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Maryland Not Intimidated By Virginia's Deeper Roster
MARYLAND NOT INTIMIDATED BY VIRGINIA'S DEEPER ROSTER
For a man starting seven Potomac Cup rookies right out of the gate in the Friday morning best ball matches, Maryland captain Jeff Sheehan is unconcerned. "We're gonna be in their heads. They may have more experience, but we're getting shots to even things out. There's a lot of candy we'll be getting this weekend and we're gonna let them know that at every opportunity."
Sheehan conceived a novel way to remind the Virginians. "Candy" will be everywhere - literally. "We'll be marking our balls with M&Ms. Some guys will be handing opponents Reese's pieces before the matches tee off. With every shot they take, they'll see a reminder of the shots our higher handicappers will be getting."
The intimidation doesn't stop there. Maryland eschewed their normal red and white for a tough all black "third jersey" look. They have been loose and jocular, high-fiving each other after the national anthem. They are sending a clarion call from the opening ball as Captain Sheehan and Assistant Captain and team cornerstone Pedro Carrasco lead off the morning matches. Maryland 2-handicapper John Rhodes even disrespected former Washington Redskins Super Bowl player Brian Mitchell, who starts in his first Potomac Cup for Virginia. "I'm playing Mitchell this morning? I feel sorry for him. You can't tackle birdies, can you?"
The strategy has not been lost on Virginia Captain Steve Czaban. "We have depth 1-14 through the roster, but yes, those shots will help keep them in their matches. On paper we may have an advantage, but this is going to be a very tough Cup"
His team seems to have gotten the message. Quiet confidence and steely resolve powered them during the team meeting last night. "They are going to be mad after blowing a four point lead on the last day last year" said Virginia's Chris Huemmer. Huemmer is playing in his first Cup after missing out at a qualifier Last year by a whisker. He and his partner each took a soul-scarring 9 on an easy par five opening hole. A mere bogey would have vaulted them to the team. "This is redemption for us."
Still, the team is not taking anything for granted. "This is a strategic course where lots of shots can swing very quickly, so we' have to stay focused and pick each other up and be positive" echoed Assistant Captain Vance Welch.
Welch will be a critical player for Virginia. "He is one of the best match play guys in the region" said Czaban. Welch brings and 8-2 overall Cup record into his morning match. He and 2-handicap Doug Stump will be the anchor of the six morning matches, paired against Jason Masri and Brad Hankey, a 4 and a1 handicap respectively, but both Potomac Cup rookies. Ross McIntosh (3-1-1 overall) Adam "Signboy" McCaa (a 7-7-1 record and a dead ringer for the portly commercial actor) and Jim Flynn (8-6-1) also have strong career records in the matches. In a pinch, Czaban might call his own number. His 15-7-3 overall record has a huge advantage over Shelley's 8-15-1.
Two morning matches of Potomac Cup rookies may well set the tone for the whole weekend. Virginia rookies Scott Inman and Huemmer face Maryland rookies Thomas Bender and Jeff Dame. In the next match, Virginia's Bill Polen and Dave Gadinas were specifically paired to counter Maryland's Terry Norrell and Bill Millikin, who play together as a team frequently and have won several big regional handicap tournaments.
While Sheehan not only played his rookies early to calm jitters and "give 'em PT" he also kept teammates from qualifiers together so they would have an additional comfort zone. Czaban eschewed this theory, instead pairing teammates with similar length off the tee.
Six best ball matches in the morning will be followed by six alternate shot matches in the afternoon. Tomorrow six two man scramble matches replace the best ball format. Fourteen singles matches end play Sunday. 84 Lumber Classic venue Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Resort hosts the Cup matches this year. Ths course also hosted last week's Pennsylvania State Open. Media day play for the event showcased quick greens (11-11.5) on the stimpmeter and thick, well watered rough. Still, the wide fairways offer plenty of room off the tee, while shaved chipping areas offer short game masters multiple options greenside. Bump and run, pitch and check, flop, pitch or putt are all viable from around nearly every green. The course has clearly lived up to its reputation as the premier resort in the Northeast.
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