2019 – USA Team

Here is the 2019 U.S.A. Walker Cup team selection story so far…..

Early WAGR-Based Selections Confirmed

Cole HAMMER (aged 19), Akshay BHATIA (17) and Stewart HAGESTAD (28) were selected for the 2019 U.S.A. Walker Cup team on Wednesday 24th July 2019 based on their World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) on that date.

The WAGR ranked Hammer 1st, Bhatia 4th and Hagestad 5th as the three leading U.S. players on their list at the end of Week 29.

(l) Cole Hammer (Photo: Montana Pritchard, Getty Images)
(c) Akshay Bhatia (Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY)
(r) Stewart Hagestad (Photo: David Cannon, Getty Images)

Bhatia signed with Lagardere Sports in May and has already announced that he will turn pro immediately following the match, debuting at the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open on a sponsor’s exemption.

Brandon WU was 7th and Steven FISK 8th and therefore just missed out on the WAGR top 3 early automatic selection.

For more information on this please read my news article – 109. USA Selects First 3 Players For 2019 Walker Cup Team

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Current Form – USA Summer 2019 Competition Results

There are a number of notable events being played on the U.S. amateur calendar this summer the results of which will inevitably affect the final team selection. Here’s a quick list of them (with the winners added): –

North and South Amateur – won by Cooper Dossey (June 24-29)
Sahalee Players – won by Joe Highsmith (July 1-3)
Trans-Miss Amateur – won by Pierceson Coody (July 9-12)
Players Amateur – won by Spencer Ralston (July 11-14)
Southern Amateur – won by AJ Ott (July 17-20)
U.S. Junior Amateur – won by Preston Summerhays (July 15-20)
Pacific Coast Amateur – won by Quade Cummins (July 23-26)
Palmetto Amateur – won by Jamie Wilson (July 24-27)
Porter Cup – won by Aiden Didone (AUS) (July 24-27)
Western Amateur – won by Garrett Rank (CAN) (July 30-Aug. 3)

U.S. Amateur – won by (Aug. 12-18)

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Possible USA Team

Cole HAMMER, Akshay BHATIA and Stewart HAGESTAD, all of whom were selected for the November training Squad (see below), were selected on 24th July 2019 based on their WAGR (as at Week 29, July 24th).

The seven remaining U.S.A. places currently look like being split between the following 13 players: –

John AUGENSTEIN – consistent 2019 results for Vanderbilt.
Pierceson COODY – South Beach Invitational and Trans-Miss Amateur champion.
Quade CUMMINS – Pacific Coast Amateur champion.
Austin ECKROAT – consistent 2019 results for Oklahoma State.
Steven FISK – consistent 2019 results for Georgia Southern.
Garrett MAY – Northeast Amateur champion.
John PAK – consistent 2019 results for Florida State.
Chandler PHILLIPS – Texas A&M record and Arnold Palmer Cup match.
Spencer RALSTON – Players Amateur champion.
Isaiah SALINDA – Western Intercollegiate and NCAA California Regional winner.
Alex SMALLEY – Sunnehanna Amateur champion.
Cameron YOUNG – consistent 2019 results for Wake Forest.
Brandon WU – qualified for both the 2019 US Open and The Open

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Players Lost To The Pro Ranks

June 2019 saw three initial Walker Cup squad members turn pro. These were Will GORDON, Bryson NIMMER and Matthew WOLFF. Wolff had just won the  NCAA Division I Championship Individual title and was therefore a particular blow. Gordon and Nimmer both have 2019 Mackenzie Tour membership via Q-School and were unwilling to let these playing opportunities pass by.

Zach BAUCHOU, Sebastian CRAMPTON, Stephen FRANKEN, Philip KNOWLES, Patrick MARTIN and Tyler MCDANIEL are other highly rated U.S. amateurs to have turned Pro in 2019.

The timing of the match is increasingly becoming problematic for many of the U.S.A.’s leading amateur players. With the NCAA Championships played in May many would prefer to be taking up lucrative endorsement deals and sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour in the remaining months of the season. By the time the Walker Cup is played the PGA Tour season is now largely over and such opportunities have gone. Matthew WOLFF‘s win in July 2019 at the 3M Open and Collin MORIKAWA‘s win a month later at the Barracuda Open, in just their third and sixth professional starts respectively, will only further inspire the next generation of leading college players to make the leap sooner rather than later.

With the depth of players to choose from virtually no one can be guaranteed selection on the U.S. team and as such many have been left regretting their decision to hang on until September in recent years. In 2017 Rico Hoey, a squad player, jumped ship before the Walker Cup whilst Sam Burns, U.S. College Player of the Year, hung on only to surprisingly miss out.

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Initial USA Walker Cup Squad

The USGA announced an initial Walker Cup squad on 18th November 2018.

At this time leading U.S. amateurs Braden THORNBERRY, Collin MORIKAWA and Justin SUH all made it clear that they would be turning Pro in the coming months and as such would not be available for selection.

16 players attended a practice session at Seminole G.C. in South Florida on December 14th – 18th:-

John AUGENSTEIN – Owensboro, Kentucky
Akshay BHATIA – Wake Forest, North Carolina
Will GORDON – Davidson, North Carolina
Stewart HAGESTAD – Newport Beach, California
Cole HAMMER – Houston, Texas
Brandon MANCHENO – Jacksonville, Florida
Bryson NIMMER – Bluffton, South Carolina
Kevin O’CONNELL – Cary, North Carolina
Matt PARZIALE – Brockton, Massachusetts
Chandler PHILLIPS – Huntsville, Texas
Trent PHILLIPS – Inman, South Carolina *
Isaiah SALINDA – South San Francisco, California
Alex SMALLEY – Wake Forest, North Carolina
Tyler STRAFACI – Davie, Florida
Matthew WOLFF – Agoura Hills, California
Brandon WU – Scarsdale, New York

* Davis RILEY – Hattiesburg, Mississippi – withdrew from the practice session on 25th November following his decision to turn professional. He was replaced by Trent PHILLIPS.

Stewart HAGESTAD was the only returning member of the 2017 USA Team who attended.

The USGA tweeted a gallery of photos from the session on 18th December: –

Selection for the training squad was of course no guarantee for any of these players that they would make the final U.S. line up although their chances were improved. Looking back at the 2017 USA Walker Cup squad six of the 16 players named made the final 10-man USA Team whilst nine of the 16 did so in both 2013 and 2015.

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USGA Walker Cup Selection Process

On 5th July 2018 the USGA announced changes to its team selection process.

We were advised that the selection of the 10-man 2019 USA Walker Cup team would now take place in two parts:–

1. a) The top 3 ranked U.S.A. players in the WAGR (as of 24th July – Week 30)*.

2. a) The 2019 U.S. Amateur champion (18th August)*;

2. b) The 2019 Mark H. McCormack Medal winner (Men’s WAGRTM No. 1 / announced immediately after the U.S. Amateur Championship on 18th August)*; and

2. c) The remaining selections, which will include at least one mid-amateur (25 years and older) player, will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee (ITSC).

*subject to the respective players being U.S. citizens and / or remaining amateur these individuals will now be automatically selected.

Selection is primarily driven by playing ability, with particular emphasis on USGA Championships, and world rankings. The USGA maintains an unpublished points system to assist the ITSC with these selections.  The Committee are always keen to point out that integrity, team skills and good sportsmanship are important factors too.

John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of Championships & Governance, said on the July 2018 changes: “Adding these elements of transparency to our selections helps players understand the process and aspire to earn coveted spots on these top teams.”

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USGA International Team Selection Committee 

The USGA’s 10 person International Team Selection (ITS) Committee selects the U.S.A. team.

Martha Lang has been Chairman of the ITS Committee since February 2018. The former Curtis Cup player (1992) and captain (1996) from Alabama is the first women to Chair the ITS Committee but is one of a number to have previously sat on it.

Surprisingly the U.S. Captain does not sit on the Committee and whilst he obviously advises and recommends players that is said to be the extent of his input into the team selection process.

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Mid-Amateur Selection Policy

There is an ongoing debate within the USGA on the role Mid-Amateurs (over 25’s) should play in the U.S.A. Walker Cup team.

In 2013 the USGA formally committed to including two mid-amateurs in all of their future Walker Cup teams. However, after disappointing mid-amateur results in the 2013 and 2015 matches and some senior executive changes the USGA let it be known in April 2017 that they planned to soften this selection policy. The commitment was reduced to one and it was made clear that mid-amateur picks would need to have proven themselves in elite amateur competition during the year of the match. The July 2018 tweak outlined above reaffirmed the single Mid-Amateur player commitment.

On 27th September 2018 Kevin O’CONNELL won the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship therefore putting himself in the box seat for the 2019 U.S.A. Walker Cup team. I say this because the 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur will of course take place after the next Walker Cup match.

Kevin O’Connell with the Robert T. Jones Jr Memorial Trophy (© USGA / Chris Keane)

Three mid-amateurs were included in the November 2018 squad announcement, O’Connell being joined by Stewart HAGESTAD and Matt PARZIALE.

Scott HARVEY, who played in the 2015 match, also continues to play well. He won the prestigious George L. Coleman Invitational at Seminole G.C. in late April.

With Stewart HAGESTAD gaining selection for the 2019 U.S.A. team in July via his high WAGR it now appears unlikely any additional mid-amateurs will make the team. Kevin O’CONNELL, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, can consider himself unfortunate to miss out and for finding himself up against full time amateur Hagestad.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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