BROOKLINE, Mass. – With no American in the final four here at the U.S. Amateur, the Walker Cup selection committee didn’t need its usual last-minute handwringing.
So on Sunday there were no real surprises when the remaining five players on the U.S. team were announced on the NBC telecast.
Last month, the USGA named Michael Kim, Max Homa, Justin Thomas, Cory Whitsett and Patrick Rodgers to the U.S. team, which will be captained for the second time by Jim Holtgrieve.
Joining them on this year’s squad will be Alabama senior Bobby Wyatt, Oklahoma State sophomore Jordan Niebrugge [pictured] and Cal senior Michael Weaver, as well as a pair of mid-ams, Nathan Smith, a 35-year-old two-time Walker Cupper, and Todd White, a 45-year-old history teacher. A new USGA rule stipulates that at least two mid-ams must be selected; Team GB&I has no such mandate.
The biennial event will be held Sept. 7-8 at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y. Team GB&I will name its 10-man team Monday.
A strong match-play opponent, Wyatt was an integral part of Alabama’s NCAA title-winning team, and he seemed like a lock for the squad before a few stumbles this summer put his berth in jeopardy. No matter.
Weaver, who played on Cal’s historic 2012-13 team, was 2 up with two to play at last year’s U.S. Amateur, only to lose on the 37th hole to Steven Fox. He grew from that disappointment to put together a solid campaign, and he made the cut at the U.S. Open at Merion.
Niebrugge, meanwhile, was a relative unknown coming into this summer, but he’s played arguably the best of any of the hopefuls, or, for that matter, any Walker Cupper. In consecutive weeks he captured the U.S. Amateur Public Links, Wisconsin Amateur and Western Amateur.
Smith was a no-brainer choice for one of the mid-am spots, given his track record (two Walker Cup appearances and four U.S. Mid-Am titles). White benefitted not only from the new USGA rule but an apparent lack of challengers. He made the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Mid-Am but didn’t qualify for this year’s U.S. Amateur. White and Smith were the only two mid-ams invited to the 16-player Walker Cup practice session last December.
As always, a few notable names were left off the team. The best among them was former North Florida All-American Sean Dale, who won the Jones Cup and delayed turning pro to try and make the squad. He reached the finals of the Western Amateur, where he lost to Niebrugge, and was bounced here in the Round of 64, where he lost to Rodgers.
Also falling short were Cal senior Brandon Hagy, one of the longest hitters in college golf, and 17-year-old Scottie Scheffler, who won the U.S. Junior and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur.