1999 World Golf Teachers Cup
Location: Ballantrae Golf Club, Port St. Lucie, Florida
Individual Champion: Ken Butler (Jensen Beach, Florida)
Team Champion: USA
Scotland native Butler became the first foreign-born winner of the individual championship. Formerly a touring professional in Europe, Butler had his playing career cut short by a severe back injury after falling from a building. Fighting his way back to playing form, Butler became one of the USGTF’s best players in the late 1990’s and represented Team USA several times. Team USA won the team portion without much difficulty over Europe, Canada, and Korea. Scores throughout the week were generally high on the Jack Nicklaus-designed facility, as trick pin positions and hard-to-read greens made for difficult conditions.
It was a week full of anticipation. It was a week when the best golf teachers in the world got together at Ballantrae Golf & Yacht Club in Port St. Lucie, FL. to renew old acquaintances, share experiences, hear advice from experts in the field, and do battle for the World Golf Teachers Cup.
From January 25 through January 29, members of the United States Golf Teachers Federation, their affiliates around the world, and PGA members got together for the Third Annual World Golf Teachers Cup and Conference. The first order of business was the opening reception at Ballantrae, the club that would play host to the week’s activities. With it’s elegant, marbled entryway, Ballantrae seemed the perfect host for this most prestigious gathering. While feasting on the delicious array of appetizers, participants heard a welcoming address from USGTF president Geoff Bryant and received instructions for the week from tournament director Bruce Munch. Then, it was time for the official World Golf Teachers Cup and Conference photograph. Those who were adventurous before the sun set might have ventured away from the clubhouse to be treated to the serene beauty of the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course that is the centerpiece of the Ballantrae development. Stretching a mere 6,500 yards from our championship tees, the course looked anything but menacing on the night before competition.
But as our competitors found out Monday morning , looks can be deceiving. Ballantrae was anything but kind during round one of World Cup competition. Brian Lamberti of Westchester, NY and Savannah, GA set the pace, crafting a one over 73 on day one, despite winds gusting to 35 miles per hour and freshly cut greens that challenged the skills of our members for the entire week.
“I got off to a great start, but the wind played havoc with everybody’s game,” said Lamberti following his round on Monday. “It was a real swirling, abrupt wind that caused you to change club selection often. The worst thing that can happen to you on the course is indecision with club selection.”
Lamberti’s closest rival on the fist day was Stuart, Florida’s Ken Butler who finished the day at three over par.
Despite a second round score of 77, Lamberti continued to lead the chase for individual USGTF honors. Close on his heels after two rounds were Bill Picca of Oceanside, CA who shot even—par 72, and Butler who kept pace with a 77, along with defending champion Mark Harman of Pensacola, FL. The scene was now set for Wednesday’s final round of the USGTF championship with the low five players from each country slated to re p resent their international teams on Friday for the World Golf Teachers Cup team championship.
Brian Lamberti, 24, proved up to the challenge as he closed out the three day individual championship with rounds of 73, 77, 73 for seven over par total of 223. Mark Harman and Bill pica tied for second place honors with total scores of 226. Ken Butler finished at 229, and Martin Noletti, Jr. of Royal Pam Beach, Fl, who shot a tournament-low one-under 71 on Wednesday, rounded our the US team with a 231 finish.
Wednesday was a very special day in the history of the World Golf Teachers Cup and Conference. Speaking to the players following the day’s play was noted instructor Bob Toski. Mr. Toski was making his only public appearance prior to induction into the Golf Magazine World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame. Toski joined Davis Love, Sr. in this year’s class, and is the only living member of the Hall. The dapper septuagenarian kept the assembled teachers on the edge of their seats for more than two hours as he shared stories from his life as touring professional and teacher of the game. Afterward, Toski obliged any and all comers who wanted an autograph or a few moments of his time.
Thursday, the 115 competitors teed off for the World Golf Teachers Cup individual Championship. The course continued to take it’s toll as Ken Butler captured the title with a one over par 73 round.
“This golf course played much more difficult that any of us expected all week,” said Butler. “Ballantrae was in magnificent shape from tee to green, but it is a course where mistakes are not forgiven.”
The team captains for the World Golf Teachers Cup Team Championship, Geoff Bryant of the defending champion US team; Charles Clement, Canada; Peter Dunne, Europe; Sammy Oh, Korea; and Eduardo Ronderos, South America, were up before the sun on the final day of tournament week. The decision was made to play the championship under Modified Stableford rules with points assigned to each score on a hole. Under this format, bogeys were worth one point, pars two points, birdies three and eagles five points.
At the end of the day, the United States team defended it’s title with a total of 158 points, 11 more than closest rival Europe. USGTF Individual Champion Brian Lamberti and Bill Picca both contributed 33 points to the winning effort. Gerry O’Gorman of Ireland who also had 33 points led Team Europe.
“The winning margin on the US side was due to the tremendous balance on the team,” commented South American Captain Eduardo Ronderos of Bogota, Columbia, “They had four players with more than 30 points each and w e re able to minimize their mistakes on a pretty though course.”
“This has been an outstanding opportunity for spirited competition and camaraderie among the elite teachers in the world.” said USGTF president Geoff Bryant at the week’s closing ceremonies. “We are deeply indebted to the members and staff of the Ballantrae Golf & Yacht Club for sharing a worldclass facility with us for the week. The entire South Florida community helped make this year’s World Golf Teachers Cup and Conference a tremendous success.”