After two years of competing against the top PGA Professionals in the country, two New England PGA Pros have earned the privilege to don the Red, White & Blue this fall in the PGA Cup and Women’s PGA Cup.
Rich Berberian, Jr., PGA (Vesper CC) played his way into the top-10 in the Team USA standings over 2018 and 2019 to secure his spot on the United States PGA Cup team.
“To be one of the 10 guys on the team, 10 of the 29,000 PGA of America members, it’s pretty cool. It means a lot,” said Berberian, who is one of four PGA Cup veterans on Team USA after going 3-2-0 in 2017. “It’s a big goal to make it. To get back on the team, it’s so much fun. It’s a format where as a professional you don’t really get to play too often, if ever.”
Meanwhile, Seul-Ki Park, PGA (Winchester CC) clinched her spot in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup with a clutch T2 finish at the LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals National Championship in late August. With that performance, Park finished third in the final qualifying standings.
“The first hole that I played in the LPGA National tournament I was so nervous. So nervous my hands were shaking,” Park said of the final qualifying event. “Usually I don’t like to think about the position I’m in, but I certainly did because I really wanted to be a part of this inaugural tournament. It’s obviously something special.”
The PGA Cup is Sept. 27-29 at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa Fazio Foothills Course in Austin, Texas. Team USA will take on the 10 best PGA Professionals from Great Britain & Ireland in a three-day competition that has been contested every-other year since 1973. The United States owns a commanding 17-7-4 advantage in the all-time series, but hasn’t won the cup since 2011.
“It’s a format we don’t really get to play much, Best Ball, Four Ball, Alternate Shot, singles matches, match play in general,” Berberian said. “I know Great Britain and Ireland for the past bunch of years now, they’ve had really good players on their team. It’s always been a challenge for us. That’s what I look forward to is getting out there and trying to beat those guys.”
The inaugural Women’s PGA Cup will also be contested at Omni Barton Creek, running Oct. 24-26, but that’s where the similarities between the two competitions end. Rather than a head-to-head competition, the Women’s PGA Cup includes five five-player teams: USA, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and Great Britain & Ireland. All players will play individual stroke play in each of the three tournament rounds, with the best three scores from each team counting towards the team score.
“The setting there reminds me of college golf where you travel with your team, you practice, you eat, it’s going to be a lot of time spent with your team, it will be great,” said Park, who was an All-Big Ten performer at the University of Illinois.
“I think I’ll have nerves,” she said. “That’s just part of the game, right? When you’re stepping up and you know you’re representing your team and playing for the U.S. We want to win. That’s what makes us good golfers, we have that desire to win.”
Of course, team competitions are about more than the golf itself. Berberian knows from playing in the 2017 PGA Cup that there will be plenty of off-the-course time with the team, and longtime friendships are formed during weeks like these.
“You’re there for the whole week, you don’t have a car, you’re all in the same hotel staying one room away from each other. We all end up becoming pretty good friends,” he said. “It’s really good because the wives and the girlfriends get to hang out together throughout the week. They become friends for a long time and the guys play golf every day and then come tournament time, the girls walk around and cheer on the guys. We do everything together so you have to enjoy everyone’s company.”
The PGA Cup and Women’s PGA Cup do not include purses. The Cups themselves and pride of playing for Team USA in international competition fuel the competitive fires.
“It’s nice to be able to go out there and play for your country and not have any money on the line, just pride,” Berberian said. “It turns you into an amateur for a week, just playing to win.”