SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Just
four days after the announcement of the second five players to complete the
10-member USA Walker Cup Team, the group gathered at the National Golf Links of
America on Thursday and Friday under the guidance of captain Jim Holtgrieve for
two days of practice and acclimation.
The players played in
two groups of five on Thursday, paying extra attention to shots around the
greens at the National. On Friday, the players concentrated on foursomes, or
alternate-shot, play, a format unique to international team matches.
Members of the Team
praised the Charles Blair Macdonald layout, which flanks Long Island’s Peconic
Bay and whose design is modeled after some of the classic holes and courses in
the United Kingdom.
“It's cool to think
about the first Walker Cup being played here and how much the game has changed
but how this golf course has been here the whole time,” said Cory Whitsett, 21,
of Houston and the University of Alabama. “And how much different the holes
have probably played over the years, it's pretty cool.”
Nathan Smith, 35, of
Pittsburgh, is a three-time Walker Cup selection (2009, 2011, 2013) and is one
of the few players to have played at the National previously.
up here before and played, but obviously it's the Walker Cup so that kind of
changes things,” said Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. “I'm
excited to be out there and getting used to the course, which changes from day
to day, or from hour to hour, so we can be aware of changes that pop up during
realizes the significance of returning to the site of the first Match.
out of all the ones you want to make, it’s this one,” he said of being selected
to play at NGLA. “It being on the anniversary and where it began at a course
like this. This is the team I wanted to make. They’re some great guys and we
have a great captain. It's one I really wanted to make and so I'm excited to be
Holtgrieve, of St.
Louis, echoed some of Smith’s comments.
“They love the golf
course,” said Holtgrieve, who served as captain of the USA Team in 2011 and
played on three USA teams in the 1980s. “They're obviously excited to be here
for the 44th Walker Cup and playing for their country. Everything's been really
positive. Hopefully, they will spend a lot of time looking at the greens, since
you know they made National as a second-shot golf course, putting and chipping
a lot, so we'll get our guys used to that.”
The return to the
birthplace of the Match on a course that is an icon in golf architecture adds
to the enthusiasm of the players, according to Holtgrieve.
so positive,” he said. “The players are so overwhelmed when we talk about the
history of the National Golf Links of America and what C. B. MacDonald and
George Herbert Walker did to promote what I call the finest amateur competition
in the world. They are very excited and I'm really taken aback because they're
all talking about not just about playing in the Walker Cup – they're all excited
about playing for the United States of America.”
Pete Kowalski is the director of
championship communications for the USGA. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.