- GAP photo
Will Davenport trusted the process. He raised the Middle-Amateur trophy as a result.
The cerebral Davenport, a student in The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania MBA Program, survived a resolute Andrew Keeling of Kennett Square Golf & Country Club and a grueling Rolling Green Golf Club (par 70, 6,906 yards) to take the 36th Middle-Amateur Championship Thursday in a four-hole aggregate playoff.
Davenport completed the four playoff holes in 17 strokes. Keeling registered 18 shots. Par for the playoff rotation of Nos. 15-18 was 16. (No. 15, par 4, 383 yards; No. 16, par 3, 166 yards; No. 17, par 5, 499 yards, No. 18, par 4, 481 yards). Both players finished regulation at even-par 140 for two rounds. Andy Beittel of Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club, in only his second Mid.-Am., and Stephen Dressel of St. Davids Golf Club tied for third at 2 over. Beittel drained a 30-footer for birdie on No. 18 to forge into the Top 3.
“It’s more of how I feel with the process [of my game],” said Davenport, 26, of Philadelphia, Pa. “Every part of my game felt pretty good [this week]. Obviously, that’s what it takes, plus a few lucky bounces to get a win.
“I’ve played enough rounds at or near the lead to know that every once in a blue moon [a victory] comes to fruition. I try not to have expectations about results but rather stay in the moment. I try to take it shot-by-shot. Golf will beat you down but days like this put you right back on top of the world.”
Both Davenport and Keeling, 27, are GAP upstarts. Davenport, a Palm City, Fla. native, moved to the area last August for school. He was a four-year letter winner at Yale University, graduating in 2015 before going to work for the Boston Consulting Group, first in Miami, Fla., and then Australia.
This was his first Major Championship.
Keeling, a native of Langhorne, Pa. and Yardley Country Club, picked the clubs back up a few years ago after graduating from Penn State University when he joined Hershey’s Mill Golf Club. He since moved to West Chester, Pa. and Kennett Square G&CC. A mechanical engineer at Southco, Inc., this was his second GAP Major. He made the cut in last year’s Mid.-Am. on the number. He finished tied for 57th.
Thursday’s round was hampered by three separate weather delays. The final stoppage coming at 3:14 p.m. Play restarted, with only Davenport, Keeling and Jeff Osberg of Pine Valley Golf Club, on the course, on No. 18.
Davenport, representing Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, held a two-shot lead on Keeling, the first-round leader, at that point but a drive into the right tree line forced a chip out. Keeling, who pumped a drive down the middle, just before the delay, lasered a pitching wedge from 140 yards to 10 feet. Davenport missed his eventual 25-foot par try. Keeling drained his birdie putt to draw even and force extras.
Keeling, who carded a career-best 5-under 65 Wednesday, and held a two-shot lead on Davenport and Osberg to start the day, opened with a disastrous 6-over 42 on his first nine. Meanwhile, Osberg built a three-stroke lead at the turn. Dressel, at 2 under, his nearest pursuer.
However, Osberg bogeyed No. 10 (par 3, 254 yards) after finding the left greenside bunker; parred No. 11 (par 4, 446 yards) but then three putted five of his last seven holes to fall out of contention.
Davenport steadied himself on his inward nine after making three bogeys in his first five holes. He parred his first eight holes coming home before that final bogey.
“You can only control what’s between the ears and I think I did I did a good job of that today,” said Davenport. “Especially from [Nos.] 12 to 17. I really played my best golf and I was nervous all the way through that stretch. I knew if I could do it then then why not for four more holes.”
Keeling played his best golf late as well. In addition to the birdie on the final hole, on No. 17, he rocketed a 2-hybrid from 238 yards to a foot for eagle. That moved him within two strokes.
“Coming down the stretch I wasn’t looking at the scoreboard. I didn’t know what was happening. I figured I was pretty much out of it, somewhere in the Top 10 maybe,” said Keeling. “When I came in for the [last] rain delay I was kind of a surprised people had fallen off. It was pretty much me and Will.”
In the playoff, Davenport regained the momentum immediately. On No. 15, he knocked a wedge from 92 yards to six feet and made birdie. Keeling, too, found the green but made par. Playoff score: Davenport 3, Keeling 4.
On No. 16, Davenport hit the green but Keeling missed right. When it was over, Davenport made a bogey and Keeling double. Playoff score: Davenport 7, Keeling 9.
On No. 17, Keeling rolled his eagle try from just short of the green to a foot for birdie. Davenport made a smooth par. Playoff score: Davenport 12, Keeling 13.
On No. 18, both players found trouble off the tee in the left treeline. Davenport’s ball stopped next to a tree but he managed to knock a 3-iron from 208 yards to approximately 50 yards short of the green. He knocked his chip up to 15 feet and two putted for par. Keeling rifled a 6-iron from 180 to the right side of the green 30 feet from the hole. He had 10 feet remaining for par. The ball caught the lower lip of the cup and stayed out. Playoff score: Davenport 17, Keeling 18.
“It’s going to be a hard trend to continue,” said Davenport of being 1-for-1 in victories in GAP Major Championships. “I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.”
Davenport joins Gene Maginnis, Jr. as the only other Whitemarsh Valley member to win the Middle-Amateur. Maginnis took the first GAP Mid.-Am. in 1984.
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