News & Opinion

Walker Cup shows off more than just another U.S. victory

American Ricky Castillo 2021 Walker Cup
With the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, American Ricky Castillo tees off Saturday at the par-5 14th hole during singles play in the Walker Cup. The Americans won the 2-day match, 14-12.

Storied Seminole Golf Club gives next generation of talent something to feel good about during a queasy weekend

JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Despite the ill effects of a gastrointestinal bug on the Walker Cup over the weekend, golf’s future appears to be in great shape.

The U.S. won the 48th edition of the biennial match here at Seminole Golf Club against Great Britain and Ireland’s top male amateurs, 14-12. COVID-19 had no effect on the match, other than to limit attendance, but a stomach ailment afflicted both teams, forcing an unprecedented use of alternate players in Saturday foursomes.

Coming into the matches, GB&I faced many obstacles. First, the visitors lost top player Sandy Scott last month to a wrist injury. The Scotsman was the highest-ranked GB&I player, at No. 8 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Alex Fitzpatrick, at No. 12, was the only GB&I player among the world’s top 25. The rest of the team ranked 27th through 107th. Plus, though many of the visiting players compete in U.S. college golf, their families were not allowed to make the trip to support them because of pandemic-related travel restrictions.

And for the GB&I players who don’t compete in U.S. college golf, course closures in the United Kingdom and spring tournament cancellations because of COVID-19 limited preparations.

Meanwhile, the Americans featured five of the world’s top 10 players and, at least according to the world rankings, a much deeper level of talent. Despite those hardships for the visitors, the U.S. led by only one point entering the 10-match singles session on Sunday. Joe Long, the reigning British Amateur champion, missed the first three sessions because of illness. He toughed out a 1-up victory against American John Pak in singles on Sunday, gaining a critical point when the outcome remained uncertain. The Americans won that decisive final session, 5½-4½, to complete a two-point victory and run their series record to 38-9-1. Ricky Castillo, a Florida sophomore from Yorba Linda, Calif., led the Americans by winning four points (For scoring, click here.)

Though Seminole, a 1929 Donald Ross design along the Atlantic coast, offers only a few views of the ocean, the history of one of America’s legendary Golden Age layouts was on full display for the game’s next generation. Greens ran at speeds of 15-plus on the Stimpmeter amid breezy oceanside conditions. Few courses could showcase these players’ talents as well as Seminole. The course’s speed – not only on the greens but in the fairways and around the greens – posed a challenge to both sides. At Seminole, an apparent gimme is no sure thing. Tricky putts brushed past the hole all week on the slick greens.

There is no way to predict which of the 24 players might graduate from these matches into successful professional careers, but it’s likely, given the history of the Walker Cup, that one or two – perhaps more – will be lifting professional trophies soon.

Golf was the winner in Florida, boosting anticipation for the next edition, in 2023 at the Old Course in St. Andrews, where the game was invented. What a fitting venue to take the 49th Walker Cup.

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