|Peter Uihlein ended his Walker Cup career with a 4-0 singles mark, including a second consecutive Sunday singles victory over England's Stiggy Hodgson. (John Mummert/USGA)|
Team USA won the final session, but lost the battle at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
Great Britain & Ireland scored just enough points in the final 10 singles matches to secure a 14-12 decision, its first victory since 2003 at Ganton Golf Club in North Yorkshire, England.
But credit to USA for making the gritty GB&I squad, a decided pre-competition underdog, work for it. The home team, up five points heading into singles, got a case of sweaty palms amid cold, breezy conditions along the North Sea as the Americans scored four points in the first six matches. They went on to finish 5-2-3 to make it close.
Certainly today was a tough day, said USA captain Jim Holtgrieve, who experienced his first loss in the Walker Cup after being on three winning teams as a player in 1979, ’81 and ’83. I kind of thought that my guys would fight back, which they did. They did courageously. Even when we were down at lunch, they kept saying that, which I would never give up on, so that comment was never even in my vocabulary. I knew it would be hard, particularly with the conditions. But these guys fought real hard.
The conditions might have been a factor, but the USA seemed more than capable of handling the high winds when it won the opening two singles matches. Russell Henley knocked off Tom Lewis, 4 and 2, and two-time U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jordan Spieth followed with a 3-and-2 win over Andy Sullivan.
Spieth, 18, of Dallas, finished 2-0-1, the only unbeaten American.
It's unfortunate it ended this way, but you know, the individual stuff doesn't matter in this kind of event, said Spieth, who hopes to get another shot to play on a Walker Cup Team two years from now at The National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.
When Nathan Smith scratched out a halve against Jack Senior and Peter Uihlein rallied past Stiggy Hodgson, the Americans had points in four of the first five matches. Uihlein, who triumphed 2 and 1, also beat Hodgson in singles two years ago at Merion and improved to 4-0 overall in singles.
When I walked off I felt like we were in pretty good shape honestly, said Uihlein.
Peter Uihlein said to me when he was 2‑down, ‘Don’t worry, I got it.’ And he did, Holtgrieve said. It's just that I'm 63. I wish it would be a little easier on my heart.
The USA continued to show a heartbeat when Blayne Barber also scored a halve and Harris English rallied for a singles win for the second day in a row, this time beating James Byrne, 2 and 1. Chris Williams registered the last USA win when he held off Alan Dunbar, 1 up, after holding a 5-up lead early.
Not a lot was said, Smith said of the USA team lockerroom scene between the disappointing foursomes result in the morning and the make-or-break afternoon singles matches. Our team, they’re great players, they know what they’re capable of. It’s a situation where no words needed to be spoken. Just everybody go out and take care of their business. It was still pretty light. We knew what we had to do. Everybody was fighting as hard as they can.
We still thought we had a great chance, Uihlein said. I thought singles played into our hands in my opinion. I think singles matches historically play to our favor. And I felt like we still had a great team. I felt like we still had a chance to get it done.
They almost did. Holtgrieve couldn’t have been more proud.
These guys, they played so hard, and with so much heart, the captain said. To see Harris English and watch him play and be so calm and to watch everybody else in this group be so calm, I mean, Russell and Jordan went out and got two points on the board real quick and everybody got pretty pumped up about that and I passed that along. Peter obviously made a great come back on his match.
No, these guys, they got so much heart. They never gave up. And the mood in our team room was, hey, let's go attack this afternoon. And they all did that. They all did that with complete respect for each other and respect for the other players. They went out and did exactly why they got on this team; because they know exactly how to play in competition and that's what they showed this afternoon.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose material has previously appeared on USGA websites.