James Gardas and Eric Williams carded 1-over-par 73s to share medalist honors.
Close friends and frequent better-ball teammates James Gardas and Eric
Williams shared medalist honors in a Middle-Amateur Championship
Qualifier presented by Callaway Golf at Elmhurst Country Club (par 72,
The two carded respective 1-over-par 73s to grab two of four qualifying spots and ties available. The Championship proper will take place May 23-24 at Llanerch Country Club.
The cut line rested at 76.
“I’ll give him medalist to him, just to give him a little dig. He needs the bit of confidence,” Williams, 45, of Honesdale, Pa., said jokingly. “It was good to see him play well. Now we can go down and hang out at Llanerch for a couple of days.”
“Eric’s playing pretty well. I expect him to do well at Llanerch,” Gardas, 41, of Hawley, Pa., said. “I’m glad I was able to make it. I’ve been struggling a little bit with some shoulder problems.”
Gardas, a Glenmaura National Golf Club member, is dealing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He suffered the injury during an ice hockey game.
Despite the ailment, Gardas managed to navigate Elmhurst, a course he knows well, with minimal damage. He carded two birdies on the day. On No. 2 (par 5, 501 yards), Gardas executed a 35-yard chip shot to 10 feet and made the uphill, right-to-left breaker. One of his best shots of the day, a punch 7-iron from 162 yards on No. 12 (par 4, 434 yards), resulted in a four-footer for birdie.
“The golf course was in very good shape. The greens are well-manicured and were rolling fast,” Gardas, who played alongside Williams in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball twice (2016-17), said. “It was nice to be able to play on a warm day since it’s been so cold up here, too. My short game was in pretty good shape today. I got it up-and-down when I needed to and hit some quality shots at the right time. I just didn’t make any mistakes. That was probably the biggest key.”
Like his co-medalist, Williams, a Honesdale Golf Club member, limited errors and used course familiarity as an aide. He, too, registered a pair of red figures. Williams birdied No. 2 after powering a 4-iron 212 yards to 25 feet above the hole location and two-putting. On No. 16 (par 4, 375 yards), he knocked a lob wedge 77 yards into tap-in territory. Missed greens on the last two holes resulted in bogeys and relegated Williams to shared status atop the leaderboard.
“Par is a good thing, especially in qualifiers,” he said. “I’ve played Elmhurst numerous times. I’ve had good success there. The greens were beautiful. I made some crucial par putts to keep a good round going.”
Williams, the 2011 Pennsylvania Golf Association Middle-Amateur Champion, played golf alongside Gardas’ sister Julie at Honesdale High School. The two connected then; a friendship strengthened through a shared love of golf.
“I’ve played 90 percent of my recreational rounds with him. We know each other’s games,” Williams said.
“We’re best of friends We spend a lot of time together,” Gardas added. “He was in my wedding.”
Gardas will make his Middle-Amateur debut come Llanerch. Williams’ lone appearance occurred in 2012, when he tied for fifth at Chester Valley Golf Club. He cites the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s merger with the Anthracite Golf Association, which in turn expanded tournament access, as an impetus for his return.
The Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Middle-Amateur Championship started in 1984, three years after the USGA created the U.S. Mid-Amateur as a formal championship for post-college amateurs. The Association followed suit with the USGA in creating a Mid-Am, but initially differed in its administration of the tournament in a couple of respects.
The most obvious difference was the age requirement. Prior to 2001, the GAP Middle-Amateur was for players 30 years of age and older.
The Association’s Executive Committee reviewed and revised that age requirement in 2001 to match the USGA's guidelines of 25 years of age or older for eligible players. Also, at that point, the Committee changed the format of the event to a two-day stroke play tournament (instead of a one-day medal play event) with a cut to the low 70 players and ties after the first round. The field begins with 132 players.
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Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 200 Full Member Clubs and 70,000 individual members are spread across Eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
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