Final Four Set for Sigel Match Play
CLARKS SUMMIT, Pa. - The list of 16 qualifiers for the 14th R. Jay Sigel Match Play Championship, presented by LECOM, at the Country Club of Scranton was filled with some of the state's best college golfers. But among the Owls, Dragons, Scarlet Knights and Explorers, there was another category - Veterans. And no one fit that mold better than Nathan Smith, who won a pair of matches today to advance to Wednesday's semifinals. Smith, of Pinecrest Country Club, is aiming for his fifth win in the event, and he's just two matches away.
Smith is in the final four along with three other golfers with history in this event - he's joined by two-time champion David Brown of Champion Lakes Golf Club and two-time runner up Sean Knapp, each of whom is battle-tested in this championship like Smith, and Steve Cerbara, who knocked off defending champ Matt Holuta in the quarterfinals after beating past champ Eric Williams in the Round of 16.
Round of 16
Tuesday morning saw the first eight matches of the championship. The opening match saw medalist Aaron Fricke of Lancaster Country Club eliminated quickly by 16th seed P.J. Acierno of Lu Lu Country Club. Acierno made match play after a playoff on Monday evening, and validated his place by making quick work of Fricke. Acierno parred the first five holes and was up three after a trio of bogeys by Fricke. Birdies on No. 6 and No. 8 put it almost out of reach before the recent LaSalle University graduate closed things out with a par on the 11th hole. Fricke's Drexel University teammate, Michael Cook, fared better in his Round of 16 match. The second seed, Cook took down Glenmaura National Golf Club's Patrick Mitchell, 4 and 3. The 2014 champ, Eric Williams, the No. 3 seed, was all square with Cerbara heading into the 18th hole. However, Cerbara won the match with an outstanding approach shot on the 560-yard par 5, as he had just a tap-in for eagle to win. Two-time finalist Knapp advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4 and 3 win over Marty McGuckin. Knapp had three birdies on the front nine en route to a 2-up lead at the turn, and closed out McGuckin six holes later.
Fifth-seeded Gary McCabe, Jr., knocked off his Temple teammate, John Barone, 1 up. The match was all square heading into the 18th but McCabe was able to make par and Barone couldn't convert, giving McCabe the win. Defending champion Holuta, of Indiana Country Club, got his day off to a good start with a 5 and 3 win over Tom Nettles of St. Clair Country Club. Holuta won the first hole with a par, and then made five more birdies in the match, including on all three of the par 5s that he played. Brown, trying to win his third Sigel title, took out Todd Vonderheid, 6 and 5, in the Round of 16. For Smith, it looked as if he was on his way to knocking off Anthony Sebastianelli after he won the 14th hole to move to 3-up. But three consecutive bogeys gave an opening to Sebastianelli, and he was just a hole down heading into the 18th. However, the players halved the hole with a par, giving Smith the win and a spot against Acierno in the quarterfinals.
Acierno's afternoon match against Smith was role reversal for him. After his dominant victory over Fricke in the morning, Acierno was down four just five holes into the afternoon match. Smith made eagle on No. 8 and birdie on No. 9 to extend the lead, and then closed out Acierno with a birdie on the 13th hole. Brown made it two past champs in the semifinals with his 5 and 4 win over Cook. Brown took advantage of Cook's struggles, as he won despite making just one birdie in the match.
Cerbara continued his giant-killer status with another win against a past champion, following the victory over Williams in the morning by ending Holuta's quest for back to back crowns in the afternoon. A birdie on the 10th hole put Cerbara up three, though Holuta battled back with wins on No. 12 and No. 13 to get within one. However, Cerbara made birdies on No. 14 and No. 16 to win and advance to the semifinals. Knapp and McCabe were back and forth all day, as neither player had a lead of more than one hole until Knapp made par against McCabe's bogey on No. 16, putting Knapp dormie with two to play. However, McCabe battled back to win the 17th and 18th holes and stay alive. In the first hole of the sudden death playoff, Knapp advanced with a par from 12 feet after McCabe couldn't convert from a similar distance.
Nathan Smith (8) vs. Sean Knapp (13)
For Smith, on the line is a chance to get to the finals of the Sigel for a record sixth time, as he is currently tied with Arnie Cutrell with five appearances in the championship match. For Knapp, it's a chance to finally win the Sigel, as he has finished second twice, as well as a chance to get revenge on Smith, who bested him in the 2009 championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club.
David Brown (7) vs. Steve Cerbara (14)
It is a game of thirds in the other semifinal, as Brown offers Cerbara a chance at a third win over a past champion, and a spot in the finals. And for Brown, it is an opportunity to advance to the finals and continue his quest for a third Sigel crown.
The Pennsylvania Golf Association would like to thank the staff and membership of the Country Club of Scranton for their support and hospitality during the event.