THE first day of the Simpson Cup was played out in the harshest of autumn conditions at Royal St George’s, in Kent, where Team GB and Team USA finished tied at 3-3 after the fourball matches.
America’s Jonathan L James commented: “They warned me about the wind, they warned me about the rain, they even warned me about the cold. But no one warned me about the ice.”
Heavy rains caused a delay of nearly 90 minutes on Tuesday morning, and conditions hardly improved throughout the day.
However, in the face of the elements, the two teams of 24 injured and disabled Servicemen put on an exhibition of fine play at the classic links.
British captain Jason Evans, perhaps with his team’s defeat at Congressional last year, still lingering in his mind, got his men off to the perfect start as he and partner Tony Lownds put the first points on the board against his USA counterpart TJ Brooks and James.
Lownds holed a 12-foot putt for a fine birdie at the difficult 17th hole to round off a 2&1 win.
The USA responded in match two as Tim Lang and Andrew Bachelder had a bit too much power for Paul Swain and Mike Browne, eventually emerging with a 3&2 triumph.
The exchange of blue and red continued in matches three and four, with the experienced duo of Dave Ward and Ian Bishop adding to their impressive Simpson Cup records with a hard-fought 2&1 win.
Behind them the most resounding victory of the day saw USA’s Shawn Whitmore – who sank the winning putt in 2014 at Congressional – storm the back nine with partner Mike McCombs as they converted a one-hole advantage at the turn into a 5&3 defeat of debutants Kushal Limbu and Catterick’s Tony Boyd.
In the fifth fourball, Britain’s Jack Smith and Rob Hansen reached the 14th tee with a commanding three-hole lead. However, the wheels seemed to come off as the American pairing of Mike Stafford and vice-captain Steve Ogletree snatched three holes on the spin.
Smith steadied the ship with a crucial par save on the 17th to make it dormie one, but at the testing finishing hole Stafford holed a clutch putt for par from 10 feet to snaffle an unlikely half point for his side.
All eyes were then on the final fourball in which the lead changed hands on no fewer than eight occasions.
Nathan Blewer and Andy Stevens stood on the 18th tee one up and with a vital overnight advantage for their team in sight. However, they rather made a mess of the final hole while a quite brilliant up-and-down from Ken Gestring secured a dramatic half point that leaves the contest in the balance going into the final day.
The 12 singles matches commence at 8.40am on Wednesday, with the USA needing six points to retain the Cup and Britain needing six and a half points or more to regain the trophy on home soil.
The tournament aims to raise funds and awareness for the On Course Foundation, a charitable organisation which is registered in both the UK and the USA.
All competitors involved are members of the Foundation, which helps men and women who were injured, sick or wounded in the line of duty rebuild their lives; both through the opportunity to play the game and attaining employment in the golf industry.
For more information on the Foundation, click HERE