Great Britain & Ireland's club professionals conjured an astonishing comeback at Slaley Hall yesterday to earn a 13-13 draw with the USA in the PGA Cup.
The visitors, as holders of the Llandudno Trophy, may have retained the prize but it was the hosts who earned all the plaudits. And rightly so. The US had led 10½ - 5½ going into the final day singles and required just 2½ points from the 10 matches to hold on to the trophy. They did reach that tally eventually but GB&I were rampant and blitzed the session 7½ - 2½ to come within a whisker of earning a remarkable victory. It had been a roller coaster weekend in Northumberland and GB&I made sure it ended on a high as they halted a run of four successive defeats in the biennial battle and breathed new life into the transatlantic tussle.
A 4-0 drubbing in Friday's fourballs was a real confidence crusher and, ultimately, proved costly but the GB&I players also had to contend with the sudden and worrying departure of their captain, Russell Weir, who was taken to a local hospital on Saturday as a precautionary measure. "I had an allergic reaction to red numbers," joked Weir in reference to the earlier US dominance of affairs. Weir, the Dunoon veteran whose passion for the PGA Cup remains undiminished, was back in fine fettle yesterday and his re-appearance on the sidelines must have given his troops fresh hope and inspiration.
They quickly went on the offensive and turned the scoreboards blue. Benn Barham, the former European Tour player, swept to a 4&3 win over Mike Small in the top tie before Richard Wallis, the PGA No.1, doubled the tally with a 3&2 defeat of Bob Sowards.
Given GB&I's perilous position, any red on the board was greeted with mournful groans and when Greig Hutcheon, the Scottish PGA champion, lost 2&1 to Kelly Mitchum, the US inched nearer their target. Hutcheon's fellow Aberdonian, Scott Henderson, had been two down with three to play against JC Anderson but chipped in to win the 16th before squaring the match on 17 when his rattled opponent found the ditch with his drive.
Henderson almost chipped in again on the last to win the match and deny the US a vital half-point but the embattled visitors clung on to it for dear life. Graham Fox and Gareth Wright, the Tartan Tour duo, both pitched in with wins to reduce the deficit to 12-10 overall but when Ryan Polzin closed out a 3&2 win over David Callaway, the US had done just enough to retain the cup. GB&I made sure they wouldn't win it outright, though.
"They were outstanding," added Weir with pride. "Nothing gets near this in my career. At one point there was no red on the board at all and it looked like the miracle would happen." It almost did.