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.
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
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.""
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.
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
"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."
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
"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."
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."