Americans running away with Concession Cup

EAST MANATEE -- Vinny Giles message to his team was direct.

"This is their format," the United States captain recalled from the morning pep talk.

Well, it played out differently for Team USA after Thursday's opening session of the biennial Concession Cup.

The Americans are ahead 8-1 after Thursday's foursomes, which is better known as alternate shot -- a format typically favoring players from across the pond -- against Great Britain and Ireland in the second edition of the event at The Concession Golf Club in East Manatee.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself, but it would be like the Ryder Cup from a couple years ago in Chicago for them to come back," Giles said. "Too far behind."

The key was the quick start for Team USA coupled with GB&I struggling with The Concession's undulating, quick greens.

The event, which pits two 18-player teams comprised of eight mid-amateurs, eight se

nior amateurs and two super senior amateurs against each other in a race to hold the Concession Cup trophy after Saturday's singles format, saw Team USA peel off three early victories by comfortable margins.

Scott Harvey, fresh off winning the Carolinas Mid-Amateur, and partner Mike McCoy rattled off a 5-and-3 victory over James Bunch and Pat Murray.

Their win, though, was spurred on by Patrick Christovich and Tim Jackson, who were dicing up Barry Hume and Matt Clark 6-and-5 right behind.

"We knew they were doing really good, so that motivated us," Harvey said.

After a back-and-forth front nine, though, Harvey and McCoy took a lead for good early in the back nine and breezed to an early point for Team USA.

"It's hard to make birdies out here," Harvey said. "You just kind of put the pressure on them just by keeping it in play and make them come get you."

Like Harvey, Christovich is playing in his second Concession Cup. His partner, Tim Jackson, drained a par putt on the par-3 fourth hole to keep the team with a 2-up lead.

"Keeping that lead active all day was huge," Christovich said.

Other American winners were: reigning Florida state player of the year Joe Alfieri and Sammy Schmitz

(4-and-2); Doug Hanzel and Jack Hall (3-and-2); Bryan Norton and Bob Kearney (1-up); Chip Lutz and Pat Tallent (4-and-2); Paul Simson and Brady Exber (2-and-1) and Giles and Jim Holtgrieve (5-and-3).

"We've got a really, really good team," Giles said. "This year we picked everybody right off their talent and it showed."

Giles kept the same teams together for Friday's fourball, or best ball, session. Tee times begin at 9 a.m. and the event is open free of charge to the public. Parking is free, too.

"We're going to try and play as well as we can play, and if that's not good enough then that's all we can do," GB&I playing captain Garth McGimpsey said.

McGimpsey added the short-term goal is winning Friday's session to give his team a chance in Saturday's singles portion. Team USA needs 18 points to retain the cup, while GB&I needs 18 1/2 points to win it for the first time.

"I've tried to work out the combinations with a good attacking player with a conservative player, if that's the terminology," McGimpsey said.

The lone GB&I team to win on Thursday was Ben Westgate and Mike Hearne, who earned a 3-and-2 victory over Nathan Smith and Todd White.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.