U.S. wins inaugural Concession Cup

Event at Manatee venue showcases top amateurs

jdill@bradenton.comMay 4, 2014 

EAST MANATEE -- Doug Hanzel is an accomplished senior amateur golfer. The Savannah, Ga., resident won the U.S. Senior Amateur last September.

But what Hanzel didn't have the opportunity to do was represent his country in a team competition.

That was until this week's Concession Cup, and Hanzel ended up playing a vital role in Saturday's final session for the United States.

Hanzel clinched the cup for the United States at The Concession Golf Club in East Manatee after he defeated Great Britain & Ireland's Ian Brotherston 5-and-4.

Team USA polished off GB & I by a final score of 21½-14½.

"It's very special," Hanzel said. "The whole week's been special, but to find out you had the winning point is something I'll remember for a long time."

There was a lengthy rain delay with only a couple matches teeing off at their regular start time. The matches resumed in the afternoon, and the Americans didn't have much trouble securing the cup.

The event, though, wasn't just about winning on home soil. Rather, the Americans and visitors from across the pond were brought together to promote the game of golf.

Much in the vein and spirit of Bobby Jones and other amateur greats over the years, the inaugural Concession Cup was intended to showcase the top talents from the mid-amateur, senior and super-senior ranks that both sides possess.

Jim Holtgrieve, who played Ian Hutcheon to an all square finish in their singles match, has been captain at the Walker Cup and also played professional golf.

"I made a big mistake turning pro," Holtgrieve said. "Because I only went for the

money. And that's not what the game's all about. That's the problem with the young guys today, who are only going out there for the money. They forget about the respect of what this game is all about and try to have fun. So when I talk to guys trying to make the Walker Cup team, I say, 'Hey, if you are that good, you can always play professional golf.' If you have the chance to play for your country, it's a responsibility to play for your country. So I made a big mistake."

But Holtgrieve regained his amateur status, and now he was here promoting the spirit of amateur golf with the rest of the participants.

However, the event also was a competition and the United States reigned supreme. Team USA got off to a fast start after the rain delay subsided.

Mike McCoy, the current U.S. Mid-Amateur champ, earned a 6-and-4 victory over Edward Richardson, to complete an unbeaten 3-0-0 record for the week.

Robert Lewis, a 5-and-4 winner over Peter Hedges, joined Paul Simson, an 8-and-7 winner over Andrew Stracey, and Nathan Smith, a 7-and-6 winner over James Bunch, with early American victories.

Smith also had a 3-0-0 mark for the week.

"It was nice that I came down here, I guess, out of the winter with my game in better shape than I thought it would be," said Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champ. "It was nice to get some points for the team."

Those wins brought the U.S. within striking distance of hoisting the first-ever Concession Cup.

And that was made certain by Hanzel's triumph. The victory sealed a turnaround week for Hanzel, who as a senior hasn't had the chance to represent America in a team format.

"You have so much pressure not to do poorly, because you are letting the other guys down," Hanzel said. "I'll be the first to admit the first day, I choked. I choked. I was stressed and I choked. I settled down and played pretty good in the best ball, and then I played pretty darn good (Saturday). It's tough, because you know you are letting your guys down if you don't play well or win your match."

The tournament is scheduled to take place every two years. Details are not yet known for the next event, whether it will be held again at The Concession Golf Club or overseas.

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