HARMAN WINS 7TH U.S. CUP,1ST CGTF CUP CHAMPIONSHIP GULYCH REPEATS AS U.S. SENIOR CHAMPION
Boxing’s heavyweight division long ago lost its luster, but a heavyweight battle for the ages broke out at the CGTF/United States Golf Teachers Cup held October 2-3 at Ussher’s Creek Golf Course in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Mark Harman of Ridgeland, South Carolina, outslugged defending CGTF Cup and current World Golf Teachers Cup champion Shafiq Masih to win his seventh U.S. and first CGTF Cup championship. This marked the first time the national championships of the CGTF and the USGTF were played concurrently, with the winner taking home both titles.
Conditions at Ussher’s Creek were very difficult, as heavy rains soaked the course prior to the event, with the competitors literally getting no roll after their shots landed in the fairway or rough. Combined with the cool weather that limited the ball’s carry, the course played extremely long…not to mention the first round featured frequent rain squalls accompanied by high winds. Despite the heavy rains, the greens remained very firm and fast, adding to the difficulty. Fortunately, Ussher’s Creek was in outstanding condition otherwise, but competitors had to
be mentally strong to grind out a good score.
Harman fought his way to a first-round score of 75, good for a one-stroke lead over Masih. In what may be a first in modern professional golf history, neither of the top two finishers made even one birdie on their cards, with Harman carding three bogeys and 15 pars; Masih four bogeys and 14 pars. CGTF president Marc Ray was another shot back at 77, and Peter Jaklic was in at 79, the only other competitors to break 80. A final round grouping of Harman, Masih, Ray and Jaklic featured plenty of jabs. Masih struck first with a birdie at #2, only to see Harman return the favor with a birdie at #3 to go back up by one. Both players relentlessly put pars on the board while Ray and Jaklic fell back, leaving a two-man battle. Harman finally faltered at
the eighth hole with a bogey, allowing Masih to tie. Both players parred the ninth hole to make the turn at +3 for the championship. Masih was staggered at #10 and #11 with a bogey and
double bogey, while Harman went par/bogey to take a two-shot lead. Masih got up off the canvas to birdie the next two holes to forge a tie after #13. A Harman par save from 12 feet on #15 to Masih’s bogey after an errant drive put Harman one up, and after Masih missed a five-foot putt on #17 to make a bogey, Harman took a two-shot lead to the 18th hole.
Harman was forced to lay up short of the creek fronting the green on the final hole, a par-4, while Masih’s length allowed him to hit the green in regulation, leaving himself a 20-footer for birdie. Harman’s third shot from 85 yards set up a 14-foot par putt, leading to some drama on the last green. Masih’s birdie effort looked good all the way until it cruelly lipped out. Harman only needed two putts to secure the win, but delivered the knockout blow by making his tricky downhill putt for par and a final round 73 for a total of 148, giving him a two-stroke victory. His winning score was the highest since 2001 in a U.S. Cup, when difficult weather and course conditions also played a factor that year. “I was struggling with my driver coming into the
event,” said Harman, “so I adopted a strategy of choking down and swinging easy to keep the ball in play. I gave up probably 10 to 15 yards by doing so and left me plenty of hybrids for approaches, but it’s what I had to do.”
The 56-year-old Harman won his seventh U.S. title 20 years after winning his first, and his longevity is something he’s grateful for. “I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had any major injuries or ailments,” he remarked. “I’ll try to keep it going as long as I can.” Conor Hache fired 82-73 – 155 to finish third, while Ray’s 77-80 – 157 was good for fourth. In the Ladies division, Gurismar Badwal fired 78-67 – 145 to run away with that title over Lisa Monaco, whose 80-79 – 159 placed her a distant second. Badwal’s final round set an 18-hole record in the Ladies division for both the CGTF and U.S. Cups.
GULYCH ROMPS TO VICTORY
Grant Gulych of St.Thomas, Ontario, knows how to win. He is a past U.S. Cup and CGTF Cup champion, current USGTF Central Region champion and 2017 United States Senior Cup champion, among his many victories. He was the player to beat at the 2018 United States Senior Golf Teachers Cup, with the CGTF senior title also on the line.
His first-round total of 71 was a remarkable round of golf, given the conditions, and was good for a threestroke lead over the ageless Bill Hardwick, who at age 77 still has a clubhead speed of 100 mph and often shoots under par on courses well over 6,000 yards. Two-time U.S. Cup champion and 2003 World Cup individual champion Dave Belling was another two strokes back at 76. Past CGTF Cup champion and USGTF Central Region director Brent Davies was in at 78, with no one else in contention.
Gulych was never threatened during the final round as he built his lead to seven strokes at the turn. It was all over but the shouting, because historically when Gulych grabs a lead, he is as tough as they come, almost always sealing the deal. And he did so again with a final round of 73, giving him a five-stroke victory over Hardwick, himself a past two-time U.S. Cup winner and past CGTF champion. Belling and Davies tied for third at 151.
Gulych’s victory cemented his status at the top World Golf Teachers Federation among those playing in the senior division at these championships.
“The final round started off competitive, and my goal was to stay down the middle, hit greens, and make putts,” said Gulych. “On the second hole of the day, I made a 30-foot birdie putt, and I had a seven-shot lead at the turn.”
Perhaps his strongest asset is his mental toughness. “I approach rounds like I’m playing with the guys on Sunday morning, and that relaxes me,” he commented after his victory. “It’s the reason I don’t get nervous.” Gulych also excels at the strategic part of the game. “I always figure if I do three things, don’t have penalty shots, don’t three-putt and don’t make double bogeys or worse – I have a great chance to win.” He also has great help from others that make his success possible. “I want to thank my wife Sharon for her encouragement and support, and also Tour Edge Golf for sponsoring me.”
Vito Cisternino, a longtime competitor, won the Super Senior division with scores of 78-79 – 157 to romp home with a comfortable margin of victory over Greg Salazar, who fired 80-83 – 163, and past CGTF Cup champion Bob Richardson, who fired 84-79 – 163.