Gordon Griffin high-fives Mike Chenault on the ninth hole Friday during the Twin Cities Walker Cup Matches. Griffin was playing for Kenai while Chenault was representing Soldotna.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
A more perfect ending to the inaugural Twin Cities Walker Cup couldn't have been scripted: After three days of competition and 24 matches, the tournament ended all square Friday night at Birch Ridge Golf Course in Soldotna.
"The best part about this," summed up Dale Sandahl, co-captain of the Kenai Golf Course team, "is that Kenai and Soldotna can say positive things about each other for a full year but next year, there'll be a war."
This year's tournament, a match-play competition between teams representing Birch Ridge and Kenai golf courses, certainly turned out to be a battle. The format led to some very intense competition, and the result wasn't decided until just before midnight on the 18th green, where Paul Nunamaker of Kenai and Birch Ridge's George Stein halved their match, giving each side six points in the individual matches contested Friday and 12 points overall for the tournament.
Josh Lansing tees off on the fourth hole Friday night during the Twin Cities Walker Cup Matches.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Mike Hollingsworth, Darrell Jelsma, Mike Chenault, Mo Redford and Matt Matarrese won their matches for Birch Ridge while Todd Eskelin, Doug Jung, Bill Burtram, Chris Sonnichsen and Doug Harrelson won for Kenai. Birch Ridge's Tony Azzara and Kenai's Billy Applewhite halved their match.
As the host, Birch Ridge will hang on the the trophy for the year Kenai players were invited to come look at it any time but competitors from both teams will get their names on the plaque this year.
"It was fun. The Kenai-Birch Ridge rivalry just jumped up another notch," said Birch Ridge's Matarrese. "Everybody wants to have their name on the trophy first."
The rivalry and tournament format made for some very intense golf. Of the 12 individual matches played Friday, five of them were decided on the final hole and almost every match included a lead change.
"I was 2-down at the turn," said Redford, who won the final hole of his match for a 2-up victory. "Probably 10 and 11 is what turned it around. I won both 10 and 11 and brought it back to even."
Eskelin, a 3 and 2 winner for Kenai, said the competition was serious and intense, but the competitors were congenial.
"It's serious right when you're hitting the ball, but as soon as you're done hitting, it's a friendly competition," Eskelin said.
Indeed, most of the competitors went back to watch other matches after finishing their own, and Nunamaker and Stein had a group large enough to be called a gallery following them down the 18th fairway. Handshakes and beers were shared around the fire pit afterward, and more than one golfer commented that the spirited rivalry also led to great camaraderie perhaps the best reason for making the tournament an annual event. The mix of players, from a few who were playing junior golf a year ago to regulars in the senior tournament, also contributed to the atmosphere.
"The older guys keep us young punks calm so we don't act like idiots out there," Matarrese said.
Redford said he was pleased to have the younger players on his side and hoped they would be back when Birch Ridge tries to win the trophy outright next year, when the tournament will be played at Kenai.
"As long as the young guys keep coming back and helping us out, we'll be able to keep it even," Redford said.
Eskelin said there was a more pressure in the match-play format because golfers have to focus not only on their own game, but also on what their opponent is doing and come up with a strategy from there.
"It's a lot different way to play golf," Eskelin said.
"Match-play is fun," Matarrese said. "It was a great tournament, and it was nice to see something like this on the peninsula."
Twin Cities Walker Cup
Monday, Tuesday and Friday at Birch Ridge Golf Course
Birch Ridge 12, Kenai Golf Course 12
Friday's results (Individual match play)
Birch Ridge 6, Kenai Golf Course 6
Mike Hollingsworth, BR, def. Dwight Kramer, KGC, 1-up.
Darrell Jelsma, BR, def. Ken Liedes, KGC, 4 and 3.
Todd Eskelin, KGC, def. Bob Sizemore, BR, 3 and 2.
Mike Chenault, BR, def. Gordon Griffin, KGC, 4 and 3.
Mo Redford, BR, def. Tom Reese, KGC, 2-up.
Doug Jung, KGC, def. Kevin Downs, BR, 3 and 2.
Tony Azzara, BR, and Billy Applewhite, KGC, halved.
Bill Burtram, KGC, def. Mike Azzara, BR, 1-up.
Chris Sonnichsen, KGC, def. Steve Dexheimer, BR, 4 and 3.
Matt Matarrese, BR, def. Felix Martinez, KGC, 3 and 1.
George Stein, BR, and Paul Nunamaker, KGC, halved.
Doug Harrelson, KGC, def. Josh Lansing, Birch Ridge, 3 and 2.
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