After nine years of battling against each other in the Walker Cup, the only thing that’s been decided is that Kenai Golf Course and Birch Ridge Golf Course really like playing against each other.
Kenai evened up the all-time series at 4-4-1 on Sunday with a 17 1-2 to 6 1-2 victory in the three-day event at Birch Ridge. The victory breaks a string of three straight victories for the home course.
After a day of alternate shot and a day of best ball, Kenai entered Sunday with a 9-3 lead. Kenai’s 8 1-2 to 3 1-2 performance in Sunday’s singles sucked the drama out of the event early.
“Congratulations to Kenai,” Birch Ridge captain Tom Walsh said. “They played really well, and we were just kind of out of sync.”
Kenai captain Tommy Carver said the key to his team’s success is that Kenai has a lot of players right now who are extremely comfortable playing with one another.
“Both sides have equally good golfers,” Carver said. “Things just went our way this year. It could be totally different next year.”
Gordon Griffin, who finished 3-0 by defeating Mike Chenault 4 and 3, said Kenai has a deep group of players that have made the Walker Cup a priority. Showing that depth, Derek Kaufman was 2-0 and Mark Griffin 1-0, but both sat out the Sunday singles.
“Experience plays a lot into this event,” Griffin said. “Everyone always talks about Birch Ridge’s young guns, but the young guns haven’t really shown up the last two years.”
But Birch Ridge’s Brennan Jackson says they are coming. Jackson finished 2-1 in the Walker Cup by coming from three down on the front nine to defeat Greg Harrington 3 and 2.
“I just think there was quite a bit of inexperience on our side,” Jackson said. “A couple of guys were playing this event for the first time.
“I think as they get experience in this event, we’re going to rebound in the next couple of years.”
Birch Ridge showed there is plenty of hope for the future in the tournament, led by Josh Lansing, who went 3-0. Lansing took care of Truckee LeMay 6 and 5 on Sunday. He will be enrolling in dental school in the fall at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., so his future in the event is iffy.
“I’m not sure if dental school is going to let me get up here to play or not,” Lansing said.
Birch Ridge’s Tyler Yamada also showed he is getting the hang of the event by halving the match with Todd Eskelin after Eskelin’s ball got stuck up in a tree on the final hole.
Jesse Scott had the other victory for Birch Ridge, outlasting Doug Jung on No. 18 for a 1-up win.
Chris Morin and John Dahlgren joined Gordon Griffin and Lansing with 3-0 records in this Walker Cup.
Morin defeated Zach Beeson 2 and 1. Morin said he was two down after six, but had the match all square after the ninth. He said the match turned on the 10th, when he made a putt so long he said he didn’t even think about making it. When Beeson had a 12-foot putt horseshoe the hole, Morin had a lead he would not relinquish.
Dahlgren took care of Mike Hollingsworth 2-up for his undefeated mark.
Chris Murray also finished undefeated in the Walker Cup, winning on Friday and Sunday. Sunday, he defeated Jake Eubank 7 and 5. Murray said the key to his match was making a few extremely difficult putts and playing consistent. He did not lose a hole the entire match.
Rene Alvarez finished 2-1 in the Walker Cup by defeating Dave Kerkvliet 7 and 6. Alvarez also played a solid round. He was just 3 over when the match was called on No. 12. “That’s how I’m supposed to play,” Alvarez said.
Gilbert Arellano also finished 2-1, defeating Nick Beeson 8 and 6. Bob Sizemore earned his 2-1 record with a 5 and 4 win over Jay Kriner.
Kenai’s final victory was a 5 and 4 win by Doug Haralson over George Stein.
In the end, the only thing that was more decisive than Kenai’s victory was the verdict on the condition of Birch Ridge, which glistened in sunny, 70-degree weather Sunday.
“The course was in fantastic shape,” Carver said. “We’d like to thank Birch Ridge for doing a great job hosting the event.”