Team WPGA posts fourth consecutive win in Palmer Cup
Posted September 22, 2017 - By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich
LATROBE - Over the 22-year history of the Palmer Cup matches, the West Penn Golf Association has not compiled a particularly sparkling record. The best amateurs in the association lost the first 15 times before getting a bit of success by forging a tie in the 16th playing of the event.
They’ve turned that around by winning the last four meetings, including Thursday’s triumph at Latrobe Country Club.
The amateurs put on their best show in the event, beating the club pros 13-4. It was the largest margin of victory by a WPGA team and was fueled by an 8.5-1.5 advantage in the morning singles that put the Tri-State team in an inescapable hole.
The competition was the first since the death of Arnold Palmer last September and, while there was a different feel to the proceedings, there was at least one aspect to the day that would have definitely gotten a thumbs up from Palmer.
It is believed that 16-year-olds Brady Pevarnik and Palmer Jackson became the youngest players to compete for the WPGA when they teed it up Thursday. It’s also believed they’re only the second and third juniors (Luke Miller being the first) to play in the event.
Palmer was a big supporter of both organizations and played for several years for the Tri-State team. But he also was a big proponent of youngsters playing the game and would have been thrilled with how things played out Thursday.
Pevarnik played in the singles matches in the morning, defeating Gordon Vietmeier of the Gordon Vietmeier Golf School, 4 & 3, and then teamed with Jackson to knock off Aaron Gizzi of Uniontown CC and Gene Walter of the Pennsylvania Golf Academy, 1-up.
“It was awesome, incredible,” Pevarnik said. “I played well in the morning and we really played well in the afternoon.”
And they needed to. Walter and Gizzi hung with the kids and forced them to the 18th hole to win.
How well did the youngsters play? They made eight birdies and 10 pars in the match.
“For kids like Brady and I to be included in something like this, it’s very special,” Jackson said, who went to classes in the morning at Franklin Regional before coming to Latrobe for the afternoon matches. “I think this is the most prestigious event I’ve ever gotten a win in.”
The young duo drew praise from their afternoon foes.
Arnold Palmer's famous tractor made an appearance.
“They are nice, young kids,” Gizzi said. “They both hit it a long way and have complete games. It’s certainly different than when I was growing up. These guys play eight or nine times a week and they work at their games. Having kids like those two is good for golf.”
The depth and quality of the West Penn lineup showed in the fact that five players picked up two points each: Pevarnik, Brett Young, Sean Knapp, John Pratkanis and Erik Bertrand.
It didn’t get any better for the pros after getting something in their stomachs. West Penn won the first two four-ball matches, clinching the match in the process, extending its winning streak to four straight years.
The Tri-State won only three matches on the day. Oakmont CC’s Devin Gee beat Rick Stimmel 1-up in the final singles match, and in the final two four-ball matches the team of Denny Dolci and Dick Von Tacky Jr. beat the team of Dave Antill and Doug Gradwell 1-up, and the duo of Jim Cichra and Roy Vucinich defeated David Brown and Stan Namola 1-up.
While the final numbers looked a bit bleak for the Tri-State, there was a tiny bit of a silver lining. Four of their match losses were by 1-up scores and three others were by 2-1.
And it should be noted that the Tri-State team was without the second (Butler CC’s Rob McClellan), fifth (Kevin Shields of The Club at Nevillewood) and eighth (John Aber of Allegheny CC) finishers on its point list.
Surprisingly, both youngsters said nerves weren’t any more of a factor for them than in any other competition, or at least for most of the day.
“On the 12th hole in my morning match, Gordon made a birdie that cut my lead from two holes to one and that makes a big difference,” Pevarnik said. “But I won the last three holes to win the match. Winning that was a big confidence boost for me. I’m competing against the best pros in the area and I won my match. I want to play in this until I turn pro.”
Jackson had the chance for his big moment on the final stroke of the afternoon match.
“I really wanted to make that putt at the end,” he said.
And he did, calmly draining the 14-footer that ensured the win for he and Pevarnik.
“A lot of guys played well for us today,” Nathan Smith said of this WPGA teammates. “But it really is special to see those young guys play like they did. It’s great for us, but it’s great for the game, too. It’s good to see.”
And The King was smiling broadly all afternoon long.