Eric Lowrey and Mike Saperstein battled through four tight matches and the result was the first-ever series tie in Championship Cup history!
All four matches were decided by exactly 2 points, which is indicative of how closely contested this year's Cup matches were.
With much better weather than last year's rtic chill, the 2010 Cup matches actually began on January 3, 2011. Saperstein took command of the short match at the Sunset Golf Course with an 8-Iron on the 121 yard 3rd hole that finished 3 inches from the pin! He tapped in the birdie and held on late, defeating Lowrey 8.5 - 6.5.
The next day featured two of the most amazing moments in Championship Cup history. While Saperstein took command early at Crandon Park, the match took a wild and surreal turn on the 12th hole as a marshall pointed out 2 crocodiles roughly 15 yards from the players, sunning themselves on the bank of the pond! Lowrey somehow shook off the surprise and fear to shortly start playing his most solid golf of the day.
Then, on the 20th hole of the day, on the 11th green, down by a point, Lowrey faced a 100-foot putt. Not only was it extremely long, but it was on an undulating green, had to traverse a ridge followed by a 5-foot downhill, anould have to happen in the almost- complete darkness of the late afternoon. While it was obvious that he would be lucky to even get this putt remotely close to the hole, Lowrey gave it his best. The ball at first didn't appear as if it would have enough energy to clear the ridge, but somehow it did, just barely. And once it did, it began to pick up speed. While it was definitely close to on-line, it began to get going so fast that it appeared as if it would go at least 5 feet past the hole. But amazingly, enough the line was so perfect that the ball cleanly struck the center-back of the hole and fell in for the incredible birdie 3. This was without question both the greatest and most dramatic putt in Championship Cup history. And considering the circumstances and match score, it's unquestionably among the top 3 greatest-ever shots of any type.
However there was still just enough light to play one more hole -- the par 3 12th, with the crocodiles looming! Incredibly given the circumstances, both players made par, giving Lowrey the memorable 15-13 victory.
With the series tied, the matches continued at the West Course at Inverary Country Club. Saperstein was strong on the front 9 and took a commanding 9-2 lead. Lowrey got it together on the back and pulled within 2 points, but missed 2 makeable par putts late that could have tied it, allowing Saperstein to hold on.
A storm moving West-to-East toward Fort Lauderdale forced the final match south to Crandon Park to escape the rain the following day. Though warm and dry, it was very windy troughout and the wind really picked up late in the match.
The match again took a surreal turn, this time on the 11th hole. As Saperstein walked toward his ball just to the right of the fairway, he suddenly stopped and got back in the cart -- a crocodile has wandered onto the fairway and was merely yards from his ball! As Saperstein contemplated whether he should play the ball or not, the croc got up on all 4 legs and began rambling through the fairway, somewhat toward the players' cart! Needless to say, Saperstein took the penalty and the players quickly drove the cart far to the other side of the hole!
Somehow both players found their concentration immediately after this, and the match was nip-and-tuck down the stretch:
- Lowrey hit a super chip to within 2 feet for a tap-in par 4 on the 13th hole, and the match was tied at 8-8.
- Lowrey then made a textbook solid par 5 on the 14th hole, to take the lead, 10-8.
- Saperstein had 6-foot putts for par on both the 15th and 16th holes. He missed them both, but took both holes with bogey 5s and the match was tied again, 10-10.
- Lowrey faced a 30-foot putt for par on the par 3 17th, but hit it beautifully to within one foot and tapped in for a bogey 4 and an 11-10 lead.
Needing to win the par 5 18th hole to clinch the Cup, Saperstein found himself in trouble in a bunker 40 yards in front of the green. He somehow delivered big with a super sand shot to 11 feet from the pin. Lowrey however hit a good chip to 6 feet away. Saperstein needed to sink his putt and have Lowrey miss to take the hole -- and while he hit a good putt, it didn't drop. Just to prove he deserved the match, Lowrey's sunk his 6-footer to lock up the win, 12-10.
For the first time in history, the Championship Cup series ended in an overall tie, with each player winning 2 of the 4 matches. Per Rule IV Special Case A, Championship Cup is NOT retained by the previous winner in this situation. Instead, it is a shared title between all players involved in the tie.
So for the first time ever, the Championship Cup title for 2010 ends up shared between Lowrey and Saperstein. The Florida State Title is retained by Lowrey, the defending champion, which is enough to allow him to maintain the #1 overall Player Ranking which he has held now for just over a year.