The United States made a statement Friday in the opening day of the 25th PGA Cup, routing Great Britain & Ireland in three of four afternoon foursome matches to take a 6-2 lead for a memorable birthday present for Captain Jim Remy.
“Thanks for the great birthday present; that was pretty cool,” said Remy 57, The PGA honorary President from Ludlow, Vt., to his 10-member team in the locker room at CordeValle. “We had a great start, but you all know that we have a long way to go.”
After battling a 2½ to 1½ morning lead in four-balls, the Americans came out and lost only one of 39 holes played in the final three matches of the afternoon foursomes (alternate shot), with consecutive 6 and 5 margins. Remy found the right chemistry early in the week, he said, by building the partnerships of reigning PGA Professional National Champion David Hutsell of Baltimore, Md., and Mark Sheftic of Blue Bell, Pa.; Danny Balin of Greenwich, Conn., and Scott Erdmann of Tigard, Ore.; and Rob McClellan of Butler, Pa., and Marty Jertson of Phoenix, Ariz.
Hutsell and Sheftic combined for 12 birdies, including nine in their 3 and 2 victory over Simon Edwards of Wales and England’s David Shacklady. In the afternoon, the twosome won four of the first seven holes on their way to an easy win.
“I was really happy with the fact that we were able to come back in the morning and get the one-point lead,” said Remy. “That was really spectacular. Then, this afternoon to be able to get 3 ½ points in foursomes was incredible. The foursome’s are not our game, but we did practice it a lot this week.”
The morning dramatics featured a hard-earned 1-up triumph by McClellan, the PGA head professional at Butler (Pa.) Country Club and Jertson, a senior design engineer for PING Golf, who never led until the 18th hole.
“We played a lot of practice rounds together this week and got the feel for the format (foursomes), and I think we kind of gelled. I know that Rob likes to draw them in and sling them in and get them close. I like to hit it straight and fade them in there. And, it just worked.”
That effort was preceded by a halved match by three-time PGA Professional National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., the University of Illinois men’s coach, and his partner Faber Jamerson, the PGA general manager at Falling River Country Club of Appomattox, Va. Small birdied the 18th hole after hitting a 237-yard 19-degree hybrid to the right fringe 30 feet from the hole. He chipped to tap-in range before England’s Craig Goodfellow, the reigning PGA Professional Champion, missed a winning downhill 15-foot birdie putt.
Hutsell of Baltimore, Md., and Mark Sheftic of Blue Bell, Pa., partnered like fraternity brothers enjoying a weekend round not two golfers who were cast into a pressure-packed match.
“We learned today that it was Captain Remy’s birthday, and we went out and worked hard to make it a nice birthday for him,” said Hutsell, the PGA director of instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore. “We felt pretty good as the round went on, and the ball rolled well and we hit the ball very well today. There were a lot of long putts that went in, and if one of us were struggling a little bit, the other seemed to make a birdie or par and kept the momentum going.”
Great Britain & Ireland salvaged a half-point in the afternoon foursomes by Edwards and Shacklady. Trailing by one hole to Americans Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., and Brad Lardon of College Station, Texas, the advantage quickly faded. Lardon hit his third approach on the 535-yard, par-5 18th into the bank of the green, with the ball rolling into the water. Skinner followed by attempting to hit the ball, but scooped up only a mud and water spray on his uniform and not a ball on the green.
“That was a big half-point from Simon and David, and that could help the momentum tomorrow,” said GB&I Captain Russell Weir of Scotland. “As I say, it’s a long dance. There’s still 18 points to play for. We’re not panicking, anything can happen in golf. The Americans are always strong, a few wee things happened that went against us today and hopefully we can turn that around. It is going to be difficult but it can be done.”
The United States owns a 16-5-3 advantage in the Ryder Cup-style competition, which began in 1973 at Pinehurst (N.C.) Country Club. The Americans have never lost on home soil. The two teams will continue the same format Saturday, with four morning four-ball matches followed by four afternoon foursomes.
“We all know that we have a lot of work to do, but certainly building a 6-2 lead was good for us,” said Hutsell. “GB&I are excellent players, and we were able to get the momentum we needed at the right time.”