2023 Belvedere GC, Charlevoix, Michigan USA
The 13th Hickory Grail – Team USA returns to the winning circle
As the 2023 Hickory Grail, played September 5-8 at Belvedere Golf Club, Charlevoix, Northern Michigan, USA, commenced the European Team had won the last three contests at Machrihanish, Trinity Forest and St. Andrews. The aggregate score from the past 12 matches was a tie on 6-6.
Team Europe arrived, after some travel incidents, with 14 players including five rookies plus the fabulous Hickory Girls and William Tanner as honorary non-playing member. Team USA posted 16 names on the draft list with two rookies amongst them.
The days ahead of the Grail were the warmest days of the summer – temperatures reaching >35oC made practice days somewhat sweaty and a need for a post-practice cooling dip in Round Lake was imminent. Practice on the tricky William Watson design, from 1925, was necessary and well spent time despite the heat wave. The course was in sublime condition albeit being a bit green and lush with very true and fast greens. Belvedere GC sports a course that is relatively generous off the tee but if you find yourself on the wrong side of the fairway, or worse in the thick semi-ruff, the approach shots to undulated greens with run-off areas has a rather high level of difficulty to it.
Following Tuesday practice and the necessary cooling down dip in Round Lake we re-assembled at the golf club for flag raising, opening ceremony, team presentations and a Team USA hosted cocktail party to the backdrop of a glorious sunset. A truly memorable evening.
Wednesday was scheduled to hold two sessions of seven foursomes each but the weather gods wanted differently. A cool, grey and damp morning turned into rain and eventually thunder and lightning. At about 11 am play was suspended with the morning foursomes spread out from hole 15 to hole 9. Play remained suspended for the remainder of the day and the decision was taken to cancel the second session of foursomes and have Thursday see the completion of session 1 foursomes followed by fourballs. Team USA sailed away and won the foursomes 5½ - 1½. The fourballs were a tighter story but a sprinting Team USA also won this session but just barely by 4 – 3 making the total 9½ - 4½ going into Friday singles.
Friday greeted us with sunshine and clear blue skies, still a bit chilly but promising perfect golfing conditions. A strong start by Europe had almost eliminated the difference halfway thru before USA finished strongly winning the singles 8½ - 5½ making the total score 18 – 10 to Team USA. After three consecutive European wins, Team USA won the Grail making the total match series score 7 – 6 to USA. A look at the total score make Team USA look quite superior – and yes, most matches were won by Team USA, but most matches also continued until the last two holes making it exciting, nerve wrecking and fun.
The matches were all played showing excellence in sportsmanship – teams, pairs, individuals winning and losing with grace. This is what The Hickory Grail is about and this is why it is so lovely to participate in it.
The 13th Convivial Dinner took place that evening at Belvedere Casino, after which Team USA Captain Mark Wehring was presented with The Hickory Grail and Jenny Hunt the Ralph Livingston Memorial Medal in recognition of her effortless promotion of friendship within and between the Teams and her fostering of the principles upon which The Grail rests. The Convivial Dinner, in lovely settings on the shores of Round Lake, with a number of wonderful speeches was a perfect end to a perfectly arranged Hickory Grail.
The 14th Hickory Grail will be played at Rya GK, Helsingborg, Sweden in mid-September 2025.
Captain – Team Europe
Matches & Results
USA 18p - Europe 10p
September 8, Day 3 Singles
1p Rick Woeckener vs Jonas Fack
1p Jason Kronenberger vs Mats Elmgart
1/2p Ross Hays vs Olle Dahlgren 1/2p
Scott McAllister vs Nigel Notley 1p
Jerry Esselman vs Ingvar Ritzén 1p
Curt Sampson vs Erik Brändström 1p
Chris Deinlein vs Ulf Jagaeus 1p
1p Breck Speed vs Ben Burrows
1p Joey Piatek vs Mikael Martinsson
1p Peter Flory vs Christian McMillan
1p Marty Joy vs Per Salomonsson
Dave Brown vs Björn Petersson 1p
1p Matt Dodds vs Bengt Gustafson
1p John Crow Miller vs Jenny Hunt
September 7, Day 2 Fourballs
1p Ross Hays & Marty Joy vs Per Salomonsson & Erik Brändström
1/2p Peter Flory & Joey Piatek vs Jonas Fack & Mats Elmgart 1/2p
John Crow Miller & Mark Wehring vs Olle Dahlgren & Ulf Jagaeus 1p
1p Breck Speed & Chris Deinlein vs Jenny Hunt & Björn Petersson
Dave Brown & Jerry Esselman vs Ben Burrows & Bengt Gustafson 1p
1p Rick Woeckener & Jason Kronenberger vs Mikael Martinsson & Christian McMillan
1/2p Curt Sampson & Scott McAllister vs Ingvar Ritzén & Nigel Notley 1/2p
September 6, Day 1 AM Foursomes
1p Ross Hays & John Crow Miller vs Per Salomonsson & Jenny Hunt
Jerry Esselman & Marty Joy vs Olle Dahlgren & Erik Brändström 1p
1/2p Peter Flory & Mark Wehring vs Jonas Fack & Nigel Notley 1/2p
1p Jason Kronenberger & Joey Piatek vs Mats Elmgart & Christian McMillan
1p Matt Dodds & Rick Wolffe vs Ulf Jagaeus & Björn Petersson
1p Scott McAllister & Curt Sampson vs Ingvar Ritzén & Bengt Gustafson
1p Rick Woeckener & Dave Brown vs Mikael Martinsson & Ben Burrows
September 6, Day 1 PM Foursomes - cancelled
Jason Kronenberger & John Crow Miller vs Jonas Fack & Jenny Hunt
Ross Hays & Marty Joy vs Olle Dahlgren & Per Salomonsson
Peter Flory & Curt Sampson vs Erik Brändström & Ulf Jagaeus
Joey Piatek & Jerry Esselman vs Christian McMillan & Ingvar Ritzén
Scott McAllister & Dave Brown vs Nigel Notley & Bengt Gustafson
Rick Woeckener & Mark Wehring vs Mats Elmgart & Mikael Martinsson
Chris Deinlein & Breck Speed vs Ben Burrows & Björn Petersson