Spectacular Event, Splendid Camaraderie And (Mostly) Great Sportsmanship
By: Datzit Indaruf, Flem Cup Correspondent
MYRTLE BEACH, Nov 7 – The Flem Cup ended with congratulations, warm handshakes and even hugs as each team saluted the other for fine, competitive play and wonderful company. Including yesterday’s matches, which were played with at least the intensity of the first four days but did not count towards the Cup, Team England compiled 12-1/2 points to Team US’s 11-1/2 – exactly what was forecast in the (revised) Flemcup.com prediction of October 27, a result completely in line with the intensity and closeness of the matches.
Team England was congratulated over the intercom by none other than the pilot of their American Airlines flight upon landing at Gatwick and were met by throngs of well wishers demanding autographs and pictures with their heroes. Phil Smith, the Most Valuable Flem, and Paul Miles, who swept the individual prizes, were mobbed by adoring fans who offered undisclosed gifts and favors. Smith and Milo waved off such offers, saying only:
“We just wanted to bring the Cup back to everyone at The Angel – their smiling happy faces and all the free beer they’ll buy us – that’s all the reward we need. Mostly, though, its the free beer.”
In the individual prize competition, Milo completed a unprecedented run by cruising to the Stableford prize with 160 (worth a $200 prize), capturing a record 5 skins to bring his week’s total to 12 (2nd was only 5 by Lou Flem and Phil Smith) and holding on to a 3-11″ closest to the pin that he got the first day. His dominance threw the prize awards into an unprecedented series of “hand-me-down” prizes since a player is allowed only one individual prize. Although Smith tied Flem for skins, his 4′-10″ won the Closest to the Pin and he claimed that prize ($60) versus half of the $100 Skins prize. That benefited Flem, who ended up with the entire $100 skins prize. Although the 2nd place Stableford ($60) was also won by Smith (152), his Closest prize took precedence, leaving the 2nd place Stableford prize to be split between Scott Dow and Jack Tanis Jr. (144). The only prize not won by Milo was best Single Day Stableford where Pat Slack’s first day 37 was never challenged, giving him the only net sub-par round of the week.
In the marquee “grudge” match of the day, U.S. Captain Dow challenged England Captain Jennings to one final match after matches the previous two days each went down to the final hole. After a stirring draw in the first match when Terry Neal birdied the last hole to draw the Yanks level, Jennings had, of course, quickly jumped to a 3 hole lead after 4 over Dow in Monday’s singles but some spectacular play by Dow over holes 5-8 drew him even and the battle then seesawed until 17 when, with the match level, Dow pitched an 70 yard wedge 4 inches from the pin and made a curling, downhill 2 foot putt for net birdie to top Jennings’ par. Dow then managed a halve on 18 to claim the hard fought 1-Up win.
The stakes for Tuesday’s match was the England side’s Flem Cup winnings ($60) in a 4-ball with hand-selected partners Jack Tanis Jr. for Dow and Greg Matthews for Jennings. The roles were reversed as Dow and Tanis Jr. surged to a 3-hole lead at the turn with steady, solid play. From the start, Dow appeared a man possessed, focusing on the perceived slight by Jennings in calling him “Houdowni” for his spectacular escapes from trouble and calling many of his shots “lucky.”
By the 12th hole, the match looked virtually over with Tanis over a 4 foot birdie putt and Matthews facing a tough, 4 footer downhill for par. If Tanis made or Matthews missed, the score would be at 4 up with 6 to play, a nearly impossible deficit to overcome for the Brits. As fate would have it, though, the reverse would happen as Jack pushed his effort while Greg came through with the ‘must-have’ halve. Suddenly, Jennings and Matthews sensed an opening and took full advantage, winning 3 of the next 4 with steady, solid play as Dow and Tanis suddenly fell apart to draw level after 15.
The 16th – a long par-4 with a water hazard just right of the green into a strong wind with Dow and Tanis reeling – proved pivotal as Dow and Tanis had to prove their mettle as Jennings and Matthews looked to press their advantage. There, two solid pars by the Yanks got them back on track with a halve and after another solid par halve on 17, the match was won on 18 where Tanis’ par net birdie was enough to win the Grudge, 1-up.
Despite the controversies of Jennings’ club-throwing scandal and Dow’s alleged drink-buying scandal (both of which are still being actively investigated), the two warmly embraced as the match ended and spoke glowingly of each other’s play during their 3 days of nail-biter matches (each of which went to the 18th). Dow said that
“The only reason Jack and I won today was the extra stroke we got from Ian since he dropped one stroke today. I’m quite sure, in fact, that he would not have accepted the wager last night if he knew he was playing off of 5 today instead of 6 due to the slope adjustments while Jack and I stayed at 7 and 9. Of course, I didn’t know of the change either until this morning. I would have never taken advantage of that kind of inside knowledge while drinking beers in a hot tub, I swear! Besides, the handicaps had been published and available to anyone from mid-October so how can I be blamed for his oversight?”
In the other match that had Flem Cup winnings as the stake, Brits Dave Richmond and Stuart Trowbridge turned in solid Stableford scores of 33 and 34, respectively, overwhelming Americans Chris Tanis and Terry Neal. Although the Yanks made several charges, the eventual 3&2 victory by the Brits was never in danger.
Richmond and Trowbridge were, of course, the two Team England players affected in the alleged drink-buying scandal involving Team U.S. captain Scott Dow. Observers noted a visible change in the demeanor of both players the final two days amid rumors that they were privately incensed at Dow’s supposed “antics” but when interviewed after today’s match, they said that “Dow did what he thought he had to to get his team back on top – what any good Captain should do. We’re disappointed it affected our play and we hurt the team but nobody was pouring the drinks down our throats we have to accept some responsibility”. Richmond in particular played like a man possessed the final two days with a 33-33 – 66 for the 2nd best 2-day total of the week.
In the day’s final match, 15 year-old Matt Tanis – who scored the most Flem Cup points for the U.S. side with 3-1/2 – and Pat Slack defeated Joe Brook and Ray Matthews in a close-fought match. The England side was stunned by the poise of the youngster as he played solid, steady golf under conditions that would unnerve the vast majority of 15 year-olds (not to mention most adults). Captain Jennings had this to say about the youngster’s stellar play:
“Matt has a brilliant future and is an absolute pleasure to play with under any circumstances” (a view that was echoed by the entire England side).”
Despite the conciliatory tone on both sides, Captain Jennings simply could not resist getting in one final shot at Captain Dow:
“Today’s matches gave the U.S. team the potential for bragging rights and we wanted to make sure they had nothing to hang their 2002 hopes on. Knowing Captain Dow as I do, had the U.S. picked up enough ‘imaginary’ points today, he would have claimed some bizarre, moral victory despite the Cup ending yesterday. None of us wanted that to happen knowing, as we do so well, his capacity for gamesmanship.”
Next year’s matches are set for Ireland October 2-7. Tentative courses include Ballybunion’s Old Course, Lahinche, Doonbeg, Adare and Drumoland with the teams being based in Ennis. The Americans will be adding AJ Karanikolas – a very solid 4-handicapper and feared competitor – but have not yet determined who will be replaced (suspicions focus on Matt Tanis due to school conflicts). Whether that will offset the acknowledged edge the Brits will have in their familiarity with the playing conditions and course styles will have to be seen but early betting lines see the English side as a 6-5 favorite to retain the Cup.