Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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Hidden Creek will challenge USGA seniors

Written by Bob Oliver on .

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. -

There is more to mere beauty at Hidden Creek Golf Club. More, as in razor sharp teeth. More, as in difficulty, opportunity and challenge.

The Coore-Crenshaw Design annually earns a berth in Golfweek Magazine's Top-100 Modern Courses for a good reason - it is that good of a golf course and a special experience.

This is not a course tricked up for difficulty, it's a course that is designed to give a player multiple options and tournament officials with the same to protect par. Qualifiers to the United States Golf Association's 61st annual Senior Amateur which starts September 26 with two rounds of qualifying for 64 match play spots will be bedazzled by the course.

The event, for amateurs ages 55 and above, was captured in 2008 by the Delaware Valley's own and Fox-TVs George "Buddy" Marucci, who is exempt from qualifying and will participate in the championship. 

"I truly look forward to playing this event, and Hidden Creek is a very special venue," said Marucci, a two-time Walker Cup captain. "It will bring together a field of true amateurs who love the game and will enjoy the competition. Oh, everyone wants to win, of course, or they would not be playing. But it's a little less keyed up than, say, a U.S. Amateur."

Being just minutes from Atlantic City and all that comes with that destination, from restaurants to casinos and the beach, will give players and their families opportunity to stay and play. Spectators are welcome and will be up close and personal with the competitors. 

"We are proud to be hosting a National Championship," explained owner Roger Hansen, who, when owner of nearby Blue Heron Pines, oversaw Blue Herons Pines and the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. "We believe Hidden Creek is a special venue. We look forward to sharing our golf course with the nation."

On hand will be one player who has been on a special streak, Vienna, Va. 61-year-old Patrick Tallent. The Virginian won the 60th playing of the event last year, then crossed the pond to win the Senior British Amateur this year.

"My win last year (in the USGA event) was oh so very special," said Tallent, who defeated Bryan Norton from Kansas in the final match, 2 and 1. "I had been in the mix many times before in a USGA event, but never had been able to seal the deal. To win last year's Senior Amateur was a very special accomplishment. Frankly, I never thought I'd win one. I'm overjoyed and there is nothing like winning to get those competitive juices ready to defend."

For Tallent, a USGA event provides a unique challenge. "There is a lot of pressure in golf. There's pressure each time you tee it up. But one is more nervous in a USGA event as there is so much on the line. These are national championships."

Tallent is slated to defend his crown, and the Delaware Valley's Chip Lutz, a two-time British Amateur champion will join Marucci as area competitors.

The Delaware Valley has seen Marucci as well as J. Willard Platt, William Hyndman III and O. Gordon Brewer claim the Senior Amateur. 

Area qualifying for the event will be held at White Manor Country Club on August 31.

The golf course itself boasts numerous set up options, from risk-reward driveable par-4s to dastardly pin placements that will can bedazzle the competitor and test every bit of creativity imaginable. It is possible, for instance, that the 329-yard 8th hole could be shortened at least in one round to less than 300 yards tempting a player with length and skill to hit the gree with his tee shot and be putting for eagle.

Playing to the "proper" side of the green is imperative, as the flat stick will be challenged when playing from the wrong angle. "There are," admitted Hansen, places you don't want to beat times because of the location of the flagstick. Our greens are quick (approximately 11.5 on the Stimpmeter)and there are various degrees of undulation. They are challenging."

Designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw loved the property from the first time they laid eyes on it. "We were able to allow the golf holes to sit on the ground as we found it without moving lots of dirt," Crenshaw has said.

USGA officials believe the primary round will be about 3 inches thick, but any wayward shots will find higher rough and confounding fescue grasses will confound players with errant shots.

It's certainly not a course to be tricked out, as it is clearly a golf course at its natural best. The USGA Senior Amateur competitors will be treated to a test which is difficult yet fair.

CHIP SHOTS: Hidden Creek and the Senior Am will use a unique set of volunteers. Each group of scorers and marshals will be in a "pod" with each group. In other words, the Pod will move with the group from hole to hole rather than have marshals and other volunteers stationary on each hole. That will add to the inside the ropes feeling for the volunteers...Hidden Creek has served as a qualifying site for the United States Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Open...Tallent lost in the final match of the 2010 Senior Am finals...While Tallent won the U.S. and British Amateurs in successive years, American Kemp Richardson (2001) and Paul Simson (2010) went one better as they captured both titles in the same year. Richardson also won the 2003 United States and 2004 British as Tallent did, while William Shean Jr. won the 1998 and 2000 U.S. Senior Amateur titles sandwiched around the 1999 Senior British Amateur.

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Elsewhere, the Peddie School's Kyle Sterbinsky stood up to the test of playing local professionals, carding a three-day 206 total to finish one stroke behind ACE Club assistant Billy Stewart in the Pennsylvania Open held at Rolling Green. Sterbinsky, who will attend Wake Forest University in the fall, posted rounds of 75, 67 and a day low 64....

Neshaminy graduate Brittany Benvenuto has seven events on the Symetra Tour to earn enough cash for a 2016 LPGA Tour playing card. Benvenuto is coming off a top-10 finish at the PHC Classic, where she boosted her seasonal earnings to $26,258. That places her 18th on the money list, with the top-10 earning tour cards.

Benvenuto has compiled three top-10s this year.

Erica Herr suffered a disasterous 9 on a par-4 hole in the second round of the United States Women's Amateur in Portland, Ore., leading to an 84 after a sparkling first round 71. In doing so she missed earning a berth in the stroke play portion of the event. The New Hope resident is an incoming sophomore at Wake Forest University.