JUNO BEACH, Fla. – And on the fifth day, it poured.
Sadly, not much golf was played Thursday at Seminole Golf Club thanks to scattered thunderstorms that caused three different suspensions as preparation continued for the 48th Walker Cup.
But that didn’t mean the day was a total wash. Here are a few observations and notes from Thursday’s abbreviated action as we are now just two more sleeps from the start of the matches:
The first horn for weather blew just as U.S. players Stewart Hagestad and Tyler Strafaci had hit irons off the 10th tee and four other Americans – Davis Thompson, Pierceson Coody, Ricky Castillo and William Mouw – were heading down the first fairway. The other six U.S. players, including two alternates, were a hole ahead, with three foursomes of Great Britain and Ireland players in front of them.
What was supposed to be 18 holes turned into much fewer, as all the players turned around and retreated to their team rooms. The Americans got to spend some time in the clubhouse with Jack Nicklaus, who had watched all the competitors on the range earlier, and both teams ate lunch and hung out (the Americans were chipping balls into shoes and singing karaoke, too) while waiting out the hour-plus downpour.
The teams then briefly ventured out to try and restart their rounds around 1:30 p.m., only for the horn to blow again. A second attempt about an hour later was a little better – the players got about three to four holes in before being called off the course for a third time. The U.S. teamed chipped a little later in the afternoon, but no one went back out onto the course.
A fourth storm – the nastiest of the day – hit just before 7 p.m. and brought more rain, strong winds and some hail.
While the start-and-stop nature of Thursday’s practice round quickly grew tiresome, there was at least one silver lining.
After four days of dealing with Seminole’s diabolical green complexes that were made even meaner by scorching temperatures, players from both sides seemed relieved that heavy rains would help soften a course that has gotten little to no rain in recent months.
While firm and fast certainly benefits the home side, things were becoming a little too firm and fast. More like fierce and fiery. Several people pointed to the par-3 17th hole as an example, as the iconic one-shotter had become borderline unplayable with tee balls failing to hold the green late Wednesday afternoon.
But don’t worry, says club president Jimmy Dunne. Thursday’s showers were much needed, and Seminole should still play perfectly tough when the lights come on this weekend.
When Tiger Woods played his only Walker Cup in 1995 at Royal Porthcawl, he did so while battling food poisoning. Woods went 2-2 in those matches, but the U.S. ending up losing, 14-10, its first of four losses in a five-Cup span.
Davis Thompson is hoping for a different outcome this time.
The Georgia standout was among a handful of players on both teams to get sick a couple of nights ago. Thompson and U.S. teammate Austin Eckroat even missed Wednesday’s practice round while recovering from their stomach bugs.
A day later, Eckroat was back to normal while Thompson was getting there. Before the storms came, there was some talk as to whether Thompson would take a cart around, but by the time the players made it out on the course Thompson was able to walk and hit shots.
“I’m feeling a lot better today, so hopefully tomorrow I’ll be back to 100 percent and be ready to roll by Saturday,” Thompson said. “How I’m feeling now compared to yesterday is night and day.”
After Sandy Scott’s wrist injury forced the talented Scot, the highest-ranked player on the GB&I team, to withdraw from the Walker Cup, the visiting side was left with just one returning player from the 2019 matches at Royal Liverpool: England’s Alex Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick, though, isn’t completely healthy himself. The Wake Forest star missed the ACC Championship a couple of weeks ago with a back injury. Fitzpatrick said it was tough to watch as the Demon Deacons tied for fifth and failed to make match play, but the injury has improved and thanks to some extra stretching and treatment has yet to give him any issues this week.
The little time on the course Thursday was spent with the U.S. team, which played a few holes of alternate shot before heading in for the day. Cole Hammer and John Pak went out first with Quade Cummins and Austin Eckroat – and the two alternates, Mac Meissner and Cooper Dossey. The second sixsome included Pierceson Coody and Davis Thompson, Stewart Hagestad and Ty Strafaci, and Ricky Castillo and William Mouw.
There are no returning pairings for the Americans, as Hagestad, Hammer and Pak all played with other teammates in 2019. Also, U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby is likely to continue his strategy from two years ago in which no player sat out more than one session. He didn't change his foursomes combinations, either.