College Men

2012 Palmer Cup: Team USA roster announced

The U.S. team for the 2012 Palmer Cup (clockwise from top left): Blayne Barber, Derek Ernst, Corbin Mills, Patrick Rodgers, James White, Andrew Yun, Justin Thomas and Chris Williams.
The U.S. team for the 2012 Palmer Cup (clockwise from top left): Blayne Barber, Derek Ernst, Corbin Mills, Patrick Rodgers, James White, Andrew Yun, Justin Thomas and Chris Williams. ( Courtesy photos )

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The United States is growing accustomed to winning the Palmer Cup after back-to-back victories at the annual Ryder Cup-style collegiate competition.

And, with the look at the 2012 U.S. roster, Team Europe (check out their squad here) will face a stiff test to try and cut into the Americans' 8-6-1 advantage in the series.

Led by SMU coach Josh Gregory, who won the past two NCAA titles at Augusta State before returning to his alma mater, the U.S. will feature three players returning from last year's squad that pulled out a 13-11 victory.

"It's hard to choose a team when you have so many great players to choose from," Gregory said. "We have a pretty stacked group. These eight are the best of the best."

Gregory's plan in coaching the elite squad? Make sure the team is having fun and simply get out of the way.

"I only know a few of the kids, so I mainly make sure they are having fun," Gregory said. "I need to find the right pairings and matchups, and then you simply rely on the players. You find out who (the players) feel comfortable playing with and what will create a fun environment."

Two players glaringly missing from the squad are Texas freshman Jordan Spieth and UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay (who participated in the Palmer Cup in 2011). Spieth is top-ranked in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, while Cantlay is No. 10.

But they do have a good reason: They have both been extended sponsor exemptions into the PGA Tour's AT&T National, according to an AT&T National staffer. The event is played the same week as the Palmer Cup.

Cantlay was 20th at last year's AT&T National and this year's event is being held at Congressional, where he was low amateur at the U.S. Open.

"Those guys would have been picks 1a and 1b," Gregory said. "But they have other things going on, and I think we have a great eight to go with."

Here is a look at the squad that will be at Royal County Down in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, for the June 28-30 matches:

Blayne Barber, Auburn

Resume: Barber had a T-3 finish at the U.S. Collegiate in the fall; he followed that up with a T-5 performance at the Desert Intercollegiate, a second-place finish at the E-Z-GO Schenkel Invitataional and a T-3 at the SEC Championship in the spring; has 18 rounds of par or better in 2011-12, as well as 13 sub-par rounds and nine rounds in the 60s; the Florida native - who was born on Christmas in 1989 - is a semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award; in 2011, Barber was named to the U.S. Walker Cup squad, was a second-team All-American and first-team All-SEC; won in his freshman campaing (2008-09) and tied for a title in 2010-11; is currently ranked No. 8 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "He is as consistent a player as there is in college golf. He is a solid ballstriker and putts real well. He is extremely consistent and we'll need that."

Derek Ernst, UNLV

Resume: Won the ASU Thunderbird Invitational earlier this month; was T-2 at the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate, T-3 at the William H. Tucker Invitational, third at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate and fourth at the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate; was the 2010-11 and 2009-10 Mountain West Player of the Year; won the Mountain West Championship with a birdie on the third playoff hole in 2010-11; finished second at the U.S. Publinx Championship and made the round of 16 at the Western Amateur; had eight top-10 finishes in 2010-11; is currently ranked No. 26 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "We are looking for guys that are playing well now, and he was awesome last month. He is one of the best putters and chippers in college golf, plus he has a really good match play record. And that is a huge asset for us. Plus, that phenomenal short game will come in handy."

Corbin Mills, Clemson

Resume: Mills won the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate at the outset of the 2011-12 season; was third at the Furman and sixth at the ACC Championship in 2011-12; after winning the 2011 U.S. Publinx Championship at Bandon Dunes, Mills received an invite to the 2012 Masters, where he missed the cut with rounds of 74-81; won the Players Amateur to qualify for the PGA Tour's Heritage Classic in 2012, where he missed the cut with rounds of 72-74; is currently ranked No. 24 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "He has really come on in the last 12 months and become a household name. He knows match play and him playing the Masters will be a great experience for him."

Patrick Rodgers, Stanford

Resume: Won the season-opening event at Olympia Fields, his first tournament as a collegiate golfer; won the Western Intercollegiate earlier this month; was fifth place at the U.S. Intercollegiate; played in the 2011 Walker Cup, only the ninth Stanford golfer to do so; was fourth at the 2011 Northeast Amateur, while placing second at the 2011 Players Amateur; won the 2011 Porter Cup after a one-hole playoff; made it to the round of 16 at the 2011 U.S. Amateur; is currently ranked No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "He shoots tons of low rounds. Along with Jordan Spieth, he has had the most solid year in all of college golf. He has an incredible resume at such a young age. He'll be a lot of fun to watch."

Justin Thomas, Alabama

Resume: The Tide freshman has three individual titles in his rookie campaign, including the SEC Championship individual title; also won the Carpet Capital Collegiate and Puerto Rico Classic; has seven top-10 finishes in the 2011-12 season, while posting 20 rounds of par or better thus far this season; 29 of his 30 rounds have been counted toward the Alabama team score in 2011-12; made the cut at the 2009 Wyndham Championship at the age of 16; is currently ranked No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "Winning the SEC title is extremely tough. Players are getting better and better at ages 18 and 19, and they come in ready to win. Thomas and Rodgers have pulled off a couple of the best seasons we've seen in a long time."

James White, Georgia Tech

Resume: While White doesn't have a win in the 2011-12 season, he has five top-5 finishes, including taking third at both the Puerto Rico Classic and Seminole Intercollegiate; finished T-16 at the ACC Championship; was a first-team All-American in 2010-11, as well as a first-team All-ACC; won twice in 2010-11 and had nine top-10 performances; was also All-ACC in 2009-10; is currently ranked No. 21 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "(This pick) is all about his track record. He wins and shoots a lot of low scores. When he is hot with his putter, he is hard to beat. He is simply a great guy. Winning the Byron Nelson (Award) speaks to his character."

Chris Williams, Washington

Resume: Became the school's all-time wins leader with his fifth career title with a win at the Bandon Dunes Championship in March; the junior has 18 career top-10 finishes; his 2012 stroke average of 70.28 is lowest in Washington history; played on the 2011 Walker Cup squad and was 1-1 in foursomes and 1-0 in singles; qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open, but missed the cut by two shots; won the 2011 Sahalee Amateur Players Championship and Pacific Coast Amateur; was 2-0-2 in the 2011 Palmer Cup as the second Husky to play in the event; won the 2010 Phil Mickelson Award as the nation's top freshman; is currently ranked No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "His experience on the Walker Cup team and last year's Palmer Cup speaks volumes to Chris. Washington has had tons of success and Chris does all the right things. His match play experience will be a valuable asset."

Andrew Yun, Stanford

Resume: The junior was third at Olympia Fields to open the season, while finishing T-6 at the Isleworth Collegiate and was fourth at the Western Intercollegiate; won the Prestige at PGA West in 2010-11; was 4-0-0 at the 2011 Palmer Cup; reached the round of 16 at the 2009 Western Amateur; finished second at the 2009 Porter Cup; is currently ranked No. 20 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Coach's comment: "If you look at his head-to-head, the only guy he is losing to his teammate Patrick Rodgers. He has one of the best swings in college golf, and has also been playing really well lately. Being on this team before will really help us with leadership." readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.