2002: Walker Cup practice step in right direction

When candidates for the 2003 U.S. Walker Cup team gather Nov. 29 near Hilton Head, S.C., for a three-day practice session, captain Bob Lewis Jr. will be taking more notes about personalities than he will about golf swings.

As evidenced by Europe’s recent victory in the Ryder Cup Matches, player chemistry can’t be overstated in international team competitions.

The convocation of a U.S. “select team” (see p8) is long overdue. It came at the insistence of Lewis, who notched 10 victories as a Walker Cup player in 1981, ’83, ’85 and ’87.

Lewis and three of his predecessors as captain – Danny Yates, Downing Gray and Vinnie Giles – were united in their criticism of the U.S. Golf Association and its lack of support for proper Walker Cup preparation during a roundtable last spring with Golfweek editor Dave Seanor (Golfweek, May 4). They were equally critical of the younger generation’s indifference toward international competition.

“We’ve somehow got to get the motivation back about playing for your country,” Lewis said during that April 26 discussion. “The thing you’ve got to get across in the Walker Cup is that individual records don’t mean anything. If you get a half-point and that wins the Walker Cup, that’s the most important half-point you’re ever going to get in your entire damn life.”

Much of the Berkeley Hall meeting will be spent playing foursomes, the alternate-shot format that’s unfamiliar to most Americans. Players would be wise to heed Lewis’ advice on foursomes. He was 5-2 in alternate shot, including a record 7-and-6 victory with Jim Holtgrieve at Hoylake in 1983.

Look for one or two more such practice sessions to happen before next August, when the USGA will finalize the 10-man Walker Cup squad. Candidates also will be urged to compete in two or three specific tournaments next summer, where Lewis will be closely watching their performance.

The U.S. team will have its work cut out against the Great Britain & Ireland squad Sept. 6-7 at Ganton Golf Club in England. Whatever the outcome, the Americans at least will have been better prepared.

World’s best amateurs gather

Sadly, one of the best events in golf will slip under most radar screens this month. The World Amateur Team Championships get under way Oct. 16 when women from 39 countries compete for the Espirito Santo Trophy at Saujana Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Beginning Oct. 24, men from 64 nations will compete at the same site for the Eisenhower Trophy.

The remoteness of the venue, tight travel budgets and reluctance to visit certain areas of the globe after Sept. 11, 2001, have conspired to limit media exposure. But that won’t dampen the enthusiasm of teams from emerging golf nations like Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia; or from golf powerhouses like Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom; or the players representing the United States – Laura Myerscough, Emily Bastel, Becky Lucidi, Ricky Barnes, Hunter Mahan and D.J. Trahan. In the spirit of global golf, we wish all contestants the best. (For complete coverage of the WATC, visit www.golfweek.com)

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