USA win Palmer Cup after back nine blitz in Lahinch

Ronan MacNamara
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Team USA Pic. Brian Arthur

Ronan MacNamara

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A back nine rally from the United States of America in the Sunday singles helped them win back-to-back Arnold Palmer Cups and claim their first away win over the International side since 2018 in Lahinch on a 32.5-27.5 scoreline.

The scores were level at 18-18 heading into a showdown in heavenly conditions and during the front nine it was projected that the Internationals would come out on top before the scores were projected to end in a draw for much of the afternoon until the team in red came out on top in some tight matches coming down the closing stretch claiming seven and a half points from the thirteen matches that went the distance.

World number one Gordon Sargent secured the first point of the day for the visitors, beating Bastien Amat 5&4 while Kate Lanigan, Sara Byrne and Ryan Griffin all lost out in tight matches. Lanigan lost 2&1 to Mary Kelly Mulcahy while Byrne and Griffin were pipped on the 18th to Women’s Amateur champion Melanie Green who held nine one putts in a row and Maxwell Ford respectively.

“Yeah, I believe Melanie, who won the British Am last week, I heard she had nine one-putts. So the standard of golf from these guys. I spoke to someone about the Wenyi Ding match, they were 12 or 13 under par better-ball, just serious golf,” said International co-head coach Barry Fennelly.

“That’s the standard.”

Max Kennedy and Ben James couldn’t be separated and had to settle for a half match in a tie that neither player deserved to lose with just one hole the most either player led by in the match.

Unfortunately for co-head coach Fennelly and the International side, Byrne, Griffin and Kennedy were all winning in their matches before being pegged back late in the day while Amanda Sambech (2&1), Farah O’Keefe (2UP), Maisie Filler (AS), Jackson Koivun (1UP) and Latanna Stone (1UP) all earned crucial points towards the end for the USA.

“The overall match, I think in my masterplan for the week I said if we could get two or three points ahead going into the final day, you know, if you look over the years, the Americans in this event have been so strong in the singles. So we needed two or three, a bit of a cushion would have been lovely,” said Fennelly afterwards.

“To be honest, I can’t fault our guys. They gave it 100 per cent. They started so well, won the first three games, had great momentum. I would say with four or five games left on the course we had a great chance if everything went our way but unfortunately we were four light at the end. The 18th wasn’t kind to us in the last hour.

“But overall, what a week. We can’t thank the golf club, the Palmer Foundation and everybody involved enough. The GCA for me personally to be given this opportunity, I’ll never forget it.

“You can’t fault these guys, some of the best players in the world, an absolute treat to be with them and learn from them in terms of my own coaching. But the Americans showed their class at the end there and they got the job done.

“Just a shout out to Lahinch, look at this. Look at the matches, look at the moments this event has created and hopefully it inspires people to take up the game. Hopefully it inspires kids who have bene out here watching to get involved in golf, that’s what it’s all about.”

The International side rallied late on Saturday to level the match heading into Sunday but they got a bitter taste of their own medicine as the USA finished strong to take the title. Fennelly had no complaints.

“We got a lot out of yesterday afternoon and absolutely, that’s the way it goes. The hard thing is when you see five, six games out of the course, there’s a lot of holes to be played and you might be banking on a win to go one up but at this standard that’s nothing,” added Fennelly.

“They were better certainly better down the stretch today and managed to turn around and close out a couple of games so it was very, very tight. I think both sides were very evenly matched but it’s a pity. We’d have loved to give the Irish fans and home support something to cheer about but hopefully they’re proud of the effort.”

Despite his visible disappointment with the result, Fennelly was proud of how his Irish quartet performed all week in front of a packed home crowd with each player delivering at least a point for the Internationals.

“Max Kennedy has showed what a competitor he is. A clubman of mine and just so proud of how he’s handled himself, of how he played. He’s one to watch.

“He really rose to the occasion and to be fair Sara was fantastic, Ryan and Kate got a brilliant victory on day one. Unfortunately just a couple of matches yesterday and today were very tight but our Irish did us proud for sure.”

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