The United States recorded back-to-back PGA Cup victories over the Great Britain & Ireland following a pulsating clash between the two nations at Foxhills Club & Resort in Surrey.
Led by PGA of America Honorary President Suzy Whaley, the United States overcame a brave fightback from David Russell’s GB & I team to capture the Llandudno International Trophy and claim their first away win since 2009, with the final score being 15.5-10.5 to the visitors.
Russell’s side knew they had it all to do heading into the Sunday singles. A weekend full of twists and turns saw them trailing by three points – 9.5-6.5 – knowing seven wins were needed to regain the Llandudno International Trophy.
GB&I captain had spoken about the importance of getting some blue on the board in the early stages of the match and Ashley Mansell did just that, racing out of blocks to go three up on Michael Block through after the opening nine holes.
Mansell, who is based at Clevedon GC, extended his lead to four with six to play and looked set to earn GB&I their first point of the day. But Block had other ideas, holing five birdies in the final six holes to complete a remarkable turnaround and ensure the first point on the board went to the Americans.
Matthew Cort (Beedles Lake) was next out for the home side and was looking to carry the form he showed yesterday on his birthday having won his two fourball and foursome matches. He trailed Ben Polland for much of the match, but a double bogey on the 15th allowed Cort to cut the deficit to just one with three to play. Another bogey by Polland at the 17th set up a tense finale, but both players made par and the match was halved.
James Ruth (China Fleet) headed into his contest with Larkin Gross having won one of his three matches so far this week. Having gone one up after the second, Gross reversed the scoreline and the American went to up heading into the back nine, but Ruth showed his quality to fight back and earn the GB&I another half-point.
The Americans added to their tally after Simon Thornton (Tulfarris) fell to a 4&3 defeat to Ryan Vermeer, but GB&I got some blue back on the board with Adam Keogh (Woodhall Spa) coming from behind to beat Frank Bensel Jr. It was a bittersweet victory for Keogh, who ended up on the losing team, but remained undefeated on is PGA Cup debut, claiming 3.5 points from four.
“I do feel disappointed,” said Keogh. “The boys gave everything and I’m disappointed to be on the wrong side of the result, but that’s golf. The game was played in the right spirit and congratulations to the opposition. For someone who works in the industry as we all do, it’s an incredible honour playing in this event. We have 8,000 Members so to be one of the 10 players here representing the PGA of Great Britain & Ireland, it’s a good achievement and I would encourage anyone to do the same thing.”
Daniel Whitby-Smith (Drayton Park) picked up his first full point of the weekend after beating Wyatt Worthington II 3&2 and Greig Hutcheon (Torphins GC) followed that up with another GB&I victory.
At this point in the match GB&I had important points on the board, but the scoreboard was not looking in their favour. Defeats for Simon Lilly (Wellingborough), Paul McKechnie (Braid Hills) and David Higgins (Waterville) followed, which led to joyous celebrations from the visiting team.
“We let ourselves down in the foursomes which made it difficult to come back in the singles,” said Russell. “The singles could have gone one way or the other really, at times we were on top but they’re quite a strong team.”
Despite the defeat, Russell feels his GB&I team, which contained no fewer than seven debutants, can leave Foxhills with their heads held high having given everything for the cause. Russell continued: “The team have been absolutely amazing. They’ve come together brilliantly, there’s been no individuals within the team. The ten of them have all got together and been brilliant. It really has been a wonderful experience.”
Reflecting on the whole PGA Cup experience, Russell added: “I can’t believe how much I have enjoyed it. It’s nice to bring my experience into fruition into something like this. It’s lovely to get the opportunity to do it.”
Whaley, the winning captain, who also led the US side to victory in 2019, said: “It started to get a little dicey out there. But in the end, we got it done. I have been lucky to have been able to do a lot of amazing things in my career, but this ranks right at the very top.”