By Joe Juliano, Inquirer Staff Writer
With a couple of tournaments on the horizon that mean a lot to his future, Andrew Mason came to the Pennsylvania Open to gain confidence and picked up some of that, plus a nice first-place check Wednesday at Commonwealth National Golf Club.
On a windy, 36-hole day, necessitated by Tuesday's rainout, Mason, who turned pro last April, shot a pair of 1-over-par 72s and won by a stroke. A two-time Pennsylvania Amateur champion, Mason is one of four players to capture both the state Amateur and state Open since 1950.
"It's really special," said the 24-year-old Mason, a former Temple star from Huntingdon Valley, who won the $8,000 first prize. "Pennsylvania is a great state, and there are a lot of really good players. The competition is really good. So I'm very happy."
Mason's 54-hole score of 1-under 212 at the 7,117-yard Horsham layout edged Washington (Pa.) professional John Popeck, who fired the day's best 36-hole score - a morning 71 and an afternoon 72.
First-round leader T.J. Howe of Osceola fell behind by 2 strokes after a second-round 75 and finished with a 72 and third place at 214. Radnor Valley head pro George Forster shot a 1-under 70 to lead a four-way tie for fourth at 216.
Mason, who started his final round on the back nine, held a 4-stroke lead at the turn and increased the margin to five with a birdie at the par-5 third - his 12th hole. But a double bogey at No. 4, followed by bogeys at the fifth and eighth holes, made it a 1-stroke advantage with the difficult 495-yard, par-4 ninth yet to play.
After a drive in the fairway, Mason hit a 3-iron into the wind that missed the green short and left. But he chipped to two feet and drained the putt for the par and the victory.
"I thought I hit the ball close," he said. "I had five over-par holes all day, but one was a triple [bogey] and one a double. I hit a lot of greens, and I was in birdie range a lot, so no complaints."
Mason, who has been playing the Hooters and eGolf mini-tours this summer without much success, is preparing for Web.com Tour prequalifying starting on Aug. 28 in Nebraska City, Neb. He also has his sights on European PGA Tour qualifying in mid-September.
His performance this week certainly helps his state of mind.
"It's right there," he said. "I've just got to keep doing what I do. This [win] probably reaffirms what I've been saying to myself: 'Just let it happen. Don't try to force anything.' "
Andrew Mason, Huntingdon V. . . 68-72-72-212
John Popeck, Washington. . . 70-71-72-213
T.J. Howe, Osceola. . . 67-75-72-214
George Forster, Blue Bell. . . 69-77-70-216
Daniel Obremski, Irwin. . . 71-73-72-216 a-
Greg Podufal, Erie. . . 72-72-72-216
Gordon Vietmeier, Pittsburgh. . . 70-71-75-216
Mark Sheftic, Blue Bell. . . 73-75-69-217
Travis Deibert, Jamison. . . 70-72-75-217
Daniel Charen, Langhorne. . . 72-75-71-218
a-Kyle Martin, Ambler. . . 70-72-76-218
Robert McClellan, Butler. . . 69-71-78-218
Bob Friend, Pittsburgh. . . 69-76-74-219
Billy Stewart, Devon. . . 69-75-75-219
a-Adam Hofmann, Pittsburgh. . . 72-77-71-220
a-T. Brewington, Orangeville. . . 73-72-75-220
Robert Rohanna, Waynesburg. . . 71-77-73-221
Terry Hertzog, Lititz. . . 69-77-75-221
Greg Pieczynski, Kingston. . . 71-75-75-221
Jim Markovitz, McDonald. . . 73-73-75-221
Chad Bricker, Waynesboro. . . 68-77-76-221
Rich Steinmetz, Gilbertsville. . . 70-72-80-222
a - amateur
Joe Juliano is a Staff Writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer