Cool Kearney the hero as GB&I win PGA Cup on US soil for first time

Cool Kearney the hero as GB&I win PGA Cup on US soil for first time

Niall Kearney is mobbed by his team mates on the 18th. Picture © Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America

Jon Bevan and his Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team etched their names into the history books after a titanic singles display at CordeValle, California.

They defeated the United States 5.5-4.5 to take the match 13.5-12.5 and win the Llandudno Trophy on American soil for the first time.

An enthralling Sunday singles went right down to the final hole of the five sessions before Niall Kearney coolly drained an eight foot putt to spark jubilant scenes.

"I heard my caddie (Eddie Icaza) say, ‘just hit it right edge’ and that is what I did,” said Kearney, who last experienced match play during the 2009 Walker Cup.

It was GBI's first win in the event since The K Club in 2005 and only the sixth ever since it was first staged in 1973.

Kearney had fired his approach dangerously close to the hazard at the back of the par 5 18th but splashed up and then holed out to win 1UP after Alan Morin had missed a 30 foot putt which would have ensure the US retained the PGA Cup.

“Niall Kearney is looking at eight feet of California real estate like it is the easiest thing in the world and that’s the reason he was at number ten,” said Bevan.

“He didn’t get the nickname ‘two beats’ for nothing. There’s not a lot going on in the chest area when he gets going.

“He copes with every situation. I’m proud of him and I’m proud of all of them. I know there is nothing left out there, they’ve left everything in California.”

Niall Kearney pitches to the 18th. Picture © Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America

Niall Kearney pitches to the 18th. Picture © Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America

Niall Kearney celebrates holing the winning putt for GB&I's first win in the PGA Cup on US soil. Picture © Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America

Niall Kearney shakes hands with his opponent Alan Morin. Picture © Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America

It was a rollercoaster affair in the hottest conditions of the week with the temperature gauge touching 100 degrees.

At one point Allen Wronowski’s United States team were up in seven of the matches but slowly the tide changed.

Bevan’s tactic of front loading his big-hitters paid dividends with David Dixon, Graham Fox and Jason Levermore securing points.

While first man out Gareth Wright was outgunned by Mike Block who had five birdies in his 2&1 win, Dixon was up from the second against Stuart Deane and closed it out 4&3.

Fox (Clydeway Golf) proved one of the catalysts for GB&I’s revival. Standing on the ninth tee, the Scot was two down to Ben Polland but when he walked on to the 14th tee he was three up after five straight birdies.

Levermore was equally impressive – trailing by three through 10 he ended up playing the back nine in seven under par. Two down with four to play he birdied 16 and 18 to win 1UP against Jamie Broce. The Channels pro, who arrived in San Francisco on a stretcher after being taken ill on the flight over, will leave California standing tall after being undefeated in five matches.

“I’ve had some good results but that’s by far the most nervous I’ve been coming down the stretch,” said Levermore.

Great Britain & Ireland’s victorious PGA Cup team. Picture courtesy, Scott Halleran/Getty Images.

“When you have nine team mates depending on you, it puts more pressure on but that makes it all the more rewarding.

“I saw the scoreboard after five holes and there was a lot of red but we dug deep and turned it around.”

Heading into the back nine, momentum had gradually shifted GB&I’s way with Alex Wrigley and Kearney up in the last two while Lee Clarke had turned his match around against Sean Dougherty.

Cameron Clark and Mike Watson were defeated as was Paul Hendriksen but when Beeston Fields pro Clark halved the last after a tugged pitch, the match score was locked at 11.5-11.5.

GB&I nudged to 12.5-11.5 thanks to Wrigley’s 3&1 win over Grant Sturgeon leaving Kearney needing a point for victory.

Morin’s superb approach to 17 pulled a hole back to send Kearney down the 18th where the Irishman revealed ice water in his veins to clinch the PGA Cup.

“I didn’t have a good yardage out there, I was between a gap wedge and a pitching wedge for my approach. I just didn’t fancy the gap wedge,” said Kearney.

“It came out hot, I knew when it was in the air it was sailing over the back. But I had a good lie and I’d practised that shot in practice.”

Bevan added: “The board was red early on. All week I’ve been calm, I don’t know why, I’ve actually found it quite easy to stay calm which suggests to me I’ve got total belief in my team.

“I have the utmost respect for the power and talent of the opposition. Our PGA pros are a class above as are the US guys. We probably watched the highest standard of golf outside of the two tours this week.

“To win the PGA Cup is the culmination of 12 months of planning but I will definitely have a word with Niall about doing it an easier way.”

27th PGA Cup

Match result: USA 12.5-GB&I 13.5

Sunday singles: USA 4.5 GB&I 5.5

  1. Michael Block bt Gareth Wright 2&1
  2. David Dixon bt Stuart Deane 4&3
  3. Graham Fox bt Ben Polland 4&2
  4. Jamie Broce lost to Jason Levermore one hole
  5. Omar Uresti bt Michael Watson one hole
  6. Matt Dobyns bt Cameron Clark 2&1
  7. Sean Dougherty halved with Lee Clarke
  8. Bob Sowards bt Paul Hendriksen two holes
  9. Grant Sturgeon lost to Alex Wrigley 3&1
  10. Alan Morin lost to Niall Kearney one hole