Some say that tying is like kissing your sister, but Birch Ridge captain Dave Stein was not one of those people heading into this year’s Twin Cities Walker Cup.
Stein said he would have been more than happy with a tie in this year’s Walker Cup because his squad was visiting Kenai Golf Course. So imagine how happy Stein was that his team pulled out a 14 1/2 to 9 1/2 win over Kenai in the three-day tournament that ended Sunday.
“This means a lot,” said Stein, who will be stepping down as captain. “I probably would have been happy with a tie again this year.”
The Walker Cup pits Birch Ridge and Kenai Golf Course against each other in a series of alternate shot, best ball and singles matches. Last year was the first playing of the event, and the two sides finished all square at 12-all in matches played at Birch Ridge.
With the event shifting to Kenai this year, many thought the Kenai golfers would have the edge.
“I thought our woods and the length of our course would get in their way,” Kenai co-captain Dale Sandahl said. “I kept waiting for them to struggle, and they just kept playing better and better.”
Bob Sizemore led Birch Ridge to the victory, teaming with his son Caleb to pick up victories in Thursday’s alternate shot and Friday’s best ball, then defeating Bill Burtram on Sunday.
“It was nice playing with my son,” Sizemore said. “We play together a lot, so we’re comfortable with each other. We also hit the ball the same distance, so that helped in the alternate shot.”
Like Stein and Sandahl, Sizemore knew his squad was in for a test playing at Kenai.
“This course is a very unforgiving course,” Sizemore said. “If you get off the fairways here, a lot of the time you are not even going to find your ball. At Birch Ridge, if you get off the fairways, you’ll find your ball. You may not have a shot, but you’ll find your ball.”
Birch Ridge took control of the event on Thursday by posting a 4 1/2-1 1/2 edge in the alternate shot matches. After the best ball matches on Friday finished at 3-3, Birch Ridge needed to win just five of the 12 singles matches on Sunday to take the Walker Cup.
Birch Ridge ended up taking seven of the 12 matches. In addition to Sizemore’s win, Birch Ridge got victories from Jeff Hetrick over Todd Eskelin, Josh Lansing over John Dahlgren, George Stein over Felix Martinez, Jay Kriner over Gordon Griffin, Mike Azzara over Doug Harrelson and Mike Chenault over Rich Edwards.
Sandahl said he was very impressed with the way young golfers Nick Horn, Lansing, Caleb Sizemore and Zack Cowan held up in the tournament.
“They all shot lights out,” Sandahl said. “They probably were the difference. That was neat to see.”
Kenai’s victories came from Billy Applewhite over Horn, Chris Sonnichsen over Marty Arnoldy, Doug Jung over Kevin O’Fallon, Tom Carver over Cowan and Ken Liedes over Steve Dexheimer.
“(Birch Ridge) guys can go anywhere in the state and compete, and so can our guys,” said Griffin, the general manager at Kenai. “You can say one’s an easy course and one’s a hard course, but really both courses just require different sets of skills to play. And the golfers from both those courses have both of those sets of skills.”
Even though the event is just in its second year, it is already becoming a favorite for many of the players.
Sizemore, who thanked the captains for all of the work they did organizing the event, said playing on a team is unique in golf and creates a pressure unlike what he normally feels in the sport.
“If I’m playing in a regular tournament and I don’t shoot well, it’s not a big deal,” Sizemore said. “If I’m playing in this event and I don’t shoot well, I affect my partner and my team.”
Griffin said the event also is nice because it brings the two courses together. There is only one other event that does that the Birch Ridge-Kenai Golf Associations Combined Tournament.
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