Fifteen-year-old Matthew Vital has enjoyed a very fulfilling spring and summer on the golf course, breaking the Reading Country Club course record of the legendary Sam Snead and finishing fourth in the Pennsylvania Junior Boys Championship.
But the Bethlehem resident has another highly anticipated event on his schedule: He received an exemption Thursday to participate in the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour event, the APGA Tour Valley Forge, at Bluestone Country Club in Blue Bell.
Sponsored by the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, the tournament begins Sept. 20 with a pro-am and continues Sept. 21 and 22 with a 36-hole competition for $25,000 in prize money for professionals.
The APGA, which also issued an exemption for the event to Zach Juhasz, another Bethlehem amateur, is a nonprofit organization that strives to bring greater diversity to the game, providing opportunities to African-Americans and other people of color in both the competitive and business sides of golf.
Another exemption was extended to Louis Kelly, 28, of Deptford, N.J., an assistant professional at Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson Township, N.J., and a lead coach for The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia.
“It really means a lot because it takes people like Tim O’Neal and Willie Mack to inspire me,” Vital said of the opportunities presented by the APGA, “and then it’s my responsibility to inspire others to continue to play the game of golf because it’s really a great game and there’s so much you can do from it.”
O’Neal (2020) and Mack (2021) are the last two players to win the APGA Lexus Cup point standings, earning bonus pool winnings of $17,500 each and a one-year lease on a new Lexus.
Vital fired an 8-under-par 62 in a Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour event last April that bested Snead’s record, and has competed in number of American Junior Golf Association tournaments. He is entering his junior year at Bethlehem Liberty High School.
For Juhasz, 24, the emergence of the APGA “means everything, honestly.
“Many of us, not just me, but many minorities are looking for the opportunity to showcase their skills and to improve and just see where they’re at and where they can play,” he said. “So the fact that we have this platform and that we have people working toward trying to grow the game is awesome, and it’s everything we need and everything that is just needed in the game.”
Juhasz also has enjoyed a fine season. He advanced through the local stage of U.S. Open qualifying, finished in tie for 20th at the Pennsylvania Amateur at Merion, and tied for first in the Philadelphia Section PGA’s Lehigh Valley Open, although he lost in a playoff.
A graduate of Bethlehem Freedom High School, he intends to retain his amateur status through the end of the year, then hopes to compete in APGA events next year as a professional.