USA retain Arnold Palmer Cup after final-day surge

By | July 8, 2024

USA retain Arnold Palmer Cup after final-day surge

 

The singles proved what the Internationals’ Irish head coach Barry Fennelly had feared, that the singles was the format the Americans were strongest in.

The Arnold Palmer Cup lived up to its billing as the showcase for the best that collegiate golf can offer as the USA retained the trophy with a final-day surge to see off an Irish-tinged International team at Lahinch on Sunday.

The matchplay team tournament had been all-square after the first two days of mixed fourballs, foursomes and mixed foursomes leaving Sunday’s 24 singles matches to decide a contest featuring 11 of the top 10 golfers across the women’s and men’s World Amateur Golf Rankings and 28 with top-25 positions.

The singles proved what the Internationals’ Irish head coach Barry Fennelly had feared, that this was the format the Americans were strongest in.

They won the session 14.5 to 9.5 on a sunny, relatively calm day of links golf on the Clare coast, to win by an overall score of 32.5 to 27.5.

That 13 of the 24 singles matches went to the last hole, though, demonstrated just how close the competition was, with Ireland’s Max Kennedy tying his match with world number four Ben James while Sara Byrne and Ryan Griffin each lost by a single hole, to recently crowned Women’s British Amateur champion Melanie Green and Maxwell Ford respectively.

“In my masterplan for the week I said if we could get two or three points ahead going into the final day, you know, if you look over the years, the Americans in this event have been so strong in the singles,” Fennelly said.

“So we needed two or three, a bit of a cushion would have been lovely.

“To be honest, I can’t fault our guys. They gave it 100 per cent. They started so well, won the first three games, had great momentum. I would say with four or five games left on the course we had a great chance if everything went our way but unfortunately we were light at the end. The 18th wasn’t kind to us in the last hour.

“But the Americans showed their class at the end there and they got the job done.”

Griffin and fellow Maynooth student Kate Lanigan were the only non-US based students with Douglas golfer Byrne set to turn pro this autumn after four years at the University of Miami and Kennedy having graduated from the University of Louisville.

All four contributed points across the weekend and Fennelly praised their efforts with Byrne and Kennedy winning both their matches as a pairing, in Friday’s fourballs and Saturday’s mixed foursomes while Griffin and Lanigan teamed up to win their fourball match.

“Max Kennedy has showed what a competitor he is,” said Fennelly, also Maynooth’s head coach and manager of the Paddy Harrington Scholarship programme.

“Just so proud of how he’s handled himself, of how he played. He’s one to watch. He really rose to the occasion and to be fair Sara was fantastic, Ryan and Kate got a brilliant victory on day one. Unfortunately just a couple of matches yesterday and today were very tight but our Irish did us proud for sure.”

Byrne had the misfortune to come up against a putting machine in America’s Green, the conqueror of Portmarnock the previous weekend to claim the R&A Women’s Amateur crown.

“She had nine single putts in a row, nearly 10, which is hard to beat but I gave it my all,” Byrne said.

“I tried to go in after her but mine just lipped out and hers lipped and that’s the way it was. Honestly, I played really, really well. I am proud of myself for rallying on as much as I did, but again, the putts just didn’t drop when they needed to.

“She made a nice 18-footer and a nice 40-footer, and I was just laughing at that point and thinking, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ I lipped out on 15 for birdie, trying to will the ball into the hole.”

The narrow defeat did not cloud world number 60 Byrne’s reflections of her week-long Palmer Cup experience.

“This is one of the biggest events in the world, honestly. You have the best men and women in the world, and not only has it been the most fun ever, but it has also been an unbelievable experience, knowing my ball striking is up there with the best.

“So many of my matches came down 18 here, and some days, the putts dropped for them, and others, they dropped for us. It’s been an abs

olutely insane week.”

 

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