Top Amateur Teams Vying in Walker Cup

It was at National that the first of the biennial competitions between the American and British-Irish teams was contested in 1922.
U.S. team captain Jim Holtgrieve said he’d found his young players to be very mature. Jack Graves

   Under an oil painting of the sanguine Charles Blair Macdonald, the United States’ first amateur champion and architect of the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, where the Walker Cup is to be played Sept. 7 and 8, Jim Holtgrieve, the U.S. team’s captain, said during a press conference last Thursday that while he had probably been overusing the word, the coming match there between the U.S. and Great Britain-Ireland teams was, indeed, “historic.”
    For it was at National that the first of the biennial competitions between the American and British-Irish teams — an embodiment of George Herbert Walker’s wish to further international amity in the post-World War I years — was contested in 1922.
    America’s lineup that year — Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Charles (Chick) Evans, and Jess Sweetser — was one of its best ever. That team won 8-4, and in the years since, the U.S. has won 33 more Walker Cup matches to the Europeans’ eight. One match ended in a tie.
    And though Macdonald, a native of Chicago who had learned the game as a young man on Scotland’s links, which he took pains to recreate at National, thought Americans’ obsession with scores was “pernicious” and “abominable,” he presumably would have heartily endorsed the sentiments of Holtgrieve, who, while he wants his team to win, also argues for the game’s enduring value in its ability to strengthen character, relationships, and — in such competitions as the Walker Cup — a love of one’s country.
    Golf’s tradition of equanimity and fair play was a legacy that he — especially given the recent boisterousness among golf’s fans — very much wanted to pass on, Holtgrieve said.
    When the former major league pitcher Todd Worrell, a friend of his, had asked him if in golf anyone ever “charged the mound,” Holtgrieve said he demurred: “No, we go have a beer afterward and laugh about it — that’s what’s so great about the game.”
    The 10-player U.S. team comprises first-team all-American collegians for the most part, though Nathan Smith, 35, of Pittsburgh, Pa., last year’s Mid-Amateur champion at the Atlantic Golf Club here, and Todd White, 45, of Spartanburg, S.C., have been added as steadying ballast.
    Still, Holtgrieve said that he’d never seen such mature young men as were in his charge. Indeed, their calmness under fire had been one of the reasons they’d been picked to represent their country, he said.
    The U.S. team, besides Smith and White, comprises Max Homa, 22, of Valencia, Calif., the individual medalist in the 2013 N.C.A.A. men’s Division 1 championship; Michael Kim, 20, of Del Mar, Calif., the national collegiate player of the year; Patrick Rodgers, 21, of Avon, Ind., a first-team all-American at Stanford; Justin Thomas, 20, of Goshen, Ky., a semifinalist in the 2012 U.S. Amateur tournament; Cory Whitsett, 21, of Houston, Tex., who secured the clinching points for the University of Alabama, which won its first-ever Division 1 national championship this year; Oklahoma State sophomore Jordan Nie­brugge, 20, of Mequon, Wisc., the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion; Bobby Wyatt, 21, of Mobile, Ala., a three-time all-American at the University of Alabama, and Michael Weaver, 22, of Fresno, Calif., the U.S. Amateur runner-up in 2012.
    Brandon Haggy, 22, of Westlake Village, Calif., and Sean Dale, 23, of Jacksonville, Fla., are the first and second alternates.
    The Walker Cup’s 18 singles and eight alternate-shot foursome matches are to be played at National (which, along with Shinnecock and Sebonack, could be said to be golf’s Holy Trinity) on Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8.
    Ticket information can be had online at 2013walkercup.com.


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