HEXHAM, England – American football has its “two-minute drill” - a series of well-crafted plays to beat the clock. The United States PGA Cup Team, with Captain Allen Wronowski on the sidelines at Slaley Hall, ran the “two-player drill” Friday to open the 26th premier international event for PGA Professionals.
Matching veterans and rookies with common personalities and shotmaking talents, Wronowski pushed all the right buttons at the Hunting Course. His team responded by sweeping the Afternoon Four-Balls for the first time since 1994, building a 6-2 lead over Great Britain & Ireland. The competition continues with Saturday Morning Foursomes.
“You take your best players and try to put them in the right order,” Wronowski, PGA director of member and player development at Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Md., said at the conclusion of play on Friday. “It worked out absolutely perfect.”
The Americans’ bid to retain possession of the Llandudno International Trophy got its biggest boost near dusk. Former PGA Professional National Champions Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., and Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, delivered respective 5-iron laser-like approach shots to the 18th green for a 2-up four-ball victory over Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon and Graham Fox.
That win was preceded by the duo's 5-and-4 triumph in the Morning Foursomes.
“It was great to be able to finish a match like this on the last hole, the toughest hole on the course, and have our shots land Bam! Bam! (on the green),” said Small, 47, a three-time National Champion and men’s golf coach at the University of Illinois.
“Mike said it earlier, that being in the last group and seeing red up on the board all day long made it easier to play,” said Sowards, 45, the 2004 National Champion and PGA teaching professional at New Albany (Ohio) Country Club. “These guys (Hutcheon and Fox) played great, but I felt like we gave them one hole. Mike’s making an eagle on 13, and me hitting it really close on 14 (for a birdie) turned the match around for us.”
The last team to post a 4-0 sweep of the Day One Four-Balls was Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) in 2005, on its way to a 15-11 victory over a U.S. Team that included Sowards. That was GB&I’s last win in the PGA Cup.
In the afternoon, Small and Sowards were joined by the unbeaten pairings of JC Anderson of O’Fallon, Mo. and Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C.; and 2012 National Champion Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, N.Y., and Ryan Polzin of Houston, Texas, who Wronowski purposely benched during the Morning Foursomes. Dobyns and Polzin rallied to defeat Scotland’s Gareth Wright and England’s Richard Wallis, 3 and 2.
In the day’s other four-ball pairing, 2007 National Champion Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., and Mark Sheftic of Blue Bell, Pa., recovered from a foursome defeat hours earlier to record a 3-and-2 victory over England’s Benn Barham and David Callaway.
“I thought it was extremely important, playing for the team, for Allen and the U.S., to redeem ourselves,” said Sheftic. “It was a sense of pride.”
“To get the monkey off our back, and get a win under the belt relaxed us,” said Sullivan. “We will rest our legs in the morning, and plan to be ready for four-balls tomorrow afternoon. It is a great experience to be a part of this and to have some points on the board.”
Anderson and Mitchum sped away to a 4-and-3 win in foursomes and a 6-and-5 four-ball rout of reigning Glenmuir PGA Professional Champion Dan Greenwood and Nick Brennan. Overall, GB&I has seven team members who competed on the Hunting Course last June in their national championship.
“What I witnessed is what I had hoped coming in,” said Wronowski. “Certainly the four-point lead is great, the scoring was good, but what I saw were the guys working together as teams; I saw them as partners and I saw them as friends. As we move forward, there’s support of one another in the twosomes, but also the whole 10. They know we came as one. We’re going to play as one and we’ll leave as one."
Wronowski said any Captain matching players has to “ride what you feel inside is your best hunch.”
“You see it happen in tour events. You watch the team events and all of a sudden someone catches fire,” said Wronowski. “Certainly we saw that with Kelly Mitchum coming here after a week of winning the Carolinas PGA Championship by six shots, and JC, who has been playing extremely well in many competitions. They fed off one another. If they continue to do that, there’s no telling how well they may finish.”
It was a difficult day for Great Britain & Ireland Captain Russell Weir of Dunoon, Scotland. A member of a record-tying eight PGA Cup Teams, Weir is serving his second consecutive term as Captain.
“I feel really gutted this afternoon, as I did not expect that,” said Weir. “Things like that are going to happen and it’s better on the first day. We still have a chance to pull it back. We have to be very aggressive tomorrow. I noticed quite a lot of tentative putts today and I’d like to see the boys rolling the ball. I might make a couple of changes.”
In the Morning Foursomes, Sowards and Small teamed for a birdie on the second hole and never looked back, cruising to a 5-and-4 victory, which was needed for a 2-2 draw with Great Britain & Ireland.
Mitchum and Anderson built a 3-up lead after nine holes and won, 4 and 3, over Barham and Callaway. The Americans played to near perfection, but also received a rare gift of a win on the ninth hole following a Rules violation by Callaway.
Callaway was facing a steep downhill bunker shot with one foot out of the greenside bunker. He could not extricate his ball with his first attempt and then swiped the sand in disgust. In Foursomes play, that action violates Rule 13-4 (Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions). That gave Anderson and Mitchum a 3-up advantage. Their lead was trimmed by one with a bogey at 12, but they recovered quickly by winning the 14th and 15th holes to close out the match.
“You don’t want to wish that upon anybody, but it is a perplexing deal,” said Anderson. “As soon as we saw it happen, I knew what the rule was and my partner knew the rule. We asked the referee. I knew we were going to win the hole. We gave a hole back at 11 with a bogey, but the big turnaround came for us on 12. I made a six-footer for par for a push to halve the hole. If I had missed, they would have had a big lift.”
Anderson, 51, the senior member for both sides in the PGA Cup, said that he has “such a great partner” in Mitchum. “His short game is second to none,” said Anderson. “He made some putts today. When your partner is making putts and chipping it close, he is invaluable.”
Reigning PGA Professional National Champion Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., pointed to a miscue on the 12th hole that snapped the momentum that he and Jeff Sorenson of Blaine, Minn., had built. They fell to Fox and Barnes, 2-up. Perry and Sorenson double-bogeyed the 12th hole after Perry’s drive found heavy rough.
“I got double-crossed there,” said Perry. “If we had had a good lie, we could have made 5. Instead, we made 6, they made 5, and then we lost three holes in a row. We didn’t have our best stuff, and they didn’t either. But they were able to find a way to win.”
Saturday Morning Foursomes pairings (local time):
7:30 a.m.: Matt Dobyns/Ryan Polzin, USA, vs. Greig Hutcheon/Scott Henderson, GB&I
7:42 a.m.: Rod Perry/Jeff Sorenson, USA, vs. Dan Greenwood/Benn Barham, GB&I
7:54 a.m.: JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, vs. Graham Fox/Jonathan Barnes, GB&I
8:06 a.m.: Bob Sowards/Mike Small, USA, vs. Richard Wallis/Gareth Wright, GB&I
Friday Morning Foursomes results:
Gareth Wright/Richard Wallis, GB&I, def. Mark Sheftic/Chip Sullivan, 3&2
JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Benn Barham/David Callaway, GB&I, 4&3
Graham Fox/Jonathan Barnes, GB&I, def. Rod Perry/Jeff Sorenson, USA, 2-up
Bob Sowards/Mike Small, USA, def. Greig Hutcheon/Scott Henderson, GB&I, 5&4
USA 2, GB&I 2
Friday Afternoon Four-Balls results:
Matt Dobyns/Ryan Polzin, USA, def. Gareth Wright/Richard Wallis, GB&I, 3&2
Mark Sheftic/Chip Sullivan, USA, def. Benn Barham/David Callaway, GB&I, 3&2
JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Nick Brennan/David Greenwood, GB&I, 6&5
Bob Sowards/Mike Small, USA, def. Greig Hutcheon/Graham Fox, GB&I, 2-up
USA 4, GB&I 0
FRIDAY TOTAL: USA 6, GB&I 2