Walking 100 or more holes of golf over three days is an exhausting task for players of any age, even if they’re young and strong and usually spend countless hours on the course practicing.
It’s been a long grind this week at Cedarbrook Country Club for Conor McGrath, 21, and Jack Irons, 19, the finalists in the 121st BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship who will compete Saturday over 36 holes in their bid to become a first-time champion.
McGrath, a Huntingdon Valley Country Club member who is entering his senior season at Temple, has played 99 holes – 36 in Monday’s stroke-play qualifying, 32 in his first two matches Tuesday and 31 Wednesday in his quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.
Irons, a member of Little Mill Country Club who lives in Naples, Fla., but spends his summers in South Jersey, has logged 107 holes -- 38 of them coming Tuesday when he had to go the distance in the first round and two extra holes in the second, before playing “only” 33 holes Wednesday.
“It’s been a really long week so far,” McGrath said Friday. “Six rounds of golf in three days is a lot of golf. But we’ve had some success this week and made it to the finals so I’m feeling good. I’m excited to just have the opportunity to give myself a chance to win it, so we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”
Irons, who graduated this spring after taking online courses but said he has chosen to take a gap year and is “keeping all options open” on college, carried his own bag Tuesday and Wednesday, adding to his fatigue.
“It’s been grueling walking up these hills,” he said Wednesday after his semifinal match. “I had a caddie in stroke play but I couldn’t get one (Tuesday or Wednesday). I felt a little bit calmer (Wednesday) and played from tee to green a little bit better. It’s been fun, but it’s been a grind.”
McGrath is coming off his best season at Temple. He led the Owls in stroke average (73.61) and paced his team in scoring in five of their seven tournaments. Last month he advanced past the first round of qualifying for the U.S. Open.
He said he has practiced some during his two off days to “just keep the feel that I’ve had this whole week, kind of keeping up that momentum with my game.”
“I think that it’s pretty important to definitely get some swings in and touch up the short game a little bit,” McGrath said, “but at the same time really just try and relax and trust that the work I put in prior to the event was enough to start to get me rolling.”
Irons appears to have been busier, playing in a club championship match at Little Mill on Thursday and putting in long hours of practice Friday.
Irons will be traveling after Saturday’s match. He will begin play Monday in the Western Junior Amateur in Lake Forest, Ill. He participated last March at the Azalea Invitational in Charleston, S.C., where he finished in a tie for 30th over 72 holes.
He said his goal is to try to continue to play in national events, but he has enjoyed competing in his fourth Philadelphia Amateur.
“I’ve always wanted to compete in this for a while now,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest tournaments in Philadelphia. I think it’s probably the most prestigious amateur event around here so I just tried to get into it and then go far into match play. That’s the goal of mine and it’s been awesome.”