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Even a “Tie” can be Exciting!


Results -- Photo Gallery

The 2015 Kanza Players Cup came down to the last match, the last hole and the last putt.  Whether the East team retains the trophy or the West team takes it back would be decided by Brian Fehr making a 4-foot putt on the 18th hole at Topeka Country Club last month.

East Team - 2015 ChampionsThis annual spring team match play competition began in 2012 and pits the top eight mid-amateurs from the eastern side of Kansas against mid-amateur rivals from the west, the dividing line being Highway 75.  The East team won last year so the West team would need to secure 8.5 match points in order to win the competition.  An 8-8 tie would not suffice!

Round one of Four-Ball matches had 4 points at stake.  Newcomers Jack Courington and Spencer Christian from Wichita took on a strong West team in Josh Weems (2014 Railer champion) and Michael Greene and played them to a halve, splitting the point.   Two other matches finished on the 18th hole with a 1 up advantage.  Bradley Lane and Michael Rack secured a point for the East by winning 1 up over Zac Burton (2014 Public Links champion) and Grant Vollertsen.  But the West team of Tj Vilkanskas and Brian Fehr, both from Manhattan, outlasted William Gantz and Mark Terranova for a 1 up win.  The only less-than-18 hole match was a 2&1 win by the East team of Conrad Roberts and Kit Grove, both of Lawrence, over Wichitans Aaron Sheaks and Charlie Stevens (2014 High Plains Amateur champion).   The team scores were East 2.5 and West 1.5.

Round two of Foursome matches were played later that afternoon.  Play was challenging all West Teamday due to a persistent light rain and chilly temperatures for mid-May.   Burton and Fehr were in sync with the alternate shot format and took a relatively quick 3&2 win over Lane and Rack.  They then were able to cheer on their teammates Courington and Christian who secured a point with a 1 up win over Roberts and Grove.   In another close match, the East team of Greene and Weems, the two youngest players on the squad, dispatched veterans Vollertsen and Vilkanskas 2&1.   In the final afternoon match, the East team of Gantz and Terranova played well to secure a halve over the strong East team of Stevens and Sheaks.

So after two rounds of team matches, the score tally was tied at 4 points per side.  The 8 singles matches would be played the following day to determine the 2015 Kanza Players Cup champion team.

Two West players took care of business quickly and convincingly with 4&3 wins.  Aaron Sheaks defeated Michael Rack and TJ Vilkanskas won over Kit Grove.  Only 2.5 points were then needed to take the trophy.

One of those remaining points came in when Charlie Stevens won over Conrad Roberts, 2&1.  The hopes for another West point were disappointed when Jack Courington lost to Josh Weems, 1 up and then Michael Greene came in with a 1 up win over Grant Vollertsen.

With three matches on the course, the West team was only 1.5 points away from victory.  Spencer Christian earned a split point against Will Gantz, leaving two matches from which to tally the remaining point by either an outright win or two halves.  By now all of the players with concluded matches had arrived to watch their teammates.

When Bradley Lane for the West team secured a 2&1 win over Zac Burton, that meant Brian Fehr would have to win his match against Mark Terranova for the East to get to 8.5 points.

The Fehr-Terranova match now had 14 spectators as the two played from the 18th tee all square.  Topeka Country Club switched the nines beginning this year, so now the finishing hole is arguably the most difficult hole on the course with a tight driving area and an uphill approach to a well-bunkered severly sloping putting green.  Terranova’s drive found the right rough where he would have some mental interference from a low hanging tree branch.  Fehr was in the middle of the fairway.  Terranova played a hybrid club to the front of the putting green but still 40 feet below the hole.  Fehr played safely to the middle of the green finishing well below the hole as well.  Terranova’s third stroke was controlled by a ridge in the putting green and the slope took it to a spot leaving him a 12-footer for par.  Fehr, having seen the action on Terranova’s ball left his first putt four feet short of the hole.

So, with both players having played three strokes and the match all square, all Terranova needed to do was not lose the hole for the East team to retain the trophy.  But Fehr had the clear advantage.  He was much closer to the hole with a much easier line of putt.  Two putts by Terranova for a bogey would give Fehr a chance for a West team celebration.

Terranova knew the importance of his putt and took plenty of time to study it.  He applied a good stroke and the ball set out on its intended line only to narrowly miss the edge of the cup.

Final match, final hole, final stroke.  If Fehr makes the par putt, the West team wins with 8.5 points.  If he misses, his match is halved and the split point leaves the two teams tied at 8-8 with the East team retaining the trophy.

The amateur golf drama played out as Fehr’s good putt travelled on its right to left path to a certain par.  Fehr’s anguished groan with his head between his knees was a sure sign that his ball had played a cruel trick in refusing to find the bottom of the cup.   The East team had a celebratory smile but their reaction was more of a sigh of relief.

After four years, the Kanza Players Cup now stands at 2-1-1 with the East team having the advantage.  The good-natured rivalry gets better every year!