Not having a mid-amateur (age 25 or older) on this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team for the first time in history has drawn its share of reaction from players on both sides of that age-level bar.
“When I didn’t get a phone call (from the U.S. Golf Association) on Monday (July 18) I was a little mad,” said Trip Kuehne, 33, and a two-time U.S. Walker Cup team member. “By Tuesday it was more of being disappointed. Now I’m pretty much over it. Part of me wanted them to select a few mid-ams and part of me felt they wouldn’t. I just think it’s very unfortunate.
“I figured if they were going to pick a mid-am, I had a good chance. I guess I should have played better. I’m not surprised at their selections, but I was hoping they would continue with the history of having a mid-am on the team.”
Added Danny Green, 48, a former Walker Cupper and past U.S. Mid-Amateur champion: “I’m not saying any mid-am deserved to be on the team this year, but I feel it’s a sad day when a mid-am is not on the Walker Cup team. To me, amateur golf is about people like myself and guys like Trip, Tim (Jackson), (Mike) McCoy, (Gene) Elliott. We’re the backbone of amateur golf. For the other guys, (the Walker Cup is) a stepping stone to where they want to go.”
The 10-man team that U.S. captain Bob Lewis will take to Chicago Golf Club Aug. 13-14 in hopes of ending Great Britain & Ireland’s streak of three consecutive victories (1999, 2001 and ’03) will feature players ages 18-23 who are in, or recently finished, college.
The squad includes 18-year-old Brian Harman of Savannah, Ga., the youngest U.S. Walker Cup player ever, and Lee Williams of Alexander City, Ala., who at 23 is the “veteran” of the American side and the only one with previous Walker Cup experience after competing in 2003.
Other members of the team, chosen by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee, are Matthew Every, 22, of Daytona Beach, Fla.; John Holmes, 23, of Campbellsville, Ky.; U.S. Navy ensign Billy Hurley, 23, of Leesburg, Va., who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2004; Anthony Kim, 20, of La Quinta, Calif.; Jeff Overton, 22, of Evansville, Ind.; Michael Putnam, 22 of Tacoma, Wash.; Kyle Reifers, 22, of Dublin, Ohio; and Nicholas Thompson, 22, of Coral Springs, Fla.
The top two alternates, in order, are Luke List, 20, of Ringgold, Ga., and Ryan Blaum, 21, of Coral Gables, Fla.
The GB&I team, announced earlier this month, will be led by veterans Nigel Edwards of Wales and Gary Wolstenholme of England. England’s Oliver Fisher, 16, will be the youngest player in Walker Cup history.
“I was a little surprised there are no mid-ams on the team, but I think they tried to pick the 10 best players who are playing the best right now,” Lewis said. “Experience is great if you’re playing well. If you’re not, I don’t know what experience does for you.
“I thought someone (mid-am) would play himself on the team, but that didn’t happen. . . . I know it breaks with tradition, but I like the 10 guys who were selected. It’s a young team, but I think it’s the type of team that won’t back down, and all of them, I feel, are good putters, which is so crucial in this competition.”
Hurley, too, said he was “a little surprised” no mid-ams were selected, but added, “I think they felt, let’s take the best 10. If a mid-am is one or two of them, that’s fine.”
Added Every: “Experience is overrated, it really is. I’ll take talent and a hot putter any day.”
Kuehne, for one, would disagree.
“A mid-am brings stability to a team of young guys, a sense of calm,” said Kuehne, who qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, but missed the cut. “It’s hard and it’s frustrating to look up and see no mid-ams on the team. I know where the USGA is coming from – they want to win. But there’s a lot more to the Walker Cup than just winning and losing the match. Part of me understands (this year’s selection) and part of me has to ask, ‘Is this what the Walker Cup is all about?’ I was always under the understanding the Walker Cup was about fostering good international relations, and I think the mid-amateur player is one who does that the best. I just hope this isn’t setting a precedent for the future because I feel that would be a sad day for amateur golf.”