Miller eager for second turn as Walker Cup captain


BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Spider Miller’s Walker Cup duties begin in earnest this week at the U.S. Amateur. For the next 13 months, he’ll attend more than a dozen college and amateur events as he scouts players for his 10-man squad.

Miller captained the U.S. team last fall at Royal Lytham, where the Americans lost by seven points, their worst loss in history.

“Us losing in no way diminishes my enthusiasm,” he said Wednesday at Oakland Hills. “For me, it’ll just make me dig in further. I’m going to do some things differently, but on my end I’m just going to dig in.”

Miller received a big boost a few weeks ago when Maverick McNealy, the top-ranked amateur in the world, called Miller and told him that he’ll be available for next year’s matches at Los Angeles Country Club. That means the Stanford senior won’t turn pro until at least next September, if he decides to enter the play-for-pay ranks at all.

“Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with excitement, not only for me but also for him to have the maturity to make that decision and not be tossing around in the wind,” Miller said. “Maverick made what I think is an informed, mature decision, but that’s what you’d expect from him. He’s a smart guy.

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“I think he realizes that his youth is only there one time, and it’s a milestone to be on another Walker Cup team.”

As for the rest of the squad, Miller keeps a checklist of at least 25 players on his iPad, which he carried around the course Wednesday afternoon. It’s his way of making sure that he talks to all of his would-be players and their parents.

Some names are familiar, such as McNealy, Texas’ Scottie Scheffler and Illinois’ Dylan Meyer. But Miller said he’d make it a point to talk with Duke sophomore Alex Smalley, after he earned medalist honors here. “It’s important to say hello and get to know them,” he said. “My list is always rotating.”

In October, Miller will call the 16 players who will be invited to the Walker Cup practice session, also held at LA North in December. The team will be finalized after next year’s U.S. Amateur at Riviera.

Miller plans to do some things similarly, including attending the same number of events and pairing players in their matches by personality type. But he will have a better handle on how to allocate his and his players’ time, especially during tournament week.

“It’s really for the players – it’s the culmination of all their efforts,” he said. “They’ll want to win as much as I do, and I want it to be special for them.”