LOS ANGELES – Before traveling to the City of Angels last week for his second Walker Cup representing the United States, Maverick McNealy watched “Miracle,” the Disney movie that documented the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team that won the gold medal.
As he stood outside the clubhouse at Los Angeles Country Club on Thursday, McNealy referenced a quote from the Americans’ coach that year, Herb Brooks.
“Great moments are born from great opportunity,” McNealy said. “And we have a great opportunity here to bounce back.”
McNealy was on the last U.S. Walker Cup team, which lost to Great Britain and Ireland in 2015, so he knows the importance of regaining the cup for his country. A visit from former President George W. Bush on Thursday heightened that motivation for he and his teammates.
“For me, that kind of guy is the absolute role model; somebody that sacrifices eight years of his life, and even more, to work for the country and to do everything he can to make the lives of 200-something million people better, that’s absolutely incredible,” McNealy said. “… He’s somebody that has represented his country to the fullest, and we get to do that in a much smaller way at the Walker Cup.”
Said Doug Ghim: “It’s incredibly motivating and inspiring. He had to deal with so many different issues as president, and all we have to worry about is putting a little white ball in the hole. It puts things in perspective.”
Bush, who also visited the 2013 U.S. Walker Cup squad at National Golf Links of America, had lunch with this year’s team on Thursday at LACC before watching the players, donned in “W” hats, play four holes – Nos. 10, 15, 16 and 9.
He didn’t hit a shot because of a sore back, but did strike a putt after a Cameron Champ tee ball at the par-3 ninth and jarred it for birdie.
“First putt of the day and just drains it, perfect speed,” Braden Thornberry said.
Bush, whose maternal great grandfather George Herbert Walker was a former USGA president and donated the Walker Cup, gave advice to the 10 U.S. team members while also cracking jokes to loosen up the guys.
He was left in awe of Champ’s length off the tee. He congratulated a nice chip by Collin Morikawa. He commented to Thornberry he was a big fan of Thornberry’s pace of play.
“He told me that he likes that I play fast,” Thornberry said. “He does, too, and said that he normally plays through about four groups when he plays 18 holes.”
Ghim is coming off a stunning defeat two weeks ago at the U.S. Amateur in which he lost his final three holes to fall to fellow Walker Cup teammate Doc Redman in final at Riviera. Ghim has since heard from many people who have congratulated him for his impressive performance instead of knocking him for not winning. Bush is now among them.
“What he said that resonated with me the most is to try new things, and don’t be afraid to fail,” Ghim said. “There’s a lot of things you want to try to do, but then there’s a voice inside of you that says you can’t do it. He said, ‘Well, my advice to you is do it.’
“If you’re afraid of failure then you’re going to stop yourself from doing some pretty incredible things.”
Team USA isn’t going to let fear of losing on its home turf keep them from recapturing the Walker Cup.
“It’s our job to win this week,” McNealy said. “We didn’t come here to lose. When we’re representing our country, we want our country on top; we want our flag being flown at the end of this competition.”