Wednesday, April 26, 2017

USGA tweaks Walker Cup mid-am requirement

The USGA will shift away from its strict two mid-amateur minimum at future Walker Cups, but the outlook isn’t as dire as it might seem for those 25 and older.

Instead of guaranteeing two spots on the 10-man roster to mid-amateurs, the USGA has instead committed to at least one mid-am on the squad, with the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, of even more if they play their way onto the team.

A headline in Monday’s Global Golf Post said that the USGA was “back[ing] off” its mid-amateur commitment. That prompted passionate responses on social media from 2015 Walker Cupper Scott Harvey, who tweeted that it was “very, very sad” for mid-ams, and fellow mid-am Patrick Christovich, who said that the “USGA is probably a big fan of the One-and-done college basketball rule too…Support the ‘Real Amateurs’ and the game will grow.”

The USGA announced before the 2013 matches that at least two mid-amateurs would be on the 10-man roster moving forward, a controversial move designed to promote the tradition of the event.

It was a non-issue in 2013, as the Americans won in a rout and mid-am Nathan Smith earned the clinching point. But neither the mid-ams nor the college kids played well in a shocking blowout loss two years ago at Royal Lytham, which put the mid-am rule back under the microscope.

The U.S. Walker Cup team already faces plenty of criticism because of its secretive selection process, but the thought of the Americans not sending their strongest team to face Great Britain and Ireland didn’t sit well with some inside and outside the organization, including this correspondent (as seen both here and here). 

But captain Spider Miller, himself a two-time Mid-Amateur champion, said Monday that the USGA’s policy change was common sense.

Some years (like in 2017), there will be several mid-am candidates, such as Masters low amateur Stewart Hagestad, Todd White, Harvey and Smith. Other years, there might be only one legitimate contender. The USGA wanted flexibility in filling out the roster.

“But given the level of play and how good the mid-amateur pool is,” Miller said, “I expect there will be two on this team.”

This is the second notable change in the past month, after the USGA said that it would unveil all 10 team members at the same time, rather than in two waves. John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships and governance, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The biennial event will be held Sept. 9-10 at Los Angeles Country Club.  

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