Golf in America: Add a Walker Cup to your sporting bucket list

By Golf In America ProducerSeptember 29, 2011, 1:30 am


Whether you have it written down or it’s just a something you keep buried in the back of your mind, if you’ve followed sports for a significant portion of your life you have one: your sporting bucket list. The events or games you would give your left arm to be a part of; to be there in person taking in each and every second of competitive bliss.

Some are longer than others. Some grow over time.

When I was younger, the list was much simpler than it is now.

I wanted to see Ken Griffey, Jr. play centerfield at the Metrodome in Seattle, wanted to watch my Philadelphia Eagles play in a Super Bowl, my Phillies win a World Series (in 1988 at the age of 7 that seemed like a bit of a pipe dream) and watch Villanova, or any Big 5 Philly team for that matter, hoist a National Championship trophy. That’s it.

As I’ve grown, I’ve added Triple Crown races, Ironman races, a Frozen Four, Pipeline Masters in Hawaii, Wimbledon and major golf championships to that list. 

Here’s an oldie but goodie to add to that list: The Walker Cup.

The U.S. Open, the Masters, the PGA Championship, the Open Championship, the Ryder Cup - they’re all fantastic events in their own right. They each have their own flavor….their own reasons why we love them.
Taking nothing away from the aforementioned events, The Walker Cup is just different. In the 90 years since its inception, we’ve seen the Ryder and Presidents’ Cups emerge as the more illustrious, more covered international team golf events, but there just isn’t a substitute for the original.

I had the opportunity to attend this year’s event in Aberdeen, Scotland and walked away with one of the greatest sporting memories of my lifetime. For a few simple reasons:

1.    In Scotland, they follow amateur golf like we follow the NFL. The fans knew every player as if they were Tom Brady: James Byrne, Rhys Pugh, Blayne Barber, Russell Henley. What? You’ve never heard of these guys? Ask Rory from Links Road in Aberdeen. He’s got a 10-minute dissertation on all of them. It’s remarkable. The result? An atmospheric buzz that makes you feel like you are a part of the action. 

2.    While Ladbrooks and other bookies around the UK take in a ton of action on the event, these guys aren’t playing for a bloated purse - - they’re playing for the love of the game. As is the case with regular amateur events, there is no prize money. What is at stake, however, is a boatload of national pride. There’s something about playing for your country that brings a different element into play and both teams showed that ‘something’ this year. Just ask Byrne, the 22- year old Scot from just down the road who jarred an 80-footer on the 17th during Saturday’s singles match to finish off Nathan Smith with 2,000 or so spectators standing on the green. You think he wasn’t pumped to do that in front of his home crowd? Or Jordan Speith, the 18-year old wunderkind from Dallas who calmly rolled in an 8-footer on 18 to earn a half-point in the Sunday morning foursomes, then erupted with emotion with his teammates, Dad and a half-dozen people from his hometown looking on. Fantastic.

3.    Getting in early. Ten years from now, no one knows what any of these kids will end up doing. Some might be pros in their hometown, some may be hoisting a major championship trophy, but it’s the chance to possibly see the next Tiger or Phil at a grassroots level that makes the event that much more exciting. Every sports fan loves to cling to the memories of the one athlete they saw before the million dollar contracts. I still remember watching Kobe thrash his way to a title at the Palestra in Philadelphia his senior year at Lower Merion. Who knows if I saw the next great golfer knocking down 10-footers at Royal Aberdeen? But if I did, ten years from now I’ll certainly tell you about it.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.