USA Team Press Conference (Thursday)


By The R&A
September 8, 2011

LYNN WALLACE:  Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to introduce to my right the U.S. Captain Jim Holtgrieve, Patrick Cantlay and Peter Uihlein.  You've been practising here this week for a couple days.  Can you tell us how your preparations are going.

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  Well, the preparations have been going great.  Fortunately we've had a chance to see all the weather conditions of Scotland.  We saw rain, we saw the wind, we've seen the cross‑winds, we've seen the sun a little bit.  So I think the team is well prepared now after seeing the various conditions.

The golf course is in extremely great shape, excellent condition, and I think that the team, the players would say that, as well.  The greens are putting superbly.  We needed to see the wind, we needed to see some of the rain and I think the guys are well prepared.

THE MODERATOR:  Patrick, could you give us your thoughts on the course.

PATRICK CANTLAY:  Yeah, I think the course is great.  It's obviously in great condition.  The greens will probably get a little quicker.  They're absolutely perfect right now, and I think they can take a little off them if they want.  Everything is really great.  You've got to drive your ball really straight and leave yourself in the right spots so you can get up‑and‑down around the greens.

THE MODERATOR:  Peter, how is your week going so far?  Has it met your expectations?

PETER UIHLEIN:  Yeah, like Patrick said, it's been a great week.  It's been a lot of fun.  The course is beautiful.  We played nine holes going out and nine coming back in.  You don't see that a lot in the States, so it's pretty awesome for us to see that.  The fairways are definitely narrow, but the rough is not too bad.  You should avoid those bunkers for sure, and if the wind blows, it definitely could be real challenging, but like they all said, it's been great so far, and we've been fortunate enough with the weather, so hopefully it holds up.

Q.  For the captain, can you tell me have you brought your summer wardrobes or your winter wardrobes? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  Well, I've got to be honest with you.  We brought ‑‑ as you can see, I have a summer shirt on, but we have some undergarment wear, as well.  We brought a combination of both, not that I thought we would be wearing shirts like this by themselves, but then you look at Mr. Cantlay, who was out there playing this morning, he says he's fine, he's not cold.  We've got a combination.  We're prepared for everything, and I think we're in good shape.

Q.  Do you have long johns, hand warmers, gloves? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  We have gloves, we do not have hand warmers specifically, and we do not have long johns, but we have some cords, corduroys, that would certainly take care of most of the cold conditions, and we've got good rain pants that don't leak (laughter), so we're all set with that, as well.

Q.  Did you stand in the shower to make sure? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  I actually did, because I was certainly concerned about ‑‑ Corey Pavin is a very good friend of mine, so I was going to make sure that that was not going to happen.  So when I got the suit from Polo, I did stand in the shower, and it does work perfectly.  As I said Monday, we had a pretty good rainstorm out there for about an hour, and I just made sure that all the ten players, that they were dry, and they assured me that they were, so we're in good shape.

Q.  You're aware that in this country we can have four seasons in one day, and I'm wondering how that might affect the play out there in terms of the American team, but also, what have you done in terms of preparation for that event?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  Obviously until getting to Scotland, there was no preparation.  These gentlemen have played in a lot of various conditions.  Obviously they haven't played ‑‑ Peter came over and played obviously in the Open Championship and got some awareness of ‑‑ I know Patrick has been here when he was a youngster.  But the other gentlemen certainly have not seen conditions like this.

But when you hear people tell you that they like to play in the rain, when some don't mind the wind, and then we've got three guys from Texas so they know a little bit about the wind; Peter is from Orlando, Florida, he's learned how to play in the wind.  So I think we're all prepared.  Yes, we saw ‑‑ we've seen these four conditions that you speak to, but the guys are all prepared for it.  They like it.  They like the challenge.  I feel they're very well prepared after having been here.

I'm glad that we got here Sunday night and spent Monday and Tuesday and they're kind of relaxing now.  These gentlemen spent a lot of time looking at various hole locations, hitting a lot of different shots around the green, putting and so forth.  So I think we're just very well prepared right now.  I feel very, very good about the way my team has assessed the situations and the weather conditions.

Q.  Patrick and Peter, can you tell us what you know about James Byrne and Michael Stewart and how much of an advantage you think they might have playing in Scotland?  

PATRICK CANTLAY:  I haven't met either, so I really don't know too much about either one.

PETER UIHLEIN:  I know James is at ASU.  I've never played with him, but we've played with ASU a lot.  And Michael played pretty good at the Am this year, I think.  I know he played match play.  I don't know if he won a match.  Obviously I know ‑‑ isn't James from around here?  Isn't he from Aberdeen?  Is Michael, as well?

Obviously being from around here helps, knowing the course and the conditions like that is obviously helpful.

Q.  Obviously Sunday is a special day in the history of the United States with the ten‑year anniversary of 9/11.  Do you have anything planned to commemorate?  Do you have anything special you might do?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  Well, yes, I do.  It's obviously a very special day for the United States of America.  I've had a special hat designed for that day that we're only going to wear on that day.  I'm hoping, and I think what I've been told by the R&A that there is going to be a moment of silence starting the ceremony, not that I could get them to shut down the tournament during that specific time.  But yes, and I have a special letter that I received from President 43 that I'm going to read to the team on Sunday morning.

So it's a big day for me because I have ‑‑ quite honestly the hat was designed with a few of my golfing friends from the United States who lost two sons and lost several employees, and so I sent it out to them, a number of designs that I had, and it's ironic that they all picked the same one that we're going to use.  So it's a special day, and the team is obviously aware of it.  We're going to go out and try to play hard.

Thank you for that question.

Q.  Can I ask the guys what experience you have with links golf and any adjustments you've had to make in your game particularly for this week?  

PATRICK CANTLAY:  I played over here seven years ago.  I was 12.  I came over with my grandparents.  I played St. Andrews Old, St. Andrews New, Kingsbarns, went over to Ireland and played Royal County Down and Lahinch.  I know what it's like to play links golf a little bit.  Obviously not as experienced as the GB&I on it.  But I feel fairly comfortable in the wind and the rain, and it doesn't really matter if we have to play in it.

PETER UIHLEIN:  Before The Open I came over here and played the Old Course, Kingsbarns, Carnoustie, played Aberdeen, and then obviously The Open Championship.  I think the style of golf over here is fun.  I think you've got to be so much more creative, bounce it in there, high, low, use trajectory and spin.  I definitely think it's a cool way to play, and I like it a lot.

Q.  Jim, have you used a bunch of your experience playing in Scottish golf to your team because you played a lot over here, you played here at Muirfield in the Walker Cup.  I think you beat one of our heroes, Ian Hutchings, substantially, which was an amazing result against such a player.  But you've been able to pass on your knowledge to your players, I'm sure? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  So you're saying I didn't have a chance against Ian?  It was one of my better matches of my life.  I've got to tell you, coming over here to play golf in Scotland is a dream come true ‑‑ was a dream come true for me in 1979, and yes, I tried to pass that along to these gentlemen.  Obviously Peter and Patrick have been here, so they have some experience about it.

The other gentlemen, when we got to Kingsbarns and they got to the Old Course, to see their eyes, I kind of knew what this experience was going to be to them, and since that time of getting here and all the people that we've already interacted with, it's just been a phenomenal experience for these young guys and also for me.

I talked to them about the weather.  Obviously before ‑‑ I was here a year ago and took a picture of all the holes, the tee shots and the second shots and the third shots.  I put together a photographic book that they could see.  I gave it to them on the plane ride over so they could get a visual of the golf course, and I think hopefully it's helped.  But these guys are so focused and so committed that obviously they do their own yardages, they do their own examination of the golf course.

The only difference is that these gentlemen hit a golf ball a lot different than I did.  To play in the wind, I had never hit 3‑woods like Peter Uihlein hits a 3‑wood.  Maybe if I had that, maybe I would have won that tournament at Turnberry.

So these gentlemen have learned a whole different game, and so I think they're so much further ahead by playing in conditions like this than I ever was prepared for.  With that being said, I certainly tried to pass along some of the thoughts.

My whole thing has been about just taking in the experience because while it was great me playing in Walker Cup and I remember some of the moments, I was so competitive that I'm trying to have them just enjoy it and have fun with it.  That's the most important thing.

Q.  The last American Walker Cup team to come over here, to Royal County Down, proved to be very special.  On paper do you think this team looks even better? 

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  You know, I know what's been going on with all the conversations.  These ten young men are a very, very strong, talented team.  Every one to me could beat each one of them any day of the week.  I will just tell you that comparing them to the three teams that I played on, it's the most talented ten young men I've ever seen play in a Walker Cup amongst the three teams that I played on.

Obviously we have a process.  We select the guys, and these ten young men earned their way onto this team.  They're not only talented in playing golf, but they're very respectful young men who honour the game and have a lot of respect for each other, which has really been quite a daunting ‑‑ not a task, but a daunting observation from me.  I'll just say that they're just ten great players.

Q.  I think I'm right in saying you could have picked another ten guys besides these ten guys and been just as strong.  Have you ever seen a time in American golf where you had this strength and depth in amateur golf?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  I just think amateur golf is alive and well in the United States, as I'm sure it is in the UK, as well.  I mean, we've got Patrick's 19 years old, we've got two 18 year olds here.  When I played Walker Cup, I was 31 years old.  So to see the talent of these gentlemen at this age, it's incredible.  And so I ‑‑ those are kind of questions that I think we've got our team here, I've got the best ten, and I know that what's great about these ten young men is I know in their heart that they're going to take in the experience and they're going to play as hard as they can for their country.

Q.  You mentioned playing the Old Course at 12.  How did you get on? 

PATRICK CANTLAY:  45 on the front, 38 coming back, and I was really pumped.  I was happy to shoot my 83.  Yeah, I was happy.

Q.  You said you were 31 when you played.  Were you the oldest member of the side, or were you about average?  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  I was average.  Jay Sigel was the oldest person at that time.  I think Jay was ‑‑ I want to say 35.  I think Jay is four years older than I am.  So yeah, I was ‑‑ and Marty West.  Yeah, the age of that team was certainly much higher than the average age of this team.

Q.  I wonder if you could give any advice to your professional counterparts in the United States about how they can win the Ryder Cup when you guys seem to be winning most of the time the Walker Cup event.  

JIM HOLTGRIEVE:  You're going to get me in trouble.  Amateur golf is ‑‑ what's really been great for me is to see these young men ‑‑ when we put together a practice session way back in January, the practice session in my mind was to try to bring 16 young guys, candidates for the team together and try to get them to know each other.  But they already know each other.  It's amazing the amount of tournaments today that are played as amateurs around the world that they can play in, so they've gotten to know each other at these other various amateur events, and they're friends.

And so I think that's the deal.  The camaraderie, I think, amongst the amateur ranks versus obviously you know about professional ranks and playing for money is altogether different.  I think to be honest with you, the Ryder Cup teams from Europe, I think they're just so much ‑‑ they've played amateur golf together, they've grown up together.  Our guys did the same thing, but I think once they started playing for money they went the other way, which I hope that some day that might change a little bit.

So I just think that our guys are just ‑‑ our camaraderie amongst our teammates, it's incredible.  It's really, really good.

Q.  Do the young team members here agree with that or is there another ingredient do you think that makes the Walker Cup guys more special than the Ryder Cup ones?  

PATRICK CANTLAY:  I think the captain answered it perfectly, so...

PETER UIHLEIN:  Yeah, I second that.

Q.  I think the weather forecast for late in the week is not great.  Peter, you played in the Open and played in bad conditions.  Can you sort of recall the experience and what you learned that might stand you in good stead this week?  

PETER UIHLEIN:  I remember going through five towels, changed grips, my bag got ruined.  That was the hardest I've ever seen conditions.  That was unbelievable.  I remember hitting ‑‑ 17 I went driver, hybrid, and the hole was 430, I think.  And then 11, par‑3, which was like 240, I think I hit an 8‑iron.  That was the hardest I've ever seen golf.

You know, but it's fun.  It is.  People might not think it, but it is pretty fun to do things like that and to think and be creative.  If the weather is bad, then guys you're playing with are playing in the same conditions.  You've just got to embrace it and you can't have any give‑up in you or any quit, and if you do, then it's going to beat you up.  So you've got to keep fighting, keep grinding and hopefully play well.

Q.  (No microphone.) 

PATRICK CANTLAY:  I don't think it plays into the hands of anyone.  I think it's important to have a good mind frame definitely when the wind blows or it rains.  It's really ‑‑ I don't think it's an advantage at all.  I think it's all how you look at it.

PETER UIHLEIN:  I agree.  Like I said, I think you just can't have any give‑up, no quit in you, just keep grinding and keep fighting.  Like I said, the other team is playing in it, as well, so you've just got to stay at it and keep trying to hit good shots.

Q.  Peter, how does the course here compare to St. George's? 

PETER UIHLEIN:  You know, fairly similar.  It's hard for me ‑‑ out here playing in the wind, I think yardage becomes really irrelevant because you can have a ‑‑ like I said, you can have a 430‑yard hole be a driver, hybrid or you can have a 230‑yard par‑3 be an 8‑iron.  The yardage really becomes irrelevant from a distance standpoint.

You know, St. George's is a great track.  It was a lot of fun, and this one is, as well.  You've got to be creative and hit different shots.  You've just got to avoid the bunkers off the tee.  That's the biggest thing.  They're both great golf courses and unique in their own way.

LYNN WALLACE:  Thanks very much for joining us.