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Kansas Golf Associaition

Manhattan Country Club Wins Its First Kansas Cup Title

In a final match every bit as exciting as the Ryder Cup (well, at least to the players involved), the 16 members of the Manhattan Country Club team rallied for a nail-biting extra hole win over defending champion Salina Country Club to win the 2014 Kansas Cup recently at Wellington Golf Course.  It is the first time since the Kansas Cup began in 1994 that Manhattan CC will have custody of the travelling crystal ball trophy.  Salina Country Club has now appeared in the finals 10 times over the last 21 years accumulating three titles and seven runner-up finishes.

A record number of teams, 27, started this year’s Kansas Cup competition with divisional play in order to determine eight teams to advance to the single-elimination playoffs.  After the quarterfinal matches, Manhattan and Salina were joined by clubs from Great Life-Salina and Wamego Country Club in the weekend “final four” held on what turned out to be a neutral site at Wellington GC.  The team from the host course failed to advance out of divisional play.

Both Manhattan and Salina won their semifinal match ups by a margin of 6-3 setting the stage for what on paper appeared to be a very even contest.  It was!

In the Saturday morning final contest, the first two point matches played all the way through the 18th hole all square, thus splitting the two points available.  But Salina took an early lead with a convincing 4&3 win in the Senior Modified Chapman match.  With one-third of the point matches played, Salina had a 2-1 lead.

The Open Four-Ball match point went to Manhattan quickly as Brian Fehr and Ken Goff posted a 5&4 win over Salina’s Chris Vogel and Mark Riddle.   That made for a 2-2 total tally.

Salina head golf pro Randy Syring was not available to travel with his team, so assistant pro Rob Carlson teamed with club member Noah Henson.  They pulled off an impressive 1 up win over MCC head pro Blake Graham, his first season in that post, and his assistant pro Scott Wempe.  That gave Salina a narrow 3-2 lead but only two points from a team victory.

Veteran senior golfer and interim team captain Frank Roth posted a 4&2 win for Salina in the Senior Singles match giving the defending champions a 4-2 lead.  Only one more point was need out of the remaining three matches to secure a successful title defense.

All eyes were focused on the two Net Four-Ball match points.  The Manhattan team of Ben Burton and Ken Woods never trailed in their match with Salina’s Jeff Wells and Todd Koland.  They built a 3 up lead through 12 holes and then held on to post a 2&1 win.  That made the team total 4-3 in favor of Salina with only two points remaining.

Manhattan’s Zac Burton was leading in his Singles match against Bob Vidricksen, a senior playing in the Open Singles match, but not running away with it.  Through 15 holes Burton held a slim 1 up lead.

Manhattan’s only hope was placed on the shoulders of the Senior Net Four-Ball team of Tom Vilkanskas and Chris Barr.  Knowing how important that match point was, the entire field of players convened to followed that critical match.  Salina’s team of Marty Simpson and Craig Renfro won the 13th and 14th holes to take a 2 up lead.  The next two holes, 15 and 16, were halved with no handicap strokes available for any of the four players.  Vilkanskas would be the only player in the match with a handicap stroke available on the final two holes.  On #17, a difficult par three with a small and severely sloping putting green, Barr won the hole with a par, cutting the Salina lead in half.  The final hole drama came down to how well Vilkanskas could play the par four #18 hole.  Renfro made his par for Salina.  Vilkanskas managed to find the putting green in two strokes.  All he needed to do was two-putt from 20 feet below the hole and his “net 3” would win the hole and tie the match point.  That’s a lot of pressure for a senior with an 11 handicap!   But, no problem.  His first putt was close enough to the hole that the fourth stroke was conceded.  Splitting the point put the total at Salina 4.5 and Manhattan 3.5.

The only match left on the golf course was the Burton-Vidricksen duel.  Vidricksen won the 16th hole with a birdie to square the match but then Burton came back with a par at #17 to regain his 1 up advantage.  If Burton could win or halve the final hole, then a playoff would be needed to determine the Kansas Cup champion.

Thirty teammates nervously watched as Burton failed to get up and down from over the 18th green.  His bogey might give Salina the one-half point they needed if Vidricksen could get his chip close enough to make a par.  But his shot was difficult and from slightly above the hole.  It ran away from him giving him a par-saving, point tying, title-winning putt of 15 feet.  As Vidricksen’s putt made its way to the hole he walked after it only to see it grab the right lip of the hole and be rejected to the left.  The match point to Manhattan put the teams in a 4.5-4.5 tie.

Three of the matches were then assigned to play a sudden-death extra hole match and the team to first win two of the points is declared the champion.

Despite having lost a lopsided Senior Modified Chapman match, Manhattan’s Steve Kaup and John Butler birdied the first hole of their point, which had been played earlier in the day so that a Manhattan player could depart for home and family obligations.

Salina’s Chris Vogel and Mark Riddle performed the same reversal of fortune in the point from the Open Four-Ball Match.  Vogel birdied the first hole.

That brought it all down to the Burton-Vidricksen point.  The two top players started from the #1 hole.  Vidricksen made a two-putt par and had to hold his breath as Burton attempted a birdie putt from only six feet.  Burton’s putt was knocked off line by a “mystery bounce” so the two headed to the second tee.

Again Vidricksen made a two-putt par and had to endure the sight of Burton running in a three-footer for birdie.  But too much break and too little speed took Burton’s “victory putt” to the low side of the hole.  So, off to the third extra hole.

This time neither player managed to find the putting surface after two strokes.  Vidricksen was away and played first.  Shockingly, his third stroke failed to advance the ball to the green.  He made a bogey five.  All Burton had to do was get his third shot close and make a par.  He did.  Victorious hugs and high-fives all around for the men from Manhattan!

Congratulations to Manhattan Country Club on the occasion of the club’s first Kansas Cup title.  It was an inspiring team effort and exciting conclusion to a very sporting match between two great teams.