Wildman's summer: Walker Cup hopefuls to watch

Brad Benjamin at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.

Brad Benjamin at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.

With all the talk of Walker Cup locks, hopefuls and guys on the bubble, I thought I’d offer up four guys who deserve a closer look as the summer begins.

1.) Lee Beford. This will be an interesting summer for Wake Forest standout Bedford, who nearly won the Sunnehanna Amateur before falling to Nathan Smith in a playoff. Last summer, Bedford had a quiet schedule and didn’t play in many premier events. This past season in college golf, Bedford won two events: the Carpet Capital and Irish Creek Collegiate. Bedford had six other top-15 finishes on the year and only finished outside the top 25 twice. At Wake Forest, Bedford had the pressure of carrying his team, but if chosen for the Walker Cup, he would be a steady contributor and an easy guy to get a long with.

2.) Jace Long. The standout from Missouri ran out of time in the college season to really make a name for himself in college golf, but he started the summer well with a seventh-place showing at Sunnehanna. While I was at the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek, I noticed U.S. Walker Cup Captain Jim Holtgrieve made a point to introduce himself to Long. Long won three college eventslast year: the Jack Rabbit Invitational, UALR First Tee Classic, Mizzou Intercollegiate, and for those that doubted his competition, he tied for first at the Southeast Regional. Long also had five other top-10 finishes on the year. What hurt Long’s chances of getting his name out was playing in a conference (Big 12) that was stacked with so many big-name players. Despite being the top man for Mizzou, Long constantly had to compete for headlines with Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein, KevinTway and Morgan Hoffman, as well as Texas A&M’s Jordan Russell.

3.) Brad Benjamin. This week at the U.S. Open could be a make-or-break week for Benjamin who decided to stay amateur for a chance at making the Walker Cup. The 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion has been overlooked the last two years, but is out to show Captain Holtgrieve he’s a hidden gem. Other amateurs in the U.S. Open this week are Patrick Cantlay, David Chung, Russell Henley and Peter Uihlein. If Benjamin could somehow finish as low amateur, or even make it to the weekend, he might start getting more recognition. As full-time amateur the past two years, it has been tough for Benjamin to see some real competition, but this week at Congressional he’ll get the chance to play on the main stage. The only question is, will he excel and make a name for himself, or continue to be overlooked?

4.) Jordan Russell. This is a busy week in amateur golf. While several of the world’s best are playing in the U.S. Open, not many are playing in the British Amateur, and the rest are all spread out between the Monroe Invitational, Southeastern Amateur and Southwestern Amateur. After a T-4 finish at the Sunnehanna, Russell will be looking to carry that momentum into the Monroe, which will be the premier amateur event in the United States this week. Last season at Texas A&M, Russell played in 13 tournaments, finishing in the top 20 nine times, and in the top 5 seven times. If Russell hopes to get on the Walker Cup radar, a win is key, and he’ll have a chance to do so this week. Top 10 finishes are great, but with only ten players making the team, wins are what stick out.

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