ABERDEEN, Scotland – With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks coming this weekend, U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve plans to commemorate the day when his golfers face Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup.
“I have a special letter that I’m going to read to the team on Sunday morning. It’s a very special letter,” Holtgrieve said Friday, a day before the event begins at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. “But, hey, these young men, they are just very talented golfers, and they know what they are doing. They are playing for their country in the greatest amateur competition that there is.”
The Walker Cup is named after the grandfather of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and great-grandfather of George W. Bush. It opens Saturday with four morning alternate-shot matches and eight afternoon singles matches. On Sunday, there are four morning alternate-shot matches and 10 afternoon singles matches.
And it’s on Sunday that things could get emotional.
“It’s probably not going to affect our guys’ playing. I think, if anything, they will play harder,” said the 63-year-old Holtgrieve, who played on winning American teams in 1979, ’81 and ’83. “It’s not going to affect their focus and their commitment and the way they manage their games out there.
“I’m convinced they are so mature about that. And whatever happens, will happen, and when the matches are over, we will obviously recognize what took place 10 years ago.”
For some, the Walker Cup is a chance to play on a team rather than go for individual goals.
“When it comes to the U.S. Opens I’ve played in, I just have to worry about going out there and fighting for me, and it’s almost like I’ve got nothing to lose playing as an amateur,” said 22-year-old Russell Henley, who won on the Nationwide Tour this year. “This week I’m fighting for a lot more than just me. And I think that adds a little bit of pressure, but it’s a pressure I’m looking forward to and I feel like I’m ready for it.”
With strong winds and rain predicted for the weekend already at Royal Aberdeen, the Americans face some harsh Scottish weather. And that’s something likely to suit the hosts more.
“I’m not so sure the guys like the coldness today,” Holtgrieve said. “Obviously we hear the forecast is for wind. I have to be honest since I have not played in wind and rain over in Scotland, I hope that we don’t have both.”
GB&I captain Nigel Edwards, a veteran of four Walker Cups as a player, is ready for the challenging conditions.
“This year, it feels like we have been playing in a hurricane all summer,” Edwards said. “Certainly from the Lytham Trophy, where it was really brutal. Every week has been the same.”