Troy Vannucci (GAP photo)
A Golf Association of Philadelphia circuit regular the last decade, Troy Vannucci secured his first major title Wednesday with a come-from-behind playoff victory in the 39th Middle-Amateur Championship at Jericho National Golf Club (par 72, 6,817 yards) in New Hole, Pa.
Vannucci, 30, of Little Mill Country Club, defeated Sean Flanigan, 41, of Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association, the first-round leader, in a four-hole aggregate playoff, 14 strokes to 16. Both players finished the 36 holes of regulation at 3 under. Vannucci closed with a 1-under 71. Flanigan posted a 2-over 73.
“It’s incredible. It’s hard to win [out here]. They say it’s hard to win, and you better believe it is,” said Vannucci, of Marlton, N.J. “I’ve been knocking for a long time. My cousin Michael [Hyland] just says, ‘Keep on playing.’ He’s always encourages me. [My uncle Tom, Michael’s father] has always encouraged me. You fail, go play the next one. Who cares. Keep playing. Keep swinging. It’s eventually going to work out.”
Vannucci’s name will now reside on the same Middle-Amateur trophy that Hyland won in 2018 at Llanerch Country Club.
Vannucci has recorded a few close calls the last few seasons in a few different arenas. Last year in GAP, he made it to the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship Quarterfinals a week after earning runner-up honors in the New Jersey State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship. Weeks later, he tied for third in the Philadelphia Open Championship at the Country Club of York, two shots behind the winner. In 2019, he and partner Vince Kwon made national headlines with a scintillating Semifinal run in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Once the extra holes (Nos. 10-11-12-18) started Wednesday, victory seemed destiny for Vannucci.
Flanigan’s second shot on the first playoff hole, No. 10 (par 4, 439 yards), found the left pond. Vannucci went fairway-and-green, a common theme for him over the two rounds, for a 4 while Flanigan made 6. Vannucci made only three bogeys in the 36 holes, all coming in the final round. Two of those were the result of a three putt.
The two competitors exchanged pars on Nos. 11 (par 4, 382 yards) and 12 (par 3, 105 yards), giving Vannucci an 11-to-13-stroke advantage with only No. 18 (par 4, 431 yards) to play. Both found the fairway on the final hole. Flanigan lifted a 54-degree wedge from 101 yards to 15 feet. Vannucci hit his 60-degree wedge from 104 yards to 25 feet. Vannucci, putting uphill, tried to “lag” his first putt. It turned out to be his last putt, as the ball tumbled into the cup.
“About time,” Vannucci, a project manager for American Athletic Track and Turf, said as clubmate Dan Keenan walked up to celebrate with the champion. “It’s surreal. My phone’s going off in my pocket right now. It hasn’t stopped vibrating [since I won]. The guys are so good. I’m glad to be on top.”
For Flanigan, the result was a mix of obvious disappointment and encouraging returns.
After being away from the competitive game due to family and work, Flanigan made a remarkable debut in his first GAP championship.
He was the first-round leader, and still held that top spot with four holes to go before the golfing nerves imposed their will.
At No. 15 (par 3, 205 yards), which was playing a full stroke above par and the hardest hole of the tournament, Flanigan made double bogey after missing the green long with a 5-iron and stubbing the ensuing chip. His difficulties continued on the next hole, No. 16 (par 4, 403 yards), when he pulled his 8-iron from 188 yards into the left greenside bunker and failed to get up-and-down. His lead was down to one.
Meanwhile, Vannucci applied more pressure when he lofted a remarkable lob shot from behind the green on No. 17 (par 5, 510 yards) that stopped inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie to pull into a tie.
Flanigan, of Logan Township, N.J, tried to answer by hitting the 17th green in two shots with a 4-iron from 228 yards, though be it 50 feet from the cup. However, his eventual birdie effort from five feet lipped out.
“If you would have told me I’d be runner-up at the start of the week, I would have happily accepted that,” said Flanigan, a civil engineer the last decade for S.T. Hudson Engineers, Inc., a Marine Engineering Solutions company. “It turns out the fashion it happened in wasn’t quite great but hats off to Troy. I had it going for awhile but ran into a couple of bad holes on the back. And, unfortunately, on the first playoff hole hit one into the water. All in all, a great experience.”
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 330 Member Clubs and 90,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.View results for Philadelphia Mid-Amateur