A six-man GUI team dodged a late bullet to remain on course to win back the Governor Hugh Carey Challenge Cup in the biennial friendly with the Metropolitan Golf Association of New York at The European Club.
Beaten in their last clash with the MGA at Bethpage State Park in 2011, the GUI side captained by Pádraig Hogan shared both the foursomes and the fourballs to leave the matches evenly poised heading into Monday’s six singles at the rugged Co Wicklow links.
The best of the action came in the afternoon fourballs where Headfort’s Brian Casey and Knock’s Nicky Grant were six under betterball in their 3 and 2 win over Jim Liu and Cameron Young.
Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan and Castle’s Alex Gleeson lost 4 and 3 to Max Buckley and Brian Komline after the Americans took the seventh, eighth and ninth to go three up.
But Belvoir Park’s Simon Ward and Co Cavan’s Eddie McCormack snatched a half in the last match of the day when Ward holed a six footer on the 18th and American Mike Miller missed from half that distance for a win alongside partner Joe Saladino.
“From our perspective we are very happy with the outcome today,” said skipper Hogan. “Simon and Eddie were placed in the final four-ball to provide experience if needed and they did just that, seeing the match through on the final green.”
MGA captain Jeff Holzschuh said: “As the visitors we are happy to be in a position where we can have our guys go out and win it tomorrow. We’d have liked to have made that last putt on 18 for the extra half point but overall it’s been a really great experience with some really great golf played today.”
In the opening match of the series, Casey and McCormack took an early lead against Komline and Saladino, winning the first hole. However, it was all square after nine and just as tight on the back nine.
Casey and McCormack regained the lead on the 16th hole with par and followed it up with a superb par save on the 17th to go to the last one up before a wayward McCormack tee shot on the often treacherous 18th put the GUI pair in trouble.
While the MGA found the green in regulation, Casey was left to play sideways from a bunker to bring the ball back into play.
McCormack was left with a 170 yard shot to the pin that cut on the left side of the green and when his approach hit the green some 60ft right of the flag, the door was open for Komline and Saladino to make par and steal a half.
Young and Liu raced into a three-hole lead against Gleeson and Nicky Grant after seven holes, but wins by the GUI pair at the eighth and ninth saw the deficit reduced to one at the turn. But the MGA pair were not ready to cave and eventually closed out an emphatic 5 and 4 victory
Lenehan and Ward had a similar start to their match against Buckley and Miller, winning the first three holes to take control.
The Irish pair turned for home with a five hole advantage but while a win at the 12th looked certain to herald a swift end to matters, wins by Buckley and Miller at the 13th and 14th prolonged the match a little further before the hosts edged the New York pair out on the 15th.
In the fourballs, that 3 and 2 win for the untested pairing of Casey and Grant set the tone for the afternoon.
Casey made winning birdies on holes two, three and four to put the GUI duo in control before 17-year old Liu clawed one hole back with a birdie of his own at the fifth before the American and his partner Young both three-putted the seventh to hand the GUI a win in par.
Liu would once again fight back with birdie on the ninth, but Grant’s birdie on the 10th restored the three-hole cushion.
Liu struck again with birdie on the 12th to reduce the deficit to two once more but Casey’s birdie on the 15th was enough to allow the GUI team see out the match with par on the 16th for a 3 and 2 win.
Speaking afterwards Casey said” “I played nice and solid. I got off to a nice start which is important in four-ball and we kept it going from there on in. Nicky played well, we dove-tailed well and I was happy with the way I played.”
While Lenehan and Gleeson were always up against it against Buckley and Komline after turning three down, the anchor match could not have been tighter.
McCormack’s opening birdie up the GUI one up before Miller chipped in from 40 feet at the second to square the match.
Miller and Saladino would go on to win holes seven and eight to give them a two hole lead at the turn before the momentum swung to and fro over the back nine.
McCormack’s par won the 10th before Saladino’s birdie on the next restored the two hole lead for the MGA.
Ward’s par on the twelfth would see the deficit again reduced to just one hole but the resilient Miller birdied the 13th hole to restore the two hole gap.
McCormack birdied the 15th hole and once more the difference was one hole. With halves recorded on holes 16 and 17, it came down to the final hole where Ward holed that six footer and 21 year old Miller missed his tiddler.
Summing up, GUI captain Hogan added: “We put Brian at number one because we knew his potential and he delivered today. From our perspective we are very happy with the outcome today, we have it all to play for tomorrow and the experience that Geoff and Alex have gained will be invaluable for them in the future.”
MGA skipper Holzschuh, said: “The condition of the course is terrific and although its been cool with some breeze, we haven’t had a lot of rain, the conditions have been quite good.
“Jim (Liu) played really well today, Max Buckley played really well as did Mike Miller. All the guys showed well on both teams so I think it will be a good match all day tomorrow.”
GUI v MGA friendly, at The European Club.
GUI 3, MGA 3 (GUI names first)
Brian Casey & Eddie McCormack halved with Brian Komline & Joe Saladino;
Alex Gleeson & Nicky Grant lost to Cameron Young & Jim Liu 5/4;
Geoff Lenehan & Simon Ward bt Max Buckley & Mike Miller 3/2;
B Casey & N Grant bt J Liu & C Young 3/2;
G Lenehan & A Gleeson lost to M Buckley & B Komline 4/3;
E McCormack & S Ward halved with J Saladino & M Miller.
Monday (From 10.0)
B Casey v J Liu,
S Ward v B Komline;
N Grant v C Young;
G Lenehan v J Saladino;
A Gleeson v M Buckley;
E McCormack v M Miller.