Walker Cup 2011 Blog: Final Thoughts
15 Sep 2011
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Founder's Blog, The Walker Cup, Royal Liverpool Golf Club


ABERDEEN, Scotland (Sept. 11, 2011) -- As the 43rd Walker Cup came to a close with a wonderful closing ceremony, here are a few of the weekend's highlights. I encourage everyone to attend the next Walker Cup, on Sept. 7-8, 2013 at the National Golf Links of America.

Most Emotional Match:

Stiggy Hodgson vs. Peter Uihlein. After having Uihlein on the ropes 2-up with 5 holes to play, Hodgson lost four holes in a row, and a 2 and 1 victory belonged to Uihlein. Said Hodgson, who was on the verge of tears but still retained his composure:

"He's world No. 2 for a reason. He's just as good off the course as on."

Indeed, Uihlein showed a relaxed but focused attitude all week. It's the kind of confidence that is allowing him to view his career as a marathon, and not a sprint.

Most Pivotal Hole:

The 17th. A downhill shot towards the North Sea provides visual drama; wind blowing across forces players to hit a laser perfect long iron shot to a three-tiered green. Rounding out the picture here is a crested green with pot bunkers and severe mounds (plus gorse) kicking any pushed shot into possible oblivion. This is where Hodgson lost all chance of bringing home any points against Peter Uihlein when his ball missed the green right and kicked into a gorse bush. Russell Henley told me that when Tom Watson phoned the team (yes, he did that, and he knows a thing or two about links golf) he told them to play smart on that hole.

Most Important Putt:

Jack Senior's birdie putt on the 18th hole to turn an almost sure loss against the solid Nathan Smith into a halve. Smith made a crucial par on No. 17 to get to 1-up, then followed with two great shots at 18, forcing Senior to face a do-or-die 30-footer. He did, and the crowd went wild, sensing the GB&I team getting a hand on the cup.

Most Improved Player:

Russell Henley. After losing a close foursomes battle on Saturday morning (partnered with Kelly Kraft against Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan), Steven Brown edged him in a singles match in the afternoon that went to the last hole. He sat out on Sunday morning, but came out with dogged determination against singles opponent, and one of the games bright stars, Tom Lewis of England. Henley's solid into-the-wind iron shots helped him tame the beastly closing holes, that play right into the wind, while Lewis struggled. The resulting 4 and 2 victory, in the first afternoon singles match, set the tone for a huge USA comeback. And by the way, Henley plays, walks, and makes decisions quickly. His Nationwide Tour victory as an amateur was no fluke.

Most Valuable Player:

Rhys Pugh. Unbeaten in three matches, Pugh brought home a key singles victory on Sunday afternoon over U.S. Amateur Champion Kelly Kraft. The youngest player in the field at 17, Pugh wasn't fazed by the experience.

"I've never felt anything like this [level of pressure] before. I just stayed patient, and trusted my ability." For the record, GB&I Team Captain Nigel Edwards pointed out Paul Cutler as a foursomes "MVP" and his fellow Welshman Pugh as a key player. We will be seeing more of this young man.

Biggest Takeaways:

* Attending a Walker Cup is fantastic, on either side of the pond. The next Walker Cup will be played at the National Golf Links of America in 2013. A suggested practice session location? Bandon Dunes, Oregon of course, where the newest course to open is Old Macdonald, designed as a tribute to C.B. Macdonald, the designer of the National Golf Links of America and winner of the first U.S. Amateur Championship.

* The level of sportsmanship displayed was outstanding. And the respect for the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 was truly outstanding. Players from both sides paid tribute to the victims with special hats. (The USA's said "Never Forget" while the GB&I's were simple black ribbons.) At the closing ceremonies, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond paid tribute through a moment of silence. It seemed as if even the wind calmed down as the significance of "Golf's Greatest Contest" took it's context among the bigger picture.

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