Brennan, Cricket’s own, secures 118th GAP Open
John Brennan (GAP photo)
John Brennan (GAP photo)

Two years ago, at age 41, John Brennan’s golf game experienced great heartbreak and uncertainty after falling in 42 holes for the Philadelphia Cricket Club Men’s Championship. Father Time, he felt, may have finally caught him.

Wednesday, at the same Wissahickon Course where he thought it ended, those hallowed grounds gave it back with the biggest victory of Brennan’s amateur career. The 43-year-old Spring-Ford Area High School economics teacher outlasted the area’s most talented field to secure the 118th Open Championship at Philadelphia Cricket Club (Wissahickon, par 70, 7,069 yards).

He is the first amateur from Cricket to hoist the Johnny J. McDermott Trophy and only the third in the club’s history, joining professionals George Fazio (1959) and Donald Ball (1906). Brennan birdied No. 18 (par 4, 482 yards) to finish 1-under for the 36 holes, the only player to break par for the tournament. He closed with a workmanlike second round of 3-under 67.

Four players finished tied for second at 1 over, including first-round leader Braden Shattuck of Rolling Green Golf Club. Shattuck, the club’s director of instructions, and Robert Fenton, an assistant professional at Sunnybrook Golf Club, tied for low professional honors. They earned $6,125 each. Amateurs Rij Patel of the Country Club of York and Marty McGuckin of Philadelphia Cricket Club rounded out the second-place quartet. Ironically, it was McGuckin who defeated Brennan that year for the Cricket Club Championship.

“That was a crusher,” said Brennan of losing to McGuckin. “I was 41 years old and how many more chances are you really going to have to win with the caliber of players here. The caliber of players in GAP. If I’m getting older, there are more 25-year-olds in the Middle-Amateur Championship. The Philadelphia Amateur is a grind. That’s built for the young person in golf.

“This is two days, 18 holes. If I’m going to do something this is what’s built for my mentality. I didn’t feel that home club pressure. I was just comfortable with every shot I was trying to hit out there. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before. When I lost to Marty I didn’t know how long I could keep this level of competition up.”

Brennan was in full stealth mode most of the day.

After nine holes, Shattuck stood at 2 under and possessed a two-shot lead.

Brennan was three back at 1 over and not yet inserted into the conversation.

Cricket, playing hard and fast, is relentless. Add in some Shattuck erratic driving, and the field started to show its claws, just like the club’s resident hawks.

A handful of challengers charged up the board. All failed to sustain bids other than Brennan.

He opened his final nine holes with two pars before reaching No. 12 (par 5, 546 yards) in two shots and tapping in for birdie. Brennan laced a 3-wood from 250 yards to the front of the green and two-putted from 30 feet.

A bogey on No. 15 (par 3, 238 yards) temporarily derailed the Brennan Express, however, the savvy veteran responded with a birdie on No. 16 (par 4, 422 yards) courtesy of a 25-footer. Long putts were a Brennan theme. He made five putts, three for par, of 12 feet or more.

He two-putted from 35 feet on No. 17 (par 4, 450 yards) for a 4 – he was on the far right of the green putting to a far-left hole location – before hitting a pair of the better shots in his competitive career. On No. 18 (par 4, 482 yards), Brennan hammered a drive down the hill, leaving him with 176 yards to the hole. He then laced an 8-iron, downhill and downwind, to eight feet. Playing the putt outside the left edge, the ball trundled up and into the right side of the cup. Birdie. Winner.

“It’s really cool to do something like that at this stage of my career,” said Brennan, of Collegeville, Pa. “It’s the best field of the year. To put your name on a GAP trophy is always a really big deal. People really care.”

Shattuck stepped onto No. 18 tied with Brennan. However, his drive flared to the right and stopped out-of-bounds by about four inches. He would make double bogey.

This is Brennan’s second GAP Major victory. He won the 2012 Middle-Amateur Championship held at Chester Valley Golf Club.

“I didn’t feel [any pressure] going into this tournament. I was more, I’m ready for this,” said Brennan, a decade-long Cricket member. “They can put the tees whenever they want I’ve played it before. They can put the pins wherever they want, I’ve seen that more than likely before. You just can’t press the issue here. If you start pressing the issue you are going to make bogeys. You have to plod along and make some pars. Avoid a number. Just don’t press the issue. That’s when bad things can happen. That’s not the way to play the golf course.”

Obviously, Brennan heeded his own advice.

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ABOUT THE Philadelphia Open

Format: 36-hole individual gross stroke play, two day event. With a cut after the first day to the low 60 and ties.

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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