Capitalizing on the momentum they built in Saturday afternoon’s foursomes, when they took 3 of 4 possible points and increased their lead over the GB&I team to 5 points, the U.S. PGA Cup team continued their solid play in Sunday’s singles matches at Cordevalle Golf Club in San Martin, CA.
It stands to reason that a fellow who designs golf clubs for a living is going to know how to get the most out of a bagful of clubs that owe their existence to his creativity and ingenuity, and Marty Jertson of Phoenix, AZ, 2011 U.S. PGA Cup team member and Senior Design Engineer with Ping, did not disappoint. Jertson dominated his match with the GB&I team’s Craig Goodfellow, winning six holes to Goodfellow’s one and closing out the match at the 14th hole, 5 & 4. Jertson played solidly all week, finishing the tournament with a perfect 4–0 record.
Jertson’s victory in the first singles match of the day put the U.S. Team within 1-1/2 points of the 13-point tie that would ensure that the Llandudno Trophy remained in U.S. hands for another two years. Greenwich, CT’s Danny Balin, who carded his second-ever ace, his first in competition—and only the second in the history of the PGA Cup—during his Saturday morning fourball match, put another U.S. point on the board with a closely-fought match against the GB&I’s Christopher Gill. Four times Gill got up by a point, only to have Balin win the next hole, or the one after that, to square the match. After Balin squared the match for the fourth time at the 16th hole, both men carded pars on 17, Balin finally taking the victory with a birdie at the 530-yard 18th hole.
The Cup-clinching half point was won by 51-year-old Sonny Skinner, oldest member of the U.S. team and PGA Head Professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, GA. Skinner played the GB&I’s Stuart Little in the third match of the morning, and was immediately 1-down to Little on the first hole after a visit to the greenside rough resulted in a bogey to Little’s par. Skinner squared the match on the 4th hole, took a 1-up lead at the 7th, lost it at 8, took it back on the 9th hole and ran it to 2-up at the 11th. Little, a teaching professional at Minchinhampton New Golf Club in England’s scenic Cotswold Hills region, came back with wins at 14 and 16 to square the match yet again. Skinner regained the lead at the 17th hole, sinking a long putt from near the same spot where his playing partner Brad Lardon had holed a winning putt in their Saturday afternoon foursomes match. Little conceded the 18th hole, halving the match and putting the U.S. team over the hump for the tie they needed to retain the trophy for two more years.
The GB&I squad showed that they weren’t going down without a fight, however; Robert Giles and David Shacklady won their matches over the U.S.’s Mike Small and David Hutsell, respectively, 1 up and 3 & 2. The next match fell to the Americans when Mark Sheftic, a teaching professional at the venerable Merion Golf Club, came back from 2-down to Yorkshire’s John Wells at the turn to first square the match, then go as much as 2 up over the last nine, winning the match at the 18th hole, 1-up.
Planning the order of play in the final day’s singles matches is always a strategic quandary in this type of competition—just ask any Ryder Cup team captain, from either side of the Atlantic, over the last 80-odd years—but whatever scheme U.S. Captain Jim Remy employed this year worked a treat. The seventh match, between Pennsylvania pro Robert McLellan and Cumbria’s Simon Edwards, was halved; the U.S. team then ran the board, finishing strongly with wins in all three final matches to post a resounding 9 point victory over the GB&I team, 17-1/2 to 8-1/2. The victory gives the United States a 17-5-3 record in PGA Cup competition.
The captains and playing members of both teams have been unanimous in their praise of their competitors and the venue, and the visitors were gracious in defeat. “We came up against a very strong American team and they deserved their victories,” GB&I Captain Russell Weir said. “All credit to the U.S. Congratulations to the players and Captain Remy.”
The 2013 PGA Cup competition will take place at Slaley Hall, in the Northumberland countryside some 25 miles west of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The 2013 PGA Cup team members are unlikely to be playing in the same kind of warm, sunny conditions they enjoyed here in the Santa Clara Valley this year—compared to the sunny skies and 80-something temperatures they enjoyed over the three days of play in San Martin, today’s weather in Newcastle was 15°C (59°F) under cloudy skies.