For much of Tuesday, the weather seemingly favoured the visitors from the Golfing Union of Ireland and by day’s end, the scoreboard did as well as the Irish took a 4-2 advantage over the MGA following four-ball and foursome matches in the 15th Governor Hugh L. Carey Challenge Cup at Arcola Country Club. The biennial event concludes today with six final singles matches.
The morning charge by the Irish was led by Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe and 2019 British Amateur champion and Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team member James Sugrue, who claimed a commanding 7&6 win over Darin Goldstein of Deepdale and the host club’s Trevor Randolph. The tandem never surrendered a hole, combining for five birdies en route to the victory.
The other two matches went the distance as overcast morning skies turned into a steady mist that held on through the remainder of the day. James Nicholas of Westchester and 11-time MGA international team member Joe Saladino of Huntington had Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell and Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty — the No. 12 and No. 16 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking — against the ropes after Nicholas drained a birdie putt from outside of 35 feet on the par-4 16th. However, Rafferty proved clutch on the par-4 finisher, draining a 15-footer for birdie to tie the match and leave both sides with half a point. Meanwhile, Naas’ Robert Brazill carded a birdie-three on the par-4 17th to help he and Hermitage’s Rowan Lester to a 1-up win over Brad Tilley of Sleepy Hollow and Thomas La Morte of Knickerbocker.
In the afternoon, the leaderboard’s colours swapped back and forth between blue and green in the often unsteady foursomes format.
Nicholas and La Morte claimed the first full point for the MGA, winning Nos. 13-16 with birdies to claim a 3-and-2 win over Rafferty and Purcell, who also represented GB&I in this year’s Walker Cup. “I started making some putts, Tom saw some balls go in and we both hit some great shots down the stretch,” said Nicholas of the victory.
“If we hit a bad shot, we’d rebound well and if we hit good shots, we were taking advantage of it,” said La Morte, with his rebound reference alluding to the par-5 15th, where after a couple of shaky shots, a wedge to 20 feet and a holed birdie putt won the hole.
Though the format can easily lead to a loss of focus, the pair kept steady communication to remain dialed in on the task at hand. “We pretty much talked through every shot we had together,” said La Morte, who’s making his second appearance on an MGA international team. “So, you might not be physically hitting the shot, but you were mentally engaging in what was going on.”
Goldstein and Randolph went right back out against O’Keeffe and Sugrue in the afternoon, aiming for a positive response following the morning result. “Darin and I just wanted a fresh start,” said Randolph of the rematch. While they stood two down with two to play, the duo grinded for a pair of closing pars to win both holes and salvage half a point. “It was great for us to come out with a tie, it felt like a win,” said Randolph. “Neither one of us had our best stuff, but we both hit some really solid shots on 17 and 18, so it worked out well for us.”
Brazill and Lester won five holes in a nine-hole stretch to edge out Tilley and Saladino, 3 and 2, and claim the afternoon’s final point.
“We’re down, but I like the way our team battled today,” said Nicholas, who is representing the MGA for the first time and will take on Mallow’s Sugrue in Wednesday’s singles matches.
“We’ve been falling behind early, which has been killing us,” said La Morte. “It’s tough enough to play from behind with players who are average and these players aren’t average. So, we need to take advantage of the early holes.”
Even with the cool, damp conditions, Arcola stood up to the weather and once again tested some of the game’s best amateur competitors just as it did for the 2018 Met Amateur.
“I’ve been a member here a long time and I can’t remember the course playing as difficult as it did today,” said Randolph. “It played super long [tee to green] and super fast [on the greens] despite the wind and the rain.”
Wednesday’s singles matches begin at 8:30am local time. The MGA will have to win 4.5 of the 6 available points to claim the cup since a 6-6 tie would allow the GUI to retain the Carey Cup. Live scoring will once again be available for all matches.
Full scoring HERE