Preview: A pledge of allegiance to amateurs
At the end of the 2011 Walker Cup, American Jordan Spieth faced the media after Great Britain & Ireland’s 14-12 victory at Royal Aberdeen (Scotland) Golf Club.
Then an incoming freshman at Texas, Spieth posted a 2-0-1 record in the competition, winning twice in singles. He talked about 2013.
“I’m going to work hard to make that team, because I’ve had an unbelievable time this week and would love to be a part of another one.”
That, however, will not be the case when the 44th Walker Cup takes place Sept. 7-8 at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y. Spieth announced last month that he would forgo his final 2 1/2 years of college eligibility and his amateur status and turn professional.
It’s a trend that concerns Jim Holtgrieve, who will return as U.S. captain.
“The landscape in golf has certainly changed,” said Holtgrieve, who was a member of three U.S. winning Walker Cup teams (1979, ’81 and ’83). “Yes, the players are thinking about the Walker Cup, but they’re also thinking about where they’re going in their pro careers.”
Nathan Smith, 34, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and the only mid-am among the 10 Americans at the past two Walker Cups, said he understands his younger teammates’ conflicting emotions.
“I’ve been around these young guys a lot, playing in the amateur tournaments as well as having them as Walker Cup teammates,” Smith said. “I think they’ve been really passionate about the Walker Cup. Every team that I’ve been on, they guys have been very excited about competing and trying to win.”
In the coming months, Holtgrieve intends to emphasize the importance of the Walker Cup.
“What I’ll tell them is, If you’re that good of a player, you should play for your country first and pro golf can and will come later,” Holtgrieve said. “The best thing you can ever do is play and represent your country.”