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
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
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
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
- 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
ABOUT THE The Walker Cup
The Walker Cup Match is a biennial 10-man
team competition between the USA and a team
composed of players from Great Britain and
and selected by The R&A. It is played over two
with 18 singles matches and eight foursomes
The first United States Walker Cup Team, which
1922 defeated the GB&I side, 8-4, at the
Links of America, is considered among the best
ever and included Francis Ouimet, Bob Jones,
“Chick” Evans and Jess Sweetser. Many of the
greatest players have taken part in Walker Cup
competition, including U.S. Open champions Jack
Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth for the
and Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Justin
for Great Britain and Ireland.
the overall series 35-8-1.
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