The Walker Cup: USA Regains Cup in Dramatic Fashion
10 Aug 2006
see also: The Walker Cup, Royal Liverpool Golf Club


by Pete Wlodkowski, amateurgolf.com

WHEATON, IL (August 14, 2005) -- While much of the golf world was focused on the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, there were twenty team members, two captains, and thousands of fans on site at Chicago Golf Club who were too busy watching one of the greatest team matches of all time to think about the outcome of the season's final 'major.'

Call it stealing the show. Or perhaps it's the difference between playing for the love of the game instead of the million dollar purses.

But whatever you call it, there is little question that the drama (and birdies) unfolding around the 18th green of Chicago Golf Club on Sunday afternoon at The Walker Cup made The PGA Championship look as exciting as, dare we say, an average weekend of professional golf. There is just no way to compare thre pressure and excitement of a closely contested team match play competition (with patriotic pride thrown in for good measure) to a medal play tournament where the average score on Sunday is 73.

At the historic course where playing captain Bobby Jones led his team to a lopsided 11-1 victory in 1928, the 2005 USA Walker Cup Team won the Cup back (after three straight losses) in dramatic fashion, 12 1/2 to 11 1/2. It came down to the final putt on the final hole in the last match on the course, with thousands of fans surrounding Chicago Golf Club's slippery 18th green.

These hopeful, albeit worried, fans had already mentally prepared themselves for the potential of another shocking loss.

It would be hard not to, sitting there watching players from the GB&I make winning birdie putt, then winning birdie chip, then winning birdie putt against unbelievable odds.

First there was 16-year-old English prodigy Oliver Fisher, the youngest-ever Walker Cup player. Fisher had fought hard all day against Pepperdine All American player Michael Putnam of Tacoma, Wash. before holing a twenty foot do-or-die putt to halve the match, saving 1/2 point. “To make that putt [on 18], shows some guts,” said Putnam. “I had two really good matches with him. For a 16-year-old, he’s pretty good.”

Fisher's heroics were followed by those of fellow GB&I player Robert Dinwiddie, who showed the kind of courage that brought him Scottish and Welsh stroke play titles with his chip-in from the rough short of the 18th green in his match against Matt Every of Florida. Minutes earlier, Every had brushed the edge with his delicate chip from behind the green, leaving a 4-footer that he would have had for the win, if not for Dinwiddie's masterful pitch, with the pin removed, apparently to make room for the ball.

The partisan crowd around the 18th green were really beginning to wonder if it was going to happen to them again.

There was good news for USA on the course, however, as the squad's only veteran player, Lee Williams, came on strong against Gary Lockerbie with a 4-and-3 victory. Then the third bomb in a row was dropped by the hottest player on GB&I team, Lloyd Saltman of Scotland. Saltman, 19, stroked an uphill 15 foot putt into the back of the cup like a guy who was looking for more hardware to add to his already overstuffed trophy case (he won the Brabazon, St. Andrews, and Low Amateur Trophies in 2005). That putt gave him a victory over Kyle Reifers, who after shooting the equivalent of 4-under-par 66 could only wonder what else he could have done.

Saltman started bogey-bogey-par and went three down after three holes, but he played the last 15 holes in 6-under-par, including an eagle-par-birdie finish that was capped by that heartbreaking putt.

The score was perfectly even at 11 1/2 to 11 1/2. But the USA needed a victory in the last match on the course, that of Jeff Overton of Indiana versus three time Walker Cupper Nigel Edwards of Wales. Overton -- the Indiana University standout who captain Bob Lewis wisely allowed to keep wearing his trademark bucket hat -- started the day behind the 8-ball with bogeys on the first three holes getting him three down quick.

The Big Ten Conference champ found his game, and grabbed back the lead, before the front nine ended, and he hung on to a 1-up advantage through the 17th hole. With both teams and a huge crowd surrounding the 18th green Overton hit a wedge that spun back to near perfection 10 feet right of the hole.

You could almost feel the relief in the air, but it wasn't over yet. Captain Lewis sat on the sidelines near his team, watching nervously as Edwards attempted a high odds birdie putt from 30 feet and came inches from holing it. Two putts from Overton, and the cup belonged to USA for the next two years.

The USA celebration that ensued after a perfect lag and conceded three incher was fun to watch. Overton even took his bucket hat off. For Lewis, it capped off a Walker Cup career in which he has competed in four and captained the last two. He wore his desire on his sleeve, and it was clearly for the right reasons. Lewis called the Match “the greatest Walker Cup that was ever played.”

“I’m so proud of my team,” said Lewis. “The players acted like a team. It’s the way you want to dream about going out as a captain.”


- For complete match results from Sunday morning foursomes and Sunday afternoon singles matches, please click here to visit the Walker Cup website.

- I have been fortunate to visit many PGA Tour events, including the Masters, four US Opens and many others and I put this at the top of my list for excitement.

- Special thanks to the USGA for their hospitality, and for everything they do to enhance the coverage of amateur golf. It was nice to witness the hard work that goes into the website stories, the photos, and administration of this level of event.

- We didn't mention it in the story, but one of the most solid performances for the USA came from Brian Harman, who ended Rhys Davies’ bid to have an undefeated match with a 6-and-5 victory. The 18-year-old from Savannah, Ga., who won the 2003 U.S. Junior and is the youngest player in USA Walker Cup history, was the equivalent of 5 under par with the usual match-play concessions over his 13 holes. Harman finished his first Walker Cup with a 2-0-1 mark and was the only unbeaten American.

- Equally impressive, in the true spirit of grinding out a match play victory, was Gary Wolstenhome's victory over Anthony Kim, breaking the all time GB&I points record held by 9-time Walker Cupper Sir Michael Bonallack.

“[The record] crossed my mind as I stood over that last putt,” said Wolstenholme, a six-time Walker Cupper and two-time British Amateur champion. “Fortunately, despite the jitters, I managed to pull through. Being the point leader was an ambition of mine, but hopefully that’s not the end of it.”

ABOUT THE The Walker Cup

The Walker Cup Match is a biennial 10-man amateur team competition between the USA and a team composed of players from Great Britain and Ireland and selected by The R&A. It is played over two days with 18 singles matches and eight foursomes (alternate-shot) matches.

The first United States Walker Cup Team, which in 1922 defeated the GB&I side, 8-4, at the National Golf Links of America, is considered among the best teams ever and included Francis Ouimet, Bob Jones, Charles “Chick” Evans and Jess Sweetser. Many of the game’s greatest players have taken part in Walker Cup competition, including U.S. Open champions Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth for the USA and Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose for Great Britain and Ireland.

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