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USGA adds a bit of transparency to amateur international team selection process by adding automatic qualifiers

2017 Walker Cup - Day 2

Robert Laberge

The mysterious selection process behind who gets picked for the U.S. rosters in international team competitions—a bone of contention for many who follow amateur golf—has officially become a little less mysterious. The USGA announced on Thursday that it will include a handful of automatic selections for the U.S. Walker Cup, Curtis Cup and men’s and women’s World Amateur teams starting this fall.

When the three-player American squads are picked for the World Amateur Team Championship that will compete at Ireland’s Carton House Golf Club in late August and early September, the top-ranked female and male player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking will automatically be included on their respective rosters, as will the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions. Additionally, the winner of Mark H. McCormack Medal, given to the No. 1-ranked amateur at the end of the summer, will make the team. Any other remaining selections will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection (ITS) committee, which previously had filled out the entire roster.

According to John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of championships & governance, all automatic selections assume the player is an American and will remain an amateur through the playing of the competition.

“Adding these elements of transparency to our selections helps players understand the process and aspire to earn coveted spots on these top teams,” Bodenhamer said in a release. “Representing your country in team competitions is one of golf’s highest honors and among the best experiences of a player’s career, and we want excellence to be rewarded.”

For the Walker Cup in 2019, being played at Royal Liverpool, the top three ranked American players on the WAGR ranking will make the 10-man team, as will the U.S. Amateur champion. The remaining selections will be decided by the ITS, and will include at least one mid-amateur player.

For the Curtis Cup in 2020 at Conway Golf Club in Wales, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur winner will be picked for the eight-woman roster, as will the top three players on the WAGR ranking and the McCormack Medal winner.

Bodenhamer was aware of the criticism that the USGA has come under in the past for revealing little about the selection process for international teams, causing some players to frustrating miss out on teams they thought they were in line to qualify for (college player of the year Sam Burns in 2017 with the Walker Cup), and other players to turn pro and skip the process entirely, assuming they had no chance to player for a USGA team.

“We’ve been talking about this for some time, our staff primarily, a number of us, Mike [Davis, USGA CEO],” Bodenhamer said. “We just felt it important to provide more transparency but also some guidance to the kids. If you do this, you’re going to be on the team.”

For the first time, the ITS has outlined the basis for its selection of players. Bodenhamer said it will take into account playing accomplishments, rankings and awards over the past 24 months, with an emphasis on results in USGA competitions.

Bodenhamer also reiterated a point made in the official announcement that the committee reserves the rescind the automatic bids for any golfers who failed to adhere to “an unquestioned ability to appropriately represent the USA and USGA with character, sportsmanship and integrity—an inherent component of the selection process.”

What will not change from years past, however, is the fact that the captain of the Walker Cup or Curtis Cup squads will still not have an official vote in the selection of players for either team. Bodenhamer said that USGA continues to want to allow the captain to be in position where his decisions during the competitions aren't compromised because he or she voted for a certain player over another.