Victorious USA Walker Cup Squad
Invited To White House
January 27, 2006
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Far Hills, N.J. - Jeff Hall and Bob Lewis sat in a Washington,
D.C., hotel room last Monday afternoon, watching the television
screen in wonderment. President George Bush was delivering a
speech to a contingency in Manhattan, Kan., some 1,200 miles
"I said, 'Bob, I don't see how this is going to
happen,' " said Hall, the USGA's Director of
Rules/Competitions and Standards to the 61-year-old two-time USA
Walker Cup captain.
Added Lewis: "We were laughing. 'There's no way
he's getting back,' we thought. But even some of the kids
were watching in their rooms. We were all concerned because we
did not want to miss the opportunity."
One could understand their reservations. After all, receiving
an invite to the White House happens more infrequently than a
Haley's Comet sighting.
|USA players celebrate their first Walker
Cup victory since the 1997 Match after posting a narrow
12Â½-11Â½ win over Great Britain and Ireland this past August
at Chicago Golf Club. (USGA photo archives)|| |
A day after the squad's dramatic 12Â½ to 11Â½ victory over
the Great Britain and Ireland squad at the eminent Chicago Golf
Club last July, a White House aide contacted Hall, who acts as
the team's manager. With the Bush family ties to the Walker
Cup (the cup is named after Bush's great grandfather, former
USGA President George Herbert Walker), the aide wanted to know if
the team could come to Washington for a meeting with the
commander-in-chief. But scheduling conflicts kept postponing the
assembly. Now it appeared as though another delay would be
Not so fast. When you're the U.S. President, certain perks
apply, like having a government-issued Boeing 747 (Air Force
One). Four hours later everyone watched in astonishment as Bush
stepped out of the Marine One helicopter and onto the South
USGA incoming President Walter Driver (he officially takes
office on Feb. 4), outgoing president Fred Ridley, Hall, Lewis
and players Matt Every, Brian Harman, Billy Hurley, Anthony Kim,
Michael Putnam, Kyle Reifers and Lee Williams entered the Oval
Office in single file. (Three players from the team, John Holmes,
Nicholas Thompson and Jeff Overton had prior PGA Tour commitments
and did not attend). Bush greeted each one individually.
Lewis had prepared to introduce the team but Bush took care of
that, which impressed Lewis, a three-time runner-up in USGA
championships (1980 U.S. Amateur, 1981 and '84 U.S.
Mid-Amateur) and a four-time Walker Cup participant. The normally
loquacious Harman called Bush "just a normal dude, just
Bush spoke about golf and the importance it had in his
family's life. He engaged Ridley, telling the 1975 U.S.
Amateur champion with merriment that Walker was "his great
granddad." He regaled in the fact that his grandfather,
former USGA President Prescott Bush (1935), taught him how to
The two sides exchanged mementos. Hurley, a graduate of the
U.S. Naval Academy, presented the President, to his delight, with
a hat that had a large W, for Walker, on the front. The White
House guests received golf balls stamped with the presidential
The event wasn't completely formal. After the
introductions, Bush gave everyone a history lesson on the Oval
Office, told stories about various pictures on the wall and about
other minutiae, such as the desk he had ordered to be brought in
upon his inauguration in 2000. It traces back to the days of
Abraham Lincoln, he said. Yet the gravity of the moment suddenly
turned farcical when Bush rotated to catch Kim leaning on the
"That was a classic," said Lewis, laughing.
"The President turned and saw him and said something like,
'It's OK to lean on that desk.'"
Bush even poked fun at himself. When addressing Hurley, who
currently serves as an economic instructor at the U.S. Naval
Academy, Bush put him on the spot.
"He asked me if I was at his speech that he gave in
November at the Naval Academy, which I was," said Hurley in
an e-mail response. "He then he asked me if I was asleep and
I said no, and he said, 'Thank you.' You see, all
the midshipmen (students) at the Academy were required to get to
the auditorium starting at 6:30 a.m. for a 9:45 speech, so most
of them were lounging around and sleeping prior to him
Toward the end of the visit Bush singled out Harman, a
University of Georgia freshman and 2003 U.S. Junior champion, for
the Bulldogs' football program and the school's
top-ranked and defending NCAA Division I champion men's golf
team. Maybe we'll see you back here, Harman said Bush told
him. To which Every, a senior at the Southeastern Conference
rival University of Florida, retorted good-humoredly that all the
other golf teams were playing for second but that he
shouldn't necessarily count out the third-ranked Gators.
Every punctuated the ribbing by asking Bush who made his suits,
bringing another laugh.
Through it all, the purpose of the visit wasn't lost on
anyone. Lewis, who has been affiliated with Walker Cups as player
and captain and who has played in seven Masters, finishing as low
amateur in 1987, has a fair share of treasured golf memories. In
many ways, to be recognized by the President, was a validation of
the team's historic accomplishment. The USA victory was the
first by the Americans in the biennial competition since
"Absolutely," said Lewis. "The Walker Cup, as
I've told many people, has been a huge part of my life.
Nothing means as much to me as that in my life."
Harman said it's been his favorite moment thus far in his
abbreviated career. Hurley couldn't have agreed more.
"The Walker Cup was the highlight of most of our golf
careers to date, and I think that meeting the President will fix
it that way for a long, long time," Hurley said. "Not
many people have spent 15 minutes in the Oval Office with the
"I think that it really hammers home the idea that we
were playing for our country. There's no more important
man in the country, and of course the military, than the
President. And for him to have us to his house and spend some
time with us says a lot about the national importance of the
Walker Cup, and more importantly, winning the Walker
Maybe the deferential Hall, who made it apparent that all the
credit should rest with the team, put it best.
"It was about thanking and honoring an American team that
carried the American flag into an international
competition," he said. "It was the office of the
Presidency saying, 'Thank you.' "
Ken Klavon is the Web Editor for the USGA. E-mail him with
questions or comments at email@example.com.