AT 42, Michael McDermott was trying to become the first player to repeat as BMW Philadelphia Amateur champion in more than two decades. And the third to win the title at least four times.
Gregor Orlando, who’s 16 years younger, is trying to win his first big tournament since the Pennsylvania Junior nearly a decade ago. But the Erie native has been a member of the host club, Flourtown’s Philadelphia Cricket, for two years after moving here because of his job. And in Thursday afternoon’s semifinals on the Wissahickon course, maybe some of that local knowledge allowed him to get out to a healthy early lead and then survive a back-nine charge. His 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole finally gave him the 2-and-1 victory.
« I was gagging it coming down the end, » Orlando, one of 13 Cricket guys in the 143-man starting field, said smiling. « I didn’t know what was going on. I was definitely a little nervous.
« I knew (McDermott) was the guy that you want to beat. It’s a good feeling to know you took down one of the GAP’s (Golf Association of Philadelphia) best. »
He will face LedgeRock’s Grant Skyllas, who eliminated LuLu’s P.J. Acierno by the same 2-and-1 score, in Saturday’s 36-hole final.
« I’m bummed that I won’t be there, » said McDermott, who had issues with his putting and got a bad break on the par-3 15th when a sprinkler head in his line forced him to chip from just off the green, which led to a bogey. « It’s a great day. But I lost to a worthy competitor. It happened last year with me (when he won at Merion, his home course). He’ll put on a good show. »
It’s the third time he’s lost in the semis. He’s also lost one final.
After going three down after four, he was four down at the turn. But he won the 10th and 12th. He was in position to win both the 14th and 15th, but couldn’t take advantage. A gimme bird at 16 wasn’t enough.
« Even when my putter got in the way, » McDermott said, « he still had some real good makes. »
Skyllas, the first from Berks County to get this far in some 40 years, will celebrate his 31st birthday on Father’s Day. He never trailed, but did need to win the 14th with a double bogey and 15 with a bogey to move back in front for keeps. The 2014 state Mid-Am champ got past two former winners – Brian Gillespie (2001) in the first round and Conrad VonBorsig (2009) in Thursday morning’s quarterfinals. And there were his blister problems, which developed on Wednesday.
« I felt like I was just walking in hot lava, » he said afterwards wearing flip-flops. « I couldn’t even feel my legs coming down the stretch. My caddie was almost my therapist at some point. But the rush takes over. »
On Friday, he plans to spend time with his daughter and wife, whom he figured deserves at least a little something gift-wise after she spent much of Wednesday night tending to his ailing feet.
Orlando said he’ll go to the office and catch up on whatever needs to get done.
Then it’s on to a defining moment for both. Each has more than earned the right.
« Obviously, everyone here will be supporting Gregor, » Skyllas allowed. « It means a lot to him. It’ll be a tough challenge. »
Just as it’s supposed to be. That’s why it’s forever.