2005: Reifers revives Walker Cup hopes

RUMFORD, R.I.

Kyle Reifers was among the 24 players invited to the U.S. Walker Cup practice session in January. However, after a college spring season in which the Wake Forest junior had a number of top 10s but no victories, he likely was considered a long shot to land a spot on the 10-man Walker Cup team.

With his victory June 26 at the 44th Northeast Amateur, however, Reifers put himself back in the Walker Cup mix. The U.S. squad that will take on Great Britain & Ireland Aug. 13-14 at Chicago Golf Club will be selected sometime in mid-July.

“My main goal is still to make the Walker Cup team because that’s the top of amateur golf,” Reifers said. “I sure have to believe this will help my chances.”

It should, considering that since 1991, each Northeast Amateur winner during a Walker Cup year has been selected to either the American or GB&I teams. This year’s tournament featured 14 of the top 15 players in the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Rankings.

Closing with an even-par 69 at the Donald Ross-designed Wannamoisett Country Club, Reifers finished at 8-under 268, matching the tournament record set by John Cook in 1979 and equaled by Luke Donald in 2000. He barely missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have given him the record outright.

Reifers, who came into the tournament on the heels of top-10 finishes at the Sunnehanna Amateur and Monroe Invitational, finished three shots better than Australian Michael Sim, winner of the Sunnehanna and Monroe the previous two weeks, and Billy Hurley, an ensign in the U.S. Navy who closed with a 4-under 65.

“This is a great win, especially considering the strong field and this great golf course,” said Reifers, a Columbus, Ohio, resident who last summer captured the Monroe Invitational and Ohio State Amateur titles. “In college last season I played solid and led a few times, but just never broke through. So holding the lead going in and getting the job done is very satisfying.”

Sim, who started the day two shots behind Reifers, stayed within striking distance throughout the round, but never got closer than two strokes. He finished with a 1-over 70, making a bogey on the final hole.

“I’ve had a pretty good three-week run,” said Sim, who is No. 1 in the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Rankings. “Finishing second against such a strong field is not too bad.

“Today was a bit of a struggle. I seemed to make the putts for par, but not the putts for birdie. I just couldn’t get things going. I hung in there, I just couldn’t finish it off.”

Tim Jackson, a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and two-time Walker Cup team member who took last year off from competitive golf to devote time to his family business, was among five players tied for third at 3-under 273, earning him the inaugural Joe Sprague Sr. Trophy. The award will be given annually to the tournament’s low mid-amateur in honor of the Rhode Island Golf Association’s longtime executive director who died in November.

How amazing was the scoring at this year’s tournament? In the event’s previous 43 years, only 24 players combined had broken par. No more than six had broken par in any single year, that coming last year. Last week, 17 players in the field of 82 finished under par.

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