After sitting out the Saturday-morning foursomes, Team USA’s Max Homa and Michael Kim were looking to give the Americans a spark during the afternoon in the 44th Walker Cup.
“Max is a guy who gets fired up and get pretty motivated by things,” Michael Weaver said. “I know he wanted to play all four (sessions), and he may be a little disappointed (to sit).”
Even more motivation?
The Americans were down 2.5 to 1.5 to GB&I before lunchtime.
Homa was out for blood in the afternoon at National Golf Links of America and got on his opponent, Max Orrin, pretty quickly. He lost the first hole, but squared the match on No. 2 after driving the green and making a 45-footer for eagle.
“When he gets going, he usually plays pretty well,” Weaver said, of his Cal teammate. “So it’s no surprise he had a pretty decisive victory.”
Homa was the first player to put a point on the board for the U.S. during the afternoon with a 5-and-3 victory.
“When I was sitting out this morning and watching and (it was) going the wrong way, it’s kind of hard to pull it back the right way,” Homa said. “So I kind of wanted to set the tone a little bit if I could. It helps to get a few points early and let the guys behind you see that.”
That sparked more red on the board. Shortly after Homa finished, he became “cheerleader” on the sideline for his other Cal teammate – Kim.
Kim, who has struggled with his game since the Western Amateur, showed glimpses of his 2013 College Player of the Year status.
It was a back-and-forth match for much of the round, but No. 10 was the turning point and he went on to win three consecutive holes to go 3 up in his match.
Kim said: “To get two points on the board (between Homa and himself), it means a lot.”
Weaver was the last of the three Cal Bears to finish the day, and he did so with a 3-and-1 victory over GB&I’s Matt Fitzpatrick.
The reigning U.S. Amateur champion was off his game most of the day, and Weaver took advantage.
“I managed my game very well today,” Weaver said. “I just tried to play smart and not make any mistakes mentally on my end.”
Weaver knew there were a lot of expectations on Fitzpatrick, and Weaver added that he had been in those situations before (in the spotlight) as the 2012 U.S. Amateur runner-up.
With Weaver’s victory, the first six singles matches went to the Americans. It was the best Saturday’s singles session since 2003 where they went 6-2. Other U.S. triumphs included: Bobby Wyatt winning, 2 up, over Neil Raymond; Cory Whitsett winning, 1 up, over Jordan Smith; and Jordan Niebrugge in an upset over Garrick Porteous, 1 up.
“My gosh they fought back,” U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve said.
USA’s Justin Thomas was able to squeak out a half-point with Nathan Kimsey. Kimsey had a 4-footer on the last to win the point for GB&I, but he missed.
GB&I’s lone victor in the afternoon was incoming Alabama freshman Gavin Moynihan, who won, 2 and 1, over two-time Walker Cup player Patrick Rodgers.
Holtgrieve’s advice to the players Saturday night was to still approach Sunday with the mindset that the match is even, instead of an 8-4 lead.
The U.S. still needs 5.5 points to claim the Cup.
Sunday’s lineup takes a bit different look for the Americans in the morning, though. Nathan Smith, one of two mid-amateurs on the team, will sit out again as he did in the Saturday afternoon, along with an ailing Justin Thomas. Thomas tweaked his back two days ago. He told Holtgrieve that he would be able to go Saturday, but needed a break Sunday morning.
“We’ve changed it up a little bit,” Holtgrieve said. “But we did it as a team, and we’re even fired up more about it and the guys that they’re going to play together.”
The pedal is still down for Team USA.