WALKER CUP
This is My Team August 22, 2017 By John "Spider" Miller

Spider Miller shares his thoughts as he prepares for his second stint as USA Walker Cup Team captain. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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In my opinion, there is no greater honor in golf than to represent your country. I had the privilege of playing on the 1999 USA Walker Cup Team at The Nairn Golf Club in Scotland. We lost, 15 to 9, but the lasting friendships I formed with my teammates, fellow competitors on the Great Britain & Ireland team and their families are something that I will cherish forever.

For all the individual accolades available to a player over the course of a career, being part of a team is the most fulfilling aspect of playing competitive golf. I played in hundreds of tournaments and have forgotten my results in nearly all of them, but I still remember every single shot I hit in the Walker Cup. It was the pinnacle of my amateur career.

The young men who will wear the “USA” on their sleeves in the 46th Walker Cup at The Los Angeles Country Club are a special group. They will go on to do great things. Some will distinguish themselves by playing golf professionally. A few could win major championships. It’s possible that one of them might even invent something that changes the world. They will have careers that are rewarding and families that bring them joy. But they will always treasure playing in this event.

As their captain, I want to create an atmosphere in which they can have fun, but one that also prepares them to play their best. Leading up to the competition, we’ll do some team-building activities and will get to know each another a little better. A lot of it will be focused on golf, but some of it will be cultural. If they are wearing the red, white and blue, I want them to know what that represents and appreciate those who have made sacrifices for our country.

I learned a few things from my 2015 Walker Cup experience. First, I don’t like losing very much and neither did the guys. All the credit to the GB&I Team – they played great and deserved it, but I look forward to having an opportunity to win it back this year.

Second, these 10 young men made the team because they are great players. I’m not going to mess with what got them here. I am not going to pretend that I can improve their game with my instruction; rather my focus will be on creating an atmosphere that is conducive to allowing us to come together as a team.

The most effective leaders I have known empower their teams by making them part of the process. I want this team to participate in the decision-making and share in the collective responsibility. We are in this together, win or lose.

Being part of a Walker Cup Team is special, but being on a winning team would mean so much to these players. Every single one of them deserves to be here and I have no doubt that our personalities will mesh well. Here is what I think each of them brings to the team:

Cameron Champ:
It’s a fitting name because he is going to win a lot in this game. He has incredible power, the likes of which I haven’t seen in decades. On a long course like LACC, his firepower is going to be a big advantage.

Doug Ghim:
Doug has a great attitude. He’s also one of the best short putters in the game. If I had to pick a guy to make 5-footer with everything on the line, it would be Doug.

Stewart Hagestad:
He has tremendous self-belief, which we saw in his come-from-behind victory in the U.S. Mid-Amateur and when he was the low amateur in the Masters. He also brings a lot of course knowledge, which will be an important asset.

Maverick McNealy:
I expect Mav to be one of our leaders, especially to the younger guys. He will be the dean of our team – thoughtful, intellectual and with plenty of game to back it up. He’s also the only player returning from the 2015 Team, so he brings that important experience along.

Collin Morikawa:
Collin is such a consistent player. He puts constant pressure on his opponents and makes them earn everything. Growing up in greater Los Angeles, I know this opportunity means a lot to him.

Doc Redman:
What can you say? He was absolutely unwilling to accept defeat in that U.S. Amateur final. He doesn’t give an inch out there and has the immeasurable “clutch” factor.

Scottie Scheffler:
He has an outgoing personality that will be perfect for keeping things loose in the team room. He’s already a USGA champion and showed he can thrive on a long golf course by earning low-amateur honors at Erin Hills.

Braden Thornberry:
I love his demeanor. He never gets too high or low. He also plays his best when the stakes are the highest and showed he can hang with anyone by finishing fourth in a PGA Tour event.

Norman Xiong:
He may the youngest player on the team, but don’t confuse youth with inexperience. His performance at the Western Amateur showed that he is poised for some big things. Another Southern Californian, Norman will be tough to reckon with for a long time.

Will Zalatoris:
Also a USGA champion, Will is someone I’ve enjoyed watching for years. I love his competitiveness. He grinds everything out and he’s tough – absolutely nothing fazes him.

I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to captain this group of fine players, who are even finer young men. This event is near and dear to my heart for the relationships forged and the memories created. I can’t wait for them to share in that experience.

I believe in this team.

And I can’t wait for the opportunity to win back the Walker Cup.

USA Walker Cup Team captain John “Spider” Miller also served in that role in 2015. He won the 1996 and 1998 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships and was a member of the 1999 Walker Cup Team.

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