U.S. Walker Cup picks look solid
Today's announcement of the first eight golfers selected for the U.S. Walker Cup team should satisfy pretty much every camp with a stake in the make-up of captain Buddy Marucci's side.
The team has experience in Rickie Fowler and Brian Harman, who played on the victorious 2007 and 2005 American teams, respectively. Moreover, each was a big part of their previous squads' victory, both being animated, fiery competitors. (It will also be the amateur swansong for both, making the event even more emotional than it might be otherwise.)
With Nathan Smith chosen by the USGA International Team Selection Committee, purists hoping to have a mid-amateur on the team can breathe easy. The 31-year-old Pittsburgh, Pa., area native out performed Mike McCoy, the other leading mid-am contender, throughout the summer, posting top-10 finishes at Sunnehanna, Southern, Northeast and a top-15 at the Porter Cup (in addition to a victory in the Pennsylvania Amateur). The 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion sealed up his bid when he advanced to the quarterfinals of this past week's Western Amateur, and his Keystone State ties will make him a popular player at Merion GC Sept.12-13.
Drew Weaver__'s selection in part makes up for him being passed over for the 2007 team despite winning the British Amateur title that summer (the USGA has since changed its policy, allowing that year's British Amateur winner, should he be an American of course, to be an automatic qualifier for the team). Still, Weaver wasn't handed his spot this year out of sympathy. He earned it, with a solid performance during his senior year at Virginia Tech and top-10 finishes at the Jones Cup, Sunnehanna, Dogwood and Porter Cup, plus by qualifying making the cup and finishing T-40 at the U.S. Open.
Brendan Gielow__ is this year's poster child for what it means to have a hot summer. The rising Wake Forest senior hadn't really been heard from since winning the 2008 Northeast Amateur in record fashion. Since June, however, he went T-9 at Sunnehanna, T-9 at the Northeast, 10th at the Southern and won the Porter Cup. Bud Cauley falls into this category as well, having won the Players Amateur, finished T-9 at the Northeast and reached the semifinals of the Western. That said, Cauley had a much more impressive college season at Alabama in 2008-09 to also help boost his resume.
Solid performances at last year's U.S. Amateur helped Adam Mitchell and Morgan Hoffmann clinch their spots on Marucci's team. Mitchell also has the 2008 Porter Cup title to his credit, while Hoffmann was a first-team All-American this past year as a freshman at Oklahoma State.
A couple big winners from this summer--Northeast Amateur champion Dan Woltman and newly crowned Western Amateur champion John Hahn--were left off the list of the first eight players. I've got to believe if Woltman can make any noise at the Amateur, after reaching the quarterfinals this past week at the Western Amateur, and he will get on the team. The hurdle for Woltman, however, is he still has to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which he'll attempt to do tomorrow at Kenosha (Wis.) CC.
Hahn's impressive victory yesterday over Zack Barlow to claim the Western title is another sign of how talented a player the Ohio native is, but his resume is too thin otherwise for him to be one of the final two picks for the U.S. side, particularly as he failed to qualify to play at Southern Hills last month.
Other realistic candidates for the final two spots who will be playing at the U.S. Amateur later this month include Bronson Burgoon, Cameron Tringale and Mike Van Sickle, plus U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Brad Benjamin. Of course, the champion at Southern Hills will get an automatic spot on the team should he be an American.
Another guy to follow at the Amateur will be Tim Jackson, who was leading the U.S. Senior Open after 36 holes two weeks ago before finishing T-11. Had he continued his record run, he would have given the folks in Far Hills, N.J., an interesting dilemma. I think, though, for Jackson to make the team, even after his fine play at Crooked Stick, he's going to need to be in the final four at the Southern Hills, if not the final two.