Aberdeen, Scotland – Experience is usually a good guide as to how an event will play out, but with the career amateur a rare sight at the modern Walker Cup there is little in the way of form to analyze this year.
Still just 21, Stiggy Hodgson finds himself the only Great Britain & Ireland player who has competed in amateur golf’s premier team event. But far from being consumed by the weight of expectation, he is relishing his role as old hand and on-course leader.
“Without trying to sound cocky, I’m going to try and lead the team,” he explained during a rare break from a hard week of practising.
“Not lead from the front but you can lead in many more ways than that. I’ll be out there giving my all but there will come a time when I can say a few words to the guys, get them ready, but I don’t want to give too much away.”
Clearly a man with a plan, Hodgson has a successful 2009 Walker Cup from which to draw. Considered a star performer on a losing team, he played in every session winning two and losing two. He performed so well he came close to joining the pro ranks. But it is the level-headed approach the 2011 Spanish Amateur champion has taken throughout a career that saw a Walker Cup appearance added to his list of ambitions even before he entered his teenage years.
“It was very tempting to turn pro in 2009,” he conceded.
“I sat down with my family and had a real big heart-to-heart with my coach but I just didn’t feel I was ready. Although I played great at Merion I think that was the best decision I ever made. If I’d had the year in 2010 as a pro, god I’d be in the dumps right now. I’m not in a rush, I’ll turn pro for sure, but when I’m ready not when others tell me too.”
That decision means he has enjoyed another two years as an amateur, which includes a fourth at the 2011 European Amateur Championship. One person who is glad that Hodgson stuck around in the amateur game is teammate Jack Senior. Although older than the Walker Cup veteran, the 23-year-old Lytham Trophy winner explained the importance of having someone in the team room who has been here before.
“Stiggy is the only one who has been out there and done it,” said Senior, a semifinalist at last month’s U.S. Amateur. “He’s got the t-shirt. He is a great guy to have on the team. The performance he put in at Merion was superb and if we can all play like that this weekend we’ve got a great chance.
“He’s been helping us, telling us what to expect, as has our coach Nigel Edwards (a four-time Walker Cup player), and it’s really key to have people like that on your side and it is important that we make the most of that experience.”
Hodgson is fully aware that his teammates will continue quizzing him throughout the weekend at Royal Aberdeen, but remains unfazed by the responsibility.
“It is a weight on my shoulders as a lot of guys are expecting me to play great this weekend, purely because I’m the most experienced one here,” said Hodgson, who missed the match-play cut at the U.S. Amateur. “That is a weight on my shoulders but you can see it in two ways. Personally, I’m going to relish it.”
John Robertson is a media and editorial manager for The R&A. E-mail him at email@example.com.