SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- For the first time in the history of the PGA Cup, the Great Britain and Ireland team has won the Llandudno International Trophy on U.S. soil.
In a dramatic final day that saw matches swing back and forth throughout, the 27th PGA Cup at CordeValle came down to the final of 10 singles matches on the final hole.
Niall Kearney from GB&I holed a 7-footer for par to take a 1-up victory over Alan Morin and snag a 13 1/2- 12 1/2 victory for the visitors.
"The toughest part of this week for me is being the first U.S. Captain to lose the PGA Cup on American soil," U.S. PGA Cup Captain Allen Wronowski said. "It certainly is tough and even more so for me, because I have the utmost respect for my team and how great they are, you just don't want them to not have that trophy. The deserved it. They worked hard."
On the first tee Sunday morning as the singles matches were getting started, Wronowski said he had trouble sleeping the night before and eventually woke up for good around 4 a.m., in anxious anticipation of the day ahead.
He greeted each of his players on the first tee, wishing them well, and then spent the rest of the day logging miles upon miles driving across the vast landscape of CordeValle in a golf cart, rushing to shout words of encouragement to his players, or deliver drinks and snacks -- whatever they needed, Wronowski was there.
While he was confident in his team, you could see Wronowski living and dying with virtually every shot, or every time an updated score was reported over his ear piece.
"We started the day out really positive and everything was going the way we had planned it out, but then all of the sudden they charged like they did at Slaley Hall," said Wronowski, who also captained the U.S. side when it retained the PGA Cup in 2013 with a 13-13 tie at England's Slaley Hall. "Next thing you know, they're making birdies and eagles like there's no tomorrow."
But, the U.S. never gave up the fight. Omar Uresti and Sean Dougherty made huge putts on the final hole to keep the U.S. in it. Uresti's was about a 10-footer for birdie and a 1-up victory, while Dougherty's was about a 6-footer to salvage a crucial half-point.
All of that set things up to put all eyes on that final match between Kearney and Morin.
Morin was fighting an uphill battle, 2-down with two to play. And, it didn't help that his tee shot on the difficult par-4 17th hole found the left fairway bunker.
With virtually everyone on the grounds at CordeValle looking on, Morin delivered arguably the shot of the tournament, sticking his shot from the bunker to within 2 feet of the hole. His birdie putt was conceded and the match moved to the final hole with Morin needing to win the hole to grab the decisive half-point for a 13-13 score and the U.S. to retain the Cup.
By the time the players reached the green at the par-5 18th, it looked to be advantage Morin. Kearney was well over the green in three shots, while Morin was facing a 40-footer for birdie.
Kearney delivered a magnificent fourth shot that settled 5 feet from the hole.
Morin took plenty of time lining up his putt to retain the PGA Cup. Once he sent it on its way, it gave the hole a good look, but failed to drop and he was conceded a par.
Moments later, Kearney provided the winning moment knocking his par putt in the heart of the Cup.
Morin actually walked over to Wronowski and his wife, Gail, and apologized. There was nothing to apologize for.
The only thing that disappointed Wronowski is how great a story it would have been to tell if Morin were the one to retain the Cup.
It was Morin who on Saturday talked his way out of a spot in the afternoon foursomes, explaining to Wronowski the team would be better served with a longer hitter in his spot. It was an incredibly unselfish and commendable act.
"The unselfishness of a player is what I'll remember most about this week," Wronowski said. "Alan Morin. What he did -- offering up a line up change for what he thought would be in the betterment of the team and then to have him almost win the Cup for us would have been the most fitting."
Though Wronowski won't be taking the Llandudno International Trophy home, he will be leaving CordeValle with a very special piece of hardware. At a dinner on Saturday night, the U.S. Team presented Wronowski with a statue of a flying eagle -- something that has particular significance to Wronowski, who works with the Folds of Honor, a foundation supports the familes of our fallen soldiers.
"It seems pretty unbelievable to me to get a statue of the flying eagle," said Wronowski, choked up and fighting back tears, "With what I do with the military and different things and the words from Bob Sowards and how much I meant to this team, he said they couldn't ask for a better captain and that brings a lot of emotion to the front."
In two years, the U.S. will head across the pond looking to reclaim the Llandudno International Trophy. With Sunday's defeat, the U.S. is now 17-6-4 all time in the PGA Cup.