Captain Jim Holtgrieve, St. Louis, Mo.
Impressions of the team?
So far everything's going according to plan, other than a little weather (AM rain), the guys are all here, they all got here yesterday, a couple of them have had a chance to play a few holes and the response has been overwhelming, They love the golf course. They're obviously excited to be here for the 44th Walker Cup and playing for their country. Everything's been really positive and they're going to go out and play 18 holes this afternoon. Hopefully, when they go out they spend a lot of time looking at the greens, since you know National is a second-shot golf course, they are putting and chipping a lot, so we'll get our guys used to that. [Friday] will be foursomes play. I think we've got our teams pretty well matched up already. Obviously we've got a few guys from Alabama and a few guys from Cal (three from each school.), so I feel pretty comfortable. We had a little team meeting this morning for breakfast, so I think we're all on the same page and focused.
Significance of this Walker Cup?
It's all so positive. 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 this, what I call the finest amateur competition in the world. They are very excited. I'm really taken aback because [of the way] they talked about playing for their country. They're all talking about that. It's not just about playing in the Walker Cup. They're all excited about playing for the United States of America.
Max Homa, 22, Valencia, Calif.
It's not too difficult off the tee but the greens are pretty complex. There are a lot of runoffs and you can see how if it gets firm it'll get really tricky as far as getting close to the hole.
Comparison to other courses?
No, I've seen quite a few pictures and it kind of looks like what you'd see maybe at St. Andrews or something like that. Or Chambers Bay maybe. It just depends on what you get. But the greens are definitely going to be the hardest challenge on how everyone's going to play.
Michael Kim, 20, Del Mar, Calif.
It's a really cool golf course. It's not the hardest golf course I've ever played, but the greens are really challenging and I think it's going to be great for match play.
I think it's got a mix of every course I've played. There are pot bunkers that you see in Europe. The greens are crazy. It's got some short holes, some long holes, it's a great mix.
It's going to be a lot harder. Justin [Thomas], Max [Homa] and I were just talking about how hard these back putts are going to be across two different slopes and into the wind or down the wind. It's going to be a challenge.
Jordan Niebrugge, 20, Mequon, Wis.
It's awesome, there's a mixture of some short holes out here that you can take advantage of, and some longer holes going out into 6 through 9 that are pretty long. There's a mixture of holes so you've kind of got to get your game plan and then go by that for the rest of the week.
Similarities to other courses?
Yes, as far as blind tees shots off the tees and stuff like that. I play at Whistling Straits and Erin Hills quite a bit, so it's the same type of course out here. I think those two courses don't have near the size of these greens, so you've got to pick out a smaller target going into these greens but other than that I feel pretty comfortable.
Patrick Rodgers, 21, Avon, Ind.
The most links style I've ever played in America. I think it's pretty unique. It's got a lot of classic design. The redan hole and some of the other holes out here, I think it's pretty unique in golf.
It could get pretty tough. It's going to be a different golf course if it gets firmer and faster and you get a little wind out here. It's going to be demanding.
Similarities to other courses?
It would have to be something in Europe, maybe North Berwick. It just kind of takes different designs from different links courses, some of the holes are named after them, like the St. Andrews Road Hole. I think it's the most European or links style golf course I've played in America, it’s pretty unique.
Nathan Smith, 35, Pittsburgh, Pa.
I've been up here before and played but obviously it's the Walker Cup so that kind of changes things. I'm excited to be out there and getting used to the course, you know the course changes from day to day, or from hour to hour, so I'm looking forward to getting out and playing the course so we can be aware of changes that pop up during the championship.
Multiple appearances are you part player and part leader?
No, not really, maybe part player, part old guy, that might be a better way to say it, but I'm excited. It's fun for me to be around the younger guys. They're all great players. If anyone has questions about different things I'll be there -- or Todd (White) will be there -- to help. They're all so good we'll probably learn more from them or they'll help us more than we help them. It's a great thing to be a part of.
Probably out of all the ones you want to make, it’s this one. 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 here.
Justin Thomas, 20, Goshen, Ky.
I really like that it seems like a real position golf course, you just need to get it on the right spot on the green and then necessarily getting close to the green or going for it every time might not be the best option. It's a lot about angles and having the right clubs. Overall, it looks like it’s going to be a great test and a lot of fun.
Similar to anything you've played?
Not really, no. You've got a lot of short holes and birdie opportunities but if you get it on the wrong side of the hole those birdie opportunities could become grinds for par.
It could be really difficult. Especially because there has been a lot of times where you have to hit the ball left or right to get on the green and there are these fall offs that get you into these nasty bunkers or high grass, or something of that nature, and it would be a really hard test and I feel like it’s just about hitting the right clubs off the tee but it'd be harder to control the distances and the greens with the wind up.
Michael Weaver, 22, Fresno, Calif.
It was good. I really liked it a lot. It was pretty unique. I've never really played a course like this since I've never really played links golf. Today, it was kind of soft so you weren't running the ball around on the greens or running it up. Also just visually, you couldn't see where you were hitting it sometimes. It was cool I enjoyed it. I think it'll be fun for match play that's for sure.
It's hard to tell. I don't know which way the wind usually blows here normally. It seems like most of the holes would kind of being going this way, but if it's blowing this way it'd be kind of down and into the wind mostly. So I think it's hard to say I guess. I don't know, I'm sure by tomorrow I'll know better, I can't really remember all of them [the holes], the first time around I don’t usually remember it so well.
Best thing learned?
It's definitely a second-shot golf course, like we were talking about last night. With some of the greens there are so many humps and everything, being on the correct level or the correct side of the pin, that's probably the most important part. We're talking about short game being important but I think with your second shot you can make the course a lot easier just by hitting it in the correct spot, not hitting it on the wrong tier or missing it in the wrong spot. It's definitely a second-shot course.
Todd White, 45, of Spartanburg, S.C.
I'm really enjoying the style of play here, it's a second-shot golf course, chipping and putting, as the captain has reiterated several times. I was able to play the golf course last year actually and the only change that I've noticed is a couple new tees that add some length, but it's just a venerable test that's stood the test of time and it's going to be a great match-play venue.
I was trying to think if there was one, I was fortunate enough to be at the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock but that's a totally different concept than what you've got here. The Ocean Course at Kiawah has some similar characteristics but this is unique, Chambers Bay from the U.S. Amateur is a little bit because of the links-style play but this is definitely a unique place.
The wind and the greens are the defense. It’s not overly long. The green complexes are difficult to figure out. The wind is the defense here. If the wind picks up, you can have a hole that would be a driver, wedge, and the next day you could be pumping in a 4-iron. So that would obviously make the greens smaller, although the greens are huge, the greens are really small in the area you have to hit to give yourself reasonable putts.
Bobby Wyatt, 21, Mobile, Ala.
It's great, it's in great shape. I'm not sure it's playing exactly the way it will be playing in a few weeks but there are a lot of tough greens, a lot of tough green complexes. I think putting and wedging are going to be really important in the next couple weeks.
No, I've never been over to Scotland or played much links golf, so not really. It has the green undulations of a short, typical country club but they're a lot bigger. Since it is links style there are no trees at all so it's a little bit of a mix for me.
Number one thing you learned today?
That putting is going to be really key. The fairways are pretty generous and it's not very long, so most people are going to be in pretty good position off the tee. Whoever makes the putts is going to end up winning.
Cory Whitsett, 21, Houston, Texas
It's pretty incredible. I've never seen anything quite like it, it's very unique. The USGA does a really good job of finding golf courses that are like that. The Country Club was like that a few weeks ago (for the U.S. Amateur) and this is more of the same. It’s one of the best parts of coming up to the Northeast and playing golf.
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. And how much different the holes have probably played over the years, it's pretty cool.
Best thing learned?
I think wedge play and putting are going to be integral to being successful out here. I've already thought about what I need to do to practice next week when I'm home. The wedge shots, you need to be very comfortable with your yardages and trust them because you can't see some wedges. Around the green, there are a lot of tabletops.
How many times do you have to play the course to get comfortable?
I think a handful. It's like any golf course. You just get more comfortable with the sight lines and everything. I think maybe even by the end of this week I think we'll be pretty comfortable.
Walker Cup Notes: National Golf Links of America hosted the first Walker Cup Match in 1922 … The 2013 Walker Cup Match will be the sixth Match contested in the state of New York … Jim Holtgrieve, of St. Louis, and Nigel Edwards return from 2011 as the USA and Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captains, respectively … USA and Great Britain & Ireland have each won the Walker Cup Match six times since 1989 … On Saturday, Sept. 7, there will four foursomes (alternate-shot) matches (18 holes) in the morning and eight singles matches (18 holes) in the afternoon … On Sunday, Sept. 8, there will be four foursomes matches (18 holes) in the morning and 10 singles matches (18 holes) in the afternoon … There are three USGA champions on the USA team – Nathan Smith (2003, 2009, 2010, 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur), Cory Whitsett (2007 U.S. Junior Amateur) and Jordan Niebrugge (2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links) - and one USGA champion on the GB&I team – Matthew Fitzpatrick (2013 U.S. Amateur) … Golf Channel will broadcast on Sept. 7-8, from 4-6 p.m. EDT each day of competition …
Members of the 2013 USA Walker Cup Team are: Max Homa, 22, of Valencia, Calif.; Michael Kim, 20, of Del Mar, Calif.; Jordan Niebrugge, 20, of Mequon, Wis.; Patrick Rodgers, 21, of Avon, Ind.; Nathan Smith, 35, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Justin Thomas, 20, of Goshen, Ky.; Michael Weaver, 22, of Fresno, Calif.; Todd White, 45, of Spartanburg, S.C.; Cory Whitsett, 21, of Houston, Texas; and Bobby Wyatt, 21, of Mobile, Ala.
Members of the 2013 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Team: Matthew Fitzpatrick, 18, of England; Nathan Kimsey, 20, of England; Gavin Moynihan, 18, of Ireland; Max Orrin, 19, of England; Kevin Phelan, 22, of Ireland; Garrick Porteous, 23, of England; Rhys Pugh, 19, of Wales; Neil Raymond, 27, of England; Callum Shinkwin, 20, of England; and Jordan Smith, 20, of England.
Tickets & Volunteers: Walker Cup Match tickets are available by calling 631-488-4065 or by sending an email to Mike Perez (firstname.lastname@example.org) … Walker Cup volunteer opportunities are still available … Visit www.2013walkercup.com for more information and to register.