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USGA's 16-man Walker Cup practice squad full of fresh faces
19 Nov 2018
by AmateurGolf.com Staff

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Stewart Hagestad (MGA photo)
Stewart Hagestad (MGA photo)

UPDATED: Davis Riley originally received an invitation but withdrew from the practice session, according to a USGA update. Trent Phillips has been invited in his place. This story reflects those changes.

The USGA’s International Team Selection Committee has announced the 16 men who will attend an initial Walker Cup practice session Dec. 14-18 in anticipation of the 2019 Walker Cup matches at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Interestingly, only one member of the 2017 U.S. Walker Cup team will appear at the practice session, and that is Stewart Hagestad, the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.

For reference, six of the 16 players from the 2017 Walker Cup practice session were named to the 10-man U.S. team and nine of the 16 from the practice sessions for the 2013 and 2015 matches were selected.

The remaining invitees include:

John Augenstein, of Owensboro, Ky.
Akshay Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C.
Will Gordon, of Davidson, N.C.
Cole Hammer, of Houston, Texas
Brandon Mancheno, of Jacksonville, Fla.
Bryson Nimmer, of Bluffton, S.C.
Kevin O’Connell, of Cary, N.C.
Matt Parziale, of Brockton, Mass.
Chandler Phillips, of Huntsville, Texas
Trent Phillips, of Inman, S.C.
Isaiah Salinda, of South San Francisco, Calif.
Alex Smalley, of Wake Forest, N.C.
Tyler Strafaci, of Davie, Fla.
Matthew Wolff, of Agoura Hills, Calif.
Brandon Wu, of Scarsdale, N.Y.

Hagestad is among three mid-amateurs invited to the session, including the past two U.S. Mid-Amateur champions, Parziale (’17) and O’Connell (’18).

Twelve of the 16 men are current collegians, with just one high-school player making the list. That’s Bhatia, who recently was named the AJGA’s Rolex Player of the Year after victories at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, the Polo Golf Junior Classic and the Boys Junior PGA Championship over the past year.

The top three players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – Justin Suh, Collin Morikawa and Braden Thornberry – are conspicuously missing from the list, but all three have plans to turn pro. Thornberry and Morikawa were on the 2017 Walker Cup squad. Every other member of that squad (except Hagestad) has since turned professional.

U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby, who was part of the winning U.S. squad at the 1983 matches at Royal Liverpool, and members of the International Team Selection Committee will also attend the practice session.

“This practice session presents an excellent opportunity for the players, the captain and the USGA to become familiar with each other as we begin the process of team selection,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of championships. “Individual personalities show through and we see the beginning of a sense of team spirit.

“While these 16 talented individuals represent the first pool of potential team members, we expect many others will be considered as the selection process moves toward its conclusion next August,” said Bodenhamer.

Earlier this year, the USGA announced revisions to the international team selection process that grant automatic selections to the Walker Cup team for the 2019 U.S. Amateur champion, the Mark H. McCormack Award winner (WAGR world No.1 immediately after U.S. Amateur) and the top 3 U.S. players in the WAGR (as of early August). The remaining players will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee.

Information from the USGA used in this report

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