HOWARD WARD: Tar Heel Cup What Golf is All About
On paper, it looked like a rout.
There's no way one team can beat another by a score of 25 to 10 without its being declared a runaway. As the old saw goes, "If it had been a fight, they woulda stopped it."
But this was different. Sure, there was a pride factor involved. And yeah, the losing team would have liked to see the score closer. But there were no crushed egos. No fighting back tears. No one skulked back down the 18th fairway to avoid answering questions from prying media.
OK, so there wasn't much prying by the media. Just me. This was the Tar Heel Cup, not the Ryder Cup or the President's Cup.
It came as no surprise that the professionals, consisting of players from the Carolinas PGA Section, were able to defeat the amateurs. After all, they've held 13 of these matches and the pros have taken the trophy home 11 times.
Still, it has to rankle the amateurs a little that they have been so dominated by the pros. After all, these are not your average hackers out for a fun round, these are serious golfers who have established proud records over the years and all are proven winners. Except when it comes to the Tar Heel Cup.
"Almost all of our amateurs have been professionals at some point and have tried to make it on a professional tour," said Ray Novicki, assistant director of the Carolinas Golf Association. "But a lot of our guys haven't played seriously since October. Most of them kind of shut down their games during the winter."
Uh, sorry Ray, but it seems most of them shut their games down for the Tar Heel matches, too.
That wasn't meant as a cheap shot, but just in case, Novicki points out that the matches have been a lot closer than the final scores might indicate.
"Just two years ago at Pinewild, it came down to the last match between Paul Simson and David Thore," Novicki pointed out. "Thore (a former PGA Tour player) birdied the last two holes, and Simson couldn't get up and down from the greenside for a birdie that would have tied it."
Wait a minute. Paul Simson couldn't get up and down? Paul Simson is one of the world's great scramblers. He's made his reputation by getting up and down.
"Paul stubbed it," Novicki said, shaking his head and grinning in the direction of the nearby Simson.
OK, maybe. But I'd have to see a replay of that to believe it.
"The ninth hole killed us in this match," Novicki said. "I don't know what was happening, but it seemed our guys would be even or leading going into No. 9 and they'd invariably lose. It's was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to win a point."
Novicki was joking, of course, but it does seem there's a negative mind-set among the amateurs.
"I don't know if it's their heads or ours," said Bryan Sullivan, a pro from the Outer Banks, where he is director of golf for Seascape and Kilmarlic Golf Clubs. "It's fortunate for us and unfortunate for them. There is certainly no lack of talent on their part."
Larry George, a head professional at River Landing in Wallace, just wants to keep making the team.
"Playing here at Pine Needles is a great experience," he said. "We were playing the course about three or four hundred yards longer than the USGA will set it up for the women, but we didn't have the rough they will have.
"It's going to be critical for the women to keep the ball in the fairways because keeping the approach shots on the greens is vital to score here. If they hit it in the rough, they won't be able to spin the ball and it's not going to stay on the greens."
Sullivan has played in 11 of the Cup matches and hopes he can play in 11 more.
"I enjoy playing this kind of golf," he said. "There's no money involved, it's just for the enjoyment. Obviously I enjoy it if I'm going to drive four or five hours to get here."
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