For team and country: Palmer Cup offers something different
14 Mar 2019
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Arnold Palmer Cup Matches, Laurel Valley Golf Club

The U.S. won the 2018 matches, as female collegians were added (Palmer Cup photo)
The U.S. won the 2018 matches, as female collegians were added (Palmer Cup photo)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Ann Parmerter had planned a one-woman watch party for March 6, the night that Palmer Cup teams were to be announced on Golf Channel. The Dallas Baptist senior had received a nomination to the U.S. team, just like she did a year ago, and was waiting to see if she had landed a spot in college golf’s co-ed version of the Ryder Cup.

Then came the text from coach. Dallas Baptist was making it a team affair for their girl, and it’s a good thing they did. Parmerter got in.

“We were just waiting and then they put up that second screen with the committee picks, everybody kind of went nuts,” said Parmerter, one of six committee selections on the U.S. women’s team.

The Palmer Cup is an annual team competition pitting the top 12 male and top 12 female college golfers from the U.S. against their counterparts from around the world. The three-day event will take place June 7-9 at the Alotian Club, a former Western Amateur venue in central Arkansas.

The event, created in 1997, was expanded to include women for the first time last year, when the matches were played at Evian Golf Resort in Evian Le Bains, France. That means this year’s installment will be the first time the women get to compete on home soil.

Last week, the majority of the teams were unveiled. All that remains are four coaches’ picks – one for each squad – plus two winners of the R&A Foundation Scholars tournament, who will automatically earn a spot on the International team.

Read more: Palmer Cup teams announced for June matches

Eligibility doesn’t guarantee that a top player will play, however. It’s a tricky thing for top collegians to navigate a summer competition schedule frontloaded with some of the best events. The Palmer Cup falls between the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Open, at the end of a long NCAA championship season.

Not to mention that for a college senior, June is often the threshold between amateur and professional golf. The Palmer Cup is either put in the rearview mirror, or serves as a major punctuation mark for college golf. Ohio State senior Will Grimmer, who qualified by rankings points, chose the latter.

“I couldn’t think of a cooler way to go out senior year, top 12 United States collegiate players, it’s essentially our Ryder Cup of college golf,” Grimmer said on camera from Ohio State.

USC’s Justin Suh and Cal’s Collin Morikawa, both seniors, opted out, and so did Oklahoma State teammates Matthew Wolff and U.S. Amateur champion Viktor Hovland. Then again, Hovland, who would play for the International squad, has a U.S. Open start already locked up.

“I’ve already done it twice and it’s so much fun, but you get exhausted after the week,” Hovland said of the Palmer Cup. “There’s just so much going on.”

On the women’s side, Wake Forest senior Jennifer Kupcho will not play – but she already has status waiting on the LPGA tour that she has deferred all spring – and neither will top-ranked collegian Andrea Lee, a Stanford junior.

Still, for some, the Palmer Cup is something totally unique. Parmerter is in that boat. It will be her first time playing on a national team, though she has watched carefully as former Austin (Texas) Lake Travis high school teammate Kristen Gillman excelled in the format. Gillman, a former Alabama player who recently turned professional, went 5-0 for the Americans at last summer’s Curtis Cup.

A third Lake Travis graduate, Texas sophomore Kaitlyn Papp, also made the Palmer Cup squad.

“It’s really cool to be able to say that I get to now do it,” said Parmerter, the first DBU player in Palmer Cup history. Parmerter is the No. 4-ranked Division II player by Golfstat. She has won twice this season and logged four other top-3 finishes.

The Palmer Cup may be her college-golf swan song, but it’s one final platform to make a statement.

“It’s really important to me to show that D2 isn’t at the bottom of the ranks,” she said.

The opportunity to don a national-team uniform is a big pull for the Palmer Cup. It's one thing to play for your team, but it’s another thing entirely to play for your country.

Texas A&M senior Chandler Phillips is the poster-child for that. Phillips earned his way onto the team by points the past two years, but was a committee selection this year. He will be the first player to make three consecutive Palmer Cup rosters.

Phillips is as affable and humble a player as they come, who highlights the greater team aspect of Palmer Cup as one of its most unique qualities. Many of the players grew up on the junior circuit together, and this is just a larger extension of that, he explained – and with an unexpected intangible.

“It probably teaches some guys you play better when you’re laid back,” said Phillips. It was a lesson he took from his first turn on the U.S. team in 2017.

The native Texan owns a 3-2-2 record in the Palmer Cup, with last year’s Cup highlighted by a fast-paced singles match with Italy’s Lorenzo Scalise that the two eventually halved.

“If me and him would have played a best ball that day, we would have been like 16 under,” Phillips said.

On a Walker Cup year, Phillips figures a strong run in the Palmer Cup can’t hurt his chances of selection. He was among 16 men invited to a practice session for Walker Cup hopefuls at the end of 2018.

Another U.S. team member, Peter Kuest, has a similar line of thinking as Phillips: A successful turn on the Palmer Cup team might make a good case for Walker Cup selection.

Kuest’s body of work this college season already says a lot. After four individual titles, the BYU junior was the top U.S. men’s selection according to rankings points.

“I’ve always wanted to represent the U.S., and it’s a huge honor to represent your country, especially in the U.S.,” he said.

Kuest is perhaps most notable for his ability to go way low. An opening 10-under 61 at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif., set up his victory at the St. Mary’s Invitational in November. As his course management and short gave have improved, scoring opportunities have grown.

“You try to find another gear and shoot really low scores,” he said. “When you find yourself 4 or 5 under, you don’t slow down, you just keep going.”

Even without the nation’s top players, the Palmer Cup is something of a college all-star game, but with the added opportunity to suit up for your country. It means a little something different to everyone.

ABOUT THE Palmer Cup

The annual Ryder Cup-style competition features top men and women collegiate players from the United States against their International counterparts.

Each team will be comprised of 12 men's and 12 women's golfers. Day one will feature Mixed Four-Ball competition, day two will see Mixed Foursomes in the morning and Four-Ball in the afternoon, with 24 singles matches on the final day.

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