Far Hills, N.J. (Sept 7, 2007) -- There will be no one in the USA locker room who will top the passion George "Buddy" Marucci has for this 10-player amateur team event called the Walker Cup Match. Then again, few have the fire he has for competition of any kind.
No doubt that will come across in each team meeting at Royal County Down Golf Club in Newcastle, Northern Ireland when the USA squares off against the Great Britain and Ireland squad Sept. 8-9. He knows both sides of winning and losing in this match-play competition begun at the urging of George Herbert Walker, the great-grandfather of current President George Bush, in 1922.
Marucci’s side was the prohibitive favorite in 1995 at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales when the world was just getting to know Tiger Woods, then a two-time U.S. Amateur champion. The USA had won 10 of the last 11 Matches, but this time the home squad stole the show, winning 14-10.
The short-hitting Gary Wolstenholme of England even beat Woods in a singles match. And Marucci could do no better. Trip Kuehne, a U.S. Amateur runner-up who just graduated from Oklahoma State, took his lumps too.
The tide had turned for the kids from GB&I, who were not expected to keep the beautiful United States Golf Association International Challenge Trophy from returning through U.S. customs. The taste of victory came with champagne corks popping everywhere and the UK kids chasing and spraying each other with the bubbly stuff.
Marucci and Kuehne could only watch with heavy hearts from the periphery.
When Marucci played for the USA team in 1997 at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in New York, he joined his good friend John Harris as key players on a winning team. Harris went 4-0. Marucci was 3-0.
"It’s a dream come true to be involved with the Walker Cup Match again," he said. "I couldn’t be more pleased to lead this group of fine young men to Ireland. I will share my passion for this event with them and then turn them loose. I know they will represent themselves and all of amateur golf well."
When it comes to sizing up the USA team, you could lead with NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Chris Kirk of Woodstock, Ga., who was the college player of the year. Colt Knost of Dallas, Texas, is a two-time USGA winner this season with a 12-0 match play record along the way.
The GB&I team will trumpet homeland favorite Rory McIlroy, an 18-year-old who stole the show among amateurs playing in this year’s British Open. His matches will likely be followed by several thousand spectators, who love their golf in Northern Ireland.
But two with talent and experience are Rhys Davis of Wales and Lloyd Saltman, the lone Scot on the team. Both played in 2005 and posted winning overall records.
The Walker Cup Match is more than wins and losses. Kuehne, who also played for the USA side in 2003, put it in perspective.
"We want to take care of business, but you have to take time to stop and smell the roses," Kuehne said prior to flying off to Ireland with the team. "Enjoy the moment because it’s the culmination of everything you have worked for to this point. It’s the beginning of a journey; the experience and relationships that will last a lifetime.
"When I decided to stay an amateur, this is what I envisioned. I have had the chance to play for myself, my family, my team and my country. It doesn’t get any better than that."
To view player profiles for the USA and GB&I teams, click here>
Craig Smith is the USGA’s Director of Media Relations. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.