68, Corey Gast cruises
to Lanco Am title
MIKE GROSS | Sports Writer Jun 24, 2017
Corey Gast says his dad, Mark, is really good at saying the right thing at the right time. As they shared a hug on the 18th green at Meadia Heights Saturday, Mark whispered that, “Angry Corey,’’ wouldn’t have painted a masterpiece like this. Happy and Focused and Mentally Tough Corey had just cruised over tricky Meadia in 68 shots, good for an impressive and emphatic win in the Lanco Janney Montgomery Scott Amateur Championship.
Gast’s total of 138, four under par, was good for a six-shot win over Aaron Fricke, who made a front-nine run Saturday and finished with a 69 and 144 total.First-round co-leader Deryl Denlinger and Craig Hornberger, a recent Campbell University grad who plans to turn pro in a few months, shared third at 145.
Gast, 31, has won the Lanco Match Play three times and the better-ball twice, but this is the big one. “My biggest win, and it’s not even a question,’’ he said. Gast had essentially given up the game in anger and frustration last year. “Now I can enjoy it even when I don’t play well, which was something I had lost,’’ he said. He managed to enjoy shooting 85 at Meadia Tuesday, in a casual round with some buddies and cold ales. And he wasn’t as nervous as expected Saturday, even after enduring a three-hour-delay in starting times due to early-morning rain.
A 15-foot birdie putt on the first hole, as Denlinger three-putted for a bogey, served to take the edge off. Gast is a ball-striker. He is also, as a longtime former member, an expert on Meadia’s roller-coaster contours and the local knowledge the distinctive layout requires. Mark, also a longtime Meadia member, caddied. Many right things were said at many right times.
“He’s my best friend, and he knows this place,’’ Gast said. “Even when I know what the right yardage is, he’ll say, ‘exactly,’ and it’s good to hear than confirmation.’’ Gast bogied the tough third, but answered with birdies at five and six. No 40-footers or hole-outs, just, “the kind of birdies I usually make here.’’ Hornberger stuffed an iron within four feet at eight and, Gast admitted, “the competitor in me came out.’’ He stuffed his approach inside Hornberger’s, within two feet, for another birdie. Then came a tap-in birdie at the par-5 11th, and it was Gast’s Lanco to win.
The last real dissent came from Fricke, a Drexel University golfer playing two groups ahead. Fricke played the front nine four under, culminating in a 112-yard wedge that spun back into the hole for an eagle at the eighth. Even then, Fricke was never closer than five back. And that was before hitting it in the pond at 11. Denlinger, a couple weeks from his 59th birthday, hung tough all day. His putter didn’t cooperate. Hornberger was dazzling down the stretch, but had dug too big a hole. Gast steered the ship home steadily. Twice, at 12 and 16, he drove it in mild tree trouble, but played well-crafted punch shots and made pars. He simply didn’t make a mistake, didn’t allow an opening. “Today was brutal,’’ he said afterward, although it looked anything but, because golf’s essential struggle is invisible.
“I really had to work hard to not think ahead, and stay in the present,’’ Gast said. “I don’t want this to sound arrogant, but I always knew I had the talent. Attitude always got in the way. The best thing, for me, was to walk away from it for a while.’’