The inaugural Bill Hughes Cup presented by SunTrust has set the standard high for the future.
The first Ryder Cup-style match between Jacksonville University and North Florida ended in a tie at six, with JU pulling out the final two singles points with monumental comebacks on the back nine of the world-renown PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
In the final moments of sunlight, sophomore Jessica Welch earned the final point for JU – rallying from a 2-hole deficit at one point to win 1-up over Mary Rodgers to earn a tie in the first meeting. That followed an amazing comeback by Carlie Gehlhausen, who capped the comeback with a win at the 18th for a 1-up victory.
“This was a great day of competition and we had some great performances from a lot of people today,” said JU head coach Jennifer Borocz. “I’m really proud of how we didn’t give up all day, especially on the back nine to pull out two key points that got the tie.”
With the matches tied at three after the morning matches in alternate shot and best-ball formats, JU got the first point in singles with Gaia Olcese running away with a 7 and 5 victory over Julia McQuilken.
The Ospreys got the match tied at four with Tess Huber picking up a 4 and 3 win over Natalie Schmett. Belinda George capped off an undefeated day for UNF with a 2 and 1 win over Francesca Yong, closing her out with a par on the 17th.
UNF got its critical sixth point a few minutes later as Kelly Alywin capped her undefeated day with a 2-up win over Christina Paulsen.
As the Dolphins trailed by two points, Carlie Gehlhausen mounted her charge. Trailing by one thru 14, Gehlhausen answered with a win at the 15th to square the match. Standing on the 18th tee, she hit her drive out over the water, slicing it back into the fairway with an assist by the railroad ties along the water’s edge.
Her opponent, Kelly Miller, hooked her tee shot into the water and recovered by knocking her third shot to 20 feet. Gehlhausen calmly knocked her second shot onto the front of the green and saw her 30 foot birdie putt hit the back of the hole and pop out, giving Miller one last chance. Her putt slid to the left at the end, giving Gehlhausen the 1-up victory.
With the matches sitting on the edge, Welch owned a two-hole lead until Rodgers made birdie at the 17th to force the match to the 18th hole. Welch, who had trailed by two early in the round, rallied rally by winning four of five holes between No. 9 and 13 to build a cushion. Welch was able to make a par at the last, tying the hole with Rodgers and wrapping up the matches with a 6-6 tie.
The morning matches were just as exciting.
The front nine alternate shot matches on the Dye’s Valley Course saw UNF take a 2-1 lead. Olcese and Schmett got the only JU win, racing past Rodgers and Huber, 3 and 2. Miller and McQuilken got a 3 and 2 win over Welch and Paulsen for UNF while George and Alywin held off a late surge by Yong and Gehlhausen for a 1-up victory.
The back nine best ball matches were wild affairs. Schmett and Olcese lost the first three holes to Rodgers and Huber before winning five of the final six holes, including the last three, to win 2-up. Welch and Paulsen earned a 1-up win over Miller and McQuilken with Welch rolling in a par on the par-4 18th after trailing by two holes early. George and Alywin picked up a 2 and 1 victory over Yong and Gehlhausen, with George two-putting for a birdie on the par-5 17th to close out the victory.
The annual event was named after the general manager at the TPC Sawgrass who has been a major contributor to both programs through the years with his promotion of junior and college golf. Even he walked away impressed with the action.
“This was a great day for both teams, a great competition and great environment to share this great game of golf,” Hughes said. “I am deeply honored and touched to have this event named after me.”
The Dolphins open their tournament schedule on Oct. 1 at the UNCG Starmount Classic.