Both Teams Confident, Ready
By: Datzit Indaruf, Flem Cup Correspondent
MYRTLE BEACH, Oct 22, 2001 – Final match pairings were set today for the 2001 Flem Cup. The Cup, to be played in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the U.S. November 2-5, 2001, has taken on an international flavor this year with a full, eight-man contingent from England taking on an eight-man American side.
The match pairings, carefully watched by golf analysts and fans on both sides of the Atlantic, have proved relatively uneventful with one notable exception. Team England, in particular, appears to be taking the safe, low-risk route. Led by experienced co-Captains Ian Jennings and Joe Brook, a simple high / low strategy is apparent in all sixteen of its pairings.
Jennings, who has by far the most Flem Cup experience on the England side, has been at the top of his game since mid-summer. As a result, he has taken on the added burden of playing three times in four matches against American ace Jack Tanis Jr – the only player who has never been on a losing Cup side in any of the five years in which it has been played. In Tanis Jr., Jennings is not only taking on a very tough match but has also set up a rematch with the player who crushed him in last year’s Cup singles matches. In that now infamous match, Jennings, with a paltry 23 Stableford, was overwhelmed 5&4, shredding his credibility as a prognosticator and costing his team a record comeback victory on the final day.
On that day, with Jennings’ side trailing by 4-1/2 points going into the singles matches, it needed a highly unlikely 5-1/2 points to win the Cup. As Captain Scott Dow (Team U.S. co-captain this year) agonized over the potential match-ups, he was highly encouraged by Jennings’ confident prediction of easy victory over Jack Jr.
Led by a dominating victory by Joe Brook over eventual Stableford winner Pat Slack and Dow’s dramatic 1-Up victory over low handicapper AJ Karanikolas, all Dow’s side came home winners, leaving it to Jennings to disappoint the side and send them home losers. Although scouting reports have shown Jennings’ return to physical form, the psychological side, which remains untested, is often the last and most difficult to recover. He has apparently decided to “get back on that horse”.
The American side, conversely, has taken a bit more aggressive approach with a few unusual pairings. The Pat Slack / Lou Flem pairing (teaming up 2 of the last 4 overall Stableford winners) has managed to extract 2 strokes from the Brook / Ray Matthews pairing in the 2-man scramble the first day – the only scramble match on either day where 2 strokes are being laid. Historically, two strokes or more is always a tough obstacle for any team to overcome in a 9-hole scramble if the receiving team is remotely on-form. This was done at the expense of the Terry Neal / Matt Tanis pairing laying one stroke to big hitter Greg Matthews and his playing partner Phil Smith. The other two matches will be played even.
The second day saw the pairing tables advantage reversed as team England managed to gain a stroke in two of its scramble matches. Jennings and R. Matthews will be getting 1 stroke from Tanis Jr. and Slack, a pairing that has never lost in Cup play. In the other match, 16 year-old phenom Matt Tanis will be paired with Chris Tanis and will be laying a single stroke to Dave Richmond and Paul Miles – two Flem Cup rookies.
A few of the recurring pairings appear to be Tanis Jr. and Jennings (3 times), England low-handicapper Brook will be playing good friend and ex-teammate Dow in both morning 4-ball matches and will also meet old nemesis Pat Slack twice. Finally, Greg Matthews will be opposite American low-handicapper Terry Neal twice the first day.
The final two days will test the nerve and wisdom of at least one of the team captains. The trailing side each day will have the advantage of setting the matches, a significant advantage (as last year’s Cup well shows). Finding pairings that work as well as monitoring team morale and spirit is the job of the team captains. Dow and Jack Jr, Jennings, Brook and Matthews – they will each be tested during this year’s expanded Lou Flem Cup.
Our prediction ? Well, the American side seems to possess every advantage – familiarity with the courses and playing conditions as well as an overwhelming experience edge in the crucible that is the Flem Cup. With all of these factors working against them, the golfing world wants to know – does Team England even have a chance ?
Well, as veteran Flem Cup watchers well know, the Cup is not played on paper and past records can be thrown out. Expect a close, hard-fought competition that goes down to the last day and will, in all likelihood, be decided by some seemingly innocent (at the time) shot or untimely mistake. Cup veterans and rookies alike will have their mettle tested as they compete for the right to carry the Cup home. This paper predicts: Team U.S. by a 13 to 11 margin.