The winning MGA team (MGA photo)
The Walker Cup biennially receives all
the hype that the amateur golf community has to offer. There was less fanfare on Wednesday as a team of the Metropolitan Golf Association’s best stormed to a win over the Golfing Union of Ireland in the Carey Challenge Cup, but the statistics and the storylines were no less impressive in this event.
In fact, the visiting Irish team at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J., included three men who last month represented Great Britain and Ireland on the Walker Cup team at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
The MGA team faced a 4-2 deficit following Tuesday's four-ball and foursomes matches, but local player Trevor Randolph's 1-up victory against Irishman Rowan Lester helped the MGA capture 4.5 of the 6 available singles points on Wednesday to seal the comeback against a world-class Irish squad.
Brad Tilley also had a lot to do with that effort. Tilley has been on a tear recently, hitting the Northeast trifecta with wins at the New York State Mid-Amateur, Westchester Mid-Amateur and MGA Mid-Amateur in a span of 10 days. In his singles match at Arcola, the Sleepy Hollow Country Club member birdied eight of his first 11 holes to take down Conor Purcell, a Walker Cupper, by a definitive 8-and-7 margin.
"They put out their three Walker Cup players first," noted MGA captain Tod Pike, speaking of Irishmen Purcell, Caolan Rafferty and 2019 British Amateur champion James Sugrue. "But, once we got through the first two of those three, we knew that the game was on."
James Nicholas and Sugrue, who wasn’t able to put a single point on the board in the Walker Cup, had a back-and-forth battle down the stretch, trading Nos. 13-16 to stand tied with two holes to play. But Nicholas — the Yale graduate who is playing in his final event as an amateur — closed with a pair of pars on the challenging closing holes to earn the 2-up victory. Earlier this month, Nicholas advanced through the first stage of Korn Ferry Qualifying School.
Ireland’s Peter O'Keeffe edged Darin Goldstein, 2 and 1, earning his team its first point of the day and pulling the overall score to 5 to 5.
While MGA team members Joe Saladino and Randolph led late, their opponents picked up victories on Nos. 16 and 17, respectively, to tie the matches and keep hopes alive for the Irish.
Ultimately, Saladino won at the last minute, which cleared the way for Randolph’s heroics.
Randolph had earned an early 3-up advantage over Lester, but then he gave away the fifth and sixth holes. The match was tied after 13 holes. After trading Nos. 15-16, Randolph nearly holed a putt from a collection area to the right of 17 green and safely made par. Lester failed to get up-and-down from the greenside rough right of the green and Randolph took a 1-up lead to the final hole.
Both players came up right of No. 18 green, with Randolph's pitch coming up well short and Lester making a nice pitch across the green within eight feet. Randolph's 40-foot par putt stayed wide and left him his 12-footer for bogey. The 46-year-old put a smooth stroke on the look and poured it in with the match on the line. Lester's bid to tie the match, which would have resulted in a 6-6 tie and the Irish retaining the cup, caught the edge of the hole and left the MGA victorious.
"These international competitions mean so much to me personally," said Randolph, who has competed on six international teams for the MGA. "To be involved with getting the Carey Cup to come to Arcola and then to have it end that way is certainly really special to me and is something I won't forget."
The victory makes the all-time record 8-5-2 in favor of the Irish, while the MGA now owns a 3-1-1 lead in the last five playings.
Quotes and match details from the Metropolitan Golf Association used in this report
View results for Carey Challenge Cup
ABOUT THE Carey Challenge Cup
Biennial team matches between the Metropolitan Golf
Association (MGA) and the Golfing Union of Ireland
(GUI). Teams of 6 men and 4 women play a Walker
competition featuring Four-ball, Foursomes, and
Singles matches at some of the best courses in
Ireland and the Met Area.
View Complete Tournament Information