By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
SUNRIVER, Ore. -- In addition to the Walter Hagen Cup presented to the champion of the PGA Professional National Championship and the top 20 finishers earning an invitation to the PGA Championship, another event within an event this week was the qualifying for the U.S. PGA Cup team. And of course, the competition extended into a playoff to determine the set eight spots for the PGA Cup.
Chip Sullivan, the PGA Director of Golf at Hanging Rock Golf Club in Salem, Va., birdied the first playoff hole of the PGA Cup team playoff to gain a spot on the team.
"What an incredible week," Sullivan said after his playoff birdie. "To be honest, making the PGA Cup team means more to me than even playing in the PGA Championship. I've been fortunate to play in one before, but not in one overseas. I can't put into words what this means to me."
Also gaining a spot on the team in the playoff was Mark Sheftic, a teaching professional at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
All week, many players openly talked of their desire to gain a spot in the 26th PGA Cup which will be held at De Vere Slaley Hall near Hexham, Northumberland, England, on Sept. 20-22, 2013. Now, eight players are in and a few others have one last opportunity to join.
"It's awesome, it's overwhelming," said Jeff Sorenson, a PGA Teaching Professional at Columbia Golf Club in Minneapolis, Minn. who qualified for the team for the first time in his career. "Going overseas to represent my country - I've never been to the U.K. and to go there under this scenario, it's a dream come true."
Sonny Skinner, the PGA Head Professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., had not yet qualified for the team but still had a chance to qualify pending his performance at the PGA Championship, advised Sorenson "it will be the most incredible experience of your golf life." Skinner has played on two previous PGA Cup teams.
"This week has just gotten better and better," beamed Ryan Polzin when informed his second place finish would earn him enough points to make the team. "It's really beyond my imagination - it's unbelievable. Brad Lardon, out of our section (Southern Texas PGA) texted me last night and told me if I finished strong it would be enough to get me on the team and that it'd be an experience I'd never forget. Everything is just so surreal right now."
The PGA Cup is a mirror version of the Ryder Cup - in team format and in tension and drama - but with the teams comprised of top playing PGA Professionals from the United States and a team from Great Britain & Ireland rather than top Tour players. The PGA Cup is a bi-annual event that takes place in off-Ryder Cup years, rotating between home locations from both teams each year.
Qualifying to join the U.S. team is based on points awarded during the two years of the PGA Professional National Championship that take place between PGA Cups - and additional points can be awarded to PGA Professionals who make the cut at the PGA Championship.
The current points standings are below with the top 8 positions on the U.S. roster now set. Spots 9 and 10 will be finalized at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., in August.
1. Rod Perry - Port Orange, FL 5250 points 2. Mike Small - Champaign, IL 3675 points 3. Ryan Polzin - Houston, TX 2813 points 4. Matt Dobyns - Lake Success, NY 2500 points 4 Jeff Sorenson - Blaine, MN 2500 points 6. Kelly Mitchum - Southern Pines, NC 2125 points 7. Chip Sullivan - Troutville, VA 1875 points (won playoff tiebreak for 7th spot) 8. Mark Sheftic - Blue Bell, PA 1875 points (won playoff tiebreak for 8th spot) *9. J.C. Anderson - O'Fallon, MO 1875 points (spots 9&10 are provisional pending PGA Championship) *10. Bob Sowards - Dublin, OH 1710 points
The U.S. team will be captained by Honorary PGA President Allen Wronowski, who watched the proceedings of the past week with great interest.
"I'm really excited about how this team is coming together," Wronowski said following the release of the names who had qualified for the team. "We really have the right mix of veterans and young, talented rookies. All of them have proven their talent and will tremendous representatives of the team, of the PGA of America and of the United States."
The team from Great Britain and Ireland will be represented by 10 rookies this year - something that has never happened outside of the inaugural year of the PGA Cup in 1973.
Even more, while the surprisingly wet conditions of the 2013 PNC were a disappointment to some, Wronowski saw it as a perfect proving ground for this year's Cup team.
"Going over in late September, we understand that weather very well could play a big factor," he said. "I was able to see how these players performed under some trying rain and wind - and of course, I have every confidence that these players can handle adverse conditions and still play championship golf."
The United States team leads the overall series 17-5-3.
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