134. Virus Outbreak Leads to Walker Cup Re-Jig

Friday 7th May 2021

A serious virus outbreak affecting the players and officials of both Walker Cup sides has impacted preparations for this weekend’s match.

For the first time the in-match use of reserves or alternates, unusually on site due to the COVID-19 protocols in place, has been agreed in case the virus can’t be curtailed before play starts on Saturday.

Initially the issue was unofficially attributed to some chicken the teams consumed at Seminole on Tuesday but the USGA have subsequently discounted this as the source of the problem.

The players have been restricted to Seminole GC and the event hotel, The Breakers in Palm Beach, for the duration of their stay in Florida.

A statement from the USGA and R&A on the eve of the match said: “Over the past 24 hours, a number of players from both the GB&I and USA teams have been treated for gastrointestinal issues and are currently under observation by medical professionals at the teams’ hotel.

“All players from both teams have tested negative in their daily screenings and COVID-19 has been ruled out as the cause. The players have adhered to the strict health and safety guidelines established as a code of conduct for the match.”

“The health and safety of the players and all involved in the match is our utmost priority and we are closely monitoring the situation. At this time, there is no expectation of a disruption to the timing of the matches of the biennial competition.”

A handful of USA players have visited a local hospital in recent days to receive IVs for hydration fluids.

It’s fair to say that having come this far there is no way the USGA and R&A will be leaving Florida without playing this match.

Ricky Castillo, Quade Cummins, (previously unannounced) alternate Cooper Dossey, Austin Eckroat, Stewart Hagestad, Cole Hammer and Davis Thompson were all able to practice fully today. William Mouw joined up with his colleagues later on with Mac Meissner and Tyler Strafaci also playing a few holes. Captain Nathaniel Crosby, Pierceson Coody and John Pak were unable to travel.

Dossey joined up with the USA team as a late replacement for Garrett Reband, the 2nd alternate, who chose not to travel from Oklahoma for the match. Dossey advised the media that he was invited to participate three weeks ago.

For GB&I reserve Jake Bolton, Jake Dyer, Alex Fitzpatrick, Angus Flanagan, Matty Lamb, John Murphy, reserve Joe Pagdin, Mark Power all practiced on Friday. Captain Stuart Wilson, Barclay Brown, Ben Jones (who was ‘celebrating’ his 22nd birthday today) Joe Long and Ben Schmidt stayed at the hotel during the day.

With the exception of USA’s John Pak, the two captains and all of the other players were able to attend the opening ceremony in the early evening suggesting the worst of the stomach bug may be past.

The GB&I Team With President George W. Bush (Photo: Jake Bolton)

To enable late health checks on all of the players the Day 1 lineups will now not be announced at this evening’s opening ceremony which is due to start at 6.00pm (11.00pm BST) local time.

The Captain’s have agreed to submit their foursomes and single selections at 9.00pm (2.00am BST) with the formal draw announcement to be delayed until 7.00am (12.00 noon GMT) on Saturday morning so a final health check can be completed.

Given these unfortunate circumstances both Captains will now also be allowed to sub-in their reserves for illness-related reasons between sessions. However, any reserves that are called upon must be stood down once the original team member returns to health.

At this stage no changes to the traditional match format are anticipated but this can’t be fully discounted at this stage.

Both squads travelled to Seminole with two extra reserve players as part of the match’s COVID-19 planning and they have been practicing alongside their team-mates all week. Whilst the USGA and R&A will be reluctant to see reserves introduced at this late stage – and can of course accommodate two absences from each team on Day 1 – it now appears likely one or two may see some action.

ME.

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

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