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  • Alistair Tait

PGA Cup deserves Ryder Cup boost

DJ Russell will captain the 2022 Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team. Never heard of the PGA Cup? I’m not surprised.

That’s why it deserves a wee Ryder Cup boost.

The PGA Cup is the club professionals’ version of the Ryder Cup. It has many parallels with its illustrious sibling: it’s a biennial event played alternatively in the British Isles and the United States; it uses the same format of foursomes, fourballs and singles; and the U.S. holds a lead in the series with 18 wins, seven losses and four draws.

The difference is teams consist of 10 players and hardly anyone knows about it.

The event started in 1973 when it was an annual affair. The match switched to every second year in 1984. The teams play for the Llandudno International Trophy.

Russell will lead the GB&I team at Foxhills Golf Club in Surrey, where Scotland’s Albert MacKenzie captained GB&I to a 16-10 win in 2017.

I attended that PGA Cup. There weren’t many spectators aside from family members and a few Foxhills members out to see why their Longcross course had been taken over for a few days. It was the same at Slaley Hall four years earlier when GB&I staged a remarkable comeback. Trailing by five points heading into the singles, GB&I won the final session 7.5–2.5 to tie the match 13-13. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to win the cup. The U.S. retained the trophy as previous winners.

It was at Foxhills that I wondered why the PGA Cup couldn’t be held the same week as the Ryder Cup to give the event greater exposure. MacKenzie, club professional at Saunton Sands, agreed.

“It’s a great idea. This is a great competition. These guys can really play, they’re all quality golfers and they deserve to play on a bigger stage. I’d love to see the profile of this event raised, and staging it during the Ryder Cup would do that.”

MacKenzie’s team featured eight former European Tour pros, including 2008 Volvo China Open winner Damien McGrane. Omar Uresti turned out for the U.S team. Uresti spent 11 years on the PGA Tour. These guys were proper players who deserved a bigger stage.

Quite why the PGA of America and the Professional Golfers’ Association don’t incorporate this match into the Ryder Cup is a mystery. It would be the perfect warm-up for the biggest team match in golf. The PGA Cup matches could easily fit around the Ryder cup practice rounds. It would give golf fans attending Ryder Cup practice days more bang for their buck. They currently get little value. In fact, why anyone would pay to attend a Ryder Cup practice day is beyond me.

If need be, start the PGA Cup on a Sunday so the match is over on Tuesday afternoon, leaving the course free for Ryder Cup players. The trophy presentation could be made at the Ryder Cup opening ceremony. Imagine the thrill that experience would give to a winning captain and his players.

Staging the PGA Cup in conjunction with Samuel Ryder’s biennial competition would seriously raise the PGA Cup’s profile.

DJ Russell (below) knows all about the thrill of a Ryder Cup. Although a three-time European Tour winner, the 66-year-old Birmingham native never made a European side. However, he has plenty of experience of Ryder Cup fray.

“I was fortunate to have been involved in the backroom staff at four Ryder Cups with Bernard Gallacher, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance and Bernhard Langer,” Russell said. “I was also Assistant Captain at The K Club to Ian Woosnam, so I feel that I will bring a wealth of experience to my role as Captain in 2022.”

Not a bad selection to try to win back the cup the USA won 14-12 at Barton Creek in Austin, Texas last year.

#JustSaying: "If profanity had an influence on the flight of the ball, the game of golf would be played far better than it is." Horace Hutchinson

DJ Russell photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the PGA

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