World Amateur Team Championship preview

It could be called the Olympics of golf, contested every two years in non-Walker Cup years, the 2008 World Amateur Team Championship, draws a record-setting 126 teams (72 men’s and 54 women’s) to Australia in October.

South Africa will be defending its 2006 women’s championship (Espirito Santo Trophy) at The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide, while The Netherlands defends its 2006 men’s title (Eisenhower Trophy) Oct. 16-19 at Royal Adelaide Golf Club.

Off the 24 times the tourney has been contested, the United States mens team has taken home the trophy 14 times and finished as runner-up six more times. Their worst finish was 9th, in 1996.

Last year, the American squad of Chris Kirk, Jonathan Moore and Trip Kuehne finished third, three strokes behind the Dutch and one back of the Canadians.

The women's squad had their worst finish all-time last year, closing in 9th place, with a squad composed of Amanda Blumenherst, Kimberly Kim and Jennie Lee. The American women have won the event 12 times in 21 tries, with three second-place finishes.

The American team will be comprised of Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, Calif., Billy Horschel of Grant, Fla., and Jamie Lovemark of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. All three players were members of the USA’s victorious 2007 Walker Cup Team.

Kyle Stanley of Gig Harbor, Wash., was named first alternate, while 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up Drew Kittleson of Scottsdale, Ariz., was named second alternate.

“I can’t wait,” said Fowler, the 2008 NCAA Player of the Year. “It’s going to be a tremendous opportunity and a great competition, and hopefully we can return home with a victory. I think we have a very solid team, and if we concern ourselves more with how we play instead of worrying about the other teams, we should have a great chance.”

USGA past president Walter Driver will serve as the United States Men’s Team captain.

“I am excited to have all three of these extremely talented players representing our country,” said Driver. “They have a strong sense of commitment to the game and an idea about what it takes to play in international competition.”

The Women’s Amateur Team Championship will be conducted prior to the men’s competition, Oct. 8-11 at The Grange Golf Club’s East and West Courses. Representing the USA will be 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Amanda Blumenherst of Scottsdale, Ariz., Tiffany Joh of San Diego, Calif., and Alison Walshe of Westford, Mass. Marcia Luigs of Carmel, Ind., USGA Women’s Committee chairman in 2005 and 2006, will serve as the United States Women’s Team captain.

“It is such an amazing experience to represent your country, and I'm honored to be selected,” said Blumenherst, who will play for Team USA a second time after helping the Americans finish ninth in 2006. “And it is so much fun to be on an actual team, when golf is usually an individual sport. I feel we have such a solid team, that we will definitely bring home the trophy."

Conducted by the International Golf Federation, the World Amateur Team Championships are held every two years. The competition is four days of stroke play, and a country may field a team of two or three players. In each round, the total of the two lowest scores by players from each team constitutes the team score for the round. The four-day total is the team's score for the championship.

The IGF was founded as the World Amateur Golf Council in 1958 to encourage the international development of the game and to employ golf as a vehicle to foster friendship and sportsmanship. Recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the official international federation for golf, the IGF comprises the national governing bodies of golf in more than 110 countries. The organization’s name was changed to the IGF in 2003.

**** USA Team Member Bios ****

-Fowler, 19, is the 2008 NCAA Ben Hogan Award winner as the NCAA Player of the Year – the first freshman ever to earn that distinction – after his first year playing at Oklahoma State University. He made the cut at the 2008 U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego, where he finished T-60. Fowler also won the individual title at the 2008 Big 12 Conference Championship, the 2007 Southern California High School Championship and the 2006 California State High School Championship.

-Horschel, 21, is a two-time first-team All-American and the 2007 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. Currently heading into his senior year at the University of Florida, he posted a USGA record 60 in the first round of stroke play at the 2006 U.S. Amateur and also qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open, where he missed the cut.

-Lovemark, 19, became only the eighth freshman to win the NCAA individual title when he accomplished that feat in 2007, representing the University of Southern California. He earned the Arnold Palmer (national championship individual medalist), Jack Nicklaus (national player of the year) and Phil Mickelson (nation's outstanding freshman) Awards and was tabbed the Pac-10 Co-Golfer of the Year.

-Stanley, 20, won the 2006 Southern Amateur in Birmingham, Ala., by posting a 9-under-par total of 275 for 72 holes to win by a single stroke. He was the individual runner-up to Lovemark at the 2007 NCAA Championship and is entering his junior year at Clemson University.

-Kittleson, 19, recently finished as the runner-up to Danny Lee of New Zealand at the 2008 U.S. Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, N.C. A sophomore at Florida State University, he was a member of the Seminoles’ first-ever ACC championship team in 2008.

-Blumenherst, 21, won the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Eugene ( Ore. ) Country Club after being the championship’s runner-up a year ago. She tied for low-amateur honors at the 2006 U.S. Women's Open and also made the cut at the 2007 and 2008 Women's Opens. In addition to playing on the victorious 2006 and 2008 USA Curtis Cup teams, she represented the USA at the 2006 Women's World Amateur Team Championship. Among her numerous collegiate victories are the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships while playing for Duke University. A three-time national collegiate player of the year and first-team All-America, she was the 2006 Edith Cummings Mason Golf Award honoree (which recognizes the female All-America golfer with the highest grade-point average), and the winner of the 2007 and 2008 Nancy Lopez Award (which recognizes the top amateur female golfer).

- Joh, 21, won the 2006 and 2008 Women's Amateur Public Links titles and was a member of the victorious 2008 USA Curtis Cup team. She won the 2007 Pac-10 individual title and was the runner-up at the 2008 NCAA Division I Championship and the 2007 NCAA West Regional. A first-team collegiate All-American in 2005-06 and 2007-08 and a second-team selection in 2006-07, she was named the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year in 2007-08 and is a three-time conference first-team honoree. Joh, who is entering her senior year at UCLA, made the cut at the LPGA Tour's Safeway Classic in 2007 and won the 2007 Bucaramanga Open in Colombia.

-Walshe, 23, who recently graduated from the University of Arizona , was undefeated (4-0) in helping the USA win the 2008 Curtis Cup and made the cut at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. Walshe – who began her collegiate career at Boston College before transferring to Tulane – has earned first-team honors in three different conferences: the Big East in 2003-04, Conference USA in 2004-05 and the Pac- 10 in 2006-07 and 2007-08. She won the 2004 Big East Conference title and was that conference's player of the year for 2003-04. She matched that feat upon transferring to Tulane, winning the 2005 Conference USA Championship and earning the conference's player of the year honor. Among her victories are the 2006 Stanford Invitational, the 2007 BYU Dixie Classic, the 2007 North and South Women's Amateur Championship, the 2008 Harder Hall Invitational, and the 2008 Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational.

-Michaels , 20, is entering her junior year at UCLA and has played in the last three U.S. Women’s Opens, making the cut in 2008. She also made the cut at the 2006 LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship and has played in three U.S. Women’s Amateurs and three U.S. Girls’ Juniors. Michaels earned 2008 NCAA second-team All-America honors after tying for eighth individually at the NCAA Division I Championship. She set a 54-hole school record en route to victory at the 2007 NCAA East Regional and has played on Junior Solheim and AJGA Canon Cup teams.

-Lua, 17, also made the cut at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, was the stroke-play medalist at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and was a semifinalist at the 2008 championship. Lua, who will be a senior at Los Altos (Ca.) High School in the fall, has played in the Junior Solheim Cup and AJGA Canon Cup and has two AJGA runner-up finishes at the 2008 Thunderbird and Rolex Tournament of Champions. In 2004, at the age of 13, she was the California Women’s Amateur runner-up.
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