Billy Stewart has a long history in the Golf Association of Philadelphia, having won the 2002 Philadelphia Amateur as an 18-year-old Malvern Prep graduate and captured GAP junior player of the year awards in each of the two years before that.
He's now 34 and an assistant professional at the ACE Club in Lafayette Hill, but GAP tournaments still mean a lot to him. He added another association major to his resume Thursday when he survived a three-man, four-hole aggregate score playoff to capture the 114th Philadelphia Open at St. Davids Golf Club.
"I grew up playing in so many GAP events," Stewart said after his playoff score of 2-under-par 14 gave him the victory over amateur Jeff Osberg of Huntingdon Valley and Radley Run assistant pro Brett Melton. "It's a tournament you want to be a part of because of the history of GAP. I won the Philadelphia Amateur, which was great, and now I've got the Philly Open."
On a sunny, warm day during which five players had a share of the lead at one point, Stewart fired a 4-under-par 66 for a 36-hole score of 5-under 135, then waited for almost an hour to see where he would finish.
Osberg and Melton, part of the day's final group, each birdied the par-5 16th hole to get to 5-under but could not pocket another birdie. So it came down to a playoff, which covered the first, fourth, eighth, and ninth holes at St. Davids.
Stewart took control of the extra play with his putter. He saved par at the first hole after missing the green with his second shot, then drained birdie putts of 20 feet and 8 feet on his next two holes to lead Osberg by one and Melton by three. A two-putt par at the ninth, a par-3, gave him the win.
Stewart had been part of a playoff in the 2013 Open at Waynesborough but lost to former Temple star Brandon Matthews. In his last five appearances in the tournament, he hasn't finished lower than fifth.
"I've been wanting to win this tournament a long time, back to when I was an amateur at St. Joe's, being from the Philadelphia area," said Stewart, who played for the Hawks between 2002 and 2006. "I've been knocking on the door. It felt great to get a couple of putts to drop to finally get my name on that trophy."
Osberg, the 2016 champion who felt pain from his back and a cracked rib during Wednesday's first round, said he felt much better Thursday and shot a 68. Melton, who had a 69, made a 5-foot par-saving putt on the 18th to get into the playoff.
St. Davids amateur Stephen Dressel got to 7-under following an eagle at 11 but bogeyed three holes down the stretch and missed the playoff by one, as did Philmont teaching pro Dave Quinn, who 3-putted his last two holes.
x-Billy Stewart, ACE Club 69-66—135
a-Jeff Osberg, Huntingdon Valley 67-68—135
Brett Melton, Radley Run 66-69—135
a-Stephen Dressel, St. Davids 69-67—136
Dave Quinn, Philmont 67-69—136
Dave McNabb, Applebrook 70-67—137
a-Alex Mulrooney, DuPont 70-67—137
a-Vincent Kwon, Little Mill 69-68—137
Alex Knoll, Bethlehem 68-69—137
Zac Oakley, Waynesborough 68-69—137
Brian Bergstol, Shawnee 69-69—138
a-Matthew Finger, DuPont 69-69—138
a-Zachary Falone, Sakima 70-68—138
a-Benjamin Smith, Huntingdon Valley 71-69—140
a-Max Siegfried, Aronimink 70-70—140
David Pagett, Whitemarsh Valley 69-71—140
x-won four-hole playoff