With swashbuckling play and a short game that brought back 20-year-old memories of another young Spaniard named Ballesteros, 19-year-old Sergio Garcia, the reigning British Amateur Champion, handily defeated Texan Hank Kuehne 6 and 4 to win the second annual Georgia Cup Monday.
The event, hosted by the Golf Club of Georgia (site of the PGA Senior Tour's Nationwide Championship) in suburban Atlanta, pits the British Amateur Champion against the current U.S. Amateur Champion in an 18-hole match the club calls, "a warm up for Augusta."
Garcia had a medal round of three-under-par going when Kuehne conceded the match after three-putting the par-3 14th for bogey.
"This is a very good event, and a great preparation for Augusta," Garcia said. "The course is wonderful and the greens are fast."
When asked how it felt to be going to Augusta as a 19-year-old, the first teenage Spaniard to be invited to the Masters since Ballesteros, Garcia said, "It's unbelievable. I have no words for it."
He didn't need words on the golf course. With two birdies in the first five holes, Garcia set the tone early. On the sixth, a 203-yard par-3 over water, with the hole cut precariously close to the pond, Garcia hit a 6-iron shot that drew into the center of the green, caught a slope, and rolled to within six inches of the cup. The match was, for all practical purposes, over.
"If Sergio hadn't hit it so close, my shot would have been pretty good," said Kuehne after hitting 7-iron onto the sixth green and missing his birdie attempt. "I mean, I didn't hit it in the water, and I'm on the green." Then he shrugged and smiled as if to say 'What more can you do?'
When the two players shook hands on the 14th after Garcia had chipped to within tap-in range for par, Kuehne said, "I wish I could have made this (match) a little longer, but when you're up against a player with Sergio's talent, you have to be at your best."