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The Wall Came Down

Imagine Golf Club's Dermot Gilleece looks back on the newly reunited Germany's first international triumphy after reunification

Posted Nov 10, 2009 by Dermot Gilleece


Celebrations commemorating the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 prompt the question as to the first international tournament to have been won by the combined might of East and West Germany, after the country was unified.  Many observers will be of the view that it was the 1990 Soccer World Cup in Italy, where Germany captured the trophy through a 1-0 defeat of Argentina in the final.  Wrong.

German reunification wasn't completed until October 3rd of that year.  Which means that their first international triumph came more than a month later in the World Cup of Golf at Grand Cypress, Florida, on November 21st to 24th.

Bernhard Langer, the 1985 US Masters champion, created an improbably triumphant duo with Torsten Giedeon who, only a week previously, had failed to regain his European Tour card at the annual qualifying school.  They won by three strokes from joint second placed England, represented by Mark James and Richard Boxall, and Ireland, represented by David Feherty and Ronan Rafferty.  Nineteen years on, it is interesting to note the transition of both Feherty and Boxall into the field of golf commentary with the CBS Network and Sky, respectively.

I remember arriving in Orlando on the Tuesday of World Cup week, when news had broken of the death of the illustrious Irish golfer, Fred Daly, the previous day.  And there in the Grand Cypress clubhouse, Feherty, myself and golf-writing colleagues with some marvellous stories about Fred, gleaned from his time as an assistant professional to the great man at Balmoral GC.  As obituary material, it was priceless.

As it happened, individual star of the tournament was Payne Stewart, who displayed flashes of the genius which would win him the US Open title at Hazeltine National, the following summer.  With rounds of 69, 68, 68, 66 for a 17-under-par total of 271, Stewart captured the International Trophy by two strokes from second-placed Anders Sorenson of Denmark.  Incidentally, Sorenson's performance highlighted the extent to which the event was very much a two-man effort, given that Denmark finished back in 13th place due to the disappointing contribution of their other player, Steen Tinning, who compiled an aggregate of 299.

This was Boxall's only appearance in the tournament, but he acquitted himself creditably as a partner for James in that his aggregate of 280 was only a stroke higher than that of the Yorkshireman.  The perfect balance, however, was achieved by the Germans who had identical aggregates of 278.  And contrary to form, it was Giedeon who gave serious impetus to their victory surge with a third-round 65 on the Saturday, their best round of the tournament.

Feherty, meanwhile, proved that this was the most productive stage of his tournament career, by sharing third place in the individual order with Ian Woosnam, who would capture the Masters title five months later.  Particularly memorable was a closing, best-of-the-tournament 63 by the Ulsterman which secured a share of second place for the Irish.  In fact it proved to be quite a lucrative tournament for Feherty, given the values of the time, in that he received $52,000 for the final team position and a further $35,000 from the individual awards.  For instance, his reward for winning the BMW International the previous year was £45,820.  In this context, it is interesting to note that Stewart received $75,000 as winner of the individual title at Grand Cypress while he and Jodie Mudd had to settle for a relatively modest $25,000 each having been the fifth placed team behind Wales.

Apart from the triumph for a reunified Germany, this particular staging marked the highpoint of European involvement in a tournament which began in Montreal as the Canada Cup in 1953.  Never before or since have European sides achieved such dominance, filling the first four places.  Germany's success also provided the necessary encouragement for Sweden to keep the title on the Continent with a victory in Rome in 1991.  After that, the US regained their traditional dominance with four successive titles by the partnership of Fred Couples and Davis Love.

Still, Langer's enduring affection for it was reflected in an individual title win in 1993 and later, in his second team success, this time with Marcel Siem, under the new format in 2006.  By which stage, German reunification had become an established part of modern European history.

-Dermot Gilleece

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