Aberdeen, Scotland – It was strength against strength Saturday at the 43rd Walker Cup Match at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Peter Uihlein and Tom Lewis went head-to-head twice and contested two tight matches.
Each player aided his team and the fans certainly didn’t go home disappointed after a day of entertaining golf.
Lewis, who became an overnight sensation two months ago at the Open Championship go when the Englishman shot a 65 to share the first-round lead at Royal St. George’s, teamed with Scotland’s Michael Stewart to dispatch Uihlein and Harris English, 2 and 1, in a morning foursomes match.
Winner of the 2010 U.S. Amateur, Uihlein was able to turn the tables in the afternoon, capturing his fifth win in six Walker Cup matches by defeating Lewis in singles by the same 2-and-1 margin.
“It was just one or two shots in both matches that was the difference,” said Uihlein.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough day,” added Lewis.
Uihlein, 21 of Orlando, Fla., is ranked fourth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking supported by the USGA and The R&A. Lewis, 20, of Welwyn Garden City, England, is seventh.
Lewis and the 21-year-old Stewart erased an early 2-hole deficit for the first of three alternate-shot wins for Great Britain & Ireland. That result came despite a lost ball on Lewis’ first tee shot of the day, which was swallowed by gorse.
“Tom is a great player, an unbelievable player. He’s such a nice kid. It was a pleasure to be around him today. I’m sure he’s got a big future,” said Uihlein, an All-American at Oklahoma State, where he’s entering his senior year.
Uihlein, who shanked an iron shot at the par-3 11th in the morning, trailed early in his afternoon rematch against Lewis. But his ability in handling gusting winds and key par saves in the latter stages rescued his day.
“Peter hits great shots, and he handles himself well. It was fun playing against him,” said, who tied for 30th and edged Uihlein for low-amateur honors at The Open Championship.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough day. You have to play well to get a point. Me and Michael were able to play well at the right time, so it was good to get on the board for our side.”
Uihlein, who went 4-0 in a USA romp two years ago at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., understood why he was sent out first in both sessions.
“I appreciate the confidence that Captain Holtgrieve has in me in sending me out first twice,” said Uihlein. “I just wanted to make sure I got a point on the board at least once today, and especially after losing this morning I wanted to get a point and maybe set the tone a little differently for us.”
It certainly had an impact on English, who came from four holes down to beat Andy Sullivan in singles.
“Definitely, seeing Pete get out there and turn his match around was a boost,” said English.
Uihlein has a chance to remain undefeated in Walker Cup singles if he can defeat Stiggy Hodgson of England Sunday afternoon. Only three Americans have ever completed their Walker Cup careers without a singles loss: Bobby Jones (5-0), Bill Campbell (7-0-1) and Phil Mickelson (3-0-1). Incidentally, all three are past U.S. Amateur champions just like Uihlein.
“Peter has been there before. He's had experience. I thought maybe I would utilize and go based upon what he's learned at Merion,” Holtgrieve said. “Peter is a very good wind player. I heard it was going to be windy, so those are some of the things that went in my mind. But it was mainly the experience. I wanted him to get off to that start.”
Both players can say they had a good start. And a good finish. Each won a point. They parted expressing mutual respect. Strength against strength concluded with a win-win scenario.
“Tom played great coming down the stretch this morning,” said GB&I captain Nigel Edwards. “And, obviously, Peter played well this afternoon. Peter is a good player, great player. He's won the U.S. Amateur, and you know, it's going to be tough matches out there. Naturally Tom was disappointed when he lost. But he's a competitor, and he'll come back strong tomorrow and play very well, I'm sure.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose material has previously appeared on USGA websites.