Team WPGA retains Palmer Cup
By Mike Dudurich • September 21, 2018
Mike is a 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 – For the first 18 years of the battle between club professionals from the Tri-State Section PGA and amateurs from the West Penn Golf Association known as the Palmer Cup, it was a very one-sided battle.
The WPGA team lost all of those first 18 and was working on a serious complex. But in 2014, the worm turned as the amateurs finally got a win. And guess what? They haven’t lost since.
Thursday, WPGA won its fifth straight meeting, this time exploding to win six points while allowing the Tri-State just one to finish with an 11-6 victory at Latrobe Country Club.
Both teams won four singles matches and split two others to end the morning session, 5-5. But the amateurs won the first five four-ball matches in the afternoon to put it away, while splitting the final two.
They accomplished all of that despite having five of the best amateurs being in Charlotte, N.C. for the U.S. Mid-Amateur, which gets underway Saturday.
And while the victory was a team effort, a high school senior proved to be a key force in the win.
Franklin Regional’s Palmer Jackson, who along with Greater Latrobe’s Brady Pevarnik, became the youngest players to ever compete in the event last year, was the star this year. In the morning, Jackson, a Notre Dame recruit, was up against veteran John Aber of Allegheny Country Club and beat him 3 & 2.
Then, teamed with Andy Butler in a match against Mason Stutler and Jason Martin, the two amateurs pounded out a 5 & 4 win.
“Last year I was more star-struck,” Jackson admitted. “This year I knew I could compete with them. I feel like I was better prepared.”
His best friend and playing partner a lot over the last few years, Pevarnik, was scheduled to play at LCC Thursday, but his high school golf sectional tournament had to be rescheduled to yesterday. Pevarnik had to play in that to keep his dream alive for WPIAL and PIAA titles in his senior year. Pevarnik shot 68 in that event Thursday.
The pros had several players in their lineup who could hit the ball long distances, but not all could. Sunnehanna Country Club’s Jason Martin is one of those who gets it out there nicely, but not the distances the youngsters can.
“I can tell you one thing, it’s no fun being 60 yards behind those guys every hole,” he said. “It’s amazing to see how far they hit it.”
Arnold Palmer, for whom the event is named, played for the Tri-State team several years, but was a very good amateur player as well. He often referred to his 1952 U.S. Amateur victory as the turning point of his career.
He would no doubt has appreciated the competitiveness of the Ams on Thursday while commiserated with the pros.
Even two years after his death, his presence is still very much evident at Latrobe CC, especially when each team gathered on the practice green between sessions for pictures. Palmer always posed in the middle of the teams and that exercise seemed more somber without him.
“It’s very special for me to be a part of this,” said Kevin Fajt of the WPGA team. “Mr. Palmer was such a special part of this day and that makes it special for us. Any time you can beat a field of club professionals, that tells you how strong our team was. Some of our best players weren’t here today so for us other guys to step up like we did, that was pretty cool.”
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.