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On & Off the Course

September 4, 2011

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: Fall may be coming but golf season is far from over

TERRE HAUTE — Once the major tournaments are over with, what’s there to look forward to in the world of golf? Football is getting started, baseball is nearing the season’s end, but getting closer to the world series, so depending on who you like to follow, it could be getting more interesting. Professional golf, especially on television, tends to lose some of its charms in the fall because of the excitement of many other sports. However, some of the most exciting golf events are yet to come in the next couple of months; I’m talking about some of the team events: The Solheim Cup will be held September 23-25 at Killeen Castle, Ireland, and The President’s Cup will be held November 14-20 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. Another team event that is coming up is The Walker Cup, which will be broadcast by the BBC, so we might only be able to get the news after it happens here in the states. 

The Walker Cup is the most historic of all of the team events this fall, and the first to get underway. The Walker Cup, which will be held September 10-11, pits a team from Great Britain and Ireland against a team from the United States. All members from both teams must be amateur male golfers.

The beginnings of the Walker Cup started in the wake of World War I to try to stimulate interest in golf on both sides of the Atlantic. It was spurred by two matches that had taken place in the United States and Canada in 1919 and 1920. At that time, winning the British or the U.S. Amateur events were considered golf’s highest pinnacle.

George Herbert Walker, the USGA president in 1920, was one of the men who participated in a meeting with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews as part of the USGA Executive Committee. Upon the committee’s return, the idea of international team matches were discussed. Walker liked the idea so much he offered to donate a trophy, so the press dubbed the matches “The Walker Cup.”

In the spring of 1921, William C. Fownes, the 1910 U.S. Amateur champion, rounded up a team that played a match at Hoylake, England, where the American team won 9-3 in an informal match the day before the British Amateur. The next year, the R&A announced that it would send a team to compete for the Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of American, in Southhampton, N.Y. Originally the competition was open to any country that cared to challenge, the USGA invited all countries to compete, but only Great Britain was able to accept. The American team won that inaugural event 8-4, with some well-known players on the team such as Charles (Chick) Evans Jr., Robert T. Jones and Francis Ouimet.

The Walker Cup was played on an annual basis for a few years, but after 1924 it was decided that due to financial strain on the traveling team, and fear that interest would wane if the event were held too frequently, that the event would be played in alternate years. The series was interrupted by World War II after the 1938 match at St. Andrews, Scotland, and didn’t resume until 1947, where St. Andrews was again selected as the meeting site.

This year’s Walker Cup team for the U.S. will consist of 1) Patrick Cantlay, 19, of Los Alamitos, Calif.; 2) Harris English, 22, of Thomasville, Ga.; 3) Russell Henley, 22, of Macon, Ga.; 4) Peter Uihlein, 21, from Orlando, Fla.; 5) Patrick Rodgers, 18, of Avon, Ind.; 6) Nathan Smith, 33, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; 7) Chris Williams, 20, from Moscow, Idaho; 8) Blayne Barber, 21, of Lake City, Fla.; 9) Kelly Kraft, 22, of Denton, Tex.;  and 10) Jordan Spieth, 18, of Dallas, Tex.  The captain of the U.S. team is Jim Holtgrieve, 63, of St. Louis, Mo., who was a playing member of the Walker Cup teams in 1979, 1981, and 1983 teams.

Rodgers led his Avon High School team to the state Championships at The Legends of Indiana in 2009, when he was runner-up as a sophomore. In 2010, he was the low medalist, and in 2011 he won the Fred A. Keesling Mental Attitude Award. He was a two-time HP Scholastic All-American. He is a freshman at Stanford University now. 

On the GB & I side, the player to watch out for could be Tom Lewis, who made a sensation at this Year’s British Open Championship when he shared the lead with Thomas Bjorn after shooting a 65 in the first round, and going on the win the silver medal for low amateur.

The biennial event consists of 18 singles matches and eight foursomes (alternate-shot) matches, over two days. The U.S. leads the series 34-7-1. The true purpose of the Walker Cup Match has always been as a medium of international friendship and understanding between The R&A and the USGA. The Walker Cup will only be shown on the BBC Network so we won’t get it in America, but there are likely to be updates available online. It would be nice if we could witness some of the matches on TV this year.

Quote of the Day:  “Naturally, it was my hope to win out. I simply tried my best to keep this cup from going to our friends across the water.” – Francis Ouimet, after the 1913 U.S. Open.

Jennifer Myers can be reached by e-mail at jfmyers@xsthe.net.

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