|Danny Yates played on two USA Walker Cup Teams and captained two others. (USGA/John Mummert)
Danny Yates, the 1992 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and runner-up at the 1988 U.S. Amateur, was a member of two USA Walker Cup Teams, in 1989 at Peachtree Golf Club in his hometown of Atlanta, and 1993 at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn. His overall playing record was 3-1-2, with all three victories coming in singles. He also captained the USA Team to a pair of tough losses in 1999 and 2001.
What was it like to be a Walker Cup rookie playing in your home state?
Yates: It was something. I had played on the [USA] World Amateur Team the previous fall in Sweden with Jay Sigel, Kevin Johnson and Eric Meeks. I remember how nerve-racking that was because it was stroke play. But then I remember Jay Sigel saying, ‘You won’t believe it when they raise that flag [at the Walker Cup].’ I felt a lot of pressure. But it was a very special thing.
What were your emotions like on the first tee?
Yates: It was early in the morning and I teed off. Phil [Mickelson] drove on the par-5s and three of the four were on even holes. So I drove off on No. 1. I guess you’re semi-numb. But it’s just really cool. That was really special.
What was it like to play foursomes with Phil Mickelson in 1989?
Yates: He was my [foursomes] partner. He had just finished his freshman year [at Arizona State] and had won the NCAA [title]. He was really good, obviously. I think there was a little rivalry amongst some of the other younger guys and Phil had just won the NCAA. So Fred Ridley, our captain, asked me do you want to try [playing with him?] I said, ‘Heck yeah.’ I’ll ride around on his shoulders for two days. He was great. He was a great guy.
After suffering the first loss on U.S. soil in 1989, you got a chance at redemption four years later at Interlachen. Did that feel good to avenge the bitter defeat?
Yates: That was my most fun. I was the first alternate on the ’91 team. That was just so special. We had a great team and we had a great captain in Vinny Giles, who I had known a long time. All 10 players were playing well. That’s kind of rare. We had good chemistry. It was fun because we beat them. There was still a lot of pressure.
But with such a huge win, the pressure on Sunday had to diminish?
Yates: Not sweating it is so much fun. But you still had to get it done. I remember after I won my [singles] match the second day how much fun it was walking around with all the other players knowing we had won or were getting ready to win it. That may have been my most special time in golf. From a team thing, by far the most special thing.
Allen Doyle brought his kids. I brought my kids. Vinny’s daughter came. John Harris lived there and his kids were there. Everybody got along; the wives, the players. The kids had a lot of fun.
When you look back at your two Walker Cup appearances, what comes to mind?
Yates: To me, that’s the purest event in golf. My uncle [Charlie] played on the ’36 and ’38 teams and I can remember as a child he always went. I think it meant a lot to him. He didn’t go around bragging about it, but he loved it. It meant so much to him. He had lifelong friends with the guys on the Great Britain and Ireland side until he died.
Do you have lifelong friends from the competition?
Yates: I don’t see them as much, but Peter McEvoy and I have a special relationship. I haven’t seen him in a few years. I played him twice at Peachtree. And Phil and I played him and Garth McImpsey in the foursomes. Then he was captain. But we have a respect for each other. [The Walker Cup] is probably not like it was in the ’30s, ‘40s and ‘50s when those guys would see each other time after time after time. Today, almost everyone turns pro. But I saw Peter, I am sure it would be a very warm feeling. I hope I see him at National. It’s like a bond.
What about getting a chance to captain the Walker Cup team?
Yates: It’s special. But I would much rather play. You have no control. You’re trying to watch eight matches and you hardly know which way to go. Everything is going on [at once]. There’s no timeout like any other sport.
- David Shefter