Chilly start, strong finish at San Jose for professionals in 31st Underwood Cup Matches

·6 min read
Jordan Batchelor of the amateur team drops a short birdie putt at the ninth hole of the San Jose Country Club on Monday during the first round of the Underwood Cup.
Jordan Batchelor of the amateur team drops a short birdie putt at the ninth hole of the San Jose Country Club on Monday during the first round of the Underwood Cup.

The professional Underwood Cup team gave themselves a fighting chance on Monday as a long, windy, chilly day at the San Jose Country Club lapsed into a calm but still nippy twilight.

"I had a thought it might be," said Amateur captain Steve Carter. "It was a tough day for both sides."

And it was one that nearly turned decidedly in the favor of the amateur team, which is seeking its sixth consecutive victory in the 31st edition of the First Coast's only team match-play event.

More: Steve Carter, Tim Peterson announce teams for the 31st Underwood Cup Matches at San Jose

Down 5-2 overall -- and with amateurs Jordan Batchelor and Jeff Golden turning in a record 8 and 7 victory over Hayes Farley and Aaron Russell in the first foursomes match to finish -- the pros won three of the last five matches and will enter Tuesday’s singles trailing the five-time defending amateur team 7-5.

As defending champions, the Amateurs need to win only five points to retain the Underwood Cup. The professionals need to win 7.5.

Clint Avret of the professional team bears down on a bunker shot by the ninth green of the San Jose Country Club on Monday during the first round of the Underwood Cup Matches.
Clint Avret of the professional team bears down on a bunker shot by the ninth green of the San Jose Country Club on Monday during the first round of the Underwood Cup Matches.

"I'm very pleased," said pro captain Tim Peterson, a PGA Life Member. "Alternate shot has been our weakness in the last few years so it was encouraging that we played our best golf in that format."

The biggest victory was by Jake Etherton of the World Golf Village and Josh Wolfe, a San Jose assistant, who topped defending JAGA Amateur champion Michael Smith and former Jacksonville University player Matt Kleinrock 4 and 3. Etherton and Wolfe birdied their first two holes and led by as much as 5-up to cut the amateur lead to 6-5.

The other pro victories in the afternoon were Clint Avret of Southeast Turf Grass Supply and Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth of Eagle Harbor over Devon Hopkins and Chris Henderson, 3 and 2; and Cary Splane of Marsh Creek and Blanton Tessin of Timuquana over Duke Butler IV and Mark Spencer, 2 and 1.

The only match of the day to require 18 holes and the last to finish killed the pros' hopes of going into singles all square. David Anthony made an 8-foot par putt at the ninth hole to secure a 1-up victory over Bob Wallace and Jeff Hanson of the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club after partner Toby Ragland made a 25-foot birdie putt on the previous hole to break a tie.

"Toby's a great putter and Dave has had a knack for coming up big in moments like that over the years," Carter said. "Those were two really good putts."

Batchelor, a past ASUN tournament champion while at the University of North Florida, was the common denominator on two winning teams.

In the morning four-ball match with Henderson, the two won 4 and 3 over Farley and Russell, shooting 5-under. In the foursomes match, which tied the all-time record for the most lopsided victory, Batchelor and Golden shoot 4-under in 11 holes and made only one score higher than a 4.

Batchelor's day was highlighted when he drove the green at the short par-4 14th hole and made a 30-foot putt for an eagle-two.

"Steve stressed grinding and fighting on every shot to us," Batchelor said. "But the pros have a strong team. They seem to be more connected and it's going to be a battle in the singles."

Recent renovations at the San Jose Country Club included the installation of a bust of course architect Donald Ross. The course was built in 1925.
Recent renovations at the San Jose Country Club included the installation of a bust of course architect Donald Ross. The course was built in 1925.

Other amateur victories in the morning four-balls were Butler and Golden, 4 and 3 over Splane and Tessin; Hopkins and Kleinrock, 6 and 5 over Carl Miller of the World Golf Village and Gerry James of Palencia; and Spencer and Kevin McDonald, 4 and 3 over Etherton and Wolfe.

Spencer made an eagle-two at the par-4 13th hole, using a 7-iron from 165 yards out. But it wasn't a conventional approach: he skulled it, with the ball landing short of the green and careening to the middle-right pin, hitting the flag and dropping in.

"The ball wasn't more than 10 feet high the whole way to the green," said the defending JAGA Match Play champion. "If it hadn't hit the pin, it would have gone clear over the green."

The pro victories, both by 2 and 1 scores, were by Wallace and Hanson over Anthony and Smith; and Avret and Connelly-Eiswerth over Mosby and Ragland.

The pros' strongest team was Avret and Connelly-Eiswerth, who have competed with each other to tie for first in the Northern Chapter PGA Pro-Pro, and against each other in the Chapter Match Play, which Connelly-Eiswerth won.

"Clint and I worked pretty well together because neither of us really had any terrible holes," she said. "We're both pretty even-keeled and we chipped and putted well."

The amateurs doubled up on the pros to win 16-8 at Timuquana last year and to take an overall 16-11-3 lead in the matches. They won by the same score in 2020.

31st Underwood Cup Matches

At San Jose Country Club

Monday’s Fourball Matches

Devon Hopkins-Matt Kleinrock (A) d. Carl Miller-Gerry James (P) 6 and 5

Chris Henderson-Jordan Batchelor (A) d. Hayes Farley-Aaron Russell (P) 4 and 3.

Duke Butler IV-Jeff Golden (A) d. Blanton Tessin-Cary Splane (P) 4 and 3.

Bob Wallace-Jeff Hanson (P) d. David Anthony-Michael Smith (A) 2 and 1.

Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth-Clint Avret (P) d. Nate Mosby-Toby Ragland (A) 2 and 1.

Kevin McDonald-Mark Spencer (A) d. Jake Etherton-Josh Wolfe (P) 4 and 3.

Foursomes

Connelly-Eiswerth-Avret (P) d. Henderson-Hopkins (A) 3 and 2.

Ragland-Anthony (A) d. Hanson-Wallace (P) 1-up.

Batchelor-Golden (A) d. Farley-Russell (P) 8 and 7.

Tessin-Splane (P) d. Butler IV-Spencer (A) 2 and 1.

McDonald-Mosby (A) d. James-Miller (P) 4 and 3.

Etherton-Wolfe (P) d. Kleinrock-Smith (A) 4 and 3.

Tuesday’s singles

8:15 a.m. -- Batchelor (A) vs. Splane (P).

8:24 a.m. -- Hopkins (A) vs. Avret (P).

8:33 a.m. -- Kleinrock (A) vs. Farley (P).

8:42 a.m. -- Henderson (A) vs. Wolfe (P).

8:51 a.m. -- Mosby (A) vs. Connelly-Eiswerth (P).

9 a.m. -- McDonald (A) vs. Etherton (P).

9:09 a.m. -- Smith (A) vs. Tessin (P).

9:18 a.m. -- Spencer (A) vs. Wallace (P).

9:27 a.m. -- Anthony (A) vs. Hanson (P).

9:36 a.m. -- Butler IV (A) vs. Miller (P).

9:45 a.m. -- Golden (A) vs. James (P).

9:54 a.m. -- Ragland (A) vs. Russell (P).

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Professionals give themselves fighting chance vs. Amateurs in Underwood Cup