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U.S. claims lopsided Walker Cup win

By Ryan Herrington

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—
There was little in the way of drama Sunday afternoon at the 44th Walker Cup, the 10-man American squad seeing to it that a Great Britain & Ireland comeback wouldn't be the storyline associated with 2013 edition of the biennial event as it made its return to National GL of America for the first time since the inaugural playing of the competition here in 1922.

Instead there is another one-word description that will be used to characterize this week's affairs—domination.

The Americans' 17-9 drubbing of Great Britain & Ireland was the most lopsided score since the Americans won 18-6 at Quaker Ridge in 1997. A four-point lead after Saturday's play on the C.B. Macdonald masterpiece was extended to eight when the captain Jim Holtgrieve's squad left nothing to chance by winning seven of the 10 Sunday singles matches. The effort lifted their overall singles record to an impressive 13.5-4.5 mark, as a befuddled GB&I roster was left bruised and bloodied.  

If domination doesn't quite fit the bill, perhaps vindication might be appropriate.
For two years, Holtgrieve tried to suggest that the Walker Cup (in which he was 3-0 as a player and 0-1 as captain after the U.S. 14-12 loss at Royal Aberdeen in 2011) wasn't so much about a final score as something more ephemeral. Holtgrieve preached how the friendships the players take away from the event and their ability to share them afterward in hopes of growing the game were equally meaningful.

It was a noble notion, but one compromised by the way Holtgrieve frequently presented his pitch to the public. Holtgrieve frequently proclaimed his priority was "not about winning," which made it sound like that didn't matter to him at all.

Yet to see the tears in Holtgrieve's eyes on the 15th green after Nathan Smith defeated Nathan Kimsey, 4 and 3, to clinch the deciding point, it was obvious just how meaningful winning really was.

"This day to me was probably one of the my most gratifying days in my 60-year golfing career," Holtgrieve said afterward.

That not just Smith but Todd White, the other beneficiary of the guaranteed two mid-amateur spots Holtgrieve successfully lobbied the USGA for this year's squad, was victorious Sunday afternoon, was not lost on Holtgrieve, the South Carolina school teacher knocking off Rhys Pugh, 4 and 3.

"Just to have the opportunity to contribute to this team, it's such a thrill," White said. "It's a better feeling than I could have ever imagined."  

There was no doubt captain Nigel Edwards and the GB&I side wanted to keep possession of the cup, a tall task considering the visitors had only twice before been victorious on this side of the pond. But unlike in recent years when GB&I seemed to make every key putt and close out every match with solid play, the magic never seemed to materialize.

"We didn't do the simple things well," Edwards lamented Sunday evening. "We missed greens with wedges, which is very costly around here."

Edwards had hoped his charges might cut into the Americans' 8-4 Day 1 lead during Sunday morning foursomes, but a 2-2 split didn't help their cause. In turn, GB&I needed to put up red on the singles board early in hopes of gaining momentum and having any chance to rally. But the Americans wouldn't let that happen.

In the leadoff spot, Bobby Wyatt, an All-American at Alabama who had a 6-0-2 record in match play at the NCAA Championship and Palmer Cup this summer, took care of Neil Raymond, 4 and 3, to improve his Walker Cup record to 3-0-1 on the week.

His former Crimson Tide teammate, Justin Thomas, made similarly simply work of Max Orrin, winning 6 and 4 in the No. 2 match, setting up victories from White and Smith to make the rest of the afternoons games merely exhibition matches.

Michael Kim (4 and 2 over Garrick Porteous), Jordan Niebrugge (6 and 5 over Jordan Smith) and Patrick Rodgers (1 up over Gavin Moynihan) were the other victorious Americans, Kim improving his record to 3-0 for the week.

Suffice it to say, Holtgrieve's mood afterward was a far cry from two years earlier at Royal Aberdeen. "This is probably one of the smartest teams I've ever been around as far as managing a golf course," he said in heaping praise on his squad. "I've never seen anything like it."

Moreover, the group bought into the idea of coming together as group, something Holtgrieve said he'd encourage future U.S. captain John (Spider) Miller to emphasize in 2015.

"He needs to really focus on," Holtgrieve said, "making sure that everybody forgets about their individual accomplishments and becomes a team member."

In turn the bonds the players create among each other, Holtgrieve insists, will make their Walker Cup experience more memorable.

Plus they just might result in a victory as well.
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