U.S. loss in Walker Cup might be good thing
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
ABERDEEN, Scotland - The Americans’ loss in the Walker Cup might be just what the biennial event needed.
No one likes to lose. That’s human nature. But in this year’s Walker Cup, the U.S. lost to Great Britain & Ireland, 14-12, at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
2011 Walker Cup: Day 2 in pictures
Check out images from the second day of action at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.
2011 Walker Cup: Day 1 in pictures
A look at images from Day 1 at the 2011 Walker Cup in Aberdeen, Scotland.
A tough loss for captain Jim Holtgrieve and his heavily favored Americans, for sure. But for the long-term health of these matches, it could prove to be a good outcome.
At the start of this, the 43rd Walker Cup, just about everyone agreed the U.S. was a solid favorite. The Americans had the top four players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and six of the top 10.
Like so many others, I thought the Americans would win. Nigel Edwards, GB&I’s captain, thought differently. He emphasized his team’s advantage: the links of Royal Aberdeen.
The GB&I team handled the wind, rain and cold on the North Sea coast better than their American counterparts.
This competition had become too one-sided.
In the professional equivalent, the Ryder Cup, the U.S. dominated this event so much in past years that interest had begun to wane. Then the European side started winning, and now the Ryder Cup has become one of the biggest events in golf.
So, too, it was with the Walker Cup. From the first match in 1922 and going into 1989, the U.S. won 28 of 31 matches, with one tie. Other than those directly involved, golf fans had pretty much lost interest in this event.
But when GB&I won in 1989 for the first time in the U.S., at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, new life was breathed into the competition.
The U.S. handily won the next two matches in what appeared to be a return to form. With that momentum, a Tiger Woods-led U.S. team rolled into Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales in 1995 as heavy favorites. GB&I emerged with a 14-10 victory.
GB&I would emerge as the dominant force, winning three consecutive Walker Cups from 1999 to 2003.
Again, the U.S. kept the overall interest and enthusiasm alive when it followed in 2005 at Chicago Golf Club with its first of three consecutive victories leading into this year’s event.
Interest should be high on both sides of the Atlantic when the two sides meet again in 2013 at The National Golf Links in Southampton, N.Y.
That’s the way it should be, even if it did mean the Americans’ losing this year.
“There is a lot of talent on both sides of the ocean,” said Bob Lewis, who played on four winning U.S. Walker Cup teams in the 1980s before going 1-1 as captain of the 2003 and ’05 Americans. “No one likes to lose, but I think you have to have a good balance to keep the interest up. They won three in a row, then we won three in a row. I’m sure there will be a lot more anticipation and excitement going into the 2013 competition.
“The Walker Cup is one of the greatest things in golf, and like the game itself, there are no guarantees.”
Aside from the rivalry, what I will take away from this year’s Walker Cup is how both sides handled themselves when it was all over.
Edwards and his squad obviously showed the emotion and jubilation that comes with victory. They were excited yet humble.
Holtgrieve and his team, obviously disappointed, handled defeat graciously.
What all this showed me was that the spirit of the Walker Cup – and amateur golf – is alive and well.