Haverford School senior Cole Berman, the reigning Daily Times Player of the Year, has a lot of fond memories of Merion Golf Club's East Course.
One of his early teachers was Scott Nye, the Merion head pro, and Berman has been able to play the course a few times. And there was that little thrill-of-a-lifetime assignment as a spotter for ESPN on the 11th tee at last summer's U.S. Open. That included a fist-bump from Phil Mickelson, who moments earlier had sent a jolt of electricity through the final round of the 113th Open by holing out for eagle from 75 yards away on the 10th, upon being informed by Berman that Lefty's tee shot at the 11th had indeed found the fairway.
So there is no shortage of anticipation as Berman prepares to tee it up at the venerable Hugh Wilson design, site of 18 USGA events, for the Bert Linton Inter-Ac League Golf Championship, Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
"It's been a big part of my growing up golf-wise,' said Berman, who has committed to Georgetown for next year, of Merion. "Mr. Nye was my coach for a long time and some of my teammates belong there, so I've been able to play it. So, to have one of last high school tournament s there is awesome.'
This week is tinged with a little disappointment for Berman and the Fords, though. Coming off a season in which Haverford School swept through the six regular-season mini-tournaments without a loss, it appeared the Fords will have to settle for second place this fall after Malvern Prep took control of the race with a sweep last week at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. The Fords only beat two of the five other teams, which means it would take a total collapse by the Friars in Wednesday's final regular-season mini-tournament at Sunnybrook Golf Club for Haverford School to grab the title.
"I was hoping to be Inter-Ac champion all four years I was here,' said Berman, who was the Golf Association of Philadelphia's Junior Player of the Year for the second straight year in 2013. "I really wanted to go out on top. I shot 41 at Huntingdon Valley, I think it was the first time I shot in the 40s in a high school match.'
Haverford School played the front nine at Merion East a year ago as part of Haverford-EA Day. But this will be a little different as Berman goes for a third straight Inter-Ac League individual title. He won as a sophomore on his home course, the Philadelphia Cricket Club's Militia Hill layout, and repeated a year ago at Sunnybrook.
"I'll just try to keep it in play,' Berman said of his strategy at the East Course. "The changes they made for the Open are pretty much intact. The rough obviously won't be as penal, but you still have to keep it in the fairway there.'
And, the rough day at Huntingdon Valley aside, Berman is playing well heading into the Inter-Ac Tournament. He picked up a couple of points for the Golf Association of Philadelphia in the Mason-Dixon Matches over the weekend at Saucon Valley's Whitehall Course, including one partnering with a notable Haverford School golfing alum, Michael Kania, a two-time All-Delco who completed an outstanding career at Villanova last spring.
Oh, and there was a little matter of a hole-In-one there, too.
"It was great to play with Mike Kania, who I consider a role model,' Berman said. "And I got a hole-in-one on the 16th. It's 143 yards and I used a 9-iron. We couldn't see it go in, but the group in front of us was going crazy, so I knew it went in.'
Berman will not be the only Inter-Ac champion in the field. Malvern Prep senior Michael Davis, a Newtown Square resident and Aronimink Golf Club member, won the last Inter-Ac tourney contested in the spring in May 2011 as a freshman.
Through five Inter-Ac mini-tournaments this fall, Davis stood second to teammate Brendan Bacskai in the points standings compiled throughout the fall. Berman was third, Malvern Prep's Mike Szipszky was fourth, Berman's Haverford School teammate Jay Losty was fifth and Episcopal Academy's top two players, juniors Jack Cassidy and Joe Chambers, were sixth and seventh, respectively.
Sam Soeth was a player on the rise when he first entered the Marple Newtown lineup as a freshman. He was the only Delco boy to make the cut at the District One Tournament that fall and earned All-Delco honors.
He spent the second half of his sophomore and junior years at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It was a lot of golf, but it wasn't making Soeth any better as a player. And worse, he was getting burned out on the game.
He didn't play tournament golf last summer. He played golf at White Manor Country Club and tried to regain the enjoyment the game brought him that made him such a good player in the first place. And when Marple Newtown teed it up this fall, Soeth found it.
"I was hoping the motivation the school year would bring would get me going again and it worked,' Soeth said.
Soeth is a man of few words. But he's got a syrupy swing and he rediscovered some of the passion he had for the game this fall.
That's why he'll be teeing it up at the PIAA Tournament at Heritage Hills Golf Club Monday. He's always known he can play with anybody on the high school level, so if he can get a few putts to fall, watch out.
It's league championship week for Delco's cross country runners.
The Central League will be on familiar ground at Rose Tree Park Thursday for its league meet. The top finishers from last week's Delco Championships at Rose Tree — Penncrest's Kazanjian twins, Chris and Matt, Haverford's Dave Fowler and Radnor's Watson Hanson and Connor Holm among the boys and Strath Haven's Abby Kennedy, Allie Wilson, Isabel Cardi, Maia Meisyngier and Samantha Snyder, Haverford's Courtney Naser, and Springfield's Grace Galligan among the girls — figure to be top contenders.
The outcome of the meet is also factored into the standings with the Penncrest boys having some designs on overtaking Conestoga in the standings. The Strath Haven girls are hoping to put an exclamation point behind their unbeaten dual-meet campaign.
In addition to the Central League meet, the Del Val will take to the hills at Rose Tree for its meet Friday. The Bicentennial meet is Thursday at Tyler State Park and the Ches-Mont League meet is Friday at Unionville.
What the Rose Tree Park course is to Delco runners, the Belmont Plateau course in Fairmount Park is to Catholic League competitors. Saturday, Tom Kennedy will put his powerful Cardinal O'Hara boys team, fresh off a fifth straight Delco team championship, on display as the Catholic League boys and girls championship races will be held on the Plateau.
Episcopal Academy hosted the Inter-Ac tennis tournament Tuesday, an all-day affair that featured seven flights and team scoring.
While names of the competitors were unavailable, we can tell you that Agnes Irwin won at first and second singles and third and fourth doubles and that the host Churchwomen had winners at third singles and first and second doubles.
Agnes Irwin claimed the team title with a narrow 371/2-341/2 edge on Episcopal.