Team USA sends veteran firepower out first in Friday Morning Foursomes

Mark Sheftic at the PGA Cup
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Mark Sheftic, who clinched the decisive U.S. point in the 2009 PGA Cup in Scotland and was on the winning 2011 Team at CordeValle, will be in the first group out for Team USA on Friday.
By
Bob Denney
The PGA of America

Series: PGA

FRIDAY MORNING FOURSOMES (Local Time)
7:30 a.m.: Mark Sheftic, Blue Bell, Pa. & Chip Sullivan, Troutville, Va. vs. Gareth Wright, Peeblesshire, Scotland & Richard Wallis, Kent, England

7:42 a.m.: JC Anderson, O’Fallon, Mo. & Kelly Mitchum, Southern Pines, N.C. vs. Benn Barham, Kent, England & David Callaway, Surrey, England

2013 PGA CUP

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7:54 a.m.: Rod Perry, Port Orange, Fla. & Jeff Sorensen, Blaine, Minn. vs. Graham Fox, Glasgow, Scotland & Jonathan Barnes, Hampshire, England

8:06 a.m.: Bob Sowards, Dublin, Ohio & Mike Small, Champaign, Ill.  vs. Greig Hutcheon, Kincardineshire, Scotland & Scott Henderson, Aberdeenshire, Scotland 

HEXHAM, England – U.S. Captain Allen Wronowski said he wanted to give his team a chance to start strong in the opening day of the 26th PGA Cup, which translates to having some veteran firepower on the tee for Friday’s Morning Foursomes.

Wronowski, the PGA honorary president from Bel Air, Md., will send the duo of 2007 PGA Professional National Champion Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., and Mark Sheftic of Blue Bell, Pa., out first in the four-match opening session of the premier international competition for PGA club professionals at The Hunting Course at Slaley Hall.

Sheftic and Sullivan have a combined 7-5-0 record in three PGA Cup appearances. Sheftic clinched the decisive U.S. point in 2009 at The Carrick in Loch Lomond, Scotland, and was a member of the winning 2011 Team at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif. Sullivan was a member of a triumphant 2007 U.S. Team at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.

They face Gareth Wright of Peeblesshire, Scotland and Richard Wallis of Kent, England. Wright, 31, was the lone PGA club professional to make the Open Championship cut at Muirfield in July, while Wallis, 32, owns more than 100 professional titles in his career, and posted a 59 in the PGA Southern Open pro-am last June in Surrey, England.

“Make no mistake, we are in for a tough match against a GB&I Team that has a ton of tournament experience up and down its lineup,” said Wronowski. “I wanted to send experienced players out first and each have been playing well.” Sheftic and Sullivan played the final 36 holes of the PGA Professional National Championship together last June in Sunriver, Ore., and shared the 54-hole lead. They faded on the final nine holes, but came back to the tee to battle in a playoff for a PGA Cup berth.

“I feel very comfortable. Chip’s a great guy, he’s a great player,” said Sheftic, a PGA teaching professional at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. “We kind of have the same personality. He cuts the ball; I draw the ball. You know that Chip’s going to give 110 percent, and so am I. Anytime you qualify for this, it is a special event. It’s a shame that not more people know about it.

“There’s nine guys besides myself that are going to put their heart and soul into it. We’re going to do everything we can to win. We’re going to represent the United States of America. Once they start playing the national anthem, it gives you a chill.”

Sullivan, 48, last competed on a 2007 U.S. Team that escaped on its home turf in Greensboro, Ga., with a one-point victory. He said that he is looking forward to playing with Sheftic again.

“We are going to have a blast,” said Sullivan. “We have similar personalities, and I think our Captain did a great job putting us together. I’ve learned something new every day. For me it comes down to the greens and knowing the speed of my putt, because they vary. I think the strategy, the hardest part, is to get used to the greens. This is the best of the best. I would not want to be anywhere else. As a PGA club professional, this is the event that you strive to make.”

Reigning PGA Professional National Champion Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., teams with Jeff Sorenson of Blaine, Minn., who have good friends over the past several decade. When Sorenson heads south for the winter, he stays in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and plays for nearly five months in events alongside Perry.

Perry, the only left-hander in this edition of the PGA Cup, said that he has gained a measure of course knowledge on the Hunting Course.

“It’s been good from the standpoint of learning the golf course and the lines off the tee,” said Perry. 

“I would be remiss to say that we’ve played well, however, my play has got better every day. Jeff and I had a little team competition and did well in four-balls, and struggled in foursomes. I hope that we have got some of the bad shots out of the way. I know that Jeff is a grinder and we will work hard. I like these conditions. It’s challenging. My ball flight is good, a bit lower, for these conditions.”

Sorenson, whose younger brother Matt serves as his caddie, said that they had an eye-opening drive to arrive at Slaley Hall. The brothers stopped at St. Andrews, viewing but not playing the Old Course, and then drove three hours to Northumberland over narrow roads that provided its own set of challenges. “That was the toughest part of the whole trip,” said Sorenson, a PGA teaching professional at Columbia Golf Club in Blaine, Minn.

“I am really comfortable playing with Rod, and we became good friends over the winter in Florida the past several years. Rod is a lefty and I’m very comfortable playing with lefties, since my brother is left-handed.”

Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C., last played a team match play event as a member of the winning 1993 Walker Cup Team, with teammates that included Justin Leonard, Allen Doyle and Jay Sigel. Mitchum works for Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, the host of the first two PGA Cups (1973-74).

Mitchum’s partner Friday morning is JC Anderson of O’Fallon, Mo., 51, the senior player in this PGA Cup on an American unit that averages 41 years of age. Great Britain & Ireland, composed of 10 rookies, check in with an average age of 36.

“It’s great to know that you work at a resort that hosted the first two PGA Cups; that’s a lot of history and I’m excited to be here trying to help us win the Cup and bring it back home,” said Mitchum, a 42-year-old assistant professional. “The wind now is the key. You got to control the wind and your distances. The greens are tricky.”

Anderson said that he is fortunate to have Mitchum as his partner. “He is like a Larry Nelson, who went 5-0 in a Ryder Cup, or a Corey Pavin,” said Anderson, the PGA teaching professional at Missouri Bluffs Golf Club in St. Charles, Mo. “He is just a bulldog. To play foursomes, which is alternate shot, I mean Kelly is the guy you want in your bunker. He is not going to give up and he has a great short game. You hit a bad shot and he is going to get it up and down, guaranteed. Kelly won the Carolinas PGA Championship shooting a 63 on a tough golf course. I could not ask for a better partner.”

Ryan Polzin, the PGA head professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, will sit out the Morning Foursomes with 2012 National Champion Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, N.Y.

“This course is very American,” said Polzin, the runner-up in last June’s PGA Professional National Championship. “It is a lot different when it is warm versus when it’s cold. Those are the big adjustments we have to make – dealing with the cold, damp air versus the warm, drier air. You got to pay attention to where you are on the greens. I feel good coming into the event.”

Three-time PGA Professional National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., the University of Illinois men’s coach, will be in the morning anchor match with 2004 National Champion Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio. They face the team of Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon and Scott Henderson. Small, 47, is making his fifth PGA Cup appearance and said that he is pleased to have a partner he knows well.

“Bob Sowards is a great guy, known him for a long time, and he has won a lot of events,” said Small. He is a competitor, and will never give up. It is a good pairing. We are going to continue to learn this thing as the week goes on. There are lot of intricacies and nuances that we will have to learn.

“Every PGA Cup is a learning experience and I always enjoy coming to compete. What we do for a living is that we have to keep our expectations in check. We are not preparing all the time like tour professionals. I will take the opportunities that come at me.”

Sowards, a PGA teaching professional at New Albany (Ohio) Country Club, was a member of the last U.S. Team to taste defeat in a PGA Cup, a 15-11 loss at The K Club in County Kildare, Ireland. Sowards said that he could not ask for a better partner.

“We pair up extremely well,” said Sowards. “He draws the ball; I fade it, so there’s no hole that we are not comfortable playing. He’s been one of the best, possibly the best real club professional that we’ve had in The PGA. It’s an honor to play with him. I’ve played with him in the National Championship, so I’m very familiar with his game. I think that Mike is tough to partner up with, but because a lot of people are intimidated playing with him. But I feel that we will do well together.”