Five early Walker Cup picks for Team USA

Can you believe the summer is already starting to wind down? Next thing you know the college golf season will be underway. However, the summer is still heating up for some of the big names in amateur golf.

Jim Holtgrieve will captain Team USA at the Walker Cup next September at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland. Although Holtgrieve still has plenty of time to narrow down his choices for who will make the team, I thought I would throw out five names to keep in the back of his mind. These are guys you wouldn’t think of right off the bat – like Nathan Smith or Peter Uihlein, two players that are locks to make the team if they stay amateur.

1.) Blayne Barber. All this guy does is find himself atop the leaderboard. Barber finished third at the Jones Cup in February, one shot back of champion Patrick Reed, and finished 10th in March at the Azalea Invitational. A month later, he finished sixth at the Terra Cotta Invitational. Not too bad to start the year. This summer Barber finished 11th at the Sunnehanna, 37th at the Northeast and third at the Southern Amateur. Sure, he had a hiccup at the Northeast, but those other results speak for themselves.

2.) Patrick Reed. He made the semifinals of the 2008 U.S. Amateur and was 3-0 in match play at the 2010 NCAA Championship. At the U.S. Amateur Public Links earlier this month, Reed went 2-1 losing his Round of 16 match to Darren Wallace. When it comes to head-to-head matches Reed knows how to play mano-a-mano. Aside from his impressive match play record, he has some strong finishes in amateur events, as well. In February, Reed won the Jones Cup, then finished third at the Terra Cotta, T-7 at Sunnehanna and 28th at the Northeast.

3.) Scott Langley. A rising senior at Illinois, Langley started getting some buzz after his individual victory at the NCAA Championship at The Honors Course in June. Langley was also a key part of Team USA’s success at the Palmer Cup at Royal Portrush. He is also an easy guy to get along with. I spent time with him at the Western Refining All-American Classic last November, and there wasn’t one player who didn’t get along with him. Langley has what Captain Holtgrieve needs – talent, with the ability to be a team player that can gel with anyone.

4.) Brad Benjamin. Last year’s U.S. Amateur Public Links champion may be ranked 71st in the Golfweek/ Amateur Player Rankings, but that shouldn’t matter. Benjamin decided to stay amateur after he graduated from Memphis a year not just so he could play in the Masters, but for the opportunity to play for Team USA. That is what I call a commitment. Earlier in the summer Benjamin told me he planed to turn pro, but decided to stay amateur another year for the chance to play in the Walker Cup. If Team USA wants players that are dedicated and motivated to represent their country, Benjamin deserves the shot. Benjamin has backed up his Publinx victory with some impressive finishes – T-16 at the Jones Cup, T-25 at the Monroe, T-3 at Sunnehanna and second at the Northeast Amateur.

5.) Kevin Tway. If chosen, the Oklahoma State senior and 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur champion would have to decide to whether or not he would stay amateur or turn pro after graduation. If Tway decided to stay amateur, he would make an ideal partner with OSU teammate Peter Uihlein in alternate shot. Tway’s game has come on strong the last couple of months, with a T-14 finish at the NCAA Championship, second-place showing at the Trans-Mississippi Championship and a victory the Players Amateur. Tway has been a very strong player for the last four year, but is always on the bubble for a Walker Cup spot. After the summer he is currently having, and the year he potentially could have for Oklahoma State, he should definitely be a name to consider next summer.

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