By T.J. Auclair, John Kim and Bob Denney
SAN MARTIN, Calif. –It’s a shame either side had to lose in each of the two four-ball matches over the course of the first two days featuring Americans David Hutsell and Mark Sheftic against GB&I’s David Shacklady and Simon Edwards.
Since neither match ended in a halve, it was fitting that each partnership won one and lost one -- the U.S. won Friday, 3&2; GB&I won Saturday, 2&1. In all, the four players played 33 holes and combined to make a remarkable 24 birdies over those two matches.
“It's been very much playing hard, but this competition sort of makes you play like that,” Shacklady said. “You don't expect anything other than a great shot from the opposition. I'm sure they were very satisfied yesterday, just as much as we are today. It's been two wonderful games.”
In Saturday morning’s match, GB&I birdied five of the first seven holes and were only 1 up.
“We just came out of the box as fast as we possibly could,” Shacklady said. “I honestly thought that I hit everything exactly where I wanted and we were 5 under after 7 and we were only 1 up. And, you know, it was just ludicrous, really. I mean we thought we would be way up.”
FORTIFIED FOURSOMES: The USA posted a 6-1-1 record in foursomes (alternate shot), which ranks among the top five USA performances in that unique and difficult format in the PGA Cup. “We played together all week, and you got to hand it to Captain Remy for keeping us together and it paid off,” said three-time PGA Professional National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill. “I’ve never played on a team that did this well in foursomes.”
HOMEGROWN ASSISTANT: Eric Lippert of Marina, Calif., a PGA assistant professional at Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey, Calif., also was one of the PGA Professionals making a unique sacrifice away from his job this week. Lippert, a member of the winning USA PGA Cup Team in 2009 in Loch Lomond, Scotland, has served this week as an assistant to U.S. Captain Jim Remy.
“Jim asked me back in January at the PGA Senior-Junior Championship if I would consider assisting this week,” said Lippert. “It is bittersweet because I would love to be playing again, but it's been great to see some of the guys that I've gotten to know and then to meet some of these new guys and you know, along the way if I could share an experience and help them out, why then that's what I can do. Otherwise I'm here just to help them out.”
Lippert sought permission after the 2009 PGA Cup to have the Llandudno International Golf Trophy travel to the home clubs of the winning team members. Lippert was able to show off the cup to his club members and also bring the now 72-year-old, 18-pound Cup to a Northern California Semi-Annual Section Meeting.
“It’s a beautiful trophy, it was wonderful to have and it was wonderful to present and I brought it to that meeting especially since CordeValle was going to be playing host this year. I thought it was really important to show that off at our Section.
“This week, the guys have been so great and so welcoming and I'm just proud that I can help them at all,” said Lippert. “You know, this is their experience though, and so they're just awesome. These guys are such good players.”
Lippert can take pride in knowing that he will never be far from the Llandudno Trophy. CordeValle is having a replica made to be part of its permanent trophy collection.
“Wow! So I'll always be able to come and visit it and make a wish that I can be on another team, right?” said Lippert. “I'm going to always make that wish. Please, let me play again.”
WEEK TO REMEMBER: There’s no doubt about it -- win, lose or draw, U.S. team member Danny Balin will never forget his first time playing in the PGA Cup.
Balin, a 29-year-old PGA Assistant Professional at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., struck the shot of these 25th PGA Cup matches in Saturday morning’s fourball session, with a hole-in-one on the 183-yard, par-3 seventh hole at CordeValle.
It was the second hole-in-one in Balin’s career and first in competition.
“It was special,” said Balin, who despite the ace still lost the match with partner Scott Erdmann to GB&I’s Stuart Little and Robert Giles, 5&4. “My first one ever was with my brother the day before his wedding at the site he got married at, so that was pretty special. But it was great today.
“I didn't really see it go in, just kind of heard the cheers out there. It was awesome,” he explained. “That was one of the only holes that we won in the match, the guys we played played great. Of course, I would rather win the match than make the hole in one, but it was pretty special. It’s something that I'll remember for the rest of my life.”
Balin’s hole-in-one is believed to be the first in PGA Cup history since 1986, when – coincidentally 2011 GB&I Captain Russell Weir delivered an ace at Knollwood Country Club in Lake Forest, Ill., in the first of his record eight PGA Cup appearances.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” said the gracious Weir. “I remember my hole-in-one in 1986, and it was early on the back nine. I think the 12th or 13th hole.”
TAKE THAT!: While the final tally might not show it, the Balin/Erdmann-Little/Giles four-ball match provided fireworks that didn’t start, or end with the Balin ace.
At the par-5 sixth hole, Balin missed a 25-foot eagle putt by inches. Little, meanwhile, drained a 20-foot birdie putt for an unlikely halve.
Following Balin’s hole-in-one, Giles drove the green on the 268-yard, par-4 eighth hole and knocked in an eagle putt to retake a 3-up lead.
“It was kind of up and down, just like golf is,” Balin said. “So we thought we were going to get the momentum back [after the hole-in-one] and unfortunately it just didn't go our way today.”