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Roaring on the Palms! Head Pro Rescues Quail Ridge's Cup Hopes With 18th Hole Magic
With a roar worthy of the 18th green at Augusta National on Masters Sunday, Quail Ridge members rattled every palm tree from Seminole to Sawgrass celebrating head pro Dan Brosnihan's miraculous birdie on the final hole that rescued their team's chances to wrest the Golf Road Cup from their rival Delray Dunes. Snookered behind a palm tree and with half the ball buried in pine straw, Brosnihan slugged a mid-iron through a gap no wider than a stick of Big Red gum to the back fringe, then rolled in the twisting 30-foot putt for a closing birdie and a 1-up best-ball victory with partner Woody Greene over Delray Dunes pro Gino Composto and partner Jack Schoenfelt.
"That's our boy! That's our boy!" gushed one elated member waving his arms frenetically, while his wife jumped up and down cheering and squealing as though she were rooting for her own child. Indeed, all the club, from members to restaurant staff to cart boys, were abuzz with the electricity of the moment, and the celebration and toasts to his achievement rang out long into the warm Florida evening.
The unlikely birdie by the affable and popular head pro completed a comeback from a 2-down deficit with four holes to play, including a run of three birdies in the last four holes, but more importantly, allowed Quail Ridge to complete a frantic rally from a 4-1 morning deficit and finish the day trailing Dalray Dunes only 6-4 heading into Sunday's singles.
"The importance of Dan's birdie cannot be overstated. We could have been four points down heading into the 12 singles matches tomorrow," said a grinning and grateful partner and Quail Ridge captain Woody Greene. "Instead, we're only down two. We still have to win 7.5 points tomorrow to win the Cup, but that's sure better than 8.5. If Dan doesn't win, we don't have a chance."
Indeed, it looked for a while like Quail's goose was cooked. Delray Dunes dominated the morning alternate shot format, coasting to a 4-1 lead. But the Quails began to soar in the afternoon session. First Kevin Hammer and Ronnie Grove steamrolled to a gargantuan 7-up lead after the front nine against Delray's Norm Swenson and Tom Craig, eventually winning 6 & 5. Then Keen Shackelford holed out a bunker shot at the par-3 13th hole to increase the lead he and partner David Rowley had over Nick Coon and Wayne Warren to 4-up. They won 4 & 3.
"We heard that roar all the way back down the 12th fairway," said Delray's Paul Loughrey. "We knew something special happened
Still, that roar was just a pop-gun compared to Brosnahan's cannon blast, a shot heard all across Palm Beach County. Moments like that are why we play golf. Talk about leading by example. He spends his life ministering his charges swings like a priest with a penitent, then in the biggest moment of the year "walks the walk" as they say, cinching a crucial victory in the clutch, turning his team's desperate hopes into buoyant hearts. If he can do it, he can teach you to do it too.
"Lessons just went up $10 an hour," quipped one irreverent wag, joking of course, but there's no chance of that with the humble Brosnihan, who aw-shucksed his way through his media center interview, than gratefully accepted his wife's offer to buy dinner…anywhere he wanted.
"I just wanted to help out the team. I was fighting myself the whole way around and Woody was carrying me the whole way," said a relieved and grateful Brosnihan. I just wanted one chance to contribute, and I knew it was not only my last chance of the day, but my last chance of the entire event for me, and with all those people around the green I just wanted to come through for everyone."
That underlines one of the undisputed truths of team golf: You don't have to play great the whole time, you just have to play great in the clutch.
"I even clubbed down to 3-wood off the tee to put the ball in the fairway and still hit it in jail," he continued. "I hit it low off the pine straw and knew that I could keep it on the back fringe. Even then, I had a tuft of grass behind the ball on my putt, so I had to lift the putter blade off the ground, strike the ball above its equator, and get it rolling. It never left the line I picked and to see the expressions on the members faces and hear the roar…Wow! I'll never forget it."
In a remarkable coincidence Dan's tee ball on 18 finished exactly 18 inches from where his wife and co-head pro Pam was in her morning match when she and alternate shot partner Keen Shackelford charged all the way back from a 3-down deficit to tie their match, only to lose late with a bogey on 18.
"I'm just so glad to come through for Pam, the rest of the team, and the club. She and Keen played so well in the morning match and it was eerie to have my ball end up where it was," agreed Dan. "But she gave me the kick in the pants I needed on 16. She had that beautiful smile on her face and fire in here eyes and said 'LET'S GO!' and I got the message."
So did Delray Dunes. They knew they were in a dogfight to begin with, but now they are certain to circle the wagons on the hostile turf that is Quail Ridge's South Course and came out swinging like the prizefighters they are.
Indeed, Delray began the tournament with haymakers and roundhouses. Delray's thunder and lightning, professional players Bob Murphy and Jay Sigel each raced to early leads and won morning matches in which they never trailed. Murphy and partner Nick Coon breezed past Dave Rowley and Charles Bagby 5 & 4. Then Sigel and Troy Wheat took the early lead over Quails Ridge's strong pairing of Greene and Ronnie Grove eventually winning 2 & 1.
"We protected our ball well," explained Murphy, the 1965 U.S. Amateur champion at broiling Southern Hills in Tulsa. "Nick drove it beautifully all day, and we didn't make mistakes. We were even par in alternate shot, and that will win a lot of alternate shot matches.
"That's right," agreed Coon. "In alternate shot, you have to hit fairways and greens. It's not a birdie fest. Instead, you have to wear your opponent down."
That's also the game plan that Sigel and Wheat also followed in their match. Watching Sigel at his best is worth diamonds. The back-to-back U.S. Amateur champion (1982 and 1983 at The Country Club and North Shore, respectively) is a surgeon on the golf course. His dead-straight drives are like surgical incisions. His laser-beam irons dissect, isolate, and remove the patient's ailments, and his putting closes up the operation's work without leaving so much as a hint of the initial incision. He hit an approach to one foot for a birdie at the 90-degree dogleg, par-4 5th hole. Then he stung another short iron to 18 inches for birdie at the par-5 12th. With Wheat's clutch 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 15th, they had a third birdie, which they balanced against a lone bogey for a 2 & 1 win over one of Quail Ridge's premier pairings.
"We kept it in play. It's tough to keep your rhythm in alternate shot. You can go three or more holes in a row without making a putt or hitting a good shot," Sigel noted. "But Troy and I had success in alternate shot last year, and we were efficient today. We hit a lot of greens, got up-and-down when we didn't, and didn't miss any putts.
They also had great chemistry. At one point, with Wheat in thick rough and facing a dicey shot through trees, Sigel encouraged his partner with a timely bit of well-chosen support.
"I told him, 'Your gonna hit the best shot of the day' and that's what he did." Amazingly, Wheat hit the green, the pair saved a tough par and preserved their lead en route to the win.
Pairings of Jack Schoenfelt and Rob Valashinas, (2 & 1 over Bob Harris and Bob Ferrel) and Scott Reinhart and Paul Loughrey, (1-up over Pam Brosnihan and Shackelford) also won early alternate shot matches.
Good pairings was the key to the runaway success of Delray's morning session, and that's tough to get right in alternate shot since the Captain must assess and properly balance both personal chemistry and each competitor's golf strengths.
"I looked at the pairings over the last two years that went undefeated and kept them together," explained Delray captain Anthony D'Angelo, who injured his back and ribs on the eve of the competition and will miss six weeks of golf. "Then I put guys together who liked each other and who knew that their games worked well together. I'm happy we had a successful session and look forward to a spirited finish tomorrow."
Then the energetic and friendly club champion from Delray brightened even more and added, "Let's see if we can top today's excitement! That's what this event is all about. We may want to win with everything we have, but we're also great friends and realize this is first and foremost a chance for us all to get together and create some great memories. That's the magic of the Golf Road Cup."
Still, with the exception of a terrific eagle by Delray's Dave Haag at the long par-4 second hole - with a sand wedge no less - the magic was created by one of the pros Quail Ridge turns to whenever their golf games are in need. And so Dan drove off into the sunset like a modern day hero from a Western: beautiful wife in one arm, golf clubs in the other, both the sky and his members all a-glow. Can life possibly get any better? Sure…add the Golf Road Cup trophy to the picture come tomorrow afternoon.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.
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