ORLANDO, Fla. – In the aftermath of the East’s having captured a second consecutive Wyndham Cup, nobody at Bay Hill on Thursday – teammates and opponents alike – referred to Cody Proveaux as anything but clutch. Insert any other synonym you want for a player with ice running through his veins, because they all applied at the 18th green.
The scene went like this: Immediately upon getting up and down from a bunker behind an extreme right pin – making par for the win – Proveaux slammed his putter onto the ground, chucked his Bay Hill Tour visor and released a war whoop that brought 19 screaming, red-clad teammates down the hillside toward their hero. James Yoon got there first and leapt into the solid South Carolina boy’s arms. Jaye Marie Green arrived next and did the same.
“I think this is probably the most nervous I’ve ever been over any golf shot,” Proveaux said of the winning putt, a 10-footer from below the hole. “Starting from 16 tee, I was shaking. I was trying to hold my golf ball just to make sure I would quit shaking before I hit a putt. Eighteen, I could barely hold the putter.”
Proveaux had entered the final hole 1 down in his match against Brad Dalke. With the total score tied at 24.5, the outcome of that match determined the coast on which the Wyndham Cup would reside for another year. Proveaux’s halve with Dalke left the match tied at 25, meaning the East retained the cup. It’s the first time since 1998 that the Wyndham Cup has ended in a tie, and only the second time in the event’s 23-year history.
That the match came down to Proveaux, the Clemson signee with the self-described Kenny Perry swing, seems absolutely fitting. Proveaux, last year’s Rolex Player of the Year, made the Wyndham Cup the last junior tournament of his career. He can’t imagine a better way to end it.
It also was the last junior tournament for Green, who will head to Q-School in the fall instead of college. Playing in the fourth match of the day, Green won a point for her team with a 5-and-4 victory over Andrea Lee. Then she took to the course with the rest of the early-finishers. They spent the rest of the day riding around in sluggish team shuttles, making slow loops around Nos. 16, 17 and 18 as the match came down to Proveaux and Dalke. Shrieks echoed periodically from beneath the live oaks separating the fairways. Green loved it.
“That kind of pressure, having all your teammates that have all worked so hard all week, that’s more a Cody atmosphere, not a Jaye atmosphere,” she said of the 18th. “I like to be up on the board first to go and cheer people on because I feel like that’s what I do best.”
After Proveaux’s performance at last year’s Junior PGA Championship – he had to make a par putt at No. 18 to win – Green says there’s no other player who would make her feel more confident with the Wyndham Cup on the line.
“He’s the clutch man, you know?” she said. “Cody lives for moments like these.”
With another tally in their win column, the East team creeps closer to the West’s dominant record in this event, which matches 40 of the nation’s top juniors – 10 boys and 10 girls on each side. The West leads the series, 12-9-2. Last year’s East routing was the first time the red team had won the Wyndham Cup since 2004.
At the beginning of the week, Proveaux and top-ranked Matt NeSmith were the expected leaders for the East side. If anything, call the West side this year’s underdog.
“I feel like we were stronger on paper this year,” Proveaux said. “Last year they were, and we just dominated because I guess we had more willpower than they did. They came up fighting strong (this year) because they knew that we had a better squad.”
The East took an early lead in Day 1, but the West fought back during Day 2 to enter singles matches with a 15.5-14.5 lead. This is an event in which pride is on the line, and it’s one reason the match turned out like it did.
After losing last year to Proveaux in singles, 2 and 1, Dalke asked to be put in an anchor position for his team. He drew it, and also a rematch with Proveaux. Dalke’s West team had already lost the Cup by the time he and Proveaux got down to the wire last year. It was a much different story Thursday.
“We knew we were pretty close on the points, so it was intense the whole back nine,” Dalke said. “I just wanted to get a little revenge.”
The afternoon played out exactly as Dalke would have liked, until the final minutes. He had a shot at making the winning putt after hitting the green with his approach at No. 18 but three-putted for bogey from about 50 feet. With 19 teammates and 19 opponents watching from the hillside, Dalke, playing in his second Wyndham Cup, called it one of the biggest pressure situation he has experienced.
“You’re always going to be nervous, but I felt like I’ve been in that situation a few times,” he said. “I love that situtation, honestly.”
Dalke will be back, even if he won’t get another shot at Proveaux. Something says those two are bound to meet again down the road. Still, neither is likely to forget this ending.
“I couldn’t go out with a better season than this,” Proveaux said. “My last junior putt of my whole career, and I made it to win the Wyndham Cup.”