The 2019 U.S. Walker Cup team locked in its first three members on Wednesday when Cole Hammer, Akshay Bhatia and Stewart Hagestad earned automatic selections to the 10-player squad. The trio are first, fourth and fifth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, with the USGA reserving spots for the first time this year for the top three golfers in the rankings.
There was little doubt that the trio would be playing for captain Nathaniel Crosby when it competes against Great Britain & Ireland at Royal Liverpool Sept.7-8; it’s not as if the USGA’s International Team Selection (ITS) committee was going to overlook the top Americans in the ranking.
Hammer, 19, took over the top spot in the WAGR in June. The Dallas native was the national college freshman of the year this past season while playing at the University of Texas and will defend his Western Amateur title next week. He also competed for the U.S. at last year’s World Amateur Team Championship.
Bhatia, 17, has built one of the more impressive junior careers in recent memory to have success at the amateur level, winning the Jones Cup in February, as well as competing in PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour events. Over the past two years, Bhatia has said that he’ll bypass college golf to turn pro after turning 18, but before that he had the goal of becoming the first high schooler to make the American team in the event’s nearly 100-year history.
Hagestad, 28, gives Crobsy a player with previous Walker Cup experience, having competed for the victorious American side in 2017 at Los Angeles Country Club. Entering 2019, Hagestad’s candidacy wasn’t quite so clear, but his credentials got a big lift when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and then finished runner-up at the Northeast Amateur and the Players Amateur this summer.
The final seven spots will be filled after the U.S. Amateur concludes at Pinehurst No. 2 on Aug. 18. Among the likely candidates are three other players currently in the top 10 of the WAGR: No. 7 Brandon Wu, a recent Stanford grad who qualified for the U.S. and British Opens; No. 8 Stephen Fisk, who won six college events this past season as a senior at Georgia Southern and was runner-up at the NCAA Championship; and No. 10 Chandler Phillips, who finished his career at Texas A&M this spring as the school’s all-time victory leader.
Two more automatic berths are to be filled on the team: the U.S. Amateur champ at Pinehurst and the winner of the McCormick Medal as the top-ranked amateur at the end of the summer, provided each is an American. If either is one of the three already selected, that spot will be filled by the USGA’s ITS committee.