ERIN, Wis. – Most players at the U.S. Amateur dream of becoming PGA Tour players. Andrew Putnam has one on his bag.
Putnam’s older brother Michael is caddying this week. He’s sidelined from the Tour with a fractured wrist, so he’s helping Andrew with the largest week of his amateur career. Andrew, who completed his collegiate career at Pepperdine in June, has two goals this week: win and earn a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team.
The latter can be accomplished without the former, though a win would guarantee his inclusion on the U.S. squad that will play Great Britain & Ireland on Sept. 10-11 at Royal Aberdeen (Scotland) Golf Club. Putnam, who easily advanced to match play this week, is a leading candidate to earn one of the final three spots on the Walker Cup team, which will be named at week’s end. Michael Putnam played in the 2005 Walker Cup.
“It can only help in keeping me comfortable and confident on the course,” Andrew said of having his brother on the bag. There’s another benefit to having the 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound Michael on the bag.
“His size and reputation can’t hurt when going to into match play,” said Andrew, whose first-round match against Juan Salcedo of The Woodlands, Texas, began at 5:51 p.m. Wednesday, guaranteeing it would continue Thursday morning.
Andrew shot 4-under 138 to tie for 13th in stroke play. He shot even-par 70 at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club and 4-under 68 at Erin Hills.
“After watching my brother make (the Walker Cup), it was always a goal,” said Andrew, who attended the 2005 Walker Cup at Chicago Golf Club, but left before the United States’ final-day comeback. The Putnams would be just the second set of brothers – after Jay and Jerry Haas – to represent the United States in the biennial match against Great Britain & Ireland.
Michael’s Walker Cup bag, signed by teammates Anthony Kim, J.B. Holmes and Jeff Overton is prominently displayed in the Putnams’ home. The younger Putnam has gone to great lengths to try to earn a similar staff bag.
He won the Arizona Intercollegiate on Feb. 1, returned that evening to California with his Pepperdine teammates, then flew to Georgia the next morning to play the Jones Cup, where he finished fifth. This summer, he made the quarterfinals of the Western Amateur and had top 10s at the Pacific Coast Amateur, Sahalee Players Championship and Northeast Amateur.
Putnam also won the 2010 Pacific Coast Amatuer and qualified for last year’s U.S. Open, matching two feats also accomplished by Michael.
Andrew and Michael have their share of differences, despite being brothers. Michael was a raw talent who developed into one of the nation’s best college players, finishing second at the 2005 NCAA Championship. Andrew was a top junior – he beat Rickie Fowler en route to the 2006 U.S. Junior semifinals – but had to overcome a slump during his sophomore and junior seasons before becoming a Walker Cup candidate. Andrew is a lean 6 feet, 1 inch. Michael is a husky 6-4. Andrew is inwardly intense, while Michael is more easygoing.
“He’s got a serious drive in him for perfection,” Michael said. “He wants to hit every shot perfect.”
That’s not possible, but his fair share of good shots this week could help him follow in his brother’s footsteps.