By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Most golfers would tell you it is awkward taking turns with a partner in trying to get a ball into a hole. It’s hard enough by yourself. You are out of rhythm, and everything’s haywire.
Those critics would have a hard time convincing the United States Team of PGA club professionals that they looked anything but in complete harmony Saturday at CordeValle on the second day of the 25th PGA Cup.
The United States applied the necessary muscle in foursomes for the second day in a row, winning all but one of the four afternoon matches. That pushed the Americans’ advantage to 10½ to 5½ over Great Britain & Ireland, setting up a Sunday Singles where the hosts will need just 2½ points to retain the Llandudno International Golf Trophy.
“We’re just really happy with the way it all came together,” said USA Captain Jim Remy, The PGA honorary president from Ludlow, Vt. “We made the pairings early in the week to try to get the players comfortable with each other, and similar players were paired together. And, I don’t know whether it was luck or not, but we seem to have done really well.
“We have been able to keep the pairings together for the entire week, practice sessions all the way straight through to singles tomorrow.”
It was a difficult day for Great Britain & Ireland Captain Russell Weir of Dunoon, Scotland, whose team could not gain any precious ground in a bid to become the first to defeat the Americans on their home soil.
“As the sun got up to its peak, it was quite sapping strength wise but the guys gave everything,” said Weir. “(David) Shacklady and (Simon) Edwards, those guys brought tears to my eyes today while (John) Wells and (Gary) Brown were pure Yorkshire grit. They gave everything but there’s more to give tomorrow. We need points early, to make it very interesting. The spirit is fine, the guys know there are still 10 points to play for and they are going to give it a go.”
Weir has never played on a winning PGA Cup Team, despite his record-tying eight trips to the event from 1986 to 2000. He also has competed in more matches (40) than any player in event history.
“This has been the experience of my life,” he said. “I feel more pressure actually than when I played because you can’t hit the shots. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and it’s been great.”
The United States had a host of solid performances, but rookies Rob McClellan of Butler, Pa., and Marty Jertson of Phoenix, Ariz., have been stellar together, winning all three of their matches, including a 2 and 1 victory over Edwards and Shacklady of England, in which they rallied from a 2-hole deficit with a four-hole stretch of wins to ease to the grabbing a point.
“I think that we’re just so comfortable and our games are so similar,” said McClellan, the PGA head professional at Butler (Pa.) Country Club. “We hit the same clubs pretty much. And, we talk a lot. When we are walking, if we have the layup shot, we tell each other what shot we want to hit and we want to play to that shot. We talk about where we want to be and what shots we want to hit. And it’s been working.”
Though he didn’t cash in on a match victory in the process, Danny Balin of Greenwich, Conn., gave the United States a spark in the Morning Four-Balls, recording a hole-in-on the seventh hole at CordeValle for what is believed to be the second hole-in-one in PGA Cup history.
Balin, who is playing alongside partner Scott Erdmann of Tigard, Ore., used a 7-iron to ace the 183-yard hole. It was the second career hole-in-one for the 29-year-old PGA assistant professional at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Conn. Coincidentally, the first PGA Cup ace recorded was by current GB&I Captain Weir during his Cup debut in 1986 at Knollwood Country Club in Lake Forest, Ill.
Balin’s ace allowed the U.S. duo to trim its deficit in the match to two holes against Stuart Little and Robert Giles. However, Giles soon got his team back in front by three holes, by driving the 286-yard, par-4 eighth green and making the eagle putt.
The PGA Cup concludes Sunday with 10 singles matches that begin at 9:30 a.m. PDT.
Great Britain & Ireland posted a 2 ½ to 1 ½ Morning Four-Ball advantage, tempered by the U.S. duo of Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., and Brad Lardon of College Station, Texas, earning a half-point against England’s Craig Goodfellow and Ireland’s David Mortimer.
“That was a big, big half-point,” said Remy. “You have to work hard for those halves many times in this competition, and that was one of those moments that could have been a swing in momentum. I was so proud of how Sonny and Brad played to earn that halve.”
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.
SATURDAY MORNING FOUR-BALLS
David Shacklady, Lancashire, England & Simon Edwards, Cumbria, England def. David Hutsell, Baltimore, Md. & Mark Sheftic, Blue Bell, Pa. (USA), 2 and 1
Mike Small, Champaign, Ill. & Faber Jamerson, Appomattox, Va. (USA) def. John Wells, Yorkshire, England & Gary Brown, N. Yorkshire, England (USA), 3 & 2
Stuart Little, Gloucestershire, England & Robert Giles, Newry, County Down, Ireland def. Danny Balin, Greenwich, Conn. & Scott Erdmann, Tigard, Ore. 5 & 4
Sonny Skinner, Sylvester, Ga. & Brad Lardon, College Station, Texas (USA) halved with David Mortimer, Knocknacarra, Ireland & Craig Goodfellow, Cumbria, England
Great Britain & Ireland 2½ United States 1½
SATURDAY AFTERNOON FOURSOMES
Rob McClellan, Butler, Pa. & Marty Jertson, Phoenix, Ariz. (USA) def. Edwards & Shacklady, 2 and 1
John Wells & Gary Brown def. Hutsell & Sheftic, 2-up
Small & Jamerson def. John Kennedy, Oxford, England & Christopher Gill, Devon, England, 4 & 3
Skinner & Lardon def. Mortimer & Little, 2 & 1
USA 3 Great Britain & Ireland 1
Day Two Total: United States 4 ½, Great Britain & Ireland 3 ½
OVERALL TOTAL: United States 10½, Great Britain & Ireland 5½