Story by Pat Payton - St. Marys Independent Newspaper
This past weekend was the annual Ryder Cup golf competition at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club. But this year, things were a little different - team wise. Instead of the (40 and over) Old Guys squaring off against the (39 and younger) Young Guys, a draft was held on Friday night. The event again featured 32 players, and respective team captains Rick Fifield (Team Rick) and his son Kellen (Team Kellen) selected their 16-man squads.
The first two rounds of on Saturday were played in almost perfect weather conditions for golf.
In the opening-round format (Best Ball) in the morning, both teams picked up four points in some very close matches. The golfers started on the back nine and finished on the front. Four of the matches ended on the final hole (No. 9), and another was decided on No. 8.
Kyle Heinbuch and Merlin Malinowski won their Best Ball match on No. 9 when Heinbuch chipped in for a birdie 3. Rick Fifield rolled in a par putt on No. 9 to give he and partner Tom Charette a one-up victory, while a Dan Murrell birdie on No. 8 clinched a 2-and-1 win for he and partner Greg Wolfkamp.
“There were some pretty good matches this morning,” Kellen Fifield pointed out.
The second round on Saturday afternoon was Modified Alternate Shots. Again, both teams earned four points -- leaving the two sides deadlocked with eight points apiece. It couldn’t have been any closer going into Sunday’s singles matches.
Due to the unexpected rain and thunderstorms Sunday morning, the head-to-head singles matches were delayed two and a half hours. The tee-times eventually started at 12:25 p.m., under sunny skies.
With the two teams tied, the singles matches would decide this year’s bragging rights. Team Kellen responded early, winning nine of the first 10 matches. It proved to be the difference as Team Kellen won the singles matches 9-7 and the 2020 title 17 points to 15.
Winning the 16 singles matches on Sunday were: Rich Parsons, Greg Bettger, Ken Hutton, Paul Shackleton, Greg Thompson, Eric Henkemans, Chico Downing, Wayne Ross, Kevin McCotter, Andy Cunningham, Rick Fifield, Neil Dust, Merlin Malinowski, Jimmy Craigmile, Bob Hearn and Jamie Hodgins.
“It was a lot of fun, some good golf and a lot of good matches,” said this year’s winning captain Kellen Fifield. “The teams were really close and we just pulled it out. After losing the first match, we won nine straight matches today (Sunday).
“The draft was great this year; it was different. A lot of strategy goes into it. We had no rookies and I think experience pulled it out for us today,” he added.
Rick Fifield said everyone seemed to like the draft format for the Ryder Cup this year.
“We’ve talked about this for years,” he said. “This isn’t a completely new idea. We talked about it five years ago when the Old Guys were getting older and we wondered whether we could still compete with the Young Guys.
“Eventually, we thought we would go this way with a draft. I think everybody really likes it; it could be the new norm. A lot of guys played against guys they’ve never played before, which is kind of fun, too.”
Kellen Fifield said the two teams were pretty even.
“A lot of matches today (Saturday) came down to the 17th and 18th holes,” he noted. “It was pretty fun golf. About 20 of the guys had six to 10 handicaps, so the teams were pretty close handicap-wise.”
- Co-MVPs this year were Wayne Ross and Eric Henkemans of Team Kellen. They went 3-0 overall, and were partners on Saturday--winning both matches.
- Next year’s team captains are Jamie Hodgins and Scott Kemp.
- There was talk on Sunday that the Ryder Cup format could go back to Old Guys versus the Young Guys in 2021. Stay tuned.