A blend of patience and perseverance proved to be a winning formula for Brian Isztwan
Wednesday afternoon at R. Jay Sigel Pennsylvania Match Play Championship at Huntingdon Valley Country Club just outside Philadelphia.
The Harvard senior to be rallied from a two-hole deficit with 10 holes remaining in regulation to record a 20-hole victory over friend and clubmate Ben Cooley
to claim the 19th edition of the tournament named in honor of one of the greatest amateur players of all-time.
Both finalists are members of the host club and have won club championships there. Isztwan resides in the Huntingdon Valley while Cooley hails from Rydal, the next town over, and Wednesday’s championship match looked like what it was -- two good friends competing against each other for bragging rights as well as a trophy.
“We’ve played a lot of club championship matches against each other,” Isztwan said, “and I think this might have been the first time I’ve gotten the better of him.
“He’s been a great mentor for me around here too. Another Ivy League golfer and a real good player. Mental game-wise, I don’t think there’s anybody stronger than him.”
Cooley, who played college golf at Penn before entering the business world, was two up after eight holes of the scheduled 18-hole final in part because of a conceded birdie at the seventh after reaching the 565-yard par-5 in two. That was followed by Isztwan missing a par putt at the eighth.
But Cooley missed a short par putt of his own at the par-4 ninth and from that point on, neither player led by more than a single hole. Isztwan tied the match for the last time with a conceded eagle at the par-5 16th before ending matters with a par at the par-4 20th.
"I just tried to put the pedal down,” he said. “He put two birdies on me at 12 and 13 but I just kind of held steady making pars. That was kind of a turning point, right at the turn.”
During that stretch, Cooley lost three consecutive holes, the 10th 11th, and 12th, all par fours.
“I missed a couple of putts,” he said. “I just tried to refocus. Then, later on, I had a couple of opportunities to not really worry about him, or him playing a little better, but just tried to focus on myself and made a couple birdies and got back into it.”
As disappointed as he was to lose, Cooley was elated for his friend and opponent.
“I’m really happy for Brian,” he said. “We play together every now and then with a big group of young guys here. I knew he was due for (a big win) and he got it here in the afternoon.”
The championship match was the sixth round for both players in a three-day span. Isztwan finished at 2-under par 138 in Monday’s stroke-play qualifying to share medalist honors (his opening 65 was the low medal-play round of the week).
“My caddie was huge for me all week,” he said. “We were exchanging a lot of laughs and stories and that just kind of kept me energized the whole time.
“I think mentally I just tried to keep everything in a really, really even keep this week. I have a tendency to not do that."
Apart from adding his name to the list of past champions of this event, Isztwan was elated to have Sigel watching him earlier this week.
“Mr. Sigel was out here during the first round,” he said. “He actually watched me play some of that round (when Isztwan shot his 65). That was amazing, to be able to do that in front of him.
“It’s really an honor to even meet him. I actually worked for the First Tee four or five years ago and actually did an interview piece on him. I actually got to talk to him.
“It was really cool to see him out here. A great guy, an incredible player, it goes without saying.”
“What Mr. Sigel’s done in his career is pretty impressive,” Cooley said. “It’s a huge list of accomplishments, and I’m happy that Brian gets to be on that trophy.”View results for Pennsylvania Amateur Match Play
ABOUT THE Pennsylvania Amateur Match Play
Open to any male amateur golfer who is a member
club belonging to the Pennsylvania Golf Association.
Format consists of two rounds of stroke play
by a cut to the low 16 players for match play.
View Complete Tournament Information