NEWS AND FEATURES
Andrew Mason -- GAP photo 
Hes winning everything. Who is Andrew Mason?

By Joe Logan
Published August 14, 2011

If you follow the Philadelphia golf scene, it would be hard to have missed the accomplishments this summer of Andrew Mason.

 

An earnest, soft-spoken 22-year-old amateur from Huntingdon Valley CC, Mason smoked the field in the most prestigious tournament of the year, the 107th Philadelphia Open, on his home course.  Mason carded rounds of 65-70, to win by seven shots over professionals Stu Ingraham and Mark Sheftic, two of the top sticks in town, with impressive records of their own.  Mason became only the eighth amateur in history to win the Open, which has historically been dominated by club pros.

 

A week later, Mason, ventured westward to Lancaster CC, where he shot 70-69-71, to win the 98th Pennsylvania Amateur by a shot over Matthew Burkhart of Media Heights GC.

 

Not to rest on his laurels, two weeks later, at Llanerch CC and Rolling Green GC, Mason turned in rounds of 72-71 and emerged from a field of 43 to claim one of four qualifying spots in the upcoming U.S. Amateur.

 

Finally, last week, Mason won another of GAP’s most prestigious events, the 109th Patterson Cup, shooting rounds of 66-74 at White Manor CC.  He completed a foursome of the most elite players in GAP history (James McHale Jr., William Hyndman III, Jay Sigel) ever to win both the Open and the Patterson Cup in the same year.

 

Already a runaway favorite to win Player of the Year from GAP, Mason’s  victory in the Patterson Cup sealed that honor.

 

All of which begs the question: Who is Andrew Mason and where did he suddenly come from?

 

His coach says he’s "gifted"

 

No one enjoying fielding that question more than Brian Quinn, his coach for four years at Temple, and one of Mason’s biggest fans.

 

"He is so gifted," said Quinn. "Andrew is an amazing example of a student-athlete, a scholarship athlete, and to me that is more important than anything. We’re talking about an academic All-America.  I told the kid as a freshman that he has greatness in him.  He has worked hard on his game the last two years, and he is seeing it pay off right now."

 

Mason is a local kid, but if his name doesn’t’ sound familiar, it is likely because he didn’t grow up as a regular playing the GAP junior or American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) circuits. 

 

Why not? Money.

 

"I didn’t grow up wealthy," Mason said this week, the son of a retired Cheltenham cop and a receptionist. (His parents now run Jenkintown Antique Guild.)

 

Do not be misled by the fact that Mason currently plays out of Huntingdon Valley CC, a top tier club that historically has produced many of Philadelphia’s finest amateurs.  Mason didn’t grow up at HVCC; he has only been their for the past two years, thanks to an affordable junior membership.

 

Mason grew up playing at The Abington Club, a nine-hole facility.   Even there, he wasn’t a member; Mason earned his access to the golf course by working in the pro shop. "At 12 and 13, I pretty much stayed there all day, from 7:30 in the morning until 8 or 9 at night," he said.

 

The few tournaments Mason did play on the AJGA circuit, which is largely province of the upper middle-class, was by virtue of ACE grants for promising junior who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to compete.

 

Four years as an all-league selection at Abington Friends, however, caught the attention of Temple, where Mason attended his freshman year on a full academic scholarship, not a golf scholarship.

 

At Temple, Mason didn’t win any tournaments but he was a three-time All-Atlantic 10 selection, earning him a full golf scholarship his final two years. "I could have had a better career, but it wasn’t too bad," said Mason.  He expects to graduate in one more semester with a double major in finance and real estate.

 

Why the sudden success?

 

To hear Mason tell it, his sudden run of golfing success is not due to any major swing changes, psychological breakthroughs or any more devotion to the game.  He attributes it to simply growing up as a golfer, playing smarter and more conservatively.

 

"I think I just got more mature," he said, almost matter-of-factly.

 

He will get no argument there from Quinn, owner of Brian Quinn Golf Academy, who continues to work with Mason.

 

"He is exactly right," said the coach.  "He answered that question perfectly."

 

Because Mason played so little competitive golf as a junior, said Quinn, college is where he truly learned to play the game.  "It was his training ground," said the coach.

 

Case in point: Quinn recalled Mason’s final round as a collegiate golfer at the A-10 conference championship in Florida, when he stepped to the tee on the 10th hole, a tough par 5 on a difficult golf course.

 

"He was already a little peeved because he had just bogeyed an easy par 4," said Quinn.  "So he gets up on the tee and tries to step on a drive; he pulled it a little bit, and he’s blocked out by trees."

 

When they got to the ball, Mason studied the situation for a moment and told his coach he was going to go for the green with a 3-wood.

 

"I said, "Andrew, you are going to take a 6-iron and you are going to chip it down there, and you are going to hit wedge to about three feet and tap in for your birdie.  Then, you are going to go on and probably birdie the next two holes.""

 

Mason did as his coach instructed, only he hit wedge to 1-foot, good for a tap-in birdie.  He also went on to birdie the next two holes.

 

"I think right then and there, he realized you don’t have to get everything back in one shot or one hole," said Quinn.

 

Mason recounted a similar example of his maturation from the recent Open, when his coach wasn’t around.  At the dogleg 11th, where the green is tucked behind a creek, Mason’s tee shot ran through the fairway, under a tree.  Rather than try to pull off the low-percent, hero shot, he punched out to the fairway and hit this third shot to 10 feet.

 

"I missed the par putt and made bogey, but I gave myself a chance for par and I took double-bogey out of play," said Mason.  He also went on to shoot 65.

 

Turn pro or stay amateur?

 

Given all his recent strides, it’s not out of the question that Mason might be considering turning pro to chase the dream.  Not so – at least that is his current thinking.

 

"I think I’m just being realistic with myself," said Mason.  "I think a lot of people turn pro that shouldn’t, I guess because they see a lot of kids making it.  But I see more people coming back to reality after a few years and getting a job.  It’s just very tough, especially with golf becoming a more global game." 

 

Mason did leave the door slightly ajar.  Next summer, he intends to play a full schedule of tournaments to test the limits of his game.  While he doesn’t completely rule out a change of heart, for now he is thinking in terms of a career in insurance, like so many fine amateurs before him.

 

If Mason doesn’t turn pro, it won’t be for lack of encouragement from his coach.

 

"He absolutely could play golf for a living," said Quinn, whose brother is a PGA Tour pro.  "I’ve played golf for a living at every level at one time or another and there is no question he could make it."

 

Aside from Mason’s newfound mental game, Quinn cites his length off the tee and his ability as a shot-maker.  "A lot of kids today just hit the ball real far and real high, you know, have one shot," said Quinn. "Andrew can flight the ball with his scoring irons, so he has pinpoint distance control and real good accuracy.  He can shoot real low scores and make a lot of birdies."

 

Quinn suspects Mason’s self-doubts likely stem from having come so far, so fast.  "This is all new for him," said the coach.

 

Whether Mason chases the pro dream or remains a career amateur, Quinn predicts big things.   "He has all the tools from a talent and ability standpoint, and now he is so mature and level-headed," said the coach. "More importantly, he is a great human being."

 

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