Like its professional equivalent, the Walker Cup has become a highly compelling competition even when it isn’t. A lopsided outcome, such as the one seen at Los Angeles Country Club in 2017 (when the Americans easily defeated Great Britain & Ireland, 19-7) might decrease the Sunday drama. But as with the Ryder Cup, the tightness of the score doesn’t necessarily make the event any less entertaining. Given the two-year anticipation for the matches, the frenetic two days of play is one of the more underappreciated spectacles in the sport.
Sadly, it will remain that way this weekend when the 47th edition is played at Royal Liverpool. Thousands are anticipated to catch the action at Hoylake, but they’ll be the only ones doing so in real time. For the first time in recent memory, the matches aren’t being broadcast live in either the United Kingdom or the United States. Instead, a one-hour highlight package will air late on Saturday and Sunday on Sky Sports, BBC and Golf Channel (11 p.m.-12 a.m. EDT)
TV rights for the Walker Cup fall under the jurisdiction of the home side’s governing body, which means the R&A has control this year. When the match was held at LACC in 2017, the USGA’s arrangement with Fox Sports had the network broadcasting three hours from all four sessions on FS1.
In 2015, when the matches were played at Royal Lytham, the R&A’s arrangement with the BBC allowed for live coverage in the U.K. of Saturday and Sunday’s singles matches. Streaming coverage was available in the U.S. on ESPN3.
Since then, the R&A added Sky Sports as a broadcast partner, the cable network now broadcasting the Open Championship. In turn, the governing body decided to change its approach to coverage of the Walker Cup, according to a statement given to Golf Digest from an R&A spokesperson.
“Delivering high quality, live coverage from an event such as the Walker Cup is a complex and increasingly costly exercise. We decided for this year’s match to concentrate our resources on producing compelling highlights packages for our broadcast partners and high-quality content, including highlights, player interviews and behind the scenes footage, from our social and digital media channels. We have a responsibility to spread our investment across nearly 20 amateur events throughout the year and we believe we have achieved the right balance for this match.”
The decision is a particularly unfortunate one for American golf fans. With no tournaments being held on the PGA Tour and the LPGA, this weekend provided an amazing opportunity to see some of amateur golf’s elite players compete in a grand event.