Golf: Controversy envelops US win: Tim Glover reports from Straffan, Co Kildare on a final day of frustration for the European team in the PGA Cup

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE United States retained the Johnnie Walker PGA Cup, the club professionals' equivalent of the Ryder Cup, completing the near formality of their 10th triumph in 16 matches yesterday. The score was 15-11 but it was not a bloodless victory and there were one or two casualties at the sumptuous Kildare Golf and Country Club. Nor did the locker room escape unscathed.

The Americans held a 10-6 lead after two days of foursomes and fourballs and, with 26 points available, they needed four from yesterday's 10 singles for an outright win. Their task was made mathematically easier when Larry Gilbert withdrew from the singles in circumstances of a Machiavellian nature. Paul Leonard, the non-playing captain of Europe, remarked: 'What was done was within the rules of golf but it wasn't in the spirit of the game.'

On Saturday evening Gilbert, a 49-year-old from Kentucky who won the US PGA Club Professional Championship last year, was two holes up with three to play in his fourball match with Bob Borowicz against Nick Job and Chris Hall. Job and Hall won it at the last. This was probably the last straw for Gilbert who, earlier in the day, lost a foursomes match against the same opponents after being three up with six holes to play.

When he walked into the locker room Gilbert vented his frustration in the time-honoured fashion. He took it out on the wall, thus creating employment for an Irish plasterer. American officials denied, however, that Gilbert, who hopes to play on the US Seniors Tour next year, had been dropped from the singles for disciplinary reasons. 'There was an incident but it was of a private nature,' Jim Awtrey, the executive director of the US PGA, said. 'I understand Larry was upset with his play.'

Awtrey added that early yesterday morning Gilbert was taken ill. 'He awoke at 4am and felt nauseated and dizzy,' Awtrey said. 'He took some medication. There is no connection between the locker room incident and the fact that Larry didn't play in the singles. He was keen to play because this could be his last chance.'

At 9.15 yesterday morning Gilbert told Pat Rielly, the president of the US PGA and the non-playing captain here, that he was unable to play. That decision soured the day.

A similar, and also controversial, thing happened in the Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island last year when Steve Pate was withdrawn from the American team in the singles. For such a contingency both captains place the name of a player in an envelope on the eve of the singles and if somebody withdraws a player on the opposite side is pulled out.

In the Ryder Cup the unfortunate European was David Gilford. In the PGA Cup the same procedure applies. When Gilbert opted out Leonard had no option but to inform Brian Rimmer that it was his name in the envelope and that he would not be playing yesterday.

Gilbert's match was regarded as a half. Europe began the day needing 71 2 points out of 10 to record their first win since 1984. 'I wanted all the matches played,' Leonard said. 'What happened did not help Europe at all. I heard from an American official that Gilbert pulled out because he felt he couldn't win his match. I feel very sorry for Brian Rimmer.'

The Americans won three of the nine singles, Europe three and the rest were halved. The par-five 18th, a magnificent closing hole with the Lake of Knowledge fronting the green, was a rich source for the United States and, in particular, Brett Upper.

Upper eagled the 18th twice on Saturday and did so again yesterday to seal victory against John Hoskison. John Chillas was two up with two to play against Lee Rinker but had to settle for a half after Rinker birdied the 17th and 18th. Mike Schuchart, one down with one to play against Chris Hall, also had a birdie at the 18th to gain a half-point.

Ryder Cup officials have been considering closing the envelope procedure. The Gilbert case will only strengthen the argument. There are two obvious alternatives. Have a reserve standing by in the event of a player having to withdraw or no show no points.

PGA CUP Europe v United States (Kildare): Europe names first: Day Three, Singles: D Jones lost to G Fieger 3 and 2; N Job bt T Wargo 5 and 4; B Rimmer halved with L Gilbert; C Hall halved with M Schuchart; R Weir bt M Veriato 3 and 2; T Giles halved with M San Filippo; P Cowen by R McDougal 1 hole; J Chillas halved with L Rinker; C Maltman lost to B Borowicz 5 and 3; J Hoskison lost to B Upper 2 holes. Singles result: Europe 5, US 5. Match result: Europe 11, US 15.

Davies triumphs, page 27