Ben Feld smiled after playing a solid opening round Monday in the Pennsylvania Amateur at Aronimink Golf Club. Not only was he tied for the lead at 4-under-par 66, but he also led the Drexel delegation of contestants and earned bragging rights for about 24 hours.
Feld, 28, is entering his fourth season as the Dragons’ head coach, and four of his players are among a field of 115 competing in the 106th state amateur championship. One of those competitors is senior Connor Schmidt, the defending champion, who came in with a 71.
“Our coach has been a great player since I got to school, so we have a lot of good matches during practice,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes he played with us. I heard he was playing well through nine holes and yeah, I was trying to beat him today, too. But I’m happy for him.”
Feld, part of the first group to tee off at No. 10 in the morning, held sole possession of the lead until Nate Menon, a redshirt sophomore at Stanford, matched his 66 in the hot afternoon sunshine. A trio at 67 consisted of 2019 Golf Association of Philadelphia Middle-Amateur champion Will Davenport of Whitemarsh Valley, Zach Juhasz of Northampton and Kyle Vance, who is entering his junior year at Kansas State.
Max Siegfried, who won the Aronimink club championship on Sunday, and Marty McGuckin of Philadelphia Cricket were next at 68. Michael Brown of LuLu, last year’s winner of the Patterson Cup, led a seven-man group at 69.
Feld drained some long birdie putts to grab his share of the top, including a 40-footer at No. 4 and a 35-footer at No. 13. His five birdies added up to 115 feet of putts.
“The course was pure, it was perfect,” he said. “You couldn’t have asked for better scoring conditions. The wind was down. The greens were perfect. It had a little bit of bounce but it wasn’t super firm. I’m excited to kind of see how the course progresses through the week.”
Drexel enjoyed a fine 2018-19 season with one victory, three second-place finishes and five other top-five placings. Schmidt and Michael Cook (70 on Monday) qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, N.C., the first time the Dragons have placed two players in the championship.
But there’s still that competitive edge.
“Obviously Connor and Michael have had awesome accomplishments with the U.S. Am the last couple weeks,” Feld said. “Sending two Drexel guys down there is awesome.
He then smiled. “But we’ll see. I love showing up and beating those guys. That’s priority No. 1. I’m hopeful.”
Menon, of Wyomissing, played in stronger wind than the morning contestants but went bogey free during his round, continuing a stretch of fine golf that saw him qualify last week for the U.S. Amateur.
“I really just played pretty solid, put the ball in the fairway, kept the ball under the hole, which I think are probably the two most important things to do around here,” he said. “I really didn’t make that many putts but made a couple here and there.”
Vance, a Methacton High School graduate, appeared poised to end the day on top after a tap-in birdie at the par-3 17th got him to 5 under. But he drove into a fairway bunker at No. 18 and needed to drain a 20-footer for par, only to three-putt for a double-bogey 6.
“It could have been a really great day,” said Vance, who hit 16 greens in regulation. “But a 67, I’ll take it after the first round. My game feels good.”
Ben Feld, Green Valley - 66
Nate Menon, LedgeRock - 66
Will Davenport, Whitemarsh Valley - 67
Zach Juhasz, Northampton - 67
Kyle Vance, PAGA individual member - 67
Max Siegfried, Aronimink - 68
Marty McGuckin, Phila. Cricket - 68
Patrick Sheehan, Talamore - 69
Christopher Tanabe, Sewickley Heights - 69
Matt Kocent, Phila. Cricket - 69
Michael Brown Jr., LuLu - 69
Garrett Engle, Harrisburg - 69
R.J. Wren, LedgeRock - 69
Brett Young, Nemacolin - 69
Sasha Lobel, Wildwood - 70
Cory Siegfried, Aronimink - 70
Kevin Koerbel, Shannopin - 70
Michael Cook, Applebrook - 70
Joe Parrini, York - 70
Jack Melville, LuLu - 70
Raymond Sheedy IV, PAGA individual member - 70