SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Great Britain & Ireland caught fire Friday morning at CordeValle before the United States found its own spark through a record-tying foursomes performance by Ohioans Jamie Broce and Bob Sowards to post a 4½ to 3½ lead in the 27th PGA Cup.
Bidding to become the first visiting team to win on U.S. soil in the premier international competition for PGA Club Professionals, Great Britain & Ireland jumped out to a 3-1 lead in fourballs. The momentum didn’t last through lunch.
The Americans turned on a switch in the afternoon, with former PGA Professional Champion Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, and University of Toledo men’s golf coach Jamie Broce of Ottawa Hills, Ohio, routing England’s Cameron Clark and Lee Clarke, 8 and 7.
Sowards and Broce sped out to a 6-under-par 30 on the front nine and added two more birdies to match the victory margin record set in 1990 by Sammy Rachels and Stu Ingraham.
“GB&I played phenomenal this morning,” said PGA Honorary President and U.S. Captain Allen Wronowski of Bel-Air, Maryland. “We knew it was going to be tough going into this, the talent they were bringing over, the preparation that their Captain, Jon Bevan, has done. I’m just glad that we were able to turn it around this afternoon and give them a match. For some reason, we play really well in foursomes. They really nailed it.”
Said GB&I Captain Bevan, “every half point is important. A half point is enough to win the cup. In the cold light of day, first day is over. Am I happy? I’m ready for them to go again tomorrow.”
Wronowski’s spirits were uplifted when he sent out 2014 PGA Professional Champion Michael Block of Aliso Viejo, California, and Stuart Deane of Arlington, Texas. Each had arrived late to CordeValle after competing in earlier in the week in their respective Section Championships. After five warmup holes together Friday morning, Block and Deane said they were used to the greens and to each other.
They blended for a 4 and 3 victory over England’s David Dixon and Scotland’s Graham Fox. That triggered the rest of the team rally, as Sean Dougherty of Leawood, Kansas, and Omar Uresti of Austin, Texas, won their second match of the day, 3 and 1, over Ireland’s Niall Kearney and England’s Alex Wrigley. Dougherty and Uresti prevented a morning four-ball shutout with a 1-up triumph over England’s Lee Clarke and Paul Hendriksen.
Rounding out the afternoon, two-time PGA Professional Champion Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, New York, and Ben Polland of Manhasset, New York, halved their match with England’s Jason Levermore and Scotland’s Gareth Wright. “God bless Ben Polland for making a 12-foot birdie putt at the end,” said Wronowski. “Every half-point adds up in this competition. I’m so impressed by that 25-year-old young man.”
Block had never seen CordeValle, nor had he ever competed in alternate shot. Deane, a native of Australia and the head men’s and women’s coach at the University of Texas Arlington, had brief experience in the Northern Texas PGA Section’s Joe Black Cup.
“You could be playing a par-3 course that’s 2,500 yards, and if you’re not playing well, you’re not playing well,” said Block. “Today, Stuart and I would have been playing well no matter what course any course in the country.”
Said Deane, “It’s like playing the same guy,” said Deane. “We hit the ball the same and in the same places. It was super comfortable out there for us.”
Dougherty summed up his team effort with Uresti, a PGA Life Member. “Pars weren’t very good out there today. You had to make birdies,” said the PGA head professional at Oakwood Country Club in Kansas City, Missouri. “Omar and I have similar personalities. Our games fit well together. We both like to attack the golf course, but we are still gritty. Seeing our teammates post (U.S.) flags on the scoreboard this afternoon really helped our momentum.”
Friday Morning Fourballs
Michael Watson, Dorset, England & Cameron Clark, West Midlands, England def. Ben Polland, Manhasset, N.Y. & Matt Dobyns, Glen Head, N.Y., 3 and 2
Match Note: GB&I duo post eight birdies in just 16 holes to garner first point of PGA Cup.
Match Quote: “Really proud moment for both of us. We’ve been trying to get in this team for a long time, we’ve known each other a long time and have a lot of faith in each other and I think the guys had a lot of faith in us. And being the two oldest on the team means a lot. They were a very strong pairing but anyone would have done well to beat us.” – Cameron Clark (GB&I)
Graham Fox, Glasgow, Scotland & David Dixon, Somerset, England def. Bob Sowards, Dublin, Ohio & Jamie Broce, Ottawa Hills, Ohio, 2 and 1
Match Note: With Sowards and Broce standing over birdie putts of less than 12 feet, David Dixon sank a 20-foot birdie on the 17th hole to close out the match.
Match Quote: “Graham hit a great shot on No. 7, and it kind of stalled us,” said Broce (USA), who later conceded that their opponents “definitely scored the ball better than we did.”
Omar Uresti, Austin, Texas & Sean Dougherty, Leawood, Kan. def. Lee Clarke, Nottinghamshire, England & Paul Hendriksen, Devon, England, 1 up
Match Note: The best played match of the morning, as the two teams combined on two eagles and 11 birdies in 17 holes.
Match Quote: “Pars weren’t very good out there today. You had to make birdies.” – Sean Dougherty (USA).
Jason Levermore, Essex, England & Gareth Wright, Peeblesshire, Scotland def. Alan Morin, Royal Palm Beach, Florida & Grant Sturgeon, Port Chester, New York, 3 and 2
Match Note: GB&I tallied more than twice as many birdies (7-3) as their U.S. counterparts.
Match Quote: “We had plenty of chances, but just kept burning the edges. They converted more of their birdies than we did.” – Alan Morin (USA)
Morning Session Total: Great Britain & Ireland 3, USA 1
Michael Block, Aliso Viejo, California & Stuart Deane, Arlington, Texas (USA) def. Graham Fox, Glasgow, Scotland & David Dixon, Somerset, England, 4 and 3
Match Note: Both Block and Deane were making their PGA Cup debuts, yet they did not drop a hole until the 12th hole.
Match Quote: “There was nothing that was going to stop us today. We did not want to stop. We wanted to keep playing.” – Stuart Deane (USA).
Ben Polland, Manhasset, N.Y. & Matt Dobyns, Glen Head, N.Y. (USA) halved with Jason Levermore, Essex, England & Gareth Wright, Peeblesshire, Scotland
Match Note: Levermore and Wright played the final 5 holes 6-under to erase a 2-hole deficit.
Match Quote: “The board was not looking very pretty for us, that’s for sure. So, it was a huge half-point there and hopefully grabs us some momentum.” – Gareth Wright (GB&I)
Omar Uresti, Austin, Texas & Sean Dougherty, Leawood, Kan. (USA) def. Niall Kearney, Dublin, Ireland & Alex Wrigley, County Durham, England (GB&I), 3 and 1
Match Note: Uresti and Dougherty are the only tandem for either team to earn 2 points on Friday.
Match Quote: “Omar and I have similar personalities. Our games fit well together. We both like to attack the golf course, but we are still gritty. Seeing our teammates post (U.S.) flags on the scoreboard this afternoon really helped our momentum.” – Sean Dougherty (USA)
Bob Sowards, Dublin, Ohio & Jamie Broce, Ottawa Hills, Ohio (USA) def. Cameron Clark, West Midlands, England & Lee Clarke, Nottinghamshire, England (GB&I), 8 and 7
Match Note: Sowards and Broce’s 8 & 7 victory equaled the PGA Cup record for largest margin of victory in a match involving partners.
Match Quote: “We did not miss many shots. I knew we would be tough in this format, we have very similar games.” – Bob Sowards (USA)
Afternoon Foursomes Total: USA 3 1/2, Great Britain & Ireland 1/2
Day One Total: USA 4 1/2, Great Britain & Ireland 3 1/2