At a news conference shortly after Great Britain & Ireland scored a 14-12 victory over the U.S. at this year’s Walker Cup match at Royal Aberdeen (Scotland) Golf Club, American captain Jim Holtgrieve was asked to look to the future.
The question presented: Now that he’s gone through his first Walker Cup, and presuming he again would be the captain at the 2013 matches, what has he learned and what might he do differently the next time around?
“I can’t really comment on that until I get the official captaincy,” he said at the time, referring to a decision would be up to the U.S. Golf Association. “It’s been the history the last few years that both captains have got it here as well as over there (U.S.). I just hope I’ll get the opportunity again, and then I’ll start judging from there.”
Holtgrieve will, in fact, have that opportunity. The USGA again named him captain of the American side, and again he will face off with GB&I captain Nigel Edwards when the 44th Walker Cup is staged Sept. 7-8 at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.
“I was certainly hoping the USGA would ask me to be captain again, and I’m thrilled to have that opportunity,” Holtgrieve said. “I’ve already started following a lot of the college events to get more acquainted with some of the players to keep on the radar.”
A lot can happen over the next two years, but three underclassmen, should they continue their current form, could join Holtgrieve on his squad. Freshmen Jordan Spieth (Texas) and Patrick Rodgers (Stanford) and sophomore Patrick Cantlay (UCLA) presumably will still be in school.
Of course, that is not always the case. It seems like every Walker Cup year, there are some who pass on the chance to make the team and turn professional.
Holtgrieve, like captains before him, knows all about that.
Two members of the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team – Bud Cauley and Morgan Hoffmann – gave up their eligibility after last spring’s college season and turned pro. Patrick Reed, a junior who helped lead Augusta State to its second consecutive NCAA title, indicated he would remain amateur through the summer and was a leading candidate to make this year’s team. Then, shortly after the NCAA Championship, he, too, turned pro.
“What I want to make sure of is that all the players we have under consideration are fully committed to make the team,” Holtgrieve said. “I’m really hoping we can have another practice session in January, and I will definitely make that point clear.”
Holtgrieve said his preparations for the next Walker Cup will “basically be the same,” as far as getting out to various amateur and collegiate tournaments to scout and get to know the players.
He did say his demeanor might be a bit different, though, once he and the team get to the actual competition.
“I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t strict enough the last time once we arrived,” Holtgrieve said. “I truly believe all the guys were extremely focused, but maybe I let the players be too nonchalant. I’m sure there will be some things I’ll do differently, not only during the week of the competition but over the months leading up to it.
“I’m a captain who likes to get everyone involved, and I plan on doing that again this time around,” Holtgrieve said.
He also knows he’ll be under pressure to bring the Walker Cup back to the U.S., which leads the biennial series 34-8-1. But for him, there is added incentive.
“I think I’ll feel more pressure this next time because we’ll be playing in America and at the site of the very first Walker Cup (1922, when the U.S. won 8-4),” he said. “There will be more family and friends out there cheering us on, so that adds to it, as well.
“Again, I think it will be a hard-fought battle, but that’s what this competition is all about.”
Still, for Holtgrieve, who was a member of three U.S.-winning Walker Cup teams (1979, ’81 and ’83), this international event goes beyond simply the competition of winning or losing.
“The main thing for me is that the young men who are on the team get to enjoy the whole experience,” he said. “They’re out there representing their country, their school, their family, their towns and states. I want them to have a lifelong memory of what they experienced, no matter the outcome.”