2009 USA Walker Cup Team Announcement
RAND JERRIS: I want to thank everyone for their time this afternoon for joining us on the phone call. We are joined this afternoon by Jim Hyler, who is the vice president of the USGA and the chairman of the USGA Championship Committee. And we also have on the line with us Buddy Marucci, who is the captain of the USA Walker Cup team for 2009.
The purpose of the call today is, Buddy will be helping us name the first eight members of what will be a 10‑person team for the United States for the Walker Cup. The match itself is scheduled for September 12th and 13th on the East Course at Merion.
I will turn the floor over to Jim Hyler, who is the chairman of our Championship Committee. Jim will share a few thoughts about the Walker Cup with us to start off.
JIM HYLER: Thank you for joining us this afternoon. This is a special time of the year for us on an every‑other‑year basis. Before I get into the Walker Cup, let me just very quickly make a couple comments about our championship season so far, going back to the U.S. Open at Bethpage. Obviously a rain‑influenced event. Lucas Glover wins, in very workmanlike fashion. Woman's Open came down to the last putt on the 72nd hole, and Eun‑Hee Ji wins. Last Sunday at Crooked Stick, Fred Funk shoots 65 to cap a 20‑under performance at the Senior Open. Played fantastic golf. Of course, there we had a great performance by Tim Jackson, a now 50‑year‑old amateur in his first Senior Open. We also had the Women's Amateur final going on today. I don't know the status of the match, but Jennifer Song and Jennifer Johnson are playing for the Women's Amateur championship today.
I mentioned this is a very special time of the year for us on an every‑other‑year basis, as it relates to the Walker Cup. I think to a person, if you ask people in the executive committee of the USGA, the past presidents, what is their favorite event, without exception they would say it's the Walker Cup.
It's an international competition. It's selecting men to play for our country. It's very competitive with the team from Great Britain and Ireland. It's just a really, really neat, special event. The spectators get to be out on the fairway close to the players. It's a great event.
This year, with the Walker Cup being at Merion, with all of its history, the number of USGA Championships it's hosted, just adds a special flavor to the Walker Cup. This will be a lead‑in into the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.
This is a special day. We're going to be announcing eight players. I'm now going to turn it over to Buddy Marucci, who is our captain. Buddy captained our team to victory two years ago at Royal County Down. Buddy has played on two Walker Cup teams in 1995 and 1997.
Of note, Buddy is our reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion. As so happens, he will not be able to defend his title at Beverly County Club in Chicago because it's a direct overlap with the Walker Cup.
Buddy, if you will jump in and review the first eight guys for us.
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Thanks, Jim. Thanks to everyone in the media for your attention to this. This is a very special event. I know you get to cover a lot of events in sport, but there are not many like this one.
A little bit about the selection process. I will just say this: the selection process is difficult and we have put countless hours into trying to make sure that the process is equitable. Obviously we make some people happy and some people will be disappointed. But at the end of the day I feel very comfortable that we have exhausted all efforts to make sure we've been fair, and we believe that these fellows will represent the country well and do a great job for us.
Without any further ado, in alphabetical order, from Jacksonville, Florida, Bud Cauley, University of Alabama; from Murrieta, California, Rickie Fowler, Oklahoma State; from Muskegon, Michigan, Brendan Gielow, Wake Forest student; from Savannah, Georgia, Brian Harman; from Saddle Brook, New Jersey, Morgan Hoffmann; from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Adam Mitchell; from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Nathan Smith; and from High Point, North Carolina, Drew Weaver.
And, if you'd like, I guess we can open this up to some questions.
RAND JERRIS: Absolutely. If anyone has any questions, feel free to jump in.
Q. Buddy, do you have any pairings already envisioned for four‑balls and foursomes?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: No. We're going to get together this week and try to start looking at that. Frankly, the selection process has been extremely tight this year, so I haven't really had an opportunity to know who was going to be where. I haven't had a chance to do that yet.
JIM HYLER: Also keep in mind, we have two more players to name, which we haven't talked about. We will do that after the U.S. Amateur, which will conclude on August 30th. So we still have two players to name to the team.
Q. Buddy, I wondered your thought process and the committee's in naming Nathan Smith.
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Well, you know, I'm going to say the same thing that I said the last time. That is, at this point I look at all individuals and you put them into a team. I try not to break out any of the people individually.
Having said that, Nathan has been a tremendous player for a number of years. 31 years old, he's continued to compete. He has been extremely competitive if not superior to most of the players. We're really excited about him being on the team.
I'm very confident the way Nathan plays. He's got a great, controlled game. He's a fabulous putter. He'll do very well at Merion.
Q. Buddy, we talked during media day about shot makers, how Merion is a shot makers' course. Obviously all these guys are shot makers or they wouldn't be on the team. How do you feel they'll fit in with Merion and the style of golf you have to play there?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: I think for some it will be a little bit of a change. I think the quality of the people that we've picked will be able to handle that.
You know, we're going to get there on Tuesday this week, play for a couple of days. You know, we'll have a better feeling of that by the end of the week, who can adapt to it a little better than others.
But I think the talent that's in this group, they'll be fine.
Q. Buddy, have you had a chance to look at the GB and I team obviously being announced, how the USA team would match up against them?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Well, I have seen the announcement. I haven't spent a whole lot of time on that. I'll spend a little more time looking at that this week.
But the way it's done, where everything is done in blind, I pretty much will just worry about our fellas. I'm not really going to worry about what GB and I is doing. If we put the right combinations together and the right people on the golf course, we play the golf course, that's all we can do. I'm not really going to be concerned about who's playing against whom.
Q. Buddy, when the process was going on with the selection of the team, you mentioned how competitive it was this summer. This summer seemed to be a wide‑open race with a lot of players being able to play their way on the team this summer. Was it harder this time around than last time?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: You know, I guess maybe you could say that. I think we're comfortable that we have a tremendous group of players, probably 20 or 25 players that could have made this team, and still many that could make the team.
Whether it was harder or not, I'm not sure. But certainly the last time we had four or five players that had separated themselves. So to the extent there was a little more definition in that, that probably was a little easier.
But when you get down to the last three or four, and you have 10 players that could do it, I'm sure it's always difficult. This has been a difficult selection.
Q. Buddy, can you go through your practice schedule leading up to the Walker Cup.
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Sure. We're gonna be at Merion on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning of this week. Then everyone will kind of go home for a little while. They'll all go to the U.S. Amateur the end of next week. Once the Amateur is over, we pick the final two players, we're going to go to Caves Valley probably the Friday of Labor Day weekend. We'll play Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Caves Valley. We'll get to Merion, Philadelphia, Sunday night.
I'm not quite sure what the schedule is going to be like during the week of the matches. But we were pretty successful last time. We went really hard at the beginning of the week and we kind of lightened it up at the end of the week. If the team seems to like that plan, then we'll probably go with that.
So I would imagine during the week of the matches, we'll play a lot more golf on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday than we will on Thursday and Friday.
Q. Why Caves Valley the week before and not Merion?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: I think it's nice to get them away. The first time all 10 of them will be together. I don't want to burn them out. The first couple of days is really kind of a congratulatory thing. Eight of them will have already seen Merion. So, frankly, after they play for three or four days, they're ready to go. I certainly don't want them ready to play on Tuesday when the match doesn't start till Saturday.
I think it's nice to get them away, create some camaraderie, some chemistry. We'll do some other things, play golf, go to baseball games. We'll do some things to kind of bring them together.
You know, I don't want to get them there too early.
Q. Buddy, would it be a fair assessment to say you're looking at Rickie Fowler and Brian Harman to provide leadership? If not, are you looking at anybody individually to provide that leadership?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Well, of the first eight, you know, Brian and Rickie are the only two that have played before, so we're certainly going to be looking to them for experience, maybe a little bit of calm over the event, over the team.
We have some pretty, you know, good players here. So I'm not really worried about that part of it. But, yeah, certainly Rickie and Brian are two successful players. They both have had good records in international competition. You know, they will be the leaders of the team, of these eight anyway.
Q. Buddy, how much consideration did Tim Jackson get, if at all? Was what the players did during the summer your major focus in picking the team?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: I'll answer the second part of that first.
You know, it's probably an 18‑month process, including two summers. Certainly this summer is probably weighted a little heavier than last summer. But, you know, if a player's won a major tournament in '08 as opposed to '09, it obviously gets serious consideration.
I'm not going to talk about anybody that didn't make the team. I don't think that's fair. You know, I will tell you that Tim as well as a number of other people have all gotten tremendous consideration, but I don't want to single anybody out.
JIM HYLER: Keep in mind, that Tim by virtue of his performance last week is now in the U.S. Amateur. He'll have a chance there to play well.
Q. Buddy, I don't know if you personally got to speak with each of the eight that were named to the team. If you did, is there a conversation that stands out in your mind? I'm sure they were all excited about being named to the team. Any one, when you got to tell them the news, that their joy sticks out in your mind?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: I only notified one of the players, and then I've called all the players today. They're all very excited. You know, I think I spoke with Nathan directly last night, and he was very excited about it. A mid amateur, quite an accomplishment. He's 31 years old. So he was very excited. But I've spoken to all of them, and they all are thrilled, as you would imagine.
So I think, you know, it was pretty level all the way along.
JIM HYLER: A kid like Brian Harman who I called directly was really excited because he hasn't turned pro yet. He remained an amateur through the summer. He really had this as a goal. So being named in this first wave was really, really exciting for him.
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: To that end, I would add that I did speak to Rickie this morning. You know, Rickie has many options 'cause he's such a fabulous player, and he's a wonderful, wonderful young man. He was very, very important to us the last time. And I will tell you that I did thank him personally for hanging around to play in these matches.
It means a lot to him to play in the matches. I thought that was quite a feather in his cap, to be out there with us for these matches.
Q. Jim, there's been some talk this summer that there's now a formalized agreement that if a player eligible for either side wins the British or the U.S. Amateur, they are guaranteed to their respective teams. Is that a knew rule? If so, when was that made?
JIM HYLER: I'm not aware of that. You know, obviously two years ago that was an issue. I'm not aware that we have that kind of agreement.
Q. Buddy, anything this time around, having done this once before, anything you know now that you didn't know for the first one that will be helpful?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Yeah. The kids like to dress up more than I thought they did before (laughter). They like fancier clothes. That was something I learned over there.
You know, I think the last time when we went across to Ireland, I thought the chemistry was going to be really important. That proved to be the case. So if I learned anything, I learned that what I believed there was true. That's going to be my main mission over the next week or two weeks at the amateur and at Merion this week, is to get these fellas together and try to get them thinking, you know, as a single unit.
As you can appreciate, a lot can happen in a very short period of time during these matches. It really is important that everyone cooperates. The last time we had a very, very solid group of young men who all were pulling in the same direction. At the end, it really helped. So that's going to be my main mission.
I think if I learned anything from any of this experience over the last four years, that's the thing that's mattered the most to me.
Q. Buddy, you had Tripp on the team last time around as an older guy. Now you have Nathan. Did you feel that was important to have that one older mid amateur guy on the team?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Well, I'm not sure that ‑‑ you know, that's a tough one. I'm not sure that Nathan plays the same role that Tripp played. Tripp was a little more seasoned in international competition than Nathan.
But, you know, Tripp certainly helped the last time as a little bit of a buffer. I think that Rickie, even though he's young, but he's played before, and he's been on one of the teams that I captained, will probably fill that role, and maybe even Brian will help fill that role. Nathan certainly is qualified to do that. But it's going to be his first experience. I think he's going to be kind of feeling his way through there. Tripp had played twice before. We played on a team together. It was kind of a different relationship.
As far as mid amateurs, if they're competitive, I think they should be considered. If they're not competitive, then I think they have to kind of be with everybody else.
JIM HYLER: Nathan played his way on this team. He's had a terrific year this year. So he was right there with his performance.
Q. Buddy, obviously captaining the Walker Cup again is a great experience for you. Do you have any thoughts about not being able to defend your title at the Senior Amateur this year?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: Not really. I mean, given the two, it's not even a question in my mind. This is the nicest thing that's ever happened to me in golf. I've had some good fortune on the golf course. I'm not sure there's a nicer experience in golf than being captain of the Walker Cup team. I think that's probably all there is. I have 10 years to go out there and try to play again.
Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled to have won finally a USGA Championship, it means the world to me. But I think that, given the two responsibilities, I'm very happy to be doing this at Merion.
JIM HYLER: I'll tell you, Buddy has done a terrific job as captain. He has traveled all over the country now for almost four years watching players. He spent a lot of time doing this. He obviously is still very competitive in a lot of these major amateur events, he plays alongside these kids. He has just really given his heart and soul to being captain. I think we've been very lucky to have him in this role.
Q. You have said on any number of occasions that being captain of this team has been the crowning achievement of your golf career. Do you have any goals left after this? Anything left on your plate to try to achieve?
CAPTAIN MARUCCI: I don't know. I'm not sure that's for me to decide. You know, I just want to stay around the game. I don't know. Whatever I can do for the game is what I'd like to do.
But I'm not really thinking past September 13th right now. Once that's over, I'll worry about that. But, you know, right now I'm just trying to do the best job I can for the next period of time, put our best foot forward in Merion.
Q. Jim, in the past the captain actually has some participation in the committee, but there is a group that makes those decisions. As you outlined, Buddy has spent so much time and effort looking at these players, probably more than anyone else, in this particular case, did Buddy have more of a role than normally a captain would have?
JIM HYLER: Well, I've been involved in '05, '07 and '09. Going back to '05, Bob Lewis had a role in the selection because he's out there watching the players, just like Buddy. So the captain, who is engaged and who has seen the players, has a major voice in the selection of the team.
Ultimately it comes down to the International Team Selection Committee, made up of I think four Executive Committee members, and we have two outside people who are on the committee. So they ultimately select the team.
But in this case, Buddy has an awful lot of input into the decision.
Q. What is the formal name of the committee?
JIM HYLER: International Team Selection Committee.
RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much to everyone for their time. We will be issuing momentarily the press release, the formal press release, with the eight players. If anyone joined us late and missed all the details, they will be provided in the press release. There is also, accompanying the press release, information for a photo light box. If you're looking for photographs of team players or Buddy, those photos are available for download and use with stories, websites, et cetera. That information is there.