ARDMORE, Pa. – After three straight one-point decisions in the Walker Cup, United States captain Buddy Marucci wondered if the teams were again headed toward a final-hole showdown.
Boasting a six-point lead heading into the Sunday singles, members of the U.S. team struggled in the middle of their rounds, giving a glimmer of hope to a Great Britain and Ireland team desperate to end a two-match losing streak.
But the Americans steadied their games and won their third consecutive Walker Cup, claiming five singles matches and halving another for a 16 1/2 - 9 1/2 victory over GB&I at Merion Golf Club.
“But I just thought there was too much talent not to win 2 1/2 points.”
When it was over, Marucci, a Merion member who grew up just off the eighth green, choked back tears at the closing ceremony.
“The true spirit of Merion came out this week, and it comes out every time there is a championship,” the 57-year-old said.
This weekend, on the same layout where Bobby Jones played his first and last U.S. Amateur and completed the Grand Slam in 1930, the U.S. team eased away for a dominating victory in the amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
Americans Rickie Fowler and Peter Uihlein won all four of their weekend matches, and Cameron Tringale won in an 8-and-6 romp in the third-largest winning margin by a U.S. player in singles.
Fowler’s victory punctuated a solid amateur career. Tringale’s victory ensured the U.S. would retain the title, and Uihlein’s 3-and-1 victory over Stiggy Hodgson won it outright.
The U.S. team’s margin of victory was the largest since an 18-6 win in 1997, at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. The Americans lead the series 34-7-1.
The U.S. team needed two points in the Sunday singles to retain the cup and 2 1/2 to win the championship after going 3-1 in the morning’s alternate-shot matches that provided an 11-5 advantage.
Bud Cauley halved his singles with Chris Paisley and finished 3-0-1 for the U.S., which also got individual wins from Morgan Hoffmann and Brendan Gielow.
Marucci won his second straight title as U.S. captain.
“They gave me more than I will ever be able to give back,” said Marucci, the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion and two-time Walker Cup player.
Scotland’s Gavin Dear, in the first singles pairing, tried to kick-start a GB&I comeback, posting a 3-and-2 victory over Brian Harman.
“I like going out early. I feel as though I can go up,” Dear said. “If the guys see that score, maybe it could give them some kind of incentive or a bit of confidence.”
But the six-point deficit after the morning session proved too big an obstacle to overcome for the GB&I under captain Colin Dalgleish, who dropped his second in a row and was openly disappointed.
“I kind of feel that the 10 players we had here are better players and played better than the result would suggest, which is very frustrating for everybody involved here,” Dalgleish said.
Sam Hutsby, Tommy Fleetwood and Niall Kearney supplied GB&sI’s other singles wins.
Fowler and Uihlein, teammates at Oklahoma State along with Hoffmann, starred for the U.S. squad.
Delaying turning pro until after his second straight Walker Cup, Fowler played the 18th hole just once, Sunday morning when he and Cauley prevailed 1-up.
The 20-year-old from Murrieta, Calif., closed out his amateur career on the 17th hole and got a hearty handshake and hug from Marucci.
“This is the reason I stayed an amateur,” said Fowler, whose first pro event will be on the Nationwide Tour next week in Idaho. “Being here, in Buddy’s backyard, and winning it tops it all off.”He finished with a 7-1 Walker Cup record, unbeaten in four foursomes, and 3-1 in singles.
Uihlein was one of the last two picks to the 10-man team, and he justified his selection by going undefeated.
“I just tried to do the best I could,” the 20-year-old from Orlando said. “It was a pretty special week.”
Uihlein teamed with Nathan Smith, the oldest member of the American squad at 31, for a pair of alternate-shot victories and had wins of 2 and 1, and 3 and 1 in singles.
After three straight losses from 1999-2003, the Americans followed victories at Chicago Golf Club in Illinois and Royal County Down in Northern Ireland with a win at venerable Merion East, which was hosting a record 18th USGA championship.
The U.S. won three straight from 1983-87 as part of an eight-title run between 1973 and 1987. GB&I won three straight titles from 1999-2003, before the current U.S. run.
The Americans raced to a 3-1 lead after Saturday’s alternate-shot matches and held an 8-4 edge after the first day following three wins and four halves in afternoon singles.