Texas Team Claims McGladrey Win
What do you have when your foursome features a former pastor, an aircraft mechanic, a retired insurance agent and a PGA Professional?
You have spiritual guidance, the best in PGA golf instruction, a tendency to keep your hopes airborne and insurance when things aren't going your way on the golf course.
Stonebridge Ranch Country Club of McKinney, Texas, representing the Northern Texas PGA Section, had a bagful of those ingredients, plus an uncanny ability never to lose momentum on the way to capturing the second annual PGA McGladrey Team Championship Wednesday at Pinehurst Resort.
Stonebridge Ranch was led by its PGA head professional, Joseph Menton, who had never competed in a national championship before, and joined by an amateur trio who compete in regular "skins games" throughout the greater Dallas area.
The threesome of Eric Kelly and brothers Jim and Mickey Freed took turns helping each other under cool and windy conditions on Pinehurst No. 4, finishing with a 10-under-par 134 on the way to a three-stroke triumph in the PGA of America's grassroots best-ball amateur championship with a 396 54-hole total.
Northeastern New York's Massena Golf and Country Club was runner-up at 399, followed by Northern California's Windsor (Calif.) Golf Club, the 2007 runner-up, at 404. Georgia's Savannah Golf Club finished fourth at 408.
Defending Champion Newport National Golf Club of Middletown, R.I., began the day in a share of 17th and rallied with a closing 133 to finish eighth at 411.
Menton, a 50-year-old PGA head professional who has never found the time to compete in section events, displayed the necessary outward calm in encouraging his team.
"The old pro didn't do it all out there," Menton said. "We were nervous and not exactly geared for that. We had a little too much to think about last night. But, my partners -- I call them the 'Good-Hands People' -- showed a lot of poise.
"They are accustomed to being in trouble and surviving.
"They got it up and down from a lot of places. They left the ball around the hole and that's the secret on these courses, and all weekend they were making the putts."
Stonebridge Ranch Country Club withstood a bizarre pair of bogeys on the 169-yard, par-3 fourth hole that included a pair of three-putt performances by Jim Freed and Menton, whose approach putt from the front edge of the green rolled 25 feet past the hole.
To add to the drama, Kelly's tee shot was imbedded in the front hill below the green. As he approached to identify his ball, the soft ground rose up under his feet and the ball popped out of its indentation and rolled down the hill into a water hazard.
"Things didn't look too good after that, but we were able to come back," Kelly said.
Menton added, "There seems to be a point where destiny or fate takes the reigns."
Destiny took over for Stonebridge Ranch Country Club on the 14th hole, when Menton holed out a 40-yard lob-wedge approach for what he called a "can't believe it" birdie, and 65-year-old Jim Freed of Lewisville, Texas -- a former minor league baseball pitcher and outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and New York Mets -- lifted his team on the 15th hole, thanks to a two-month-old "Yes" putter.
Freed knocked home a 60-foot birdie putt on the 367-yard, par-4 hole before teammate Kelly, an aircraft mechanic from Greenville, Texas, made a 20-foot par-saving putt.
"We didn't know for sure if it was good enough to win, but it made us a bit more relaxed," Freed said. "It was the most nerve-wracking day I've spent on a golf course. The cameras were following us everywhere, and you didn't know if you could protect a two-stroke lead that we had coming into the round."
Mickey Freed, of Richland Hills, Texas, a 60-year-old former pastor turned home builder, contributed as well with at least seven steady performances between the fifth and 14 holes.
Menton, who had first met his amateur partners in the Northern Texas PGA Section Championship, picked up a first-place check of $16,000 from a total purse of $200,000 and a Rolex timepiece.
"I couldn't be happier for these guys," Menton said. "It's great being able to do it. I hope that we can grow this championship next year. I expect it to grow."
"I thought that this was a lot harder than many of the challenges I face in my job," said Peets with a smile. "We gave it a great shot and really enjoyed the experience here."
PGA Professional Jason Schmuhl, of Windsor (Calif.) Golf Club, the Northern California PGA Player of the Year, fired a 4-under-par 68, one of the best performances in the 41-team, 164-player field.
It was not enough to spark his amateur partners, who had bogeys on the final two holes.
The national championship was conducted over the past three days on Pinehurst's Courses Nos. 2, 4 and 8, with amateur players receiving 50 percent of their course handicap allowance. Each player must post a score on three of the holes. Two net best-ball scores were used to determine the overall 18-hole score.
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