U.S. Amateur losses leave Walker Cup race wide open

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Courtesy USGA

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – The U.S. Walker Cup selection committee’s task just got a bit more difficult.

Three of the more talked-about hopefuls were eliminated Thursday during the Round of 32 at the U.S Amateur. 

Former Virginia star Denny McCarthy figures to lead the pack, but he was ousted by Canadian Austin James, 3 and 2. 

"It was in my control and now it's out of my control," he said. "I've done all I can do."

South Carolina senior Matt NeSmith, who won the Players Amateur earlier this summer, was thumped, 5 and 4, by NCAA champion and Walker Cupper Bryson DeChambeau.

And Wake Forest sophomore Will Zalatoris, who missed a crucial month this summer after recovering from an emergency appendectomy, lost, 3 and 1, to Hunter Stewart, who has already been named to the American squad. 


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That’s likely bad news for the selection committee, which was hoping that at least one of the contenders would separate himself and make a run in the USGA’s most important championship.

Five players have already been named to captain Spider Miller’s team. Alabama star Robby Shelton figures to get one of the remaining five spots, along with Oklahoma State senior Jordan Niebrugge, who finished sixth at the Open at St. Andrews. 

Two mid-ams are required to make the 10-man roster, potentially leaving only one spot up for grabs. The USGA has almost always put that year’s American-born U.S. Amateur on the team, as well.

One of the most interesting cases is NeSmith, a former No. 1-ranked junior who wasn’t on Miller’s radar as recently as a few months ago. Then he tied for fifth at the Jones Cup, won the SEC Championship, qualified for the U.S. Open and won the Players Amateur.

“You always think about it,” he said. “I figured if I could get myself to the eight (quarterfinals), then I could give myself a really good shot. I didn’t quite get there.

“It’s been one of my goals. It’s the biggest thing you can achieve in amateur golf, to get to that highest level.” 

McCarthy, meanwhile, plans to turn pro sometime after the Walker Cup, with an eye on Q-School in November. 

"I think I'm ready," he said, "but I definitely need to get better. This golf course in this wind can expose your game a little bit, and I just didn't play well enough to win."