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Walker Cup Watch List: Wu's stock rises; Bhatia tours Europe
07 Jul 2019
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

see also: The Walker Cup, Royal Liverpool Golf Club

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Brandon Wu at the U.S. Open (AGC photo)
Brandon Wu at the U.S. Open (AGC photo)

A month into the summer golf season, the top tier of amateur golfers are trying hard to separate themselves. Walker Cup selections loom in a few short weeks.

This year’s 10-man squad includes automatic qualifying spots for the U.S. Amateur champion (if he is American), the winner of the Mark H. McCormack medal (No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking after the U.S. Amateur) and the top three American players in the WAGR (as of early August). The remaining selections will include at least one mid-amateur.

Here’s who we’re looking at, and we’ll update the list every two weeks (player listed with World Amateur Golf Ranking in parenthesis; * indicates that a player was invited to Walker Cup practice session in December):

Cole Hammer (1)*: It’s official. Cole Hammer is No. 1 in the world and exactly no one is surprised about it. Since taking over the top of the WAGR, Hammer has played once. He logged a top-5 finish at the Northeast Amateur on the strength of a final-round 5-under 64. That round brought him from 14 back to four back and tied for fourth.

Akshay Bhatia (4)*: Since we last checked in on the Walker Cup watch, Bhatia has been on something of a links golf odyssey. Even though his Amateur Championship run came up short, the reigning Jones Cup champion followed that with a top 10 at the European Amateur and an Open Championship qualifying attempt. Know this: He’s soaking in the links golf experience.

Brandon Wu (6)*: Wu’s stock keeps rising – exponentially. As if the first and second acts weren’t enough – leading his Stanford team to an NCAA title and playing the weekend at the U.S. Open – Wu added another chapter. When he qualified for the Open Championship last week, Wu became the first amateur to qualify for both the U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same summer since 1967.

Chandler Phillips (7)*: No action from Phillips since competing in the Arnold Palmer Cup last month, but he will play the Trans-Miss Amateur this week.

Stewart Hagestad (8)*: A runner-up finish at the Northeast Amateur speaks volumes for Hagestad. With each amateur start, the 28-year-old seems to further prove that he’s the most consistently competitive mid-amateur in the game.

Steven Fisk (9): After his runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship, Fisk finished 34th in a Korn Ferry Tour event. Look for his name at the Players Amateur, Western Amateur and U.S. Amateur in the coming weeks.

Isaiah Salinda (12)*: The reigning Pacific Amateur champion had a tough week at the North & South Amateur, missing the match-play cut by a shot. It was a rare hiccup for the Stanford grad, who is coming off two wins in his last four college starts.

Alex Smalley (13)*: The two-time Sunnehanna Amateur was ousted in the first round of match play at the North & South Amateur. Smalley, a North Carolina native, has experience at Pinehurst and should be able to redeem himself at the U.S. Amateur.

John Pak (17): His latest performance? A 13th-place finish at the Northeast Amateur. Pak is seemingly always in the conversation when he tees it up.

John Augenstein (26)*: We’ve seen the rising Vanderbilt senior play only once so far this summer. He was 34th at the Northeast Amateur. An attempt at a Players Amateur defense is on tap for this week, however.

THE NEXT FIVE

Trent Phillips (46)*: While he didn’t get an individual win in his freshman season at Georgia, five top-5 finishes and an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championship speak well for him. No fireworks yet this summer, but a top 20 at the Sunnehanna Amateur and a top 5 at the Northeast Amateur keep him in the conversation.

Brandon Mancheno (56)*: He followed his Dogwood Invitational victory with a missed cut at the Northeast Amateur. Mancheno likely needs a follow-up performance of Dogwood caliber to solidify his spot.

Cooper Dossey (91): Asked post-North & South victory whether he had the Walker Cup in his sights, the rising Baylor senior responded that though a pick would mean the world, he hasn’t thought about it “one percent.”

“I think a lot of it is because I haven’t had that much confidence in myself,” he said. “I think I do have the game and I’m a great match-play player. That’s my format.”

Of course, there’s this little stat: Since arriving at Baylor three years ago, Dossey has gone 11-0 in match play. He feels most comfortable in that format. Dossey, who has battled a wrist injury for most of his college career, still has to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, and his longevity in this conversation depends on a return trip to Pinehurst.

Cameron Sisk (96): The Arizona State player merits a mention for his recent hot streak, which includes a runner-up finish at the NCAA Stanford Regional and trips to the quarterfinals of the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock Golf Club and the California Amateur in back-to-back weeks.

Noah Norton (97): The past month of Norton’s life is worth noting, considering that the rising Georgia Tech junior qualified for the U.S. Open, finished 13th at the Northeast Amateur and was runner-up to Dossey at the North & South.

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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