EAST MANATEE -- Not even a 38-minute weather delay could stop the United States in Friday's fourball (best ball) session of the inaugural Concession Cup at The Concession Golf Club in East Manatee.
Team USA entered the second day of the event tied with Great Britain & Ireland, but ended up winning seven-of-nine matches with one tie.
That gives the Americans a 12-6 advantage over the visitors heading into Saturday's finale - 18 singles matches - to decide the inaugural champions.
A minimum of 18½ points is necessary to hoist the trophy.
The United States flourished in Friday's format, which was a change from the opening day foursome (alternate shot) session.
Nathan Smith, who has played in four Masters Tournaments as a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, partnered with Todd White to earn a 2-and-1 victory, which was followed by Tim Jackson and Scott Harvey tallying a 3-and-2 triumph for a quick two points to the U.S.
Edward Richardson and Eoghan O'Connell secured the lone victory for GB & I, when they dispatched Patrick Christovich and Trip Kuehne, 2-and-1.
From there, though, it was all Team USA, as the teams of John Grace and Martin West III, George Zahringer and Vinny Giles, Chip Lutz and Pat Tallent, Jim Holtgrieve and Robert Lewis and Mike McCoy and Gene Elliott won matches to put an American stamp on Friday's action.
"This is a much better format for us," said Giles, the
United States playing captain. "Playing your own ball, playing a game you're more familiar with. I think we've got a lot of good players, and obviously, a lot of them stepped up (Friday)."
A tornado warning halted play briefly before the final three groups returned to complete their rounds.
The last two matches were the lone ones to make it to the 18th hole.
Elliott converted a sand-save to put the pressure on GB & I's James Bunch. With Elliott and McCoy, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champ, holding a 1-up lead, GB & I were in great shape with a short birdie effort.
That was compounded by the fact that McCoy three-putted, which meant Elliott's par-saving attempt was key to giving his side a chance at another full point.
"It was important to see who was away there," Elliott said. "If I'm away and I miss, then he can two-putt from right there. So the fact that I was away, I had to make the putt or else the match was going to be tied."
Following Elliott's conversion, Bunch missed.
"It was just a little inside the hole, inside the left edge," Elliott said. "All I had to do was stroke it and it went in. Every match is important in a team competition. We had them down two with two to go. Matt (Clark) made a 60-footer for eagle on 17 just to get to 18. All we needed was a halve on 18."
The final match of the day between America's Doug Hanzel and Paul Simson and GB & I's Maurise Kelly and Richard Latham finished all-square.
Latham knocked in a birdie on the last hole to get that half-point for GB & I.
But Friday's session was a demonstration in missed opportunities for GB & I.
"We've got to start holing putts," GB & I playing captain Garth McGimpsey said. " They are just so fast. We don't putt greens anywhere near that fast. And not as slopey. The two combined, it's very difficult."
Nonetheless, the few hundred spectators witnessed some stellar golf and the inaugural title isn't a lock for the Americans.
Team USA needs to win six matches and halve another at minimum during Saturday's singles session to clinch the victory.
"The good thing about this format is we've got 18 singles (Saturday)," McGimpsey said. "So you're never really out of it, albeit we know the Americans are very strong and the course is more suited for them than it is suited to us. American-styled golf course, tricky greens. You've got to try to keep the ball below the hole. We don't play that very often."