Brown wins GAP Grand Slam with Philadelphia amateur title

Michael R. Brown, Jr., an old soul with a young man’s game, outlasted recent Drexel University graduate Jeff Cunningham, 4 and 3, for a historic win in the 122nd Philadelphia BMW Amateur Championship on Saturday at Philadelphia Country Club (par 71, 6,968 yards). Brown, 49, became just the third player to win the GAP Grand Slam, joining Chris Lange and Jeff Osberg. His amateur win was the elusive final prize. Brown has won every GAP Major once: Middle-Amateur Championship (2009), Open Championship (2010), and Joseph H. Patterson Cup (2018). These events, together with the amateur, constitute the Grand Slam.

Additionally, he is also the third oldest amateur champion in the 122-year-old event. He is 49 years, one month and 29 days old. William Hyndman, III is the oldest winner at 49 years, six months and 23 days. The 1965 Hyndman win that set that standard also came in Philly Country. Andy Thompson, who won his second amateur title in 1998, was 49 years, five months and 12 days old.

Taking on the GAP Amateur, Brown has now won every amateur championship in the Tri-State area for the past three years. The Maple Shade, NJ resident won the 2020 Pennsylvania Golf Association Amateur; 2021 New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur and 2021 Delaware State Golf Association Amateur.

“I’m a little confused. I’m just starting to digest the fact that the guys who won this tournament before me, I’m next now,” Brown said. “Chris Lange and Jeff Osberg are two of my idols in this area.

“Age is an asset. This game is so awesome like that. Lessons learned are what win golf tournaments. You are punished for years and years and years. And eventually, you learn to avoid it and play golf consistently and smartly. You learn that you don’t have to do anything outrageous to win. I thought this day would come. I can still play the game pretty well. I’m getting smarter over the years. I have to lean on that a bit more. I still believe a lot in my game.”

Jeff Cunningham

Regardless of the outcome, Cunningham, 23, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has already made history.

He was the first African-American finalist.

“I take great pride in that. But I have to take a step back and look at the reality of the situation,” Cunningham said. “And what I would like for our GAP community is to understand how we have our own impact. as an association in the Philadelphia community. I believe we are well positioned to make a difference in the golf community as a whole. It’s about how we impact the children of Philadelphia and diversify the game of golf and our GAP community.

Both players showed signs of nervousness in the title hope in the first nine of the 36-hole final. Uneven play and gusty winds made for some head-scratching moments. The game was tied after nine and still tied until 12.

Brown took the lead for good on No. 13 (par 4, 374 yards) when he rushed for par from the right bunker, back of the green. He converted a clutch six-footer for the 4. Cunningham unexpectedly put three 20-footer putts for bogey.

The duo cut the next three holes in half before Brown pounced. He won numbers 17 (par 4, 472 yards) and 18 (par 4, 389 yards) with a bogey and a par, respectively. In reality, it was more of a give-and-take situation. Brown hit two clean shots on the famous 17th, finding the green with a 4-iron at 186 yards, 60 feet from the cut. Cunningham found the left fescue off the tee and a rough gnarled lie behind the left green side bunker. He flopped a chip shot to 25 feet. Brown made three putts from that long distance to leave the door open. Cunningham couldn’t take advantage, three putts too, and went on tilt. At No. 18, Brown went to the fairway and green for par. Cunningham went left, but in good form, and was still going well when his second shot landed on the left green pass, hole high. His chip attempt went wrong, however, and Cunningham finished with a six and conceded Brown a par.

Brown headed into the afternoon session, 3-up.

“I just made the errors worse in the space of 10 minutes and that really changed the whole game in my opinion,” Cunningham said.

“It just gives you a little room for an error,” Brown said of the midfield header. “And knowing you have room for error gives you more freedom. I was lucky to have that feeling early in round 2. I hit some quality shots early on to really put some weight in.” the pressure on him. I could play conservative golf from then on.

Cunningham drove the green on the first hole of the afternoon 18, No. 1 (par 4, 325 yards). He faced a tough eagle try from 60 feet and a birdie plus tester from 15 feet on the other side of the hole before finishing with a par. Brown used some of that aforementioned veteran tournament know-how. He laid down in the fairway, cut a 60 degree corner from 68 yards out six feet and birdied. Brown moved 4-up.

The next four holes were halved before Brown began engraving the trophy.

At No. 6 (par 5, 527 yards), the 24th hole of the contest, he laced 3 woods for 245 yards 35 feet down the right side of the green. Cunningham fired his second shot into a struggling touch but recovered and put his third shot on the green 15 feet from the cut. Brown then delivered a sensational and crowd-pleasing eagle putt.

“I hammered a 3 wood on a perfect line. He climbed up there,” Brown said. “I’m trying to make two putts there, which seemed to be pretty good [to win the hole]. My shopping cart [Brian Lee] gave me a great read there.

Cunningham responded, as one would expect. He won the next two holes, but left a birdie try for the win on the No. 9 (par 4, 413 yards), hole 27, just short. Brown was leading 3-up after 27 holes.

“I was really trying to fight to get to 2-down,” Cunningham said. “I haven’t been more than 1-down all week and that was after the first hole. I tried to keep my cool when I was down. I took a look at number 9. It’s just a situation where I need to be a bit more aggressive, especially given my position.

Brown extended the lead to 4-up with a win on the next hole. Cunningham won the 31st hole with a birdie, only his second red figure of the day. On the 34th hole, with a strong gallery in sight and the wind setting a bit, Brown drilled a 3 iron 20 feet to the right of the cut. Cunningham bogeyed after a poor tee shot. Brown rolled in his remaining three feet in the heart of the cut for the clincher.

Brown is the second LuLu member to lift the trophy. Jim Spagnolo won the 1992 amateur.

“I love LuLu. I’m so happy to be a member there,” Brown said. “Next time I step into [LuLu], it’s great to be able to share this with my friends and the members. The members are so interested in my game, it’s flattering. Bringing them something like this…it’s nice to share with my friends there.

A piece of history is even better.

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