Blind pairings could prevent great matches

ARDMORE, Pa. – It’s a shame that in the Walker Cup, match-ups in the competition are determined blindly.

Both the U.S. and Great Britain & Ireland captains submit their list of players, in order, for each day’s play without either knowing what the other is doing.

In other words, let’s say for singles, U.S. captain Buddy Marucci lists Rickie Fowler to be first out, he will go up against whoever GB&I captain Colin Dalgleish has first on his list. And so it goes all the way down the line.

That means the possibility of Brian Harman of the U.S. facing GB&I Englishman Stiggy Hodgson in one of the final singles matches on Sunday is about equal to winning the lottery. The two captains are required to turn in their Sunday lineups within an hour after Saturday’s final singles match. But remember, neither knows what the other guy is doing.

Of course it could happen, but, like hitting the lotto jackpot, it would be a massive stroke of luck.

It’s a shame, too. To me, a Harman-Hodgson match would be one of the highlights of this 42nd Walker Cup Match at Merion Golf Club.

I’ve watched Harman, 22, of Savannah, Ga., play for more than four years as an amateur and a collegian at Georgia. He’s feisty, full of fire, vim and vigor, and one of those guys who, above anything else, hates to lose. He’ll fight you tooth and nail with everything he’s got from start to finish. He lets his emotions show and isn’t afraid to take a chance or try to hit a shot some might feel is crazy. Bottom line, he’s just downright fun to watch.

On the other hand, my first and only experience watching Stiggy -- you’ve gotta love that nickname – in competition was Saturday in his foursome match with Ireland’s Niall Kearney against Cameron Tringale and Adam Mitchell.

It was easy to be impressed by this 19-year old, especially after watching him make a pair of 25-foot birdie putts to win holes 8 and 13, chipping to within three feet from the deep rough just off the green to a tightly-tucked pin which preserved a halve, and then closing out GB&I’s 3-and-1 victory by ramming home a 35 foot birdie putt.

What really got my attention though was how much he reminded me of Harman. Both stand about 5’5” and are packed with explosive energy. Both overflow with talent, determination and a positive attitude. With the game on the line, they want the ball in their hands.

Like Harman, Stiggy’s got a hot fire burning inside and wears his emotions on his sleeve. And, like Harman, Stiggy hates to lose.

A match-up between them in Sunday afternoon’s singles matches would be worth double the price of admission.

It could happen. Of course, so could winning the lottery.

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