2015 World Golf Teachers Cup®
Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida
Individual Champion: Rebecca Samuelsson
Score: 70-67 = 137
Team Champion: Brazil
For an organization that has made golf history the past two-and-a-half decades, the World Golf Teachers Federation saw some more this past October, when Sweden’s Rebecca Samuelsson won the individual portion of the World Golf Teachers Cup at the Palm and Magnolia courses at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The first female to capture top honors in a WGTF event anywhere (internationally, nationally, or regionally), Samuelsson fired a final-round 67 after an opening round 70 to overcome a three-stroke deficit and claim the 12th biennial championship.
Brazil won its first World Cup team title with a two-round total of 736 in the format that counts the best five of six scores each day. In third place and trailing leader Team USA by 10 strokes after the first round, Brazil played solidly the second day, paced by Ruberlei Felizardo’s 69, and counted no score over 75. Felizardo finished as runner-up to Samuelsson in the individual race with scores of 73-69 – 142.
In the 20th annual edition of the United States Golf Teachers Cup, Bill Hardwick from Aurora, Ontario, continued a trend of Canadian winners 50 and over when he won his second title, shooting 76-66 – 143 to overcome a five-stroke deficit to fellow Canadian super senior Bob Richardson after the first round. Richardson fell back the second day with a 75 but still managed a solo fifth-place finish.
Samuelsson hails from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, and became interested in golf at the age of seven when her best friend was learning the sport at summer camp. Throughout her junior career, Samuelson played at the highest level in Sweden. There, she enjoyed modest course fees and free coaching once a month. “It’s inexpensive to play there so anyone can do it,” she remarked on Swedish golfers’ success throughout the professional game.
As a teenager, she was playing in a tournament when two girls mentioned that they were going to the U.S. to play college golf, and asked Samuelsson what her plans were.
“I had no idea about any of this,” said Samuelsson, “so I put together a resume and video and sent it to 25 schools. The coach at Florida International University was among the first to contact me, so I wound up there.” After graduating with a degree in English, Samuelsson turned pro and has competed on various mini-tours. She recently earned status on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour, for 2016.
Earlier in 2015, she attended a USGTF certification class in Florida. “I feel I have a lot of knowledge about the game and wanted the certification,” she stated.
In the team portion of the event, Team USA shot a first-round 362 and staked itself to an eight-stroke lead over Brazil and Canada. Korea, North America, Commonwealth (representing Great Britain & Ireland), Asia, and Trinidad & Tobago were also in pursuit, but were too far back to make a realistic run at the title. While USA and Canada struggled the second day at the Magnolia Course with 383 and 384, respectively, Brazil surged ahead with a 364, besting the second-best team score of the day by 18 strokes (382, North America). Brazil came close to winning the team championship twice in the past with runner-up finishes, first at the 2003 World Cup in Kissimmee, Florida, losing in a playoff to Team USA, and at the 2005 World Cup in Ito, Brazil, where the host team fell in the final match to Paraguay (the team championship was decided by match play in 2005). Captain Luiz Martins led Felizardo, Luis Menezes (2009 World Cup individual champion), Jose Machado, Mark Harman (1997 and 1998 World Cup individual champion), and Juvenilio Souto to the victory.
The US Cup featured another strong field as former champions Hardwick, Harman, James Douris, Grant Gulych and defending champion Dave Belling headlined the field. In addition, past Open division champion Matt Smith participated, as well as past and current regional champions James Peters and Carlos De Barros. Richardson won the 2010 Canadian Golf Teachers Cup, and 2015 Canadian Cup champion Brent Davies was also in the field, so the competition was certainly formidable. Hardwick uncharacteristically struggled the first round with a 76, leaving him six shots behind Richardson. Michael Wolf and J.T. Smart were in second at 71, with Samuelsson fourth at 72, followed by Felizardo, Souto, and Ed Williams, all at 73.
Solid final-round scores were posted by Samuelsson (72), Smart and Wolf (both at 73), but Hardwick came back with a temporary US Cup 18-hole record of 66 to win the championship. Perennial competitor Ricky Campbell from Trinidad & Tobago then broke the record when he fired a 65 after an opening-round 88 to set the new scoring mark, which could have been even better had he not three-putted the final two holes on the Palm course. Campbell also set a record for the best turnaround in US Cup history.
Hardwick also won the 2012 tournament at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada. Now 74, Hardwick broke his own record for being the oldest champion. Wolf won the Open division in a sudden-death playoff victory over Smart by eagling the par-5 10th hole at the Magnolia course. Menezes (73-75 – 148) earned the Senior division title with a two-stroke victory over Davies and Ted Williams. Hardwick won the Super Senior division, besting Richardson by three. Joe Bernat won the Legends division championship at 71-79 – 150 for a six-stroke victory over fellow South Carolina Grand Strand resident William Gunderman. Samuelsson won the Ladies division title over runner-up Mary M. Peter-Wolf.
Individually in the World Cup, Samuelsson took the title over runner-up Peter-Wolf; the Open division championship went to Felizardo with a three-stroke victory over Cory Morris; Gulych (75-69 – 144) won the Senior division with a two-stroke victory over Belling; and Bernat made it a clean sweep of the Legends division titles with scores of 78-75 – 153 to earn a one-stroke victory over Walt Abraham.