When Kenai Golf Course captain Tom Carver faxed Gordon Griffin a copy of the Sunday singles matchups for the final day of the Walker Cup, Griffin immediately was on the line to Carver.
“Oh boy. I like this. I like this,” he said.
He had reason to.
Kenai turned one of the closest Walker Cups in history into a blowout with sterling singles play. Kenai came into the day leading Birch Ridge 6 1/2-5 1/2 in the annual competition between the two courses, but a 10 1/2-1 1/2 shakedown Sunday gave Kenai the 17-7 victory.
Birch Ridge still leads the all-time series 4-3-1, but Kenai did grab the cup from Birch Ridge’s possession. The home team has now won three straight cups.
“I sensed a resolve in our guys coming in that I hadn’t seen in a long time,” Griffin said. “I could tell by the look in their eyes that they were ready to go.”
Kenai was led by Gilbert Arellano, Jack Darsey and Derek Kaufman, who all finished 3-0 in the Walker Cup.
Kaufman defeated Pedro McCall 3 and 2, meaning he was up three holes with two to play. Kaufman said McCall played numerous great shots under pressure.
“I just think everybody played well,” Kaufman said of his team. “We had a decided home-course advantage.”
Arellano and Darsey were each in their first Walker Cups. The two teamed to win an alternate-shot match on Thursday and a best-ball match on Friday. Sunday, Arellano topped John Davenport 3 and 1, while Darsey defeated Aaron Andrus 2 and 1.
Darsey has been playing golf for seven years. When his handicap dropped to 7 this year, he was asked to join the team.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It brought back … that competition.”
Darsey graduated from Kenai Central High School in 2001. He was a standout hockey player for the Kards.
“It’s that whole Kenai-Soldotna thing,” he said. “It goes back as far as I can remember.”
Arellano is back playing at Kenai after about a decade or so playing in the Lower 48. He said the camaraderie between the two courses should not be taken for granted.
“Everybody is competitive, but nobody is getting mad at each other,” Arellano said. “At some of the country clubs down below, the courses don’t get along at all.”
Also for Kenai on Sunday, Todd Eskelin defeated J.D. Cowan 6 and 4, Mark Azzara defeated Spencer Tachick 5 and 4, Chris Murray defeated Paul Zimmerman 4 and 3, Bob Sizemore defeated Mike Hollingsworth 5 and 4, Gordon Griffin defeated Eddie Sibolboro 6 and 4, John Dahlgren defeated George Stein 4 and 3, and Mark Griffin defeated Mike Chenault 2-up.
Birch Ridge’s lone win came in a grudge match between Birch Ridge’s Beau Forrest and Kenai’s Truckee LeMay. The two grew up golfing together, and last year halved a singles match.
Forrest won the 18th hole to notch a 1-up victory on Sunday.
Birch Ridge’s half point came from Taylor Jackson, who drew with Doug Jung.
“I think their players are a little better than ours, but we just didn’t play well,” Birch Ridge captain Tom Walsh said. “We had trouble putting.”
Carver said a lot of the Sunday matchups had history behind them, and that history gave him a good feeling.
“In the past, we’ve been afraid of their young guns, but I think we got over that,” Gordon Griffin said. “We learned we just have to put it in the fairway and let their young guns make mistakes, and that’s what happened today.
“Don’t get me wrong, though. They have some outstanding young players.”
Despite the loss, Walsh said that what was really important was the players were all happily chatting and eating together afterward.
“The main thing is that everybody comes out and has fun,” Walsh said. “That’s what keeps this event going.”