USA grinds its way to lead in opening session of the 29th PGA Cup
By Bob Denney
PGA of America
AUSTIN, Texas (Sept. 27, 2019) — The United States utilized partnerships when they were needed most — on the back nine at Fazio Foothills Course — to grab a 2½ to 1½ advantage over Great Britain & Ireland in Friday Morning Four-Ball, the opening session of the 29th PGA Cup.
The premier international competition for PGA Club Professionals hosted at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, is the first time the biennial event has been held in Texas.
Ben Kern of Round Rock, Texas, nudged a 3-wood from the fringe behind the 18th green to within inches of the hole for a conceded birdie-4. That lifted him and Ben Cook of Caledonia, Michigan, to a 1-up triumph over England’s Robert Coles and Scotland’s Craig Lee. It was the PGA Cup debut for “Team Ben.”
Needing a birdie to close out the match, Kern watched Cook’s birdie putt attempt come up four feet short of the flagstick. He then looked over a chip from the fringe behind the hole and went to his bag to change a 60-degree wedge for a 3-wood.
“This Bermuda is a not a very level grass,” said Kern. “I was sitting in between. It was 50-50 whether I would catch my 60-degree (wedge) like I wanted to. I hit my 3-wood and tap it. I know what it’s going to do.”
The Americans closed the morning session with former PGA Professional Champions Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, Nebraska, and Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, holding off the English duo of David Dixon and Richard Wallis, 3 and 1. Vermeer provided the firepower early by winning four holes. Then, it was Sowards’ turn.
The 2004 PGA Professional Champion and reigning Senior PGA Professional of the Year made a timely up-and-down for birdie on No. 15 to prevent a GB&I rally and closed out the match with a birdie at 17.
“It’s exciting (to win),” said Vermeer, the PGA Director of Instruction Happy Hollow Club in Omaha. “Anytime you have a little bit of control of your match and you’re going to be able to help your team at the end (of the session), that’s the best feeling. It was important for us to keep the pressure on. I left Bob (Sowards) hanging on 15, but he had a huge up-and-down to keep the lead, which was enormous. That could have flipped the match, but it didn’t.”
In the morning’s other matches, Sean McCarty of Solon, Iowa, and Rich Berberian Jr. of Hooksett, New Hampshire, birdied the 18th hole to forge a tie with the Scottish twosome of Alastair Forsyth and Paul O’Hara.
“I got more comfortable as things went on,” said McCarty, 47, the PGA Head Professional at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, Iowa, and making his Cup debut. “I hadn’t been that nervous in a long, long time. It was fun. Rich is a veteran at this and he kept me under control. It was a good match. They came back on 9 and 10, and put the heat back on us.
“We won 15 with an eagle. We knew we needed a 3 there. I hit it in there tight, and made it (from four feet). Then, (Paul) O’Hara hit a great drive on 17 to about two feet for eagle and tied the match.
“We got to 18 and needing at least a birdie. We’ve been struggling on that hole and both hit it down the left side. We each had good lies coming in and we each used an 8-iron.” McCarty and Berberian each reached the par-5 18th in two and McCarty putted first to give Berberian an idea of the line. Berberian’s eagle attempt grazed the hole. After Forsyth birdied from four feet, the match ended in a tie.
England’s Matthew Cort sizzled on with a front-nine 30 on his way to carrying partner Jordan Godwin to a 5 and 4 rout of Danny Balin of Irvington, New York and Marty Jertson of Phoenix, Arizona.
The 29th PGA Cup, which opened Friday and concludes Sunday at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, is the event’s debut in Texas. The Fazio Foothills Course is the centerpiece for the first international team match-play event to be conducted in Austin.
The United States and Great Britain & Ireland match respective 10-member teams in the “Ryder Cup for the PGA Club Professional.” The U.S. holds a 17-7-4 overall record, buy GB&I won two straight Cups in 2015 and ’17.
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