U.S. Walker Cup team reflects on 9/11

Players of both USA and Great Britain and Ireland acknowledge a one-minute moment of silence in honor of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

ABERDEEN, Scotland - On Sept. 11, 2001, a just-turned 12-year-old Peter Uihlein was in grade school. That morning, like it did everywhere else, the news of the terrorist attacks in America spread quickly.

For the young Uihlein, the news had very personal overtones. He heard how the two airline flights had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, another into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania. He knew that one of those flights started from Boston and was headed to California.

He also knew his father, Wally, then president and CEO of the Acushnet Co., was scheduled to be on a flight from Boston to California that morning.

“I remember going into the principal’s office to call home,” Uihlein said this week at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club as he prepared with the U.S. team for the 43rd Walker Cup. “I remember I was crying. So many things going through my mind, thinking I might have lost my father.”

The elder Uihlein was not on any of those fatal flights, but that day continues to remain embedded in the younger Uihlein’s memory bank.

“There were tons of families who lost loved ones that day. I was fortunate my dad wasn’t one of them,” Uihlein said. “But my heart goes out to all those who did. It’s still a day I will never forget.”

He’s hardly alone. It’s a day no one in America can forget.

And you can bet on Sunday, on this, the 10th anniversary of this great tragedy, it will be remembered here in Scotland by all those Americans attending the Walker Cup and especially captain Jim Holtgrieve and his 10-man team, some of whom had not even reached the age of 10 at the time.

“It’s obviously a special day for the United States of America,” Holtgrieve said. “I think for all of us, it’s a very special day.”

Holtgrieve had a special hat designed for the team to wear Sunday and also he received a special letter from former U.S. president George W. Bush which he read to the team before Sunday's morning session.

“The hat was designed with a few of my golfing friends from the United States who lost two sons and lost several employees (in the 9-11 attacks),” Holtgrieve said. “I had a number of designs and I sent those out to them. It’s ironic that they all picked the same one and that’s the one we’re going to use. So it’s a special day and the team is obviously aware of it.”

Patrick Cantlay was only nine years old at the time and while he doesn’t remember too much of the day from 10 years ago, he’s well aware of the importance of it, especially on this 10-year anniversary.

“It will be a special day,” he said. “It’s the last day of the Walker Cup so I’m sure it will help give us (American team) a bit more motivation.”

Uihlein agrees.

“It’ll be very special playing that day,” he said. “It’s a big day in America and an honor to be representing our country on that day. I’m sure I’ll have some chills. But in the whole scheme of things, it’s (Walker Cup) just golf. It’s nothing compared to what the day really represents and means to so many people, especially those who lost family and loved ones.”

Russell Henley said he remembers walking into his middle school homeroom - “a little late” - and there was a TV on reporting the news of the attacks.

“Nobody was saying a word,” Henley recalled. “Everyone was in shock. I remember it being very disturbing, very emotional.”

Concerning playing this Sunday, Henley said, “I think it’s going to be a very historic day associated with the Walker Cup. It’s going to be very special.”

Harris English, who has also been Henley’s teammate the last four years at Georgia, said he, too, knows how special it’s going to be playing on Sunday.

“It’s going to be awesome to be playing for your country on that special day,” said the winner of this year’s Children’s Hospital Classic on the Nationwide Tour. “You’re not just going to be playing for yourself, for your team, for your family. You’re playing for the whole country. We’ll be representing all the people who died that day, all those who were affected by what happened.”

Will the significance of the day place even greater pressure on the American team to perform well and retain the Walker Cup trophy?

“I don’t think it will effect our guys’ playing or their focus, commitment or the way they manage their games out there,” Holtgrieve said. “I think if anything, they will play harder.

“And whatever happens, will happen,” he said. “When the matches are over, win or lose, we will obviously recognize what took place 10 years ago.”

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