Club pros got to shoot for the flag at the PGA Cup
Call it the Ryder Cup Unplugged. You could have heard a lone bagpiper from a mile away last week at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, where the PGA of America staged the PGA Cup, a biennial match between the 10 best American club pros and their counterparts from Great Britain and Ireland. There was no corporate village, no network TV, no gallery ropes—no gallery, for that matter. The matches, which mimic the Ryder Cup down to the bagpipes and team blazers, featured three days of competition and, according to an unofficial count that ruled out relatives, one fan—a guy from Iowa who stumbled onto the Cup while attending a hardware convention.
Still, the players blinked back tears during opening ceremonies, when the Pikes Peak Brass Ensemble played the Star-Spangled Banner and God Save the Queen. Then the Yanks began clobbering their guests. Jay Overton, a 47-year-old from Tarpon Springs, Fla., said the Cup made him feel 30 again, but his Tigerish up-percut after a long birdie putt made Overton look 22. Bruce Zabriski, who'll take over as Donald Trump's pro at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 1, and Darrell Kestner, whose celeb clients at Deep-dale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y., include Sean Connery and Frank Gifford, also helped the U.S. rack up a huge early lead. The visiting team looked sick and tired, perhaps strung out by jet lag and the 6,500-foot altitude. England's Stephen Bennett, a former winner of the Tunisian and the Zimbabwe Opens, bloodied his knuckles with a right cross to to his golf bag as GB&I fell behind on Day 2, 10� to 1�.
Chris Tucker was a hit for the home team. A veteran of 18 trips to the PGA Tour's Q school, Tucker tied for third at the 1992 Buick San Diego Open, but soon his career was a country song. "Bad golf, bad marriage, bad year," says Tucker, who had lost his Tour card, gotten divorced and gone flat broke by the end of '93. He rebuilt his life and found a new wife while teaching at a driving range in Charlotte (see Cup, Tin), and is now head pro at Charlotte National. Tucker hit the perfect note with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 1st hole on Day 2 and went on to a 3-1 record. That was a half point better than the 2-1-1 of GB&I stalwart Russell Weir. At the '87 Scottish Open, Weir so impressed Fred Couples that Couples suggested the former postman from Dunoon, Scotland, try the European tour. Weir did but broke his leg while swinging a club at the '91 European PGA Championship. These days the seven-time PGA Cupper is biding his time waiting for 2001, when he turns 50 and can join Jim Albus, Bruce Summerhays, Tom Wargo and other PGA Cup alums in senior competition.
Weir and the rest were playing for the Llandudno International Trophy, a silver jug named for a town in Wales. First won by England in an all-U.K. team match in 1939, the trophy fell from the mantelpiece of English team captain Percy Alliss, Peter's father, during a German bombing raid on London and was slightly bent. Last Friday, Bob Gaus, a pro from Affton, Mo., clinched the still-dented Cup for Team USA by halving his singles match with England's Paul Wesselingh. The Americans went on to win 17-9, and that evening golfers from both teams donned their blazers and took their wives and girlfriends to a party. After a solemn toast to the Queen and a far less reverential one for President Clinton, the bubbly flowed. Everyone danced, forgetting golf, and at 3 a.m. Ron McDougal of Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., who had gone 1-1-2 for the U.S., found himself wearing a GB&I cap and four GB&I neckties.
No Bed of Roses
After Justin Rose holed a 45-yard wedge shot on the last hole to finish fourth at the British Open, his future looked as rosy as the setting sun on the Irish Sea. Since then his fortunes have sunk. The 18-year-old Rose, who turned pro the day after his heroics at Royal Birkdale, has missed six straight cuts on the European tour. A first-round 80 last Thursday at the British Masters in Coventry assured another missed cut and a trip to the Euro tour's grueling six-round Q school, which began with prequalifying at Nick Faldo's Chart Hills course near London on Monday. "I'm looking forward to the challenge," Rose said last week. "I firmly believe you become a better player by going through the lows, not the highs."
Zevo, a clubmaker that had been negotiating an endorsement deal with Rose, reportedly thought his price of $1.6 million was too high and said no to Rose's rep, Mike Todd. "We're not worried," says Todd. Still, Rose's father, Ken, admits that Justin's bag carries a Cobra logo only because "we don't want to buy a blank one."
"What happened at Birkdale was brilliant, but it was fantasy," young Rose says. "Now I'm faced with reality. Someday I may be grateful for this. In 20 years' time, when I have won a load of majors, nobody will say I thought I was too good for prequalifying."