Ryder Cup spirit evoked at Slaley
Last updated at 15:59, Thursday, 19 September 2013
THIS weekend, De Vere Slaley Hall will welcome a selection of the world’s leading club professionals from either side of the Atlantic in the prestigious PGA Cup.
The biennial contest between Great Britain & Ireland and the USA, referred to as the PGA professionals' equivalent of the Ryder Cup, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year to add extra significance to this illustrious event.
Starting on Friday, September 20, it consists of two mornings of foursomes and afternoon fourball match-ups, followed by the deciding singles matches on Sunday.
Following the previous successful staging of the ISPS HANDA PGA Senior Championships, the Slaley Hall team were confident that their greens would once again underline their tournament credentials.
Keith Pickard, Regional Golf Director, De Vere, said: “The excitement is certainly building around Slaley Hall ahead of these intensely competitive match-ups.
“This is now the premier golf event in the North-East this year and represents the best opportunity for local fans to come along and witness top level professional golf in the exciting matchplay format.”
While the glory of winning has been compared to the often tightly contested Ryder Cup, PGA Cup results in recent years have been slightly more one sided.
Having not lifted the trophy since 2005, the GB&I team will be hopeful the home advantage will help end the drought, though a lack of cup experience may well give the visitors the upper hand.
Ahead of the competition for the coveted Llandudno Interntaional Trophy , PHIL ARCHBOLD runs through the two teams.
Team captain, Russell Weir (62), and vice captain, Jon Bevan (46), are the only two home representatives with any cup experience to boast.
Weir appeared in the competition eight times between 1986 and 2000 (W15 L19 H3), equalling the record for most successive appearances. He is a two time winner of the PGA Professional Championship (1987 and 1988) and was a runner-up in 2000.
Bevan is a PGA teaching professional at Rhos on Sea Golf Club, and took part in both the 2007 and 2009 events (W5 L3 H1) and has played in four Open championships.
Together, they hope to guide their team of cup debutants to what would be a historic victory.
Daniel Greenwood (Forest Pines Hotel & Golf Resort, Lincolnshire) booked his place in Weir’s squad after winning the Glenmuir PGA Professional Championship in June, which was also held at Slaley.
He will be hoping for a repeat of that stellar nine-stroke victory when he returns to the Northumberland venue, though the 40-year-old remains laid back about the challenge ahead.
He said: “The closest I’ve got to thinking about it is when my team kit arrived as a reminder. But now it’s nearly here I’m really looking forward to it, especially with having six days away with the wife without the kids!”
In a move designed to spice up the conclusions to each individual match, the home venue has decided to switch the front and back nine, much to Greenwood’s approval.
“I think it’s a great idea. I can see a lot of drama and matches swinging one way or another.”
Richard Wallis (Walmer and Kingsdown Golf Club, Kent) is the reigning PGA number one and a back-to-back PGA Play-Off title winner.
The 32-year-old earned his place in the GB & I team via his second successive win in last year’s Play-Off in Turkey.
Wallis will no doubt be hoping to match the impact that fellow PGA pro Ian Poulter had in the Ryder Cup in Chicago last year, and hopes that watching re-runs of that famous victory will give him the edge he needs.
He said: “I’ve got a copy of last year’s Ryder Cup and I’ll be watching that a couple of times to try and use that as inspiration.”
Wallis has also sought out fellow Kent pro Darren Parris for advice, who played a key part in the 2005 victory by registering a maximum five point haul.
“I’ve spoken to Darren who has got an amazing record and we spoke about the kind of things to expect from the week.”
Scott Henderson (Kings Link Golf Centre, Aberdeenshire) does have some noteworthy experience to draw on, despite being a PGA Cup rookie.
The 44-year-old Scot has competed on the European Tour and has the distinction of being a former Rookie of the Year.
It was changes in the qualifying process that made Henderson eligible for selection, changes he believes may help end America’s stranglehold on the Llandudno Trophy.
He said: “The door has been opened for full-time players to compete and I have taken the chance.
“The changes should benefit the team because if you look across the Atlantic at the Americans, they have a much larger pool of players to pick from and ones with considerable tour experience.
“This change can only help the team and raise the profile of the PGA Cup team.”
In-form Greig Hutcheon (Banchory Golf Club, Kincardineshire) is this year’s captain’s pick and will be aiming to repay Weir’s faith in his ability on the big stage.
The 40-year-old is one of four Tartan Tour regulars in the team, and is naturally ecstatic about his involvement.
He said: “It meant the world to me to be picked for the team. I played on Tour for many years and I knew that I was never going to play a Ryder Cup and this is by far the next best thing.”
Despite his fantastic season - he leads both the money list and the PGA in Scotland Order or Merit - Hutcheon is still feeling the weight of expectation.
“There will be added pressure as we’re representing the PGA and our country. When you’re out there you’re playing not just for yourself but also for the nine other guys on your team.”
When Benn Barham (Kings Hill Golf Club, Kent) takes to the green at Slaley Hall, he will not only be marking his PGA Cup debut, but also the third anniversary of his recovery from kidney cancer.
The 37-year-old suffered severe stomach aches while competing in Perthshire’s Johnnie Walker Championship in July 2010, which led to the discovery of a tumour.
Three years on however, with the tumour safely removed, Barham is fighting fit and raring to go.
He said: “I’ve been working on fitness because I figure playing 36 holes in a day will require plenty of stamina and you need to be in shape.”
The two-time Challenge Tour winner was also bullish about his teams chances.
“Although we have a team of rookies, I’m really confident. The fact we are underdogs means in true British form we will be really up for it and I’m sure we’ll give it a good go.”
Graham Fox (Clydeway Golf, Glasgow) has admitted to having an admiration for American golf, but believes contrasting styles of play may well give the GB & I team the upper hand in the transatlantic contest.
“They play a different game to us,” said the 36-year-old, “especially given the elements we have in Scotland where we are fighting to keep the ball low in the wind.
“They are taught to smash the ball from an early age but I’m not sure that will be the case at Slaley Hall as it’s a tough course.”
The West Kilbride golfer, who is currently sitting pretty in the Tartan Tour standings, is also a fan of Cup format.
“Matchplay is a very carefree style of golf. You can play aggressive golf and it doesn’t really matter if you chalk up a quadruple bogey, you just move on to the next hole.”
Nicolas Brennan (Bowood Golf & Country Club, Wiltshire) will make history this weekend when he becomes the first graduate of the PGA’s Applied Golf Management Studies degree to be selected for the PGA Cup team.
The 31-year-old is undoubtedly one of the biggest surprise picks in Weir’s 10-man squad, though he feels more than capable of proving any doubters wrong.
He said: “Qualifying for the team was a bit of a surprise for most people but not for me as I was playing well.
“I don’t know any of the others in the team, it’s a case of ‘who’s this lad’ so I’ve got a bit of a point to prove.”
Like many of his team mates, Brennan at least has familiarity on his side, having finished joint fourth in the Glenmuir PGA Professional Championship at Slaley this summer.
Jonathan Barnes (Ampfield Par 3 Golf Club, Hampshire) is no stranger to matchplay format, having won the Hampshire Match Play Championship on three occasions.
The 42-year-old club director performed on the international stage in his amateur days, though he is putting his inclusion in the PGA Cup team top on his list of career achievements.
He said: “I had a lot of really good moments as an amateur player, but making the team for this event would have to be the highlight of my career.
“Any PGA Professional would be proud to represent their country. I’ve spoken to a few who have played in it before and they said it’s a great event to be involved in.
”Now I’m just excited to meet up with Russell and the guys and start preparing - it should be a really good week.”
Having studied business management and marketing at McNeese State University, in Louisiana, for four years, David Callaway (Milford Golf Club, Surrey) knows only too well the transatlantic rivalry.
Despite being stationed there on other business, the 2012 Surrey PGA Champion still found time for a round of golf while behind enemy lines.
“We used to have mini games between the Europeans and the Americans and there was always a fair bit of rivalry to them,” said the 31-year-old.
“My time in America really helped me to develop, it taught me a lot about getting a golf ball around a course and also the importance of working hard.
“Of course, having spent time over there it would be a little bit sweeter if we can win, but I’m also looking forward to meeting the American team and getting to know them.”
Gareth Wright (West Linton Golf Club, Peeblesshire) is hoping to cap an already memorable year by playing a part in bringing the Llandundo Trophy back to the British Isles.
Having already made the cut in the Open Championship at Muirfield and impressing at the Johnnie Walker and the Gleneagles Championships, victory against the Americans in Northumberland could top off a fantastic 12 months for the 31-year-old Welshman.
He said: “You learn every time you play in a tournament and there is no bigger stage than the Open. It really was an invaluable experience.
“I played with Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood on the Wednesday, and you learn a lot just being around them.
“I feel like I’ve taken a lot of confidence from the experience, I’ve been playing steadily over the last few weeks and I’m looking forward to the challenge of the PGA Cup.”
AND THE OPPOSITION - USA
WHERE Great Britain & Ireland captain Russell Weir has pinned his hopes on new blood, his American counterpart has opted for "an outstanding mix of talent and veteran experience.”
Allen Wronowski will bring six new faces to Slaley Hall this weekend, and the PGA of America Honorary President will be hoping that they hit the green running.
PGA Cup debuts are being handed to JC Anderson (Missouri Bluffs Golf Club), Matt Dobyns (Fresh Meadow Country Club), Kelly Mitcham, (Pinehurst), Ryan Polzin, (Royal Oaks Country Club), Jeff Sorenson (Columbia Golf Club) and Rod Perry (Crane Lakes Golf & Country Club).
Captain Wronowski (59) is confident his new recruits can hold their own and won’t be overawed by the occasion.
He said: “Players on both teams have played a ton of golf so they are not rookies to competition. The challenge for any captain is to build a team.”
If any newcomers were to struggle with the testing Cup format, however, Wronowski will have four old heads to steady the ship in Chip Sullivan (Hanging Rock Golf Club), Bob Sowards (New Albany Country Club), Mark Sheftic (Merion Golf Club) and Mike Small, (University of Illinois).
The latter will be making his fifth PGA Cup appearance and the visitors may need to call on his experience before the end.
However, Wronowski preferred to talk about his team’s task rather than individual players.
“We will try to get our players acclimatised to the new surroundings as soon as they get off the plane.
“When I went online to study Slaley Hall, and the Hunting Course, I found both look absolutely spectacular. It should be a heck of a test of golf."
First published at 15:42, Thursday, 19 September 2013
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk
This week in... 1949Friday, December 9, 1949...
A workman was buried alive while digging a drain in the Prudhoe Urban Council's housing estate at Oaklands.
Workmates rushed to the aid of 50-year-old Richard Barclay, of Stocksfield, when the wall of the trench he was digging collapsed.
They managed to dig his head and shoulders free before finally pulling him from the earth. He was found to be suffering from shock and bruising.