Kenai Golf Course took a 7 1-2 to 4 1-2 lead Friday after two days of the Peninsula Cup at Kenai Golf Course.
The Peninsula Cup pits Kenai Golf Course against Birch Ridge Golf Course in a team competition. The event was last played in 2014 under the name Walker Cup, at which time Kenai won to take a 5-4-1 lead in the all-time series.
Kenai won four ball 4-2 on Wednesday, then took the alternate shot 3 1-2 to 2 1-2 on Friday for the lead heading into Sunday’s 12 singles matches, which start at 11 a.m. at Kenai Golf Course.
Pat Cowan, the Birch Ridge captain, said history shows this event is far from over.
“We were up six one year and lost, and that was at Birch Ridge,” Cowan said.
Kenai would have enjoyed just a one-point advantage into the final day if not for a big comeback by Jason Woodruff and Todd Eskelin against George Stein and C.J. Henley.
In alternate shot, two-person teams play against each other, with each team alternating shots.
Stein and Henley stormed out of the gates, going four holes up after just four holes.
“We didn’t even get the ball on the green the first four holes,” Eskelin said.
By eight holes into the match, Eskelin and Woodruff were down five holes.
“When we went down five, I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball and had no expectations of us coming back,” Eskelin said. “He’s the one who said we still had a chance.”
Woodruff quit golf for 15 years before taking the game up again the past three years, but this is the first tournament in which he has played.
He’s taking the event very seriously, showing up two hours before Wednesday’s match to practice.
Friday, he decided to be more mellow, showing up just in time to tee it up, but his competitive fire was still there.
“After we went from five down to four down, I said, ‘You know, there are still enough holes left that we could win this thing,’” Woodruff said. “But those guys were so tough the whole way through.”
Woodruff and Eskelin won five of six holes to tie the match with four holes left, then went 1-up with two holes to play.
Stein and Henley then tied the match with a hole left.
On the final hole, Eskelin had a 7-footer for a par and the win, but blazed the edge. But when Stein missed a 4-footer for bogey, the comeback was complete.
Kenai captain Gordon Griffin said the match was typical of those played so far in the event.
“We are very fortunate to be up like we are,” Griffin said. “There have been a lot of close matches.”
Matches have been coming down to a few putts here and there.
“The putting is a different challenge here,” Cowan said.
While joining a chorus of golfers in saying Kenai Golf Course is in the best condition since it opened in 1985, Cowan did say the greens roll slower than at Birch Ridge and require an adjustment.
Another close match went to Kenai when Jerry Norris and Chris Murray defeated Steve Griglione and Pedro McCall 2 and 1 (two holes up with one to play).
Murray said the match was all square heading into the last seven holes. He said the match turned when Norris, who is 84, drained a 25-footer on No. 1 to put his team up. Murray and Griffin said Norris has the best short game at the course.
The Kenai team then won Nos. 3 and 4, and Murray closed the match by putting in a 27-footer from off the green on No. 6.
Kenai’s final win came from Griffin and Bill Davis against Jake Eubank and Max Conradi.
“Two seniors played against two young guns and the seniors had a good day,” Griffin said.
Birch Ridge pros Bill Engberg and Zac Cowan defeated Chris Morin and Charlie Kahakauwila 5 and 4.
Mike Hollingsworth and Trevor Baldwin also won for Birch Ridge, topping Rene Alvarez and Aaron Cooper 1 and 0.
The tied match came between Tom Reese and Kirk Hyman of Kenai, and Jim McWilliams and Mike Chenault of Birch Ridge.
Captains Cowan and Griffin both agreed the event has been great so far for building camaraderie between the two courses.
“We’ve got a small community and a great group of players at both courses,” Griffin said. “We need more events like this.”
Sunday’s singles lineup, with Birch Ridge players listed first, is: Darell Jelsma vs. Tom Reese, Mike Hollingsworth vs. Rene Alvarez, C.J. Henley vs. Bill Davis, Trevor Baldwin vs. Todd Eskelin, Jim McWilliams vs. Kirk Hyman, George Stein vs. Aaron Cooper, Jake Eubank vs. Chris Murray, Max Conradi vs. Charlie Kahakauwila, Bill Engberg vs. Gordon Griffin, Zac Cowan vs. Chris Morin, Pedro McCall vs. Jason Woodruff and Mike Rose vs. Jerry Norris.