Eight picked for U.S. Walker Cup team

Rickie Fowler hits a shot at 2008 NCAA Championship.

Rickie Fowler hits a shot at 2008 NCAA Championship.

The U.S. Golf Association announced Sunday eight players who will represent the United States at the Walker Cup.

The selections are:

• Bud Cauley, 19, Jacksonville, Fla.

• Rickie Fowler, 20, Murrieta, Calif.

• Brendan Gielow, 21, Muskegon, Mich.

• Brian Harman, 22, Savannah, Ga.

• Morgan Hoffmann, 19, Saddle Brook, N.J.

• Adam Mitchell, 22, Chattanooga, Tenn.

• Nathan Smith, 30, Pittsburgh, Pa.

• Drew Weaver, 22, High Point, N.C.

Citing sources, Golfweek first reported the makeup of the team early Sunday, several hours before the USGA announcement.

“The selection process is difficult, and we have put countless hours into making sure the process is equitable,” U.S. captain Buddy Marruci said. “... I think we’re comfortable that we have a tremendous group of players.”

The final two selections will be announced after the U.S. Amateur, which ends Aug. 30 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

The Walker Cup will be held Sept. 12-13 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

The eight players selected Sunday will gather at Merion next week to play practice rounds, be fitted for uniforms and build camaraderie, Marucci said. The team will gather at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mill, Md., after the U.S. Amateur for additional practice before heading to Merion.

Harman and Fowler are the only team members with previous Walker Cup experience. Harman went 2-0-1 in 2005 to help the U.S. win at Chicago Golf Club. Fowler went 3-1 as a member of the victorious 2007 team at Royal County Down. Weaver was the second alternate for the 2007 team after winning that year’s British Amateur.

“I definitely feel like I’m going to be a leader, and definitely like that role. Harman’s going to be a leader, too, because he’s played one,” Fowler said. “ ... I’ll let (the team) know that this is going to be the most nervous you’ve ever felt.”

There is plenty of match-play experience on the team, though. He is one of three team members to win a national match-play championship. Harman is the ‘03 U.S. Junior champ, while Smith won the ‘03 U.S. Mid-Amateur. Smith, a Pittsburgh resident, will be playing in his home state for his first Walker Cup appearance.

There is plenty of match-play experience on the team. Cauley made the semifinals of this week’s Western Amateur, knocking out Smith in the quarterfinals. Mitchell was a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur, while Hoffmann made the quarterfinals last year at the North & South Amateur, Western Amateur and U.S. Amateur. He lost to eventual champion Danny Lee in the latter two.

Hoffmann made match play in the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion as a 15-year-old and was the youngest player in the 64-man bracket; he is one of three players on this year’s team that made match play in that Amateur. Smith lost in the second round, while Harman advanced to the Round of 16.

“It’s one of my favorite courses,” Hoffmann said of Merion. His hometown of Saddle Brook, N.J., is about two hours from the historic layout, but he hasn’t played the course since the ‘05 U.S. Amateur. “It’s great to go back to a place where I have great memories.”

Two sets of college teammates are on the team – Georgia’s Harman and Mitchell, and Oklahoma State’s Fowler and Hoffmann.

Those teams met in the quarterfinals of this year's NCAA Championship. In the last match on the course, Harman made birdie on the final three holes to beat Fowler, 1 up, and give Georgia a 3-2 victory.

Harman and Mitchell both finished their collegiate eligibility earlier this year, while Fowler is turning pro after the Walker Cup and will not return to Oklahoma State for his junior season. Hoffmann will be a sophomore at Oklahoma State this season.

Fowler, Harman, Mitchell and Weaver delayed their pro careers to play at Merion. Fowler will make his pro debut the week after the Walker Cup at the Nationwide Tour’s Albertsons Boise Open. Weaver is a recent Virginia Tech grad.

“It’s a great sense of relief and accomplishment,” Weaver said about being selected. “I’m thrilled.”

The top candidates for the final two spots on the U.S. Walker Cup team include Mark Anderson, Bronson Burgoon, Michael McCoy, Patrick Reed, Zack Sucher, Cameron Tringale, Peter Uihlein, Mike Van Sickle and Dan Woltman.

Woltman and McCoy have U.S. Amateur qualifying Monday, while Uihlein is playing in a qualifier Tuesday.

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