Dave Mecca wins Golf Association of Philadelphia Mid-Amateur
Dave Mecca (GAP photo)
Dave Mecca (GAP photo)

Dave Mecca, and his stunning victory in the Middle-Amateur Championship, may be the conduit for those in Northeast Pennsylvania, a.k.a. the Anthracite Golf Association, to visit GAP more often.

Mecca posted a sensational second round and tournament-best 1-under-par 70 Tuesday at Old York Road Country Club (par 71, 6,632 yards) to finish a shot clear of all pursuers for the 40th Middle-Amateur Championship presented by NJM Insurance Group. Mecca finished the tournament’s 36 holes at 2-over 144. His winning score is the highest since Michael McDermott’s 2008 victory at Fieldstone Golf Club. McDermott finished 2 over that year as well.

“It’s surreal. It’s awesome for finally an AGA guy winning. I’m really happy with how I played today. Yesterday, I didn’t strike it all that great, I just got around the course. Today, I had my “A” game. I putted really well. I hit the ball well with the exception of like one shot,” said Mecca, who guided his home Glen Oak Country Club to a victory in the prestigious GAP/AGA Men’s Coal Scuttle a year ago.

“I think you’ll see in the next couple years we’ll have some more guys [from AGA] playing. We have some strong talent up there. I know the guys [in the Middle-Amateur] are the best. It’s not the entire state of Pennsylvania, but it’s Pennsylvania, New Jersey [and] Delaware. These are some of the strongest fields I can play in. It’s cool to test my game against these guys.”

That strong GAP/AGA talent is already making waves.

Amongst the trio that tied for second was John Barone of Glenmaura National Golf Club, a fellow AGA/GAP representative. Barone, a Temple University graduate, appeared favored to hoist the trophy after 14 holes when he held a two-shot lead. Three straight bogeys followed and derailed his quest. Sharing the second slot was first-round co-leader Stewart Rickenbach of Huntingdon Valley Country Club and Ben Feld of Green Valley Country Club, the 2017 winner.

“I’m super-pumped to see Dave come out on top. You always have to root for the Anthracite Golf Association guys. To see both of us on top of the leaderboard is pretty cool,” said Barone, 27, of Philadelphia, Pa. “We have a ton of good players in that area. [Him and I] being at the top of the leaderboard says a lot about golf in that area.”

Mecca, 30, of Clarks Summit, Pa., entered Round 2 three shots in back of Rickenbach and other co-leader Ryan Beck of the host club. He appeared to play himself out of the championship almost immediately with a double bogey on No. 2 (par 4, 337 yards) when he “bladed a wedge 40 yards over the green.” He continued, “That calmed my nerves because I thought I was done.”

That was until the birdie train pulled into the station.

He registered under-par scores on four of the next seven holes.

An impressive Day 2 feat considering there were only 116 birdies made by the field of the 1,257 holes played.

On No. 4 (par 5, 574 yards), he laced a 5-wood from 248 yards that rolled off the left side of the green to 50 feet from the cup. He chipped to 10 feet and made the putt. On No. 8 (par 4, 330 yards), Mecca powered a 5-wood to 40 yards short of the green. He followed with a sand wedge to four feet for a birdie 3. A chip from short of the green on No. 9 (par 5, 553 yards) to six feet added a red score before he sank a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 10 (par 4, 408 yards).

Mecca was solo second at that point.

“I thought I may be close. I checked the scores and at the point I was only one back,” said Mecca. “I play better under pressure.”

Six more pars followed.

A bogey on No 17 (par 4, 412 yards) made the former Hofstra University golf captain angry when he three putted from five feet. His five-footer for birdie from above the hole resulted in a six-footer for par from beneath it. He tapped-in for bogey.

He parred No. 18 (par 4, 422 yards), leaving a birdie putt a few rolls short.

Barone, meanwhile, made a 50-foot birdie up the hill on No. 14 (par 3, 149 yards) to slingshot to a two-shot advantage. A mental mistake, as he called it, with his par putt on No. 15 (par 5, 524 yards), and two additional bogeys on the two ensuing tough holes erased his advantage.

“That’s just golf,” said Barone on his travails on Nos. 16 (par 3, 204 yards) and 17 (par 4, 412 yards). He missed a putt on No. 16 for par and incurred a bogey on No. 17 after his drive landed on a mogul in the fairway. His second shot came up short right of the green and he missed a shortish par try.

Perhaps, even more incredible than Mecca’s performance Tuesday, was his physical status. He contracted the shingles around Week 2 of the BMW GAP Team Matches, which was played April 30. He didn’t swing a club again until May 11, in preparation for the U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Huntsville Golf Club. He posted a 2-over 74 to miss the cut by four strokes. Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. He said it affected his left shoulder and chest area.

View results for Philadelphia Mid-Amateur

ABOUT THE Philadelphia Mid-Amateur

Format: Thirty-Six hole individual gross stroke play, two day event. With a cut after the first day to the low 70 and ties.

Eligibility: Open to Member Club golfers who are 25 years of age and over with a USGA Handicap. Nonexempt players must prequalify. Index of 7.0 or lower.

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