Ben Polland Wins 100th Met Open

MAMARONECK, N.Y. (August 27, 2015) – The historic 100th Met Open did not disappoint, as Deepdale assistant professional Ben Polland claimed the Walker L. Trammell trophy in a playoff on Winged Foot’s East Course, defeating 2011 champion Tyler Hall of Montclair in a three-hole aggregate playoff after both finished the 54-hole championship at even-par 210.

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A two-over aggregate score was good enough to win the title and the $27,500 winner’s share, as the duo battled on holes 11, 17 and 18. Both missed the fairway and faced challenging approaches on 11, but Polland secured par by making a strong up-and down out of a greenside bunker on the right. Hall then hit a quality tee shot to a back hole location on the 212-yard par-3 17th and made par, while Polland came up short and, despite an excellent pitch shot, missed his par attempt. All-square once again at 1-over, both players’ approach shots fired long into the 18th.

Polland flipped his approach just onto the green, where it ran about eight feet past the hole, while Hall’s chip slid well off-target to leave 20 feet for par. Hall’s attempt missed low and ran by to about three feet, before Polland’s par try slipped by the left edge. He tapped in for bogey, but Hall’s matching bid missed the hole to the left, earning Polland the title in the milestone championship.

“This means a lot,” Polland said about his win. The 25-year-old knew the championship’s lore, but gained even more perspective on the event as he and the other four area professionals who recently competed in the PGA Championship were also invited to Sunday evening’s past-champions dinner, also held at Winged Foot. “I knew the Met Open was special before that dinner, but after being there and hearing everyone talk about their memories and the past champions saying words about the event, it’s really special,” he explained.

Polland began Thursday’s final round three-strokes off the lead, but posted his third-straight even-par 70, which was capped with a 10-footer for birdie on the 54th hole. Hall had an up and down day en route to a final-round of 3-over 73. His front nine featured five birdies, but the former champion also had a triple-bogey on the par-3 sixth hole and two more bogeys for an even-par 35. But, he started the inward nine with three more bogeys on the card. A birdie on the par-4 16th helped his cause, but a bogey on the 54th hole brought him back to level-par for the championship to force the playoff.

Though the three 70s for Polland may look routine on paper, they were anything but that as the newly-renovated East Course certainly “showed its teeth,” in the words of the MGA’s Managing Director for Rules, Competitions and GHIN Services, Brian R. Mahoney.

“Every day was a grind,” Polland reiterated. “This place is running fast and the greens have a lot of slope to them. The balls are moving on the ground a lot, and it’s really easy to make a bogey out here. Having to play 54 holes like that—where it’s easy to make a bogey—it’s exhausting mentally.”

For Polland, he saw putting and the short game as the key to the week and focused on that portion of his game in preparation—it certainly paid off. “When I had chances to pick up shots on the field, I did,” he remarked on his putting over the three days. “Ball striking was pretty good, and driving was a little loose, but overall it’s the putter—I think that’s what wins events in the end.”

Among many others, Polland thanked his club Deepdale for their support, including his boss and three-time Met Open champion Darrell Kestner. “Just to be in his company means a lot to me,” Polland said looking down at the trophy. “There are a lot of special names on there—I feel good to be on it.”

While Polland landed himself at the top of the leaderboard, many others had a shot at victory, including a pair of amateurs in Cameron Young of Sleepy Hollow and Dawson Jones of Howell, N.J. Young, who departed for college at Wake Forest at tournament’s end, came to the 17th hole at 3-under for his round and at 1-over for the championship; however, Young finished with a double-bogey and bogey to post his second-straight even-par round. But, Young finished as the top amateur in the championship at 4-over 214, where he tied fifth. The 2015 Ike winner was also the low amateur in the Westchester Open and the New York State Open this year.

Jones was the only other player to begin the day under-par and held the outright lead through seven holes, when he was 2-under for the championship. But, Jones played his final 10 holes in 8-over and finished tied ninth at 216.

Andrew Gai of Longshore quietly grabbed a solo-third finish. After opening the championship with a 2-over 72, Gai recorded back-to-back 70s for a 212 tournament total.

Reigning champion and Winged Foot assistant professional Grant Sturgeon fired one of just three under-par rounds on Thursday and finished solo fourth. “I thought even-par had an outside chance at a playoff,” he said as play hadn’t quite finished, “and I thought 1-under may get in a playoff or even win. To put myself in position, it was a great day. I just didn’t finish it off.”

Beyond Sturgeon and Hall, past champions Danny Balin of Burning Tree (2012) and Mark Mielke (1992, 2008) also had quality finishes, tying for fifth and seventh, respectively. Christopher DeForest of Rondout matched Mielke at 215.

Anthony Aruta of North Shore and Sunny Kim of Bethpage rounded out top-10 finishers, tying Jones for ninth at 216. 

The centennial celebration of the Met Open had many standout moments, but the East Course may have stolen the show. Players reveled over its challenge, as most of the field faced the course for the first time following its two-year restoration led by Gil Hanse. Superintendent Steve Rabideau and his staff provided superb conditions for the field which vied for the $150,000 total purse. Starting with 138 players, 71 moved on to Thursday’s final round following the 36-hole cut.

“I think they’re going to talk about how much they love the golf course, and be happy they don’t have to putt on the greens that much anymore,” Sturgeon said with a chuckle.  “That’s just because it’s that challenging. Everything was fair, nothing was tricky. Good shots were rewarded. The East Course held up and did what it was supposed to do.”

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