HEXHAM, England – JC Anderson said he had never faced a more important putt in his professional career than the four-footer Sunday afternoon in the final hour of the 26th PGA Cup. As teammates and spouses dressed in red, white and blue, there was a country’s pride on the line. Anderson, 51, the senior member of the U.S. Team from O’Fallon, Mo., took his time lining up his par putt on the 18th green.
To extend the drama, airplanes buzzed past the Hunting Course, and Anderson walked halfway down the green to collect himself. Returning to business, he stepped up and stroked the par putt home, posting a halved match with Scott Henderson of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Anderson was part of a three-match U.S. counterpunch over a 20-minute span – featuring singles wins by Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C., and Ryan Polzin of Houston, Texas, that ensured the United States had a 13-13 draw with Great Britain & Ireland.
“Three weeks ago, I told Allen (Wronowski), our Captain, ‘I want the ‘Langer putt,’ ” said an emotional Anderson, a PGA teaching professional at Missouri Bluffs Golf Club in St. Charles, Mo., recalling Bernhard Langer’s potential Ryder Cup-winning par putt for Europe in 1991 at Kiawah Island, S.C. “I wanted the putt that’s going to matter on 18. To me, that was the Langer putt right there.”
Unlike Langer, Anderson’s putt found the heart of the hole. Great Britain & Ireland, beginning the day trailing by five, 10 1/2 to 5 1/2, wasted no time in dominating the singles, 7 1/2 to 2 1/2. At the four-hour mark of the session, the U.S. had still not established a lead in any of the 10 matches.
Mitchum, a PGA teaching professional at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, rallied to score a 2 and 1 triumph over Greig Hutcheon of Kincardineshire, Scotland, and Polzin, the PGA head professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, defeated David Callaway of Surrey, England, 3 and 2, in what became the Cup-retaining match.
The U.S. last suffered a PGA cup defeat in 2005, and the hard-fought duel in northeastern England ensures that the 18-pound Llandudno International Trophy, the prize piece of hardware in the premier international event for PGA club professionals, is on its way back to its niche in the PGA Museum of Golf in Port St. Lucie, Fla. It was the fourth draw in PGA Cup history, the last coming in 1996, and left the Americans with a 17-5-4 overall record since the event began in 1973.
Great Britain & Ireland nearly pulled off what the team had hoped was a “Medinah Miracle,” of rallying to win the Cup as Europe accomplished the feat in the 2012 Ryder Cup. GBI&I players got an emotional lift when their Captain, Russell Weir of Dunoon, Scotland – who spent part nearly seven hours Saturday in the Hexham Hospital – appeared on the first tee. Weir, 62, who suffers from Type 2 diabetes, became weak and had his sugar levels bounce dangerously high Saturday afternoon.
“There were 20 phenomenal players playing their hearts out there today,” said Wronowski, the PGA honorary president from Bel Air, Md. “GB&I played with so much heart and so much passion. There was some saying that they were doing it for Russell (Weir). I know that my heart leapt when I saw him this morning. He joked that he had just had an allergy – to red numbers (on the board.).”
Wronowski said the draw was not disappointed in the finale. “This week was about the friendships, the relationships,” he said. “Certainly, the goal was to bring the trophy back home. Our lads managed to do that. But there were so many wonderful stories this week about the game of golf. The great play by both teams and sportsmanship. The matches could not have been better played. If anything, I think this will strengthen the PGA Cup for years to come.”
A veteran of eight PGA Cups, Weir had never been on a winning team and was a member of the GB&I unit that drew 13-13 with the U.S. in 1996 at Gleneagles, Scotland. Weir said Sunday’s action exceeded any previous Cup experience.
“I find it hard to describe how proud I am of what the boys did today,” he said. “These team matches mean so much when you represent your country. Now, the guys will want more. I do think that this means a new chapter for the PGA Cup.”
With past PGA Professional National Champions Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., and Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, being knocked out in the first two Sunday matches, the U.S. hopes began to wane until Mitchum, 42, drew upon his 1993 Walker Cup and 1992 U.S. Amateur semifinal experience against Hutcheon, who has made 97 European Tour starts.
Mitchum’s magic moment came at the 412-yard 12th hole, where he had to make a penalty drop from an unplayable lie and hit a 165-yard 7-iron from the rough to the front edge of the green. From there, he ran home an estimated 100-foot par putt that crashed the flagstick and dropped into the hole. It so unnerved Hutcheon, that he three-putted from 30 feet. Mitchum went 2-up with a 10-foot birdie at 16, before closing Hutcheon out at 17 after the Scotsman left his third shot in a greenside bunker.
“It was an amazing turnaround,” said Mitchum. “I guess the putt was about 100 feet. My opponent thought he had a two-putt to win the hole. I could not be more proud of the guys. Everyone here tried their guts out.”
Polzin, a runner-up last June in the PGA Professional National Championship, was more methodical in his match against Callaway, collecting three birdies to offset one bogey and closing out Callaway, who was runner-up on the Hunting Course in the Glenmuir PGA Professional Championship.
“As soon as I came off the 16th green, I learned that JC had earned that half-point,” said Polzin. “I played great today, making one bogey all day. To play this golf course today in that strong wind, you know, we played different conditions every day. My opponent played well, but I out-putted him.”
“We restored some pride today, but it doesn’t help me because I feel like I let the lads down today, but it was a fantastic experience,” said Hutcheon. “You don’t realize how big a PGA Cup match it is until you play in it. I’ll be doing my utmost to get on the team again.”
GB&I’s insurance against losing the Cup came once again to the 18th green, where reigning Glenmuir PGA Professional Champion Dan Greenwood of Lincolnshire, England, holed a five-foot par putt to defeat 2012 PGA Professional National Champion Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, N.Y., 1-up.
Sunday Singles results:
Benn Barham, Kent, GB&I, def. Mike Small, USA, 4&3
Richard Wallis, GB&I, def. Bob Sowards, USA, 3&2
Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Greig Hutcheon, GB&I, 2&1
JC Anderson, USA, vs. Scott Henderson, GB&I, halved
Gareth Wright, GB&I, def. Jeff Sorenson, USA, 2&1
Graham Fox, GB&I, def. Rod Perry, USA, 3&2
Dan Greenwood, GB&I, def. Matt Dobyns, USA, 1-up
Ryan Polzin, USA, def. David Callaway, GB&I, 3&2
Nick Brennan, GB&I, def. Chip Sullivan, USA, 2&1
Jon Barnes, GB&I, def. Mark Sheftic, USA, 3&2
GB&I 7 1/2, USA 2 1/2
FINAL TOTAL: UNITED STATES 13, GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND 13
Saturday Morning Foursomes results:
Greig Hutcheon/Scott Henderson, GB&I, def. Matt Dobyns/Ryan Polzin, USA, 1-up
Rod Perry/Jeff Sorenson, USA, vs. Dan Greenwood/Benn Barham, GB&I, halved
JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Graham Fox/Jonathan Barnes, GB&I, 5&4
Bob Sowards/Mike Small, USA, vs. Richard Wallis/Gareth Wright, GB&I, halved
USA 2, GB&I 2