U.S. Walker Cup team facing survival of the fittest test

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U.S. Walker Cup team facing survival of the fittest test

Golf

U.S. Walker Cup team facing survival of the fittest test

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HOYLAKE, England – Survival might be the name of the game in the 47th Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool according to the U.S. team’s most experienced player. That’s Stewart Hagestad’s take after playing Royal Liverpool ahead of this weekend’s match.

Hagestad and the rest of the U.S. team played Royal Liverpool on Tuesday after rounds at Wallasey and Royal Birkdale. However, the team’s Wednesday practice round was reduced to just six holes because strong winds buffeted across the links that has hosted 12 British Opens. Winds blew from 30-40 mph. Practice was a little bit challenging.

“It was almost like an overtraining type thing where if you go and you play where it’s blowing 30 or 35, then when it’s blowing 10, 15, 20, whatever it may be, it doesn’t seem quite as bad,” said Hagestad, the only returning player from the victorious 2017 U.S. team that won at Los Angeles Country Club.

“But on a day like yesterday it’s more about survival and a mind set more than anything else. On a day like that, if you make birdie it’s almost certainly going to win the hole, and par is going to win a lot more times than maybe you give it credit. The forecast for this weekend is supposed to be a little bit better, but hopefully after a day like yesterday it won’t seem quite as daunting.”

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At least Hagestad has played links golf before. The 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion is one of four U.S. players with links experience along with Brandon Wu, Akshay Bhatia and world No. 1 Cole Hammer.

“For me it’s not as much of an adjustment,” the 28-year-old Newport Beach resident said. “By American standards I hit it pretty low, so my ball isn’t quite as affected as much.”

The same can’t be said for U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree. He played Wednesday with U.S. Amateur runner-up John Augenstein and couldn’t believe the conditions.

“The wind was crazy,” the Georgia Tech player said. “John hit a 4-iron 330 yards. That’s about a 100-yard wind.

“There’s no way to practice that. You just kind of have to go out and feel it. No one has ever really played in that. You don’t really know how far it’s going to go into the wind. You just try to fight it as good as you can.”

U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby has experienced Royal Liverpool. He was a member of the victorious 1983 U.S. side that won 13 ½ – 10 ½. He contributed a point out of his two appearances. However, Crosby doesn’t intend to impart too much advice to his 10-man team.

“I’m not one to meddle,” Crosby said. “These guys are so talented and they’re so instinctive even though it’s a foreign type of golf. Six of the guys haven’t played over here, but they pick it up very quickly.

“The only advice that I could give them is to expect the worst conditions. It could be drizzling rain and blowing 40 miles an hour and our opponents are not going to try any less hard if that’s the case. They might enjoy it more as a matter of fact.”

Home teams have won 11 of the last 13 matches, with the 2007 U.S. team at Royal County Down the last side to win away. Crosby better hope his charges learn the nuances of links golf pretty quickly or it could become 12 of 14 home winners.

The result might come down to a simple battle of survival of the fittest.

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