AUSTIN, Texas — Great Britain & Ireland completed a near-flawless performance in pairs Saturday, winning seven of eight matches over the United States to land in position to claim the PGA Cup for an unprecedented third consecutive time.
As twilight descended upon the Fazio Foothills Course at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, GB&I posted a 10-6 lead over its U.S. PGA Club Professional counterparts. The visitors have history on their side, as no team on either side has rallied to capture the Llandudno International Trophy trailing entering the singles.
VIEW THE FULL LEADERBOARD
GB&I needs three points in Sunday’s 10 singles matches to win the PGA Cup, and reached that comfort zone by sweeping all four Morning Four-Ball matches. It became the first visiting team to post a session shutout on American soil.
If not for Alex Beach’s 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to post a 1-up victory for him and partner Jason Caron in Afternoon Foursomes, the U.S. would have had their first non-scoring day in the series.
It was that kind of day, and U.S. Captain Derek Sprague of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, was pondering his team room address.
It has been 20 years and two days since the U.S. won at Brookline, Massachusetts, and yes, the U.S. trailed 10-6 on a Saturday night. Ben Crenshaw was the U.S. Ryder Cup Captain that year and he visited the U.S. PGA Cup Team on Monday.
“My hat is off to GB&I for just a great effort today,” Sprague said. “We had a rough day, but we still have all Sunday to come back. We’re on the 20-year anniversary of a special team (1999 Ryder Cup) that was also down, 10-6, going into singles, so I have a good feeling as well. Our team is not going to let up going into tomorrow. This is a game of inches and we just had some shots and putts that did not go our way today.”
Sprague said that Crenshaw’s inspiration is still very much in play. “We had Ben Crenshaw with us, we have two Bens on the team (Ben Cook of Caledonia, Michigan and Ben Kern of Round Rock, Texas),” he said. “We have a 10-6 deficit, so yes, everything is lining up for a great Sunday finish.”
DAY 1 RECAP: Rookies' rally sparks USA to lead after Friday's opening round
Beach, the reigning PGA Professional Champion from Stamford, Connecticut, was uplifted after he and Caron survived their match with England’s David Dixon and Paul O’Hara.
“It was huge to get that point, especially with everyone watching on the 18th green,” said Beach, an Assistant PGA Professional at Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York. “The read was great. Jason (Caron) picked a perfect spot and I feel like I putted well all day. They did not all go in, but I played great and it was nice to seal off what was a good match.
“We have a great team. Everyone is going to go to work tomorrow and get the job done.”
The GB&I afternoon performance began with a 5 and 4 victory by Alastair Forsyth and Robert Coles over Rich Berberian Jr. of Hooksett, New Hampshire and Sean McCarty of Solon, Iowa.
From there, the GB&I depth and timely putting resulted in a pair of 1-up wins.
Matt Cort and Alex Wrigley edged Danny Balin of Irvington, New York and Marty Jertson of Phoenix, Arizona, before Craig Lee and Richard Wallis halved the 18th hole with birdies to down Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio and Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, Nebraska.
The Saturday Morning Four-Ball set the tone for GB&I’s march. After going to bed Friday night trailing by two points, the defending champion in the international showcase for PGA Club Professionals powered to a 4-0 shutout.
England’s Robert Coles and Alex Wrigley routed Ben Cook and Ben Kern, 7 and 6. It was a major rebound for Coles, a PGA Professional at Maylands Golf and Country Club in Essex, England, who was 4-1-0 in 2017. On Friday, Coles partnered with Alastair Forsyth to lose a three-hole lead to Cook and Kern. It resulted in a tied match.
“It was a tough day yesterday and we fell behind a little, but to get out there and really put one to them was fantastic,” said Coles. “We’re a step of the way closer but it was nice to contribute a point.
“I think it’s a different game when you can get the shots in and put them under pressure. We played well on the front nine, I think we were nine-under-par through nine holes. We dovetailed well, Alex played great and I made some birdies, so it was good.”
The sour afternoon for the U.S. included a 3 and 2 loss by the previously unbeaten duo of Sowards and Vermeer. They fell to England’s Jason Levermore and Richard Wallis, who closed the match with birdies on Holes 12, 14 and 15.
Reigning PGA Professional Champion Beach and Jason Caron of Greenlawn, New York, fell 1 up to England’s Matt Cort and Jordan Godwin.
Cort, a PGA Teaching Professional at Beedles Lake in Leicester, England, is 4-0-0 heading into Sunday’s Singles.
The Scottish pairing of Forsyth and O’ Hara combined for 10 birdies on the way to a 1-up triumph over Balin and Jertson.
“There’s a lot of golf left,” said Jertson, the Vice President of Fitting and Performance for PING Golf. ”The first two days are like positioning and the singles have a lot of points out there. The golf is good out here!”
Coles and Wrigley finished a combined 9-under-par. Wrigley, a PGA Teaching Professional at Hartlepool Golf Club in Durham, England, closed the match by holing out of a greenside bunker for eagle on the 259-yard, par-4 12th hole.
The U.S. holds a 17-7-4 overall lead in the series, and has not won possession of the Llandudno Trophy since 2013.