The first PGA Cup was contested in 1973 at – where else? – Pinehurst No. 2.
Thus it seems apropos that 40 years later, a Pinehurst professional would prove to be the critical component in leading Team USA in its quest to retain the PGA Cup against Great Britain and Ireland in Northumberland, England, last week.
Kelly Mitchum was brilliant during the three-day event, which is modeled after the Ryder Cup and pits the nation’s top golf professionals against their counterparts abroad. Mitchum was 3-1 with partner J.C. Anderson in team play, helping set the tone as Team USA built a large lead entering singles play Sunday.
But as the GB&I team roared back with a rally not unlike Europe’s run in the Ryder Cup on American soil last year, Mitchum helped Team USA earn a critical point, sinking a 100-foot putt to rattle his European Tour veteran opponent on his way to a crucial victory that enabled a 13-13 tie between the teams and USA holding onto the Cup.
“He is just a bulldog,” Anderson said of Mitchum. “I mean Kelly is the guy you want in your bunker. He is not going to give up and he has a great short game. You hit a bad shot and he is going to get it up and down, guaranteed. Kelly won the Carolinas PGA Championship shooting a 63 on a tough golf course. I could not ask for a better partner.”
Mitchum, a lead instructor at Pinehurst’s Golf Academy, is no stranger to competing on a large scale. He has played in four PGA Championships, was entered in two PGA Tour events this year, and recently won his fifth Carolinas PGA Championship. Mitchum was a four-time All-American at N.C. State, won the 1991 ACC Championship and the 1993 North & South Amateur.
With past PGA Professional National Champions Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., and Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, being knocked out in the first two Sunday matches, the U.S. hopes began to wane until Mitchum, 42, drew upon his 1993 Walker Cup and 1992 U.S. Amateur semifinal experience against Hutcheon, who has made 97 European Tour starts.
Mitchum’s magic moment came at the 412-yard 12th hole, where he had to make a penalty drop from an unplayable lie and hit a 165-yard 7-iron from the rough to the front edge of the green. From there, he ran home an estimated 100-foot par putt that crashed the flagstick and dropped into the hole. It so unnerved Hutcheon, that he three-putted from 30 feet. Mitchum went 2-up with a 10-foot birdie at 16, before closing Hutcheon out at 17 after the Scotsman left his third shot in a greenside bunker.
“It was an amazing turnaround,” said Mitchum. “I guess the putt was about 100 feet. My opponent thought he had a two-putt to win the hole. I could not be more proud of the guys. Everyone here tried their guts out.”
The PGA of America’s Bob Denney contributed to this article.
Sunday Singles results:
Benn Barham, Kent, GB&I, def. Mike Small, USA, 4&3
Richard Wallis, GB&I, def. Bob Sowards, USA, 3&2
Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Greig Hutcheon, GB&I, 2&1
JC Anderson, USA, vs. Scott Henderson, GB&I, halved
Gareth Wright, GB&I, def. Jeff Sorenson, USA, 2&1
Graham Fox, GB&I, def. Rod Perry, USA, 3&2
Dan Greenwood, GB&I, def. Matt Dobyns, USA, 1-up
Ryan Polzin, USA, def. David Callaway, GB&I, 3&2
Nick Brennan, GB&I, def. Chip Sullivan, USA, 2&1
Jon Barnes, GB&I, def. Mark Sheftic, USA, 3&2
GB&I 7 1/2, USA 2 1/2
FINAL TOTAL: UNITED STATES 13, GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND 13
Saturday Morning Foursomes results:
Greig Hutcheon/Scott Henderson, GB&I, def. Matt Dobyns/Ryan Polzin, USA, 1-up
Rod Perry/Jeff Sorenson, USA, vs. Dan Greenwood/Benn Barham, GB&I, halved
JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Graham Fox/Jonathan Barnes, GB&I, 5&4
Bob Sowards/Mike Small, USA, vs. Richard Wallis/Gareth Wright, GB&I, halved
USA 2, GB&I 2
Saturday Afternoon Four-Balls results:
Scott Henderson/Greig Hutcheon, GB&I, def. JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, 6&5
Matt Dobyns/Ryan Polzin, USA, vs. Dan Greenwood/Benn Barham, GB&I, halved
Chip Sullivan/Mark Sheftic, USA, def. Graham Fox/David Callaway, GB&I, 3&2
Rod Perry/Jeff Sorenson, USA, def. Nick Brennan/Gareth Wright, 3&2
USA 2 1/2, GB&I 1 1/2
SATURDAY TOTAL: USA 4 1/2, GB&I 3 1/2
TWO-DAY TOTAL: USA 10 1/2, GB&I 5 1/2
Friday Morning Foursomes results:
Gareth Wright/Richard Wallis, GB&I, def. Mark Sheftic/Chip Sullivan, 3&2
JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Benn Barham/David Callaway, GB&I, 4&3
Graham Fox/Jonathan Barnes, GB&I, def. Rod Perry/Jeff Sorenson, USA, 2-up
Bob Sowards/Mike Small, USA, def. Greig Hutcheon/Scott Henderson, GB&I, 5&4
USA 2, GB&I 2
Friday Afternoon Four-Balls results:
Matt Dobyns/Ryan Polzin, USA, def. Gareth Wright/Richard Wallis, GB&I, 3&2
Mark Sheftic/Chip Sullivan, USA, def. Benn Barham/David Callaway, GB&I, 3&2
JC Anderson/Kelly Mitchum, USA, def. Nick Brennan/David Greenwood, GB&I, 6&5
Bob Sowards/Mike Small, USA, def. Greig Hutcheon/Graham Fox, GB&I, 2-up
USA 4, GB&I 0
FRIDAY TOTAL: USA 6, GB&I 2