SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Former U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Dave Stockton has visited CordeValle many times over the years, but never as a guest observer. The man who guided the United States to a thrilling Ryder Cup victory in 1991 at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, met members of the U.S. PGA Cup Team on Tuesday as they prepared for the 27th edition of the premier international event for PGA Club Professionals.
Stockton, 73, walked the fairways as the Americans practiced, gave an address in the Team Room that he said harkened back to moments when he made his Ryder Cup debut in 1971.
“To be representing your country is special any time,” said Stockton, addressing the U.S. Team. “I can remember my first Ryder Cup when the flags are raised and the national anthem played. I looked over at (Billy) Casper and he was bawling. I was good until then.”
Stockton said that seeing the red, white and blue on golf bags and matching uniforms immediately drew him back to his own experiences as Ryder Cup Captain (1991), player (1971, ’77) and Vice-Captain (2008), during which his American teams went undefeated (4-0).
“It’s neat to see the camaraderie being felt here,” he said. “In a Ryder Cup, a Captain has much more time to consider pairings and strategy than what is happening for (Captain) Allen (Wronowski), who has to put things together in a short period. What I have seen is that he has done a great job already.”
Among Stockton’s tips to the players: “Never say you’re sorry to your partner. They all know that you are trying really hard.”
Said Wronowski, “Being a member of the PGA Cup Team is the pinnacle of our club professionals’ experience. To have a past Ryder Cup Captain and (2012) PGA Distinguished Service Award recipient spend a day with us has taken this experience to a new height.”
After the team meeting, Stockton walked to the putting green near the first tee and mixed with the players. The two-time PGA Champion drew immediate attention for obvious reasons. Stockton extended his career by becoming a world-class putting guru. Among his students are Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Yani Tseng and Suzann Pettersen. But, he’s actually been teaching many more for years, but doing so quietly.
Grant Sturgeon of Port Chester, New York, the reigning PGA Assistant Champion, who has anchored his belly putter for 15 years, said that Stockton’s appearance was a double bonus.
“It was a great opportunity,” said Sturgeon, a PGA Assistant Professional at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. “You’re with one of the greatest putters in the game and if you can’t learn something that you can bring back to help your members or help your own game, you’re missing out.”
With the adoption of Rule 14-1b going into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, golfers will no longer be allowed to anchor a club to their body to make a stroke. Stockton acknowledged that he will be working with more than a few players who desire to change their putting style. Sturgeon acknowledged that he has to make his transition soon. “I’ll make that transition, but I’m not there yet,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stockton’s business continues to expand. He said that he has been receiving calls and made contact with several players who anchor their putting stroke.
ALL ABOUT AGES: Ben Polland, 25, is the youngest U.S. competitor in PGA Cup history, securing his berth through finishing runner-up in the PGA Professional Championship. The PGA Assistant Professional at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, New York, also is the youngest this year at CordeValle by 48 days over Great Britain & Ireland’s Alex Wrigley, who is the PGA Teaching Professional at Hartlepool Golf Club in County Durham, England.
The top five youngest and oldest to compete for a U.S. Team in a PGA Cup:
Youngest U.S. Players in the PGA Cup
Ben Polland, in 2015, at 25 years, 1 month, 25 days
Don Padgett II, in 1976, at 27 years, 6 months, 6 days
Robby Ware, in 1996, at 27 years, 6 months, 6 days
Bob Ford, in 1981, at 27 years, 8 months, 29 days
Ryan Benzel, in 2007, at 28 years, 5 months, 27 days
Oldest U.S. Players in the PGA Cup
Jerry Barber, in 1974, at 58 years, 6 months, 4 days
Butch Sheehan, in 2007, at 57 years, 8 months, 10 days
Bob Duden, in 1977, at 57 years, 2 months, 11 days
JC Anderson, in 2013, at 51 years, 8 months, 25 days
Scott Spence in 2005, at 49 years, 5 months, 13 days
Great Britain & Ireland owns the marks for the oldest and youngest players in the PGA Cup. Max Faulkner, the 1951 Open Champion, became the oldest competitor ever in a PGA Cup when he played in 1975 at age 59. England’s James Whatley was the youngest, competing in 2007 at age 24.