After being whitewashed 6-0 in the fourball matches on day one, Team GB's hopes of victory going into the Wednesday Singles of the 2017 Simpson Cup were slim. But they still had pride to play for, and they just about salvaged it, as the Americans eventually ran out winners by 13 points to 5 in a scoreline that belied a courageous second-day effort from the home side.
The Brits had never lost the Simpson Cup on home soil until today, and, with a historical cumulative points advantage of 35-25 in the singles matches since 2012, they will have been confident of at least snaffling the bulk of the points on a windy day at Royal Birkdale.
But, despite some early momentum, and tenacious battling late in the day, the 9.5 points they required were always likely to be a bridge too far, and, shortly after 1 o'clock, it was Texan Andrew Bachelder who holed the winning putt, seeing off Buxton's Tony Lownds by a score of 1 up at the 18th.
The victory for captain Shawn Whitmore and his men leaves the overall Simpson Cup series delectably poised at 3-3 going into next year's event at Maidstone Club, New York. However, for Whitmore, the future can wait, and he was rightly jubilant after his team's dominant performance this week.
"I'm so proud of my guys, and the way they played," beamed the skipper shortly before being presented with the trophy. "We spent a lot of time talking about game-plans, and they just executed from the first shot yesterday. Team GB rallied a bit today, but we didn't let up, and to win on British soil for the first time feels amazing. We've got such a great group of guys, and we're definitely going to be celebrating this one tonight!"
As for Team GB captain Paul Skivington, who went down in the final game against his counterpart, the disappointment was palpable, although he showed immense grace in defeat.
"I'd just like to congratulate Shawn and his team for the incredible golf they played this week," Skivington commented after proceedings had concluded. "There is no doubt they were the better team over the two days, and they thoroughly deserved their win. But I'm also very happy with my lads, and the mettle they showed today. We weren't going to go down without a fight, and it was great that we could get some blue on the board."
The day began with the much-anticipated showdown between above-the-knee amputees - and professional golfers - Mike Browne (GB) and Chad Pfeifer (USA). In murky, blustery conditions, it was Pfeifer who stole an early march by winning the first two holes, although the duo halved the next seven with some scintillating golf on display. However, Pfeifer proved too strong in the end, bringing it home 5&4 on the back nine.
The response from GB was immediate though, as Preston's Dave Hughes (2) romped to an extraordinary 7&6 win over Tuesday's hero Jake Nelson (0), and posted GB's first point in the process. One soon became two, as double-amputee Ian Bishop, playing in match five against the big-hitting Cody Boyer, trounced the American by a similarly-convincing score of 7&5.
The next points went the way of the Americans, as Ken Gestring won his game 5&4 against Rob Hansen, while Alabama's Billy Paul simply had too much for six-time Simpson Cup veteran Dave Ward (6&4).
With the Simpson Cup now effectively retained, attentions turned to the Lownds-Bachelder match, which had seen the former rally from 3 down after 8 to reach the 17th hole with a deficit of just one. However, he could only manage a half on the par five when he might have won it, and despite a remarkable bunker shot at the 18th, he was unable to convert the birdie. It meant Bachelder needed two putts from 10 feet to win his match (and the Cup), and he used them both before being mobbed by his delighted teammates.
With victory now sealed for the United States, there was a danger that the remaining matches would fizzle out. However, Team GB refused to throw in the towel. Although Chester's Alex Hiles went down (in a game where not a single hole was halved) 3&1 to Chris McCoy (while Nathan Blewer lost by the same score to Mike Stafford), Andy Stevens pulled off a sensational 1-up victory over 2016 US captain Steve Ogletree after being 3 down through 8.
Norfolk's Del Sullivan then chimed in with a 2&1 victory over Todd Tongue in his debut match, while Pete Wood bravely held off Chris Bowers to win 1 up in the penultimate match.
However, it was Whitmore who had the final say, winning the showdown of the captains by a score of 4&3, and it put the gloss on a week which both he and the rest of his competitors will never forget.
"From the moment we arrived, this week at Royal Birkdale has been unbelievable," he said. "The staff have been amazing, and we'd like to say a big thank you to all who made the 2017 Simpson Cup the exceptional event that it was. To John Simpson and On Course Foundation - what you guys do for us is incredible, and really helps to get our lives back on track. It's an honour to be a part of this organisation, and I hope many more people can benefit in the same way we have."
Echoing Whitmore's sentiments, we'd like to extend our thanks to all media, sponsors and staff at Royal Birkdale who made this magnificent week possible. Such an event couldn't prosper in the way it has without your help and enthusiasm, and we very much look forward to seeing you at Maidstone Club in New York from 22-25 September, 2018.