Prior to the 2013 Walker Cup, the U.S. Golf Association announced that two mid-amateurs – players ages 25 and older – would be included in the 10-player team that competes every other year in a head-to-head Ryder Cup style match versus a team from Great Britain and Ireland.
But this week, there has been buzz that the makeup of this fall’s team could change. Global Golf Post reported that the USGA will commit to at least one mid-amateur on the team, but not two, a shift from the past two competitions where two mid-ams were guaranteed a place on the U.S. squad. (The GB&I team has no such stipulation.)
When the USGA made the move to guarantee two spots to mid-ams, some argued it would weaken the team by not always having the best 10 players, the thinking being that college players form a far stronger pool. Conversely, though, the idea of having two players 25-and-older could bring leadership and other qualities to a team of youngsters.
The question that was asked in this space at the time was a simple one: Why not let the best players compete, regardless of their age?
After the United States squad won by a convincing margin, 17-9, in 2013, the discussions quieted on this topic. However, after a 16½-9½ defeat in 2015 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England, where the two mid-ams on the team did not perform well (in truth, only a couple of U.S. team members played well), the U.S. roster requirement to include two mid-ams went under the spotlight again.
John Bodenhamer, the senior managing director of championships and governance for the USGA, addressed the current status regarding mid-amateurs and the Walker Cup.
“There have been some mixed perceptions. We will have mid-amateur representation, just not going to have specific numbers,” Bodenhamer said.
John “Spider” Miller returns as captain of the U.S. Walker Cup squad Sept. 9-10 at Los Angeles Country Club.
“It is not their attention to limit to one. Just confirming that there will be one,” Miller said. “The committee is applying some common sense and they are saying there will always be a mid-amateur.”
Reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad, who played so well and was low amateur at the Masters, holds the edge over his competition as mid-ams compete to make this fall’s team.
Another candidate would be Scott Harvey, a member of the 2015 team. Harvey, who turns 39 next month, said he’s fine with whatever policy the USGA decides to use. He wishes the timing of this development were better. He called the timing “disappointing.”
“To have a change in policy a year-and-half in (to the 2017 Walker Cup) is a little confusing,” Harvey said. “For the college players, they can play probably play whenever. For us, our schedule is a little more planned out because of jobs and families and such.”
Bodenhamer assures the mid-amateur community that the USGA plans to involve those players over 25-years-old and will always have at least one on the team. And he acknowledges the timing is not ideal for some.
“I respect that perspective, but we felt we needed to answer the question and not have an expectation,” he said. “This is nothing more than looking at this and saying we are not going to talk about numbers. We are not going to guarantee numbers. We are going evaluate the play of the players.
“We would love nothing more than to have two or even three mid-amateurs, but to guarantee is not what the committee wants to do. I encourage everyone to watch what we do over the next couple of years. We are committed to this community. We are looking at this long-term.”