J.T. Spina has been involved in golf in the Philadelphia area pretty much his entire life, mostly following his father, a veteran of the Philadelphia Section PGA, as a youngster and then serving as his caddie as he grew up.
Now 21 and a rising senior at St. Joseph’s, Spina moved front and center Tuesday at the BMW Philadelphia Amateur with a 1-up victory over Peter Bradbeer, the medalist in Monday’s qualifying, in a second-round match at Cedarbrook Country Club in Blue Bell.
“I’ve been working extremely hard and it feels great to have results like this pay off,” said Spina, whose father, John, the director of instruction at Philadelphia Cricket Club, guided a pull cart as his caddie.
“I’ve grown up watching the (Golf Association of Philadelphia). I’m from a golf family. I was caddying for my dad growing up. To have the best coach in the area on your bag, and your dad, it can’t get any better than this.”
On a day of upsets in the first two rounds, Spina, the No. 16 seed, was one of eight players to advance to Wednesday morning’s quarterfinals. Only two top-10 seeds remain – No. 5 Ross Pilliod of LedgeRock and No. 7 Troy Vannucci of Little Mill.
Defending champion and No. 14 seed Zach Barbin, playing despite an ankle injury that he suffered last week while dancing at a wedding reception, stayed alive in his bid to repeat.
Spina never trailed in the match, which began on the 10th hole, and held a 2-up lead after eight. Bradbeer, who led all qualifiers at 5-under 137, won the 18th and fifth holes to even the match but Spina took the lead for good with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 sixth.
Spina held on to the lead with a sidehill 8-foot par putt at No. 8. At the ninth, he hit his approach shot into the bunker and made bogey, but Bradbeer missed a 3-foot par putt that would have extended the match.
“I’ve been going at it 6 a.m. every day,” Spina said. “My dad’s giving lessons and I’m right next to him listening, doing my own stuff. I’ve been going really hard at it and I think it was reflected today.”
Another match of note was won by 48year-old Michael Brown, who has won every GAP major except the Amateur. Brown bested Michael O’Brien, last year’s runnerup, 1-up.