U.S. Amateur Golf Is Alive & Well

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While the PGA Tour is taking a one-week sabbatical from its FedEx Cup Playoffs, there will be no shortage of compelling golf being played.

The 43rd Walker Cup Matches opens on Saturday at the Balgownie Course at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in Aberdeen, Scotland, as a 10-player American squad faces off against a like number of players from Great Britain and Ireland.

Think of it as an amateur style Ryder Cup.

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The reason it will be compelling is because you will be watching the very same young players who were among the storylines this summer at the professional level.

Remember Tom Lewis, the 20-year old who shot 65 in the opening round of the Open Championship to become the first amateur in 43 years to lead the British Open. Well, he’s on the GB&I squad.

Or how about University of Georgia teammates Russell Henley and Harris English? They each won Nationwide Tour events this season, marking the first time two amateurs won on that tour in the same season.

Then there is 19-year-old Patrick Cantlay. All he did was tie for 21st at the U.S. Open and ninth at the RBC Canadian Open, along with shooting a course record 60 at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.

“I just think amateur golf is alive and well in the United States, as I’m sure it is in the UK, as well,” said Jim Holtgrieve, the United States captain and a three-time U.S. Walker Cup player. “We’ve got Patrick [who is] 19 years old, we’ve got two 18 year olds here. When I played Walker Cup, I was 31 years old. So to see the talent of these gentlemen at this age, it’s incredible.”

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Two years ago Rickie Fowler, who has acquired a growing allegiance of fans on the PGA Tour, went 4-0 in his matches to lead the United States to its third consecutive win in the matches. Overall, the Yanks own a commanding 34-7-1 record.

And if you do not think these matches are important, consider that a number of players, such as Henley and English, opted to stay amateur until after these matches. Henley and English both graduated in the spring and could have started playing for riches, but they also knew this would be a one-shot chance to represent the United States.

“We would tell each other that we would make the Walker Cup together,” Henley was quoted saying recently. “I’m not surprised [English] made it. He’s always been a great player, and I’m happy we’re both part of it.”
Yes, the NFL kicks off this weekend, but some of the best games may be played by a bunch of amateurs.

Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.