Brian Gillespie won the BMW Philadelphia Amateur back in 2001 and made a couple of more runs at the title in the next four years. Now, at 45, he prefers to fly under the radar with a very quiet demeanor while enjoying the golf and the competition.
However, on the opening day of match play Tuesday in the 120th Amateur, he made the most noise. He capitalized on his familiarity with the Lancaster Country Club course and his experience with the format to defeat two-time defending champion Jeremy Wall in the morning and co-medalist Jalen Griffin in the afternoon, both by 4-and-3 scores.
Gillespie, of St. Davids Golf Club, never trailed in either match. Wall, who was attempting to become the first player in the history of the championship to win three straight, won just one hole in his match.
“Going into both matches, both guys, Jalen and Jeremy, are both probably better golfers than I am, so I didn’t have a whole lot of pressure,” Gillespie said. “At least I didn’t feel any. So to get up early, that took even more pressure off. I continued to play well, hit good shots and not get too upset.”
Gillespie, a Penn State graduate, led Wall 1-up at the turn but captured holes 10 through 12 to boost his margin to 4-up and halved the next three holes for the victory. In the afternoon, he went from 1-up over Griffin, of Five Ponds, through 8 holes to 3-up with pars at Nos. 9 and 10, and a birdie at the 14th all but clinched a quarterfinal berth.
“I like Lancaster Country Club, the greens are nice and fast,” Gillespie said. "I love fast greens. I’ve played there a lot and I know the golf course pretty well. I think that helps.
“It’s a pretty good setup for a guy like me. Par is a good score. I’m 45, I’m not supposed to do anything. I’m kind of flying under the radar. I’m just happy to be out there and see everybody’s faces again. All this other stuff is just a bonus.”
Gillespie is one of two former champions to reach Wednesday’s quarterfinals. The other, 2014 winner Jeff Osberg of Pine Valley, will be his opponent in the morning. Osberg eliminated Oscar Mestre of Overbrook, 4 and 2, in Tuesday’s opening round and Talamore’s Patrick Sheehan, 1-up, in the afternoon.