Luke Donald, of England, led a recent surge of Great Britain and Ireland success in the Walker Cup Match by playing on two victorious teams in 1999 and 2001. Donald was 7-1-0 in Walker Cup play. The 1999 NCAA Division I champion has carried his match-play success into the professional ranks, where he’s been one of Europe’s stalwarts in the Ryder Cup Matches. A former World No. 1, Donald owns five PGA Tour victories, including the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
What did it mean to you to play in the Walker Cup?
It meant a lot to me. It meant enough to postpone turning pro and wanting to play my second Walker Cup at Sea Island. For me it was a big deal to make that team and represent my country. We whupped up on the Americans pretty good, so that made it even better. I had such a great experience at Nairn that I wanted to live it again at Sea Island.
Was there one match or shot that stood out?
My win in 1999 winning singles against Bryce Molder. It was nice to win a match against another top college player, someone who I had gone head-to-head with frequently.
Your Walker Cup record is pretty strong, especially in singles where you were unbeaten in four matches.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Walker Cup experience, and having the kind of success I had was really quite a nice bonus. I played against some really great players.
As a junior golfer in England, how big is making the Walker Cup?
I think it’s the pinnacle of amateur golf. We grow up playing a lot of amateur matches, whether it’s county versus county or trying to get into the Home Internationals where you are playing different countries around the UK. The Walker Cup is obviously the biggest one you can get into. That’s the best 10 people from your country. It is a big deal.
How much did playing college golf in the U.S. help you when it came to the Walker Cup, especially when it was held in Georgia?
I quickly adapted to the U.S.-style courses. I had a really good record during my college career and they just seemed to suit me. I think that’s why I chose to go through the U.S. [PGA] Tour Q School before going to Europe. I just felt really comfortable with the speed of the greens and the well-manicured courses. It obviously helped me at Sea Island, especially with the hot weather as well. It was one of the hottest places that I’ve ever been. You couldn’t even practice. Two minutes after walking out you were dripping. It was probably even a degree warmer than Tulsa at Southern Hills [for the 2007 PGA Championship]
A lot of recent GB&I players like yourself, Paul Casey, Rhys Davies, Oliver Wilson and Graeme McDowell have come to the U.S. to play college golf. Has that been a reason for some of the recent success in Walker Cup play?
I think people have become more aware of how good the U.S. college system is. That’s one downfall overseas in the UK that if you want to carry on your education, it’s very hard to mix both sport and education. You just can’t do it on the same level as the U.S. college system. I’m not sure how many are coming over for the education as well (Donald has an art degree from Northwestern) but the college golf scene is pretty good. You are constantly playing against great players and that’s a great way to improve.