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GB&I PGA Cup Captain DJ Russell On The 2022 Matches At Foxhills
The PGA Cup is, if you like, the club professional’s answer to the Ryder Cup, albeit contested by a GB&I rather than European team still from this side of the Atlantic. It was inaugurated in 1973 and was played annually until 1984 when it switched to a biennial staging.
There are ten players on each team and the winning side is presented with the Llandudno Trophy. Since the outset, the USA have won 18 times, GB&I seven times, with four matches tied and honours pretty even over the last few stagings. Home venues have included Muirfield, Turnberry, The Belfry, St Mellion and Gleneagles over the years.
For 2022, the Longcross course at Foxhills in Surrey is the venue for a second time and former tour pro turned club pro turned course designer, DJ Russell, is the GB&I captain…
How big a deal is the PGA Cup captaincy for you and how did it come about?
It’s a real honour to be offered it by The PGA. It was a complete surprise. During the original lockdown period, chief executive Robert Maxfield rang me up and said he’d like to offer me the role. It’s an absolute privilege to be doing it. As a PGA member it’s my highest achievement or accolade.
You’ve done a club pro role as well as playing on tour, haven’t you?
I started off as a PGA assistant. When I first turned pro I was at Penina in Portugal with Henry Cotton. And when I came back from there I was at Kedleston Park in Derby with a chap called Gavin Christie. I did my PGA training and then became better at playing and went on the tour. I packed up playing in 1996 to take the job at Kedleston Park, which I honestly thought would be for the rest of my days.
Do you think your experience in the backroom team at several Ryder Cups was why you were chosen?
I think so, yes. The difficult thing is that I’m 68 years old and these kids are in their twenties and thirties, so the fact that I could bring in Christopher my son, who is more from their era, as assistant captain has strengthened my relationship with the team. And being backroom at the Ryder Cup you learn a few things about how to prepare the players plus different angles in foursomes and fourballs, that kind of thing.
Have you got a good mix of age and youth on your team?
Yes. My oldest would be touching 50 and the youngest would be in his twenties. I’m delighted to see the strength of the team – we’ve got ten very, very strong golfers.
Do you think enough club golfers really know much about the PGA Cup?
I think the clubs that the guys are from very much get behind it. I remember when I left Kedleston Park, Paul Wesselingh went there. He was playing PGA Cup and there was massive excitement at the golf club.
Do you have any players on your team with proven PGA Cup records?
Yes, Matthew Cort and Greig Hutcheon played in the last matches and know what it’s all about. And David Higgins has played in it, been on tour and also been an assistant captain, so there are three who have played before and seven rookies. They’ve been brilliant over the last couple of days [preparing at Foxhills].
How hard is it for PGA club pros to keep their games in tip-top shape?
Yes, it is difficult. In the summer, when everybody is playing golf, you’re the one who’s not playing as you’re having to open up the shop and close it. But I think that for the matches in September, they’ll definitely all be bringing their games with them.
Is the Longcross course at Foxhills a good venue for the matches?
It lends itself beautifully to matchplay. There are so many good risk-reward holes where there’s a real advantage to taking it on… if it comes off! It’s a really exciting matchplay course.
What is the best risk-reward hole out there?
The way I’m going to set it up there will be two or three really, but probably the 13th. You can get it up by the green up and round the corner, or you lay up way back and play a blind second shot. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve as to how to set up holes differently for the fourballs and the foursomes just to make you go for it or not go for it. Even 18, off the back tee that’s a big par 5, but you move it forward a bit and it’s a very awkward tee-shot that you have to take on if you’re going to reach in two.
The matches have been pretty even over the last ten or 12 years, haven’t they?
Yes, it’s a close thing. I think The PGA and The PGA of America have done a good job in keeping the tour players away from it. When I took the club job at Kedleston, I wasn’t allowed to qualify for the team because I was potentially too good – or perceived to potentially be too good – because of my stature as a player. And it’s right to be like that. I had the pleasure of watching all the team play yesterday and they can seriously play! Modern golf has changed quite dramatically with how far they now hit the ball.
The GB&I team
Matthew Cort - Beedles Lake Golf Club
David Higgins - Waterville Golf Links
Greig Hutcheon - Torphins Golf Club
Adam Keogh - Woodhall Spa Golf Club
Simon Lilly - N/A
Ashley Mansell - Clevedon Golf Club
Paul McKechnie - Braid Hills Golf Range
James Ruth - China Fleet Golf & Country Club
Simon Thornton - Tulfarris Golf Resort
Daniel Whitby-Smith - Drayton Park Golf Club
Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
Jeremy is currently playing...
Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft
3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft
Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft
Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)
Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response
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