USGA invites Walker Cup hopefuls for practice session

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Just in time for the holidays, the U.S. Golf Association has sent presents to 16 of the top amateur players in the country, in the form of invitations to an informal Walker Cup practice session later this month.

The practice, to be held Dec. 19-22 at Calusa Pines Golf Club in Naples, Fla., is designed to help U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve learn a bit more about the players likely vying for 10 spots on the squad for next year's Walker Cup, held Sept. 7-8 at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.

'We are glad to be able to use such high-quality facilities in our preparations for the 2013 Walker Cup,' said Holtgrieve, who also noted that players not invited are not necessarily excluded from potential selection. 'This is a good opportunity in our evaluation process and we look forward to it.'

Headlining the group of invitees are the final four players at this year's U.S. Amateur: champion Steven Fox, runner-up Michael Weaver and semi-finalists Justin Thomas and Brandon Hagy. Four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith was also invited, as well as 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion T.J. Vogel.

The stroke-play medalist at this year's U.S. Amateur, Bobby Wyatt is among the invitees, as well as former U.S. Junior Amateur champions Cory Whitsett and Jim Liu. Having helped New York to a USGA Men's State Team championship this summer, Mike Miller is also among the group, along with former U.S. Walker Cup member Patrick Rodgers. Zac Blair, Michael Kim, Max Homa, Todd White and Peter Williamson round out the list of players invited to Naples.

The U.S. holds a 34-8-1 all-time advantage over Team Great Britain & Ireland in the biennial Walker Cup, which serves as the amateur-level equivalent of the Ryder Cup. Despite the historical advantage for the Americans, Team GB & I currently holds the cup after their 14-12 win last year at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland. The U.S. squad not lost on home soil since the 2001 matches at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga.