St. Andrew's Blog: Following behind the U.S. Walker Cup team
08 Sep 2011
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

see also: The Walker Cup, Royal Liverpool Golf Club


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (Sept. 8, 2011) -- Prior to covering the Walker Cup, I traced the footsteps of the U.S. Walker Cup team. I flew into Edinburgh -- but wasn't treated to an airport media reception -- then headed straight for St. Andrews, which is en route to Aberdeen.

After the 2010 Open Championship, I was determined to make this trip, and covering The Walker Cup match has provided that opportunity. I will be blogging for amateurgolf.com and Golfweek from the Walker Cup this weekend.

To start off, here are a few tidbits from St. Andrews, in no particular order:

The Home of Golf:

This isn't a catchphrase like Surf City, USA, which Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz both fought over for a while. St. Andrews, and only St. Andrews, can make this claim. And I will take it a step further. St. Andrews --- and Scotland for that matter --- is the home of competitive golf. There are six historic golf clubs in town, including the venerable Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and The St. Andrews Golf Club. Their members have so many opportunities to compete, and so many perpetual trophies, that it really puts the average U.S. golf club's tournament schedule to shame.

Some Serious Teeth:

The Old Course now stretches out to 7,300 yards for the Open Championship. I played it at 6,721 yards, since the Championship tees are closed to the public. Of course, the visiting U.S. Walker Cup team was allowed to play all the way back, after having a chance to get acclimated to Scotland the day before at the well-regarded Kingsbarns.

Team Building:

Captain Jim Holtgrieve, his assistant, and 10 players combine for three perfect foursomes. And that's the way they played it until the 18th hole, when Holtgrieve's lead group waited to tee off until the other two groups finished The Road Hole. (And I heard from a good source that a few of them found the road with their second shots, laughing and ribbing each other as they attempted the impossible up-and-down.) The 12 players then teed off, and walked the 18th side by side. How cool is that?

Golf History Overload:

Whether the game was invented here or somewhere else doesn't matter. I'll leave that to the historians. But before my round today, I putted on a 400 year old practice putting green, and I heard more stories, and names of bunkers, (and various other features) than I can remember. My partner today found the famous road hole bunker, and hit the best shot of his life, to 10- feet.

The Ballot:

I always thought it would be a bit of a waiting game but it ultimately no problem for a single to find a way on the course. Think again. I was lucky enough to tag along with two executives from Royal and Ancient Golf Club and our fourth canceled. We picked up a "casual," as they say, and found out he had been there since 3:00 a.m. He hadn't moved from the starter's shack or had a bite to eat. I never saw a guy happier (the R&A executives beat out the two U.S. players, me being one of them, 3-and-1). As for "cards" (foursomes) entered in the ballot? On Wednesday, 300 players were turned away and more than 200 on Thursday.

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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