The USA claimed their third-straight Walker CupChris Keane, USGA
Team USA extended their home country win streak to six with a 14-12 victory at the 48th Walker Cup at Seminole Golf Club.
It was a match that almost didn't happen, with a non-Covid virus sending almost every player on each team to the hospital on Thursday and Friday.
This wasn't just a stomach bug. It caused Joe Long
, the reigning British Amateur champion, to become so ill that the first action he saw was in the Sunday singles. And his counterpart, 2020 U.S. Amateur winner Tyler Strafaci
didn't get to compete all day Saturday.
Long, who defeated USA star John Pak
in his lone Walker Cup start this weekend, admitted it was frustrating to not be able to play until the last match, but said:
"It was still special to represent my country."
Asked about Seminole, he compared it's greens to Augusta National, which he just played at The Masters.
The match was closer than captain Nathaniel Crosby
might have liked. It's hard to pick an MVP for USA, but Ricky Castillo
- who played all four matches and compiled a perfect record, has to be considered that star of this year's contest. The Californian (and Florida Gator sophomore) stayed away from the stomach virus, and took advantage of his game's recent momentum.
"I felt good all week, said Castillo. "My game has been coming around and to win the Walker Cup and go 4-0 is pretty special."
Castillo looks cool on the course, tossing the ball with one hand when he's waiting his turn top putt. His signature necklace looks from a distance like something worn by athletes to provide some sort of healing power. In actuality, it's to remind him of his Hawaiian heritage, and his Hawaiian grandmother, who passed away several years ago.
Cole Hammer brought home the clinching point with his 4-and-3 win over Ben Schmidt, as the USA needed just 13 points for a tie and to retain the Cup.
Then it was elder statesman Stewart Hagestad
-- even though it's hard to call him that at age 30 -- who holed a 6-foot downhill putt for par to win his match against Ben Jones
. After losing the first two holes to a par and birdie, Hagestad kept things close to the front nine, then won the 10th to square things up. Four more victories followed on Nos. 11-14, and the match had been successfully flipped.
"I just feel lucky to be part of it," Hagestad told Golf Channel after his match-clinching victory. I look at the kids and it's amazing how good they are."
"If you're going to play competitive golf, you want to do it at the highest level and this is it," he added.
USA entered the afternoon singles session with a 8.5 to 7.5 margin, far closer than they would have liked it. But with a key first match win by Oklahoma State star Austin Eckroat
-- against a gritty Mark Power
, who was 3-0 heading into Sunday afternoon -- the tone for the afternoon had been set. But thanks to a tough group of underdogs from GB&I who never give up, fans enjoyed a match whose outcome was uncertain until the late Florida sun was starting to set.
Like every Walker Cup I've covered, I left Seminole with the same thought - that I can't wait for the next one. And as good as our next venue is (Cypress Point when USA next hosts in 2025) the next one in 2023 is at my favorite course in the world -- The Old Course at St. Andrews. Can't wait.
* Rory McIlroy, who picked up a big PGA Tour win on Sunday while the USA was winning the Walker Cup, lives next door to USA Captain Nathaniel Crosby, a fact that was not lost on the Golf Channel broadcast team.
* Captain Crosby noted how much the Walker Cup means to the GB&I, while humbly not mentioning the fact that his record as a captain is now a perfect 2-0.
"I thought with the windy conditions it might be to their favor a little bit." he said. "I've been getting to know these guys for years. I watched Tyler Strafaci win every match at the U.S. Amateur," joking that he considers himself start of a" horse whisperer."
* Crosby's self-deprecating humor was on display all week, especially at the award ceremony where he said how cool it was to be here 40 years removed from winning the U.S. Amateur at Olympic Club. "I've been in a 40 year slump," he joked.
* Crosby, a Seminole member, started playing here at age 14. Two years later he played four rounds with George Coleman and the legendary Ben Hogan, who honed his game at Seminole each winter and was made an honorary member.View results for The Walker Cup
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.
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