Merion's Sheftic ready for PGA Cup

Mark Sheftic is on the U.S. PGA Cup team for the second straight competition, and the feeling is one of which he will never tire.

“It means just as much as the first time,” Sheftic, a teaching pro at Merion Golf Club who lives in Blue Bell, said Thursday before assembling with his teammates for the opening ceremonies at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif.

“Any time you get on this team, it’s hard to describe. I don’t care if you’re in it for the first time or the 10th time. Being here is as special as when we played in Scotland (in 2009). There’s no better feeling than representing your country with nine other guys and all the (PGA) officers and the assistant captains. It’s fun.”

Being played for the 25th time, the PGA Cup matches 10 club professionals each from the United States and from Britain and Ireland over three days of competition beginning Friday. The weekend is similar to that of the Ryder Cup, with matches featuring foursomes (alternate shot), four-ball (better ball) and singles.

Sheftic, 37, was part of the winning U.S. team in 2009 at Loch Lomond, Scotland. He is one of three players on the squad who have played in a prior PGA Cup, and has answered questions from first-time teammates about what the competition is like.

As for the pressure of playing in a team match, Sheftic said there might be some early, particularly on the first tee, before the “competitive side takes over.”

“You’re also surrounded by a lot of other competitive people and you sort of feed off one another,” he said. “Once you get through those first couple of holes, you kind of forget about everything that’s going on and you’re back to playing golf. Once you kind of get out there in the heat of competition, those nerves kind of dwindle away.”

Sheftic said he didn’t get much chance to play and practice around the time of Hurricane Irene, a storm that closed Merion’s course. He had to reschedule lessons and wasn’t able to get much golf in.

But since arriving in California, he’s done nothing but play – nine holes Monday, 27 Tuesday and 18 Wednesday and Thursday.

“I wanted to stay off the range and be on the golf course, hitting a lot of shots,” he said. “You can’t play good by staying on the range. You’ve got to get on the golf course and get familiar with targets, get familiar with yardages, start trying to make some birdies. You cannot put a price on playing more. That’s kind of what I did, hitting shots on the course and getting myself ready.”

Sheftic said the course at CordeValle is hilly with big and fast greens, deep bunkers and a variety of challenging holes that require accurate tee shots.

“There are some long holes that are extremely demanding where you’ve got to get up there and hit a good tee shot,” he said. “There’s going to be some nerves on both sides. If you’re not nervous, you shouldn’t be here. There’s going to be some miscues but I think as the competition moves on, everybody on both teams is going to peak so it’ll get tougher as the weekend goes on.”

--Joe Juliano