HUANG TAKES U.S. CUP TITLE; RICHARDS ENDS GULYCH’S REIGN
Of all the places that the United States Golf Teachers Cup has been played in its previous 23 years, it would be difficult to say that there was a more beautiful setting than the 2019 edition featured. Sedona, Arizona, was the venue for the 24th playing of the USGTF’s national championship event, held this past October at Oakcreek Country Club. Participants from all over the
country and several international competitors teed it up at the Robert Trent Jones design.
Shouting (Hunter) Huang, from Atlanta, Georgia, staged an incredible rally the final day to win the U.S. Cup for the first time, overtaking first-round leader and seven-time champion Mark Harman with a brilliant final nine-hole score of 31, allowing him to edge runner-up Jose Esteves of uerto Rico by two shots. Huang finished with scores of 75-68 – 143 in taking down top honors.
Most of the field struggled to put a good score on the board the first day, with Harman leading the pack at 74. Huang and Esteves, along with Costa Rica’s Alejandro Duque, were a stroke back at 75.
“I got off to a slow start as I was three over for the first three holes,” remarked Harman. “When my 74 held up for the lead, I was surprised as the field was strong and the course was there for the taking.”
Duque fired a strong 34 on the outward nine the second day to forge into the lead at +1 for the tournament, a stroke ahead of both Esteves and Harman. Huang shot a pedestrian 37 and was three strokes behind, and although he birdied the par- 5 10th hole, so did his three closest competitors.Esteves made the first move when he also birdied the 11th and 12th holes and parred the 13th, taking a two-shot lead over Harman, and led Duque and Huang by four. It looked all but over for the latter two, but Huang had other ideas. Starting on the 14th hole, Huang ripped off his own birdie barrage with four in a row while each of his closest pursuers all had a double bogey during that stretch.
By the time he got to the 18th hole, Huang, playing with Esteves, had a two-shot lead over the eventual runner-up in a stunning turn of events. Starting on the 14th hole and ending on the 17th, Huang outscored Esteves and Harman by six strokes, and Duque by five. It was a display of golf that is sure to become legendary in U.S. Cup lore. “It was incredible to watch,” said Esteves. Duque wound up in third while Harman faded to fourth.
Huang’s victory capped off a fine season of play in USGTF events. He also won the USGTF Central Region Championship in August, becoming the first in USGTF history to win both a region championship and the U.S. Cup title in the same year.
Richards thwarts Gulych’s attempt at three-peat
Grant Gulych from St. Thomas, Ontario, had a chokehold on the United States Senior Golf Teachers Cup, winning the first two titles in an event that was inaugurated in 2017. With his experience and playing resume, Gulych was one of the favorites to win and certainly was in strong position after a first-round 71.
However, complicating the matter for Gulychand the other competitors was the presence of Christopher Richards from Trinidad & Tobago, making his first appearance at the U.S. Senor Cup. Richards also had a formidable resume that included winning the individual 2007 World Golf Teachers Cup championship and the 2010 U.S. Cup. Richards fired a first-round 70 that could have been so much better, but the Oakcreek course proved to be a tricky opponent for Richards. The Trinidadian managed to make six birdies, but two bogeys and a double bogey derailed what could have been a special round. Canada’s Dave Belling, a two-time U.S. Cup champion and individual 2003 World Golf Teachers Cup champion, lurked two strokes off the pace at 72, followed by Steve Simer at 73 and Michael Wolf at 75.
Playing together in the final round, Richards and Gulych both went out in even-par 36 while Belling was at 37. Simer and Wolf both failed to break 40 and no longer posed a threat. The contest was still close after 12 with Richards clinging to a one-shot lead when he engaged in fireworks of his own. A birdie on #13, followed by an eagle on the drivable par-4 14th staked Richards out to a three-shot lead over Gulych, and that effectively was the turning point. Gulych managed to cut the lead to one shot entering the final hole, but a bogey there ended his chances. Richards carefully two-putted from short range for his own bogey, sealing the deal. He finished with scores of 70-70 – 140, while Gulych’s strong defense of his title fell just short at 71-70 – 141. Belling wound up third at 72-70 – 142.
The Super Senior division of the U.S. Senior Cup was closely fought as John McGaugh from Calimesa, California, overcame first-round leader Daniel Lee from Kenmore, Washington, to win by two strokes with scores of 77-73 – 150. A four-way tie at 155 by Jim Perez, Ken Butler, Bruce Sims and Vito Cisternino highlighted the strength of the 60-and-over crowd. All were eligible for overall U.S. Senior Cup honors as their division played from the same tees as did the Senior division.
Longtime competitor Pat Church from Eugene, Oregon, and a USGTF Hall of Fame member, captured her first Ladies division title. Gary Focken from The Villages, Florida, fired scores of 78-74 – 152 to defeat runner-up Jim Peters from Newport, Kentucky, by five shots in the Legends division.
For the first time ever, a concurrent pro-am was contested in conjunction with the U.S. and U.S. Senior Cups. Players were invited to bring an amateur partner with them and compete in the same format that is conducted at Pebble Beach every year on the PGA Tour. Seventeen teams teed it up as the amateurs got to see their professional partners up close in a national championship professional event. A clinic was held after the first round, conducted by Wolf and Gulych.
Duque and his amateur partner Diengo Chou fired a two-round total of 129 in a fourball format that included the professional playing at scratch and amateur receiving 80 percent of their course handicaps. Focken and his amateur partner Terry Edwards also shot a 129, but lost in the tiebreaking procedure where the professional’s score in the final round determined the winner. Steve Fine and his amateur partner Cliff Armstrong finished third at 133.
Oakcreek Country Club was in outstanding shape and may well have been the best-conditioned course in the 24-year history of the United States Golf Teachers Cup. The bentgrass greens rolled fast and true, and the fairways were green and lush. Redtinged sand bunkers that contrasted with the hue of the grass, along with well-placed and well-maintained ponds, completed the aesthetically pleasing aspects of the course. Sedona itself is one of the USA’s mostvisited tourist locations with almost three million visitors finding the time to make the worthwhile trek to northern Arizona’s incredible scenery. Sedona features spectacular red rock formations and a high desert climate, creating a stunning beauty that many wll never forget for the rest of their lives. It was certainly a venue that lived up to its billing, and all participants who weighed in said it was one of the most enjoyable places they’ve ever played.