A dramatic final day of the 2019 PGA Cup – the PGA Professionals’ version of the Ryder Cup – saw the United States produce the greatest comeback in the competition’s history as they came from four points down to beat Great Britain & Ireland at Barton Creek Resort in Texas and reclaim the Llandudno International Trophy for the first time since 2013.
A sensational 7-1 Saturday session put the visiting team on course to claim a record third consecutive victory in the competition, but the hosts produced a stunning fight back themselves, and became the first team to come from behind on the final day to win the match.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Cameron Clark’s GB&I side that had put everything into all three days of action, but came up just short in a thrilling contest in the Texas heat.
Having experienced coming from behind himself to secure a draw in the competition in 2013 at Slaley Hall, Kent’s Richard Wallis took to the task in hand on Sunday and added to GB&I’s points tally early in the afternoon with a 6&5 win over Rich Berberian. His victory put the visitors 11-6 in front, but there was trouble brewing with the singles leaderboard displaying more red than blue.
The quality US performance included a pair of flawless wins by rookies Ben Cook and Ryan Vermeer, who won the seventh and eight matches without dropping a single hole – the only players to accomplish that on either side.
A pivotal moment in the match came when American Bob Sowards holed out with a wedge from 25 yards for eagle on 18 to beat Alastair Forsyth 1up in the opening game. Soon after, Alex Beach produced an incredible up and down to claim a narrow win over Alex Wrigley as the American points kept coming.Rob Coles recorded his third consecutive win of the weekend late on with a 2up win, but the writing was on the wall after Wrigley’s loss.
Vermeer’s 5&4 win over Jordan Godwin was the American’s largest margin victory of the weekend and it resulted in his third point, which tied Sowards for most on the squad. Cook celebrated his 26th birthday by dispatching Jason Levermore 4&3, while Sean McCarty was another rookie winner for the US, downing England’s Matt Cort 2&1, handing him his single defeat of the week from five matches.
The final two games out on the Fazio course saw New York’s Jason Caron beat David Dixon 3&2, leaving Marty Jertson, PING Golf’s vice president of fitting & performance, who had designed several of the clubs in his bag, to score the decisive winning point with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole for his lone point of the week, and a 4&2 win over Craig Lee.
US Captain Derek Sprague said: “It was all about getting the momentum going. We needed to get red on the board, so I put my horses out there early, because psychologically the other side could tighten up, which is exactly what happened today. Last night, I told my players that I believed in them, but I needed them to believe in themselves. And this is what can happen when you believe in yourself.”
Defeated captain Cameron Clark said: “The Americans got some points on the board early and it started to look like it was going their way. We were struggling early on and we went down quite heavily in the back matches, which puts pressure on the front matches.
“It was tough to take today. It was a real honour to captain this team, and we’d done a great job up until today. I’m very proud of what the lads have achieved this week, they’ve worked really hard and maybe the end of the week just took its toll on them.”
Richard Wallis added: “We’re devastated. Half the job was done and maybe we were a little too relaxed. All credit to the Americans, they came out all guns blazing. It’s just a real shame, because the effort of Cameron Clark and the whole PGA team, has been brilliant.”
The PGA Cup returns in 2021 to Foxhills Resort Club & Resort in Surrey, the venue of the last Great Britain & Ireland victory in 2017.