Jason Woodruff hits his approach on the 16th fairway at Kenai Golf Course on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, during the Peninsula Cup. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Jason Woodruff hits his approach on the 16th fairway at Kenai Golf Course on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, during the Peninsula Cup. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai tops Birch Ridge in Peninsula Cup

Kenai Golf Course won the Peninsula Cup 16-8 over Birch Ridge Golf Course on Sunday at Kenai Golf Course, but the real winner may have been the Peninsula Cup.

The Peninsula Cup is the new version of the Walker Cup. The Walker Cup ran through 2014, with Kenai taking a 5-4-1 advantage.

Pedro McCall, a player on Birch Ridge’s team, gets the credit for bringing back the Walker Cup as the Peninsula Cup.

“It took someone to break the ice,” Kenai captain Gordon Griffin said. “A little ice had formed over the past few years. It’s a much better feeling right now.”

In a speech given before handing over the trophy to Kenai, McCall said he had been struggling with his golf game and had considered giving up the game all together. Since he loved golf so much, he intensely searched for a reason to keep playing.

“I thought of things that inspired me to play golf when I was young,” McCall said. “The main event I always looked forward to playing in was this one. It was like invitation only.

“I’d like to thank everyone for giving me the chance to be inspired.”

For Griffin and other players, the thanks went both ways because everybody enjoyed the return of the unique format of team competition.

“There was a lot of great golf and close matches,” he said. “I think we got to know each other a bit better. I’m looking forward to competing with Birch Ridge in the future.”

Griffin runs Kenai Golf Course while Zac Cowan runs Birch Ridge. The two were in the same foursome Sunday and brainstormed ways to get Birch Ridge, Kenai and perhaps other peninsula courses involved in more events together.

But there was more going on in that pivotal foursome than brainstorming. Kenai came into the day with a 7 1-2 to 4 1-2 advantage after Wednesday’s four ball and Friday’s alternate shot.

The new wrinkle in the Peninsula Cup is that each team can use two pros. Kenai didn’t have any pros, but Birch Ridge had Cowan and Bill Engberg. With 12 singles matches Sunday, if Kenai could take the matches against the two pros, it would be very hard for Birch Ridge to make a comeback.

Griffin defeated Engberg 3 and 1 (three holes up with one to play) while Chris Morin topped Cowan 7 and 6.

“For us to come away with wins in both matches was lucky,” Griffin said.

Griffin said if he played Engberg 10 times, he’d probably only beat him three times. Morin said he was just on his game Sunday, on course for a round of about even par before the match ended.

“It felt like it could go either way,” Morin said. “If I’m not playing perfect and he’s playing good, it could have been the same score in the other direction.”

Kenai also received a 3 and 1 victory from Tom Reese against Darell Jelsma, a 3 and 2 victory from Todd Eskelin over Trevor Baldwin, a 6 and 4 victory from Kirk Hyman over Steve Griglione, a 6 and 4 victory from Charlie Kahakauwila over Max Conradi, and a 2 and 1 victory from Jerry Norris over Mike Rose.

For Birch Ridge, C.J. Henley topped Bill Davis 4 and 3, and McCall defeated Jason Woodruff 2 and 1. Woodruff said he did not putt well enough to win the match.

“I felt like I couldn’t pull away,” McCall said. “He’d always come back with pars in a row.”

Three matches were halved — Birch Ridge’s Mike Hollingsworth vs. Rene Alvarez, Birch Ridge’s George Stein vs. Aaron Cooper and Birch Ridge’s Jake Eubank vs. Chris Murray.

In the Stein-Cooper match, Stein had a long, curving putt on the 18th green for the win, but it missed by just inches.

“It was tough the whole way,” Cooper said. “He had me for a while, but I fought my way back.”

Putting was decisive in the Eubank-Murray match. Eubank had a one-hole lead heading into No. 18, but Murray was able to win the hole.

“I made putts all day long,” Murray said. “It was the ridiculous amount of putts I made that kept me in it. If it would have been just ball-striking, he would have beaten me hands-down.”

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