HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE PGA CUP?

What an amazing week of ‘cups’ for golf. It started with the fine victory by the GB&I team at Royal Lytham in the Walker Cup defeating the USA team by 16 1/2 to 9 1/2. And after witnessing his exploits at the Open in July it was pleasing to see Irishman Paul Dunne secure the half point to seal the victory.

As we moved towards the following weekend we had the opening ceremonies of the Solheim Cup and yes, the PGA Cup. You must have heard about the PGA Cup?

When I see the glass Solheim trophy it always makes me twinge a little. As a member of The Tytherington Club which was once the home of the Ladies European Tour, the glass trophy used to reside in the corner of the old snooker room . There was many an occasion with the cue ball tight on the bottom cushion close to the corner pocket, that in attempting to cue for a long shot down the table the butt would clank against the trophy. With a bit more zest in the cueing action it wouldn’t have required much more force to smash the trophy into smithereens.  But it survived and the tournament has thrived partly on the back of the coverage of the men competing in the Ryder Cup. Back in the early nineties the Solheim Cup was nothing more than a side show in golf with little if any TV coverage compared to the exposure now given to it by Sky.

We all know the controversy caused by Suzann Pettersen when she claimed that the 16 inch putt of USA rookie Alison Lee had not been conceded, despite the sharp exit from the green by playing partner Charley Hull, caddie and entourage. For what it’s worth my take was that the movement of the European Players towards the next green was in fact a ‘concession’ and if not addressed there and then should have been rectified by European Captain, Carin Koch, as soon as she was made aware. Unsporting behaviour can often come back to turn the tables against you and sure enough the fired up Americans went out to maul the European Ladies in the single matches. I’m glad that Pettersen has since apologised but I suspect for her the ‘mauling’ will continue when she sets foot in the first of next year's Tour events in the US.

And so as I settled down on Sunday night to watch the BMW Championship, with an odds on wire to wire procession from Jason Day, my smartphone rested on the armrest of the settee. It was permanently logged on to the PGA website scoring app for news and results from the PGA Cup being held in CordeValle, California for the Llandudno Trophy (originally presented to the PGA by the Alliss family). Aside from a few hundred PGA Club Professionals doing a similar thing I doubt whether this particular ‘cup’ would have figured that highly in the schedule for the average sports fan especially considering the rich competition from other sporting events.

I was very interested in the action from Cordevalle painstakingly played out in ‘teletext’ style, as one tweeter commented, on my smartphone. Nothing to watch - other than a line of text or a number changing every few minutes or so. Nevertheless it was nerve racking. As a sponsor of the PGA North Region, I’ve become friends with a few Pro’s at their Order of Merit events. In the first event of the season at Carus Green, one of the winners in the Pro-Am was a chain smoking pro from Rhos-on -Sea. When I presented him with an ETIQUS timepiece he was a little overwhelmed commenting that this was the best prize (other than a cheque) that he had received whilst playing in PGA Regional and National events. I explained that he could visit my website and choose a watch to suit him guessing that a man who acted with such humility at the presentation would pick one from my Classic Tour range – a traditional dress watch with a sleek style.

The next day in the tournament proper I happened to be behind the 18th green, a tricky par 3 with a pond in front, when I saw the said pro approaching his ball some 4 feet short of the putting surface on the upslope from the pond. As soon as he spotted me he shouted over, as I was stood in a small crowd including PGA officials and the tournament host ….’I want the yellow one!’. It clearly broke his concentration as he duffed the chip! But relaxed and smiling as he left the green he came over to me for a chat repeating that there was only one watch for him and that was the black Sport Pro Ionic with the yellow dial. The big watch for big personalities. It was then that I learnt that this was Jon Bevan, Captain of the PGA Cup team who took the time to explain to me a little more about the PGA ‘Club Professional’ equivalent of the Ryder Cup and the significance that the GB&I team had never won it on American soil.

Since that first encounter I have got to know Jon a little more. We played together and won the Manchester Open Pro-AM taking a young up and coming 13 year old from my club along for the experience. What became apparent throughout our conversations was Jon’s surreal calmness and absolute belief that he, his vice-captains and his players would become the team that would make history and bring back the trophy. Never in doubt.

So on the Sunday evening with the final ten matches starting from a level 8 points apiece I sat and watched attentively as my smartphone chugged along updating the score in delayed time. The GB&I team got off to a good start but were pegged back by the Americans and shortly before midnight the game and the destiny of the trophy lay in the hands of the very last match, on the very last green with the very last putt from Irishman Niall Kearney. I had no idea if it was 8 feet or 80 feet but the trophy had come down to this. In excruciating tension the screen on the phone didn’t change for what seemed an age until a flicker and then the text next to the scores suddenly read – GB&I WINS CUP.

I was to find out on Monday morning that, having overshot the final green, Niall had to get up and down and hole an eight footer to win the trophy. I also found out that there had also been a ‘gimmegate’ incident this time with an American player (a Texas based Australian! Work that one out!) Stuart Deane claiming a hole, after the GB&I player David Dixon picked up his ball assuming that the 3 inch putt had been conceded. However USA Captain Allen Wronowski immediately conceded the next hole upon hearing about the incident. Carin Koch please take note.

So I’m really pleased for Jon and his team and I have to admit that whilst I was waiting for the final score to be posted I was mouthing over and over again Jon’s PGA Cup mantra – ‘winners truly believe’ – they did and they won.

So will this weekend be an anti-climax? Well with the final playoff in the Fedex Cup in Atlanta and with Day, Spieth, Fowler and Watson in the mix competing for a mere $10 million cheque you’d think not. But then I haven’t partnered Day, Spieth, Fowler or Watson in a competitive professional tournament but I have partnered and won with PGA Professional Jon Bevan, the first GB&I Captain to win the PGA Cup, the Llandudno Trophy, on American soil. Now that's another story in my 'golfing career' that I quite like!

Yours in Golf

Gary Butler

Founder