'Spider' Miller named 2015 U.S. Walker Cup captain
For more than a dozen years, the name John “Spider” Miller has been absent within the national amateur circles.
After winning his second U.S. Mid-Amateur title in 1998, Miller pretty much dropped out of sight, focusing his time on his family and his beer distributorship in Bloomington, Ind.
That is about to change. Miller soon will be back in the limelight of amateur golf in America and will stay there for a while.
Even though the 2013 Walker Cup is still two months away - Sept. 7-8 at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y. - and the 10-man U.S. team has yet to be named, the 2015 captaincy of the U.S. Walker Cup team is now in place.
Miller has been selected to follow current captain Jim Holtgrieve and lead the American side against Great Britain & Ireland when the 2015 matches take place Sept. 12-13 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in Lytham St. Annes, England.
“I’m as excited as I can be,” Miller, 63, said of his appointment. “For an amateur golfer, being Walker Cup captain is the ultimate. It’s one of the highest honors, and I’m very humbled and honored. This is something you always hope for, but you never really know if it will ever happen.
“I know I have a lot of work in front of me, but I’m really looking forward to it,” Miller said. “These next few years are going to be an exciting time in my life.”
Miller, who attended the 2011 Walker Cup in Ireland and plans to be present at this year’s matches, said he will keep a low profile until this year’s competition is finished, but he’ll start talking with, and picking the brains, of some former U.S. captains.
“I’m pretty good friends with Downing (Gray, captain 1995 and '97), Bob (Lewis, 2003 and '05), Buddy (Marucci, 2007 and '09) and Jim (Holtgrieve (2011 and '13), so I’ll definitely be reaching out to them,” Miller said. “Hopefully they’ll tell me what worked for them and what didn’t work and help give me a blueprint for getting started.”
Miller was a member of the 1999 U.S. Walker Cup team and posted a 2-0 foursomes and 0-1 singles record in a 15-9 loss to GB&I at Nairn (Scotland) Golf Club.
“Spider Miller has the experience as a competitive amateur at the highest level as well as all the requirements necessary to provide superb leadership for the USA Walker Cup team in 2015,” said Thomas J. O'Toole Jr., a USGA vice president and chairman of the Championship Committee, in a USGA news release. “We are confident he will assure that the experience of the 2015 team is something special.”
Miller won his first U.S. Mid-Amateur title in 1996, defeating Randy Lewis, 3 and 2, at Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford, Conn.
When he defeated Chip Holcombe, 1 up, in 1998 at the NCR Club in Dayton, Ohio, he became (at the time) the oldest U.S. Mid-Am champ, at 48.
He is a two-time Indiana Golf Association Player of the Year, two-time IGA Mid-Amateur champion, five-time IGA Four-Ball champion, and three times has been low amateur at the Indiana State Open.
A 1973 Indiana University graduate, Miller was inducted into the IGA Hall of Fame in 2000.
Playing the summer amateur circuit can be quite time consuming and tiring, especially for a father of five children and having a business to run. After winning the U.S. Mid-Am in 1998, Miller said he felt it was time to “stay at home for a while.”
“Back then,” he added, “I played in just about everything. I finally reached a point and made a decision to do things differently. I chose to spend more time with my family and put more energy and effort into my business.”
Miller said he still plays a lot of golf, just not very much competitively.
“Mostly I’m a range rat,” he said with a laugh. “I spend a lot time hitting balls on the range.”
But starting in 2014, he’ll again be hitting the amateur tournament trail, only this time he’ll be wearing the hat of U.S. Walker Cup captain instead of U.S. Walker Cup hopeful.
“I plan on going to a lot of tournaments and meeting as many players as I can,” Miller said. “It should be a lot of fun, going back to the tournaments I used to play in. The nicest thing about that is I won’t be making any bogeys.”
The nickname “Spider” came about in his youth when he used to climb the shelves of his father’s hardware store. Soon he’ll be climbing the ladder in U.S. Walker Cup history.