129. USGA Announces 2021 USA Walker Cup Team

1st March 2021

The USGA’s International Team Selection working group have announced their 10-man USA Walker Cup Team.

The statement puts to bed rumours, admittedly largely instigated by myself, that the match may be postponed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team’s preparations.

The team will comprise (in alphabetical order): –

Ricky CASTILLO 20 (b. 19/02/01) of Yorba Linda, California
– WAGR 10/02/21 selection (#4).
– Florida sophomore.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #6.

Pierceson COODY 21 (b. 07/01/00) of Plano, Texas
– Committee selection.
– Texas junior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #9.

Quade CUMMINS 24 (b. 06/03/96) of Weatherford, Oklahoma
– Committee selection.
– Oklahoma senior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #18.

Austin ECKROAT 22 (b. 12/01/99) of Edmond, Oklahoma
– Committee selection.
– Oklahoma State senior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #15.

Stewart HAGESTAD 29 (b. 10/04/91) of Newport Beach, California
– Committee selection (Mid-Amateur).
– USC graduate.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #11.

Cole HAMMER 21 (b. 28/08/99) of Houston, Texas
– Committee selection.
– Texas junior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #19.

William MOUW 20 (b. 05/09/00) of Chino, California
– Committee selection.
– Pepperdine sophomore.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #23.

John PAK 22 (b. 18/12/98) of Scotch Plains, New Jersey
– WAGR 10/02/21 selection (#7).
– Florida State senior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #5.

Tyler STRAFACI 22 (b. 23/07/98) of Davie, Florida
– 2020 U.S. Amateur champion.
– Georgia Tech graduate.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #13.

Davis THOMPSON 21 (b.05/06/99) of St. Simons Island, Georgia
– WAGR 10/02/21 selection (#2).
– Georgia senior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #1.

Reserves

1. McClure MEISSNER 22 of San Antonio, Texas
– Committee selection.
– SMU senior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #22.

2. Garett REBAND 21 of York, South Carolina
– Committee selection.
– Oklahoma senior.
– 24/02/21 WAGR #16.

All 12 of the above USA players were ranked in the top 23 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) at the time of the announcement.

USGA Graphic / Photo

Hagestad, Hammer and Pak are returning players from the 2019 USA Team, which defeated GB&I 15.5-10.5, at Royal Liverpool G.C., England. Hagestad was also on the victorious USA team at Los Angeles C.C., California in 2017.

The USA team will be captained for the second time by Nathaniel Crosby, of Jupiter, Florida. “It is once again a great privilege to serve as the USA captain and to work with a group who represent the best of amateur golf,” said Crosby. “The 10 team members have a notable list of accomplishments on the collegiate, national and international levels. They will represent the United States in the spirit and tradition of the Walker Cup Match.”

The 2021 match against GB&I will be played at Seminole G.C. in 68 days time on 8-9 May.

The USGA confirmed that due to health and safety guidelines “attendance at the Match will be limited.”

Please click here to read the Official USGA Team Announcement which includes full player profiles.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2021, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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124. Sixteen Players Selected For USA 2021 Walker Cup Practice Session

24th November 2020

Sixteen players have been invited to attend a USA Walker Cup practice session on 16-18 December 2020 by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee.

The session will be overseen by captain Nathaniel Crosby and held at Bay Hill Club & Lodge and the nearby Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, both in Orlando, Florida.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The sixteen players, with their current SPWAR’s and home towns, are: –

Ricky Castillo – #13 – Yorba Linda, California
Pierceson Coody – #5 – Plano, Texas
Quade Cummins – #2 – Weatherford, Oklahoma
Cooper Dossey – #32 – Austin, Texas
Austin Eckroat – #8 – Edmond, Oklahoma
Stewart Hagestad – #64 – Newport Beach, California
Cole Hammer – #18 – Houston, Texas
McClure Meissner – #16 – San Antonio, Texas
William Mouw – #12 – Chino, California
John Pak – #9 – Scotch Plains, New Jersey
David Perkins – #14 – East Peoria, Illinois
Garett Reband – #35 – York, South Carolina
Cameron Sisk – #31 – San Diego, California
Tyler Strafaci – #6 – Davie, Florida
Davis Thompson – #3 – St. Simons Island, Georgia
Michael Thorbjornsen – #267 – Wellesley, Massachusetts

Mid-amateur Stewart Hagestad (2017-19), Cole Hammer (2017) and John Pak (2019) have all represented the USA in previous Walker Cup matches.

Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, has the highest SPWAR and there are 123 other American players above him in this particular ranking. However, he did recently reach the quarter finals of the 2020 U.S. Amateur and he does enjoy a WAGR of #32 which goes someway to explaining his inclusion.

Trey Winstead #18 in the SPWAR, Trent Phillips #21, Travis Vick #24 and Parker Coady #29, twin brother of Pierceson, can all consider themselves unlucky to miss out on an invite.

Lake Nona Golf & Country Club

Eight of the sixteen players invited are competing in the Arnold Palmer Cup, also being played at Bay Hill on 21-23 December, so the USGA is sensibly limiting travel for the invitees during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also an advantage to the visiting GB&I team as USA’s leading players will not be gaining the early look at Seminole that they may have been expecting.

Seven of the sixteen players from the 2019 Walker Cup practice session ultimately made the 10-man USA Team.

The 48th Match will be played at Seminole Golf Club, in Juno Beach, Florida on 8-9 May 2021.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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123. My Current GB&I Team And Squad With 200 Days To Go

20th October 2020

There are 200 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts on 8th May at Seminole GC in Florida.

So how is the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team shaping up and what opportunities to impress remain for the players before an announcement has to be made by The R&A presumably in early April ?

This was always going to be a challenging Walker Cup for the GB&I selectors given the early May start date. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse for them.

With the 2020 European amateur golf season effectively over the evidence to make an initial selection is now largely to hand so I thought I’d give the powers that be a helping hand.

_______________________________________________

Here are the ten GB&I players I would select, in order, if I had to choose the team today: –

N.B. Each player’s current SPWAR record shows only their counting performances of note.

1. Joe LONG (ENG)

Joe guaranteed himself a place in the GB&I team with his Amateur Championship win at Royal Birkdale. He has been impressive throughout the last two years and would have been a certainty for me even without his standout victory.

2. Matty LAMB (ENG)

Matty has been superb since play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur both of which enjoyed much stronger fields than normal in 2020.

3. Mark POWER (IRL)

Mark has enjoyed a great last 12 months. He transitioned to Wake Forest University and US College golf seamlessly in his freshman season. His decision to return home and travel to England for this year’s majors paid dividends enabling him to demonstrate beyond any doubt that he clearly belongs at the top table.

4. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG)

Angus stayed in the USA over the summer but whilst out of sight he certainly hasn’t been out of my mind. He seems to be loving life in Minnesota smashing it locally but also performing well in the biggest amateur events in the world.

5. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG)

Haider has arguably had as strong a set of results, admittedly without securing a win, as any GB&I amateur in 2020. His effort in travelling to Switzerland for the European Amateur was rewarded with a notable 3rd place finish.

6. Jake BOLTON (ENG)

Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has cemented his place in the upper echelons of GB&I amateurs. He performed well in the big summer events this year and his 4th place finish at the South Beach International Amateur in Miami last December is encouraging given the match will take place just up the coast.

7. Barclay BROWN (ENG)

Barclay didn’t make that big an impression on me during his freshman season at Stanford University. However, he delivered back home this summer forcing his way into my Walker Cup team with his play in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur.

8. Sandy SCOTT (SCO)

His results don’t jump out at you but Sandy was a rock in the 2019 match for GB&I at Hoylake and he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech. He also competed in the 2020 U.S. Open. With his experience he has to be in the team particularly as he also brings some welcome Scottish representation to the party.

9. Ben JONES (ENG)

In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 and played well around the subsequent year end. Whilst his results post lockdown in 2020 haven’t been as persuasive as I would have ideally liked I am staying loyal to him given his experience and overall track record.

10. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG)

Ben had an unbelievable 2019 albeit mainly in junior golf and started this year very well in Australia. This highly promising Yorkshireman has done more than enough to be included.

_______________________________________________

The other players knocking on the door and who would be included in my 20 man Squad are: –

11) Olly HUGGINS (ENG)

Olly has enjoyed a good season but needs to find a few more results to force his way into the ten man team.

12) Arron EDWARDS-HILL (ENG)

Arron is another very good player who has performed consistently well for a few years now.

13) Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL)

This Walker cup may come a bit too soon for Tom but he’s playing a lot (which I like) and as he is clearly capable of winning any tournament on his day could still easily force his way into the team.

14. Jack DYER (ENG)

Jack enjoyed an excellent summer on the British amateur circuit featuring well in nearly all of the majors as well as winning the South East of England Links.

15. Callan BARROW (ENG)

Like Jack Dyer above Callan deserves to be in the Squad in my opinion due to his current form which has elevated his status on the national stage in recent months.

16. Jack COPE (ENG)

After a long spell on the sidelines Jack has come back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy.

17. Callum FARR (ENG)

Always the bridesmaid never the bride English International Callum continues to be a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events to his name in recent years.

18. Joe PAGDIN (ENG)

I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. An excellent match play record and massive potential but needs to find his feet quickly at the University of Florida if he is to move up this list. I am sure his time will come if not this year.

19. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)

Alex was selected in 2019 but his results since the last match haven’t yet been sufficiently persuasive for me to include him in 2021. I wish he’d followed his Wake Forest teammate Mark Power home this summer and sought to earn his place out on the course.

20. John MURPHY (IRL)

Good US experience and continues to perform well for Louisville University but needs to deliver in higher class events to prove he is worthy of a place in my top 10.

Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) and James SUGRUE (IRL), who both played in 2019, are obvious absentees from the above list. I have assumed James will be turning pro once he has played in The Masters next month whilst Caolan has suffered with a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major events.

Other players to impress me this year include Sam BAIRSTOW (ENG), Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG), Mark BOUCHER (IRL) and Connor MCKINNEY (SCO) who have all stood out but don’t quite make my top 20.

_______________________________________________

Looking ahead the big unknown remains the future impact of COVID-19. Unfortunately the pandemic raises more questions than answers.

Will the match even take place and if it does, will it be behind closed doors ? Could it be postponed like the 2020 Curtis Cup match was ?

Restrictions are again tightening in many jurisdictions as we head into the higher risk winter period so how much golf will actually be played between now and the match ?

Will our leading players be able to travel to the USA for the South Beach International Amateur in Miami (December) or Jones Cup in Georgia (February) ?

Will golf union funds be available and will players be able to travel on tour to Australia and South Africa early next year as has become the norm in recent years ?

Those players attached to US Colleges will have a few events in the Fall and Spring seasons to help them make their cases with those based at home hoping the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs are staged.

There is an opportunity for some clubs to bring forward their 2021 competitions to March / early April to support the Walker Cup selection process. Perhaps The R&A needs to create a new tournament or even consider staging formal squad trials as used to happen.

I look forward to The R&A announcing their Squad in due course and to seeing how the amateur golf world pans out over the next six months.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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121. Tyler Strafaci Wins The 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship

17th August 2020

Tyler STRAFACI, 22, won the 120th U.S. Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes G.C. yesterday beating Charles ‘Ollie’ OSBORNE, 20, by 1 Hole in the Final.

Along with exemptions into the 2021 U.S. Masters Tournament, the 2021 U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines and the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s (if he remains an amateur) the win also secures Strafaci a place on the USA’s 2021 Walker Cup team.

Strafaci, a rising 5th year at Georgia Tech University, has enjoyed an impressive summer winning both the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst and more recently the Palmetto Amateur.

He started the year ranked 27th in the SPWAR but has risen to 2nd by winning the amateur game’s most prestigious event. He started the week ranked 56th in the WAGR but will obviously move into the top 20 when this ranking is updated on Wednesday.

Strafaci was selected for the 16-man 2019 USA practice squad which met up at Seminole G.C. on December 14-18th 2018. However, he failed to make the final 10-man team that travelled to Hoylake.

Hailing from Davie, near Fort Lauderdale, in Florida Strafaci’s family home is a short distance from Seminole, the venue of the next May’s match.

All in all this appears a great result for the USGA and captain Nathanial Crosby who was on hand to watch the final in Oregon. Strafaci is an experienced player who has been at the top of the amateur game for a few years now, has clearly found a little extra this summer and also brings with him the added bonus of local interest (as well as prior knowledge of Seminole) to the match.

Tyler Strafaci With The Havemayer Trophy (Photo: Steve Gibbons / USGA)

With the USGA still committed to including a mid-amateur on their team Stewart HAGESTAD, 29, now also looks certain to make his third consecutive Walker Cup appearance.

Hagestad reached the Quarter Finals in Oregon losing to the eventual champion by 1 Hole.

With the 2020 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship cancelled earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic there are now few other major opportunities for mid-amateurs to shine before the USA team is confirmed in April 2021.

Hagestad has been working in finance and is about to start an MBA course at the University of Southern California. Ranked 41st on the SPWAR and a slightly inflated 15th on WAGR, even before this week’s Championship, it would be hard for anyone to dispute his potential inclusion.

Click here for more information on the – 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship – Preview, Reports & Results (GolfBible)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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