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Balicki: Harman guns for Walker spot

He’s baaaaaaaaaack! The little lefty with an unbelievable competitive fire and a game to match is again showing the talents that made him one of the country’s top junior players and Golfweek’s Amateur of the Year in 2005.

That, of course, would be Brian Harman, the Savannah, Ga., native who this spring completed his college eligibility at Georgia.

Throughout much of the spring, Harman indicated he would turn pro following the NCAA Championship at the Inverness Club.

By the time he arrived in Toledo, however, he had had a change of heart.

“I just want you to know I’ve changed my mind and I’m going to stay amateur this summer,” he told me the day before the start of the NCAA finals.

Then he asked me, “So what do you think I have to do to make the Walker Cup team?”

I answered, “Play well here, play well this summer, and win at least one big tournament.”

So far, it has been mission accomplished for the second-team All-American who was a member of the ’05 U.S. Walker Cup squad the summer before he entered Georgia.

He tied for ninth at this year’s NCAA, and this summer he has finished second at the Sunnehanna Amateur and T-22 at the Northeast Amateur. That after a T-7 finish at the Jones Cup amateur event in February.

But it was last weekend when Harman showed his true form – the form he had seemed to have lost since his 2007 Porter Cup victory – as he captured the Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta.

After an opening 1-over 73, Harman surged back with rounds of 67-64 to put him in the lead, then closed the deal with a final-round 66. His 18-under 270 total gave him a four-stroke win over his Georgia teammate Russell Henley. Adam Mitchell, who also ended his college career with the Bulldogs this spring, was third at 12 under, making it a 1-2-3 Georgia sweep.

Like Harman, Henley, who also tied for ninth at the NCAA, and Mitchell, winner of the 2008 Porter Cup and a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur, are Walker Cup candidates.

Without a doubt, though, the Dogwood win bolstered Harman’s stock toward becoming one of the 10 players who will travel to Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., to face Great Britain & Ireland, Sept. 12-13. In fact, right now, I’d put him in the top three.

“My only reason for staying amateur is to make the Walker Cup team,” Harman said the day before his opening round at this weekend’s Players Amateur at Belfair Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C.

“When I considered turning pro, I determined it just wasn’t something that was favorable for me at this time,” he said. “I decided to rededicate myself and do whatever I could to make (the Walker) team. I felt I’d been playing well, but no one was noticing. I needed to get my name back out there.”

He definitely has done that.

For one, I would love to see Harman on this year’s Walker Cup squad. Not only is he playing well, but I consider him one of the toughest match-play competitors.

The 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, went 2-0-1 in the ’05 Walker Cup, partnering with Anthony Kim in foursomes and going 1-0-1.

In the match-play portion of this year’s NCAA Championship, Harman was 1 down with three holes to play against Oklahoma State’s Rickie Fowler, a two-time first-team All-American. All Harman did was birdie the final three holes, sending Georgia to the semifinals by sinking a clutch 8-foot putt on the final hole for a 1-up victory.

“That’s what I live for,” Harman told me after that match. “Those are the times when I really get intense and fired up.”

And that’s exactly what you need in a competition like the Walker Cup.

Fowler, who is equally as intense and competitive on the golf course, was the same way in helping lead the U.S. to an ’07 victory in Ireland. He went 3-0-1 overall, and was 2-0 in foursomes with Billy Horschel.

Fowler is a lock to land a spot on this year’s Walker Cup squad. Now you can pretty much add Harman to that list.

So how about a Fowler-Harman combination in the two foursomes matches this year?

Now that would certainly be worth the price of admission.

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