adjacent No. 9 fairway — 127 yards from the flagstick. Mitchell then missed the fairway right with his drive. He negotiated an overhanging tree with his approach, leaving it 15 yards shy of the hole location. Given the circumstances, Henofer decided to play his 50-degree wedge to the middle of the green. Mitchell’s third shot failed to release toward the flagstick, forcing a testy 30-footer for par. He missed, opening the door for a Henofer two-putt victory from 20 feet.
“Once I saw him miss his putt, I did get a little bit more tentative [with my birdie try],” Henofer said. “I was like, ‘Get the ball to the hole and get the two-putt.’”
Henofer, who completed his round three hours earlier, rearranged his academic schedule to make Tuesday possible. He rescheduled a morning lab and called his Living World Religions professor once he realized a playoff was evident. Between sessions, Henofer met his girlfriend Madison Trauger, a sophomore at nearby Wilkes University, for lunch. The retreat helped mentally.
“I didn’t think too much about golf. It allowed me to be comfortable up here,” Henofer said. “I have a really good support system. I’m really grateful for that.”
A pair of par 5s ultimately set the playoff stage. Poor wedge approaches within 85 yards on Nos. 12 (490 yards) and 14 (517 yards) caused bogeys. Henofer, on the other hand, birdied both. He powered a 4-iron 207 yards to 35 feet and two putted on No. 12. After leaving a grip-it-and-rip-it 3-wood short of the 14th green, Henofer nestled a chip to five feet. He also inked red on No. 15 (par 4, 340 yards), knocking a wedge 68 yards to 35 feet.
“I really lucked out. I had a little bit of a read [from my playing partners] and realized how slow [the putt],” he said. “I really pounded it.”
Henofer needed a late charge after exiting his outward nine in 3 over.
“I wish I played a little bit smarter on the front,” he said. “I came out and really tried to bully the course. It bit me in the butt. I played a lot smarter on the back. I completely changed my strategy.”
Henofer earned a spot in the Tournament of Champions by claiming his first men’s title at Indian Valley this summer. He defeated good friend and sometimes caddie Joe Harding in the Final.
“I was really happy with the win that got me here. That’s been a monkey on my back,” Henofer said.
Senior & Super-Senior
Donald Crossin didn’t initially intend to compete in Tuesday’s event on his home course. He is traveling later this week and thought it be best to hold off in preparation.
The Fox Hill family changed his mind.
"[Head professional Francis Hayes] and some of the members said, ‘You’ve got to play. It’s at our club. See what you can do,’” Crossin, 53, of Plains, Pa., said. “I’m glad I did.”
A fun experience and a trophy left the longtime Fox Hill member smiling. Crossin carded an even-par 71 to take the event’s Senior (par 71, 6,164 yards) title. He fired three birdies on the day. On No. 6 (par 5, 470 yards), Crossin knocked a wedge 80 yards to 15 feet. A 7-iron and wedge, respectively, set up conversions on Nos. 10 (par 4, 341 yards) and 15 (par 4, 319 yards).
Crossin is a three-time Senior champion (2014-14, 2017) and former men’s champion (2008) at Fox Hill. He held a junior membership before gaining full status in 1983. Crossin knows the golf course intricacies and embraces the club camaraderie.
“Anytime you need a game you can get it. I love it here,” Crossin, who works in insurance and real estate, said.
In the Super-Senior (par 71, 5,787 yards) Division, Saucon Valley Country Club’s Robin McCool carded a 1-over-par 72 to prevail by four strokes.
McCool, a three-time (2006-07, 2012) Senior winner in the Tournament of Champions, saw his 9-iron facilitate a pair of back-nine birdies. On the par 3, 124-yard 11th hole, he used the club to create a two-footer for birdie. McCool again pulled 9-iron for a 115-yard approach on No. 17 (par 4, 334 yards). He deposited a 10-footer — six feet of break included — for birdie there.
“I’ve played here before, so I know it can be a pretty difficult golf course. I just tried to make a lot of pars, which is what I did,” McCool, 66, of Center Valley, Pa., said. “When I made a bogey, I immediately birdied the next hole.”
McCool, who finished second in the Association’s Super-Senior Player of the Year race a year ago, didn’t play “up to my standards” in 2017. A housing move left the former GAP Executive Committee member with a lot on his plate throughout the summer. McCool, however, turned a corner as the season progressed, winning the Senior Division in the Lehigh Valley Amateur and placing fifth in the GAP Senior Amateur at Lehigh Country Club. He’s excited to end the year on another triumphant note.
“Plus, I want to go to The Player’s Dinner [on Oct. 25]. Now I’m going to get my invitation,” McCool said.
Open to current Member Club amateur champions, senior amateur champions and previous winners, the Tournament of Champions began in 1962 in memory of Larry Malmed. The Golf Association of Philadelphia accepted the event in 1984 after Al Porter, the tournament’s coordinator, was forced to retire because of an illness. A Senior Division was added in 1992.