Walker Cup 2015 – Team USA (1)

30th November 2014

It seems early but the countdown to the 2015 Walker Cup is already underway.  On 13th November 2014, a full 304 days before the next instalment of this biennial contest starts, the USGA announced their first Walker Cup training squad.  As has become the norm in Team USA’s preparations a turn-of-the-year practice session is to be held; this time on 17th – 20th December at Frederica GC in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

The 45th Walker Cup Match will take place at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England on 12th and 13th September 2015.  For more information on the 2015 Walker Cup and Royal Lytham please click here.

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

As the USA have shown their hand first I thought I would take a closer look at their training squad and what it tells us.

Whilst neither team will be confirmed until mid-August 2015 it is interesting to note that nine of the final ten in the 2013 USA Team attended the first practice session held that year in January 2013.  Therefore the 16-man squad named two weeks ago is likely to be a very good indicator of who we may see on the Fylde Coast next September.

I have listed the USA players below in order of their current World Amateur Golf Ranking Positions (WAGR).  I have also provided some basic biographical information and their current Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR).  The differences highlighted between an individual player’s WAGR and SPWAR ranking are in themselves interesting.

The following players have accepted an invitation to attend the St. Simons Island session: –

1. Robby Shelton (Wilmer, Alabama)
b. 25/08/95 (19)  WAGR – 3  SPWAR – 8
University of Alabama – Sophomore (2014/15)
NCAA Div. 1 Championship winning team member (2013/14)
National Freshman of the Year – Phil Mickelson Award (2013/14)
Qualified for the 2014 US Open
Palmer Cup Team member (2014)

2. Will Zalatoris (Plano, Texas)
b. 16/08/1996 (18)  WAGR – 7  SPWAR – 92
Wake Forest University – Freshman (2014/15)
2014 US Junior Amateur Champion

3. Lee McCoy (Clarkesville, Georgia)
b. 05/02/1994 (20)  WAGR – 10  SPWAR – 14
University of Georgia – Junior (2014/15)
SP co-medalist at the 2014 US Amateur

4. Denny McCarthy (Rockville, Maryland)
b. 04/03/1993 (21)  WAGR – 12  SPWAR – 2
University of Virginia – Senior (2014/15)
6th at the NCAA Div. 1 Championship (2013/14)
SF at the 2014 US Amateur 
US Junior Ryder Cup Team (2010)

5. Doug Ghim (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
b. 16/04/1996 (18)  WAGR – 13  SPWAR – 60
University of Texas – Freshman (2014/15)
Runner-up at the 2014 US Amateur Public Links
SF at the 2013 US Junior Amateur

6. Beau Hossler (Mission Vejo, California)
b. 16/03/1995 (19)  WAGR – 14  SPWAR – 4
University of Texas – Sophomore (2014/15)
Western Amateur Champion (2014)
2014 World Amateur Team Champion – USA
Competed in the 2011 (age 16) and 2012 (29th) US Open Championships
USA Junior Ryder Cup (2012)

US Walker Cup 1-6

Shelton, Zalatoris, McCoy (top row l-r), McCarthy, Ghim and Hossler (bottom row l-r)

7. J. Hunter Stewart (Lexington, Kentucky)
b. 22/05/1993 (21)  WAGR – 15  SPWAR – 12
Vanderbilt University – Senior (2014/15)
Qualified for the 2014 US Open

8. Charlie Danielson (Osceola, Wisconsin)
b. 16/01/1994 (20)  WAGR – 32  SPWAR – 44
University of Illinois – Junior (2014/15)
Last 16 at 2013 US Amateur

9. Kyle Jones (Snowflake, Arizona)
b. 15/07/1993 (21)  WAGR – 39  SPWAR – 67
Baylor University – Senior (2014/15)

10. Bryson Dechambeau Clovis, California)
b. 16/09/1993 (21)  WAGR – 40  SPWAR – 9
Southern Methodist University – Junior (2014/15)
2014 World Amateur Team Champion – USA
Last 16 at the 2014 US Amateur
QFs of the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links
Palmer Cup Team member (2014)
9th at the NCAA Div. 1 Championship (2013/14)

11. Rico Hoey (Rancho Cucamonga, California)
b. 19/09/1995 (19)  WAGR – 41  SPWAR – 18
University of Southern California – Sophomore (2014/15)
Palmer Cup Team member (2014)

12. Maverick McNealy (Portola Valley, California)
b. 07/11/1995 (19)  WAGR – 53  SPWAR – 99
Stanford University – Sophomore (2014/15)
Competed at the 2014 (29th) US Open
[Named, like his siblings, after a car by his father Scott, the co-founder and former long-time CEO of Sun Microsystems]

US Walker Cup 7-12

Stewart, Danielson, Jones (top row l-r), Dechambeau, Hoey and McNealy (bottom row l-r)

13. Byron Meth (San Diego, California)
b. ??/??/1993 (21)  WAGR – 73  SPWAR – 110
University of the Pacific – Senior (2014/15)
2014 US Amateur Public Links Champion
Last 16 in the 2014 US Amateur 

14. Scott Harvey (Greesboro, North Carolina) *
b. 30/05/1978 (36)  WAGR – 79  SPWAR – 69
2014 US Mid-Amateur Champion
2014 Cardinal Amateur Champion
Property Manager and former Mini-Tour Professional.

15. Nathan Smith (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) *
b. 06/08/78 (36)  WAGR – 80  SPWAR – 160
2014 US Amateur QF
2003 (aged 25), 2009, 2010 and 2012 US Mid-Amateur Champion 
US Walker Cup Team 2009, 2011 and 2013
Investment adviser

16. Mike McCoy (West Des Moines, Iowa) *
b. 21/11/1962 (52)  WAGR – 184  SPWAR – 76
2013 US Mid-Amateur Champion
Insurance Executive

US Walker Cup 13-18

Meth, Harvey, Smith (top row l-r), McCoy, Schniderjans and Campbell (bottom row l-r)

If you will forgive me for stating the obvious the USA Team is again going to be very strong with a foundation of elite amateurs, with both major Am / Pro championship experience and victories as well as sound current College playing records.  However, in GB&I’s favour is home advantage and the challenge of links golf which will be a new experience to many of the USA team.  May be a bit of September wind and rain will help too.

The USGA have a policy of including a minimum of two mid-amateurs (aged 25 or over) in their team.  Whilst some commentators argue that this weakens their team it is clear from the squad selections that it will be continued in 2015.  Of course Captain Miller also played his one Walker Cup in 1999 as a mid-amateur in his late 40’s. What was a surprise was why it was felt necessary to include three mid-amateurs (denoted with a *) in the squad.  The inclusion of the 2013 US Mid-Amateur Champion Mike McCoy, now 52, in particular looks a little odd given his rankings.

Looking at the current WAGR’s notable omissions from the practice team were Ollie Schniederjans (WAGR – 1), Brian Campbell (WAGR – 8), Sam Burns (WAGR – 12), Xander Schauffele (WAGR – 26) and Jack Maguire (WAGR – 37).  In other words the USA team could still be improved or in reality may have been stronger.  I say this as we can probably now assume that in the case of Schniederjans and Campbell they must have already indicated an intention to turn Pro next Summer prior to the match.  In the case of Burns, Schauffele and Maguire they clearly still have work to do in convincing the Selection Committee of their merits.  Miller doesn’t seem overly keen at this stage on giving youth an opportunity at Lytham.  Burns, 18, has been overlooked as has well ranked Cameron Young (WAGR – 32), Scottie Scheffler (WAGR – 33) and Davis Riley (WAGR – 41).

Mid-amateur Nathan Smith is the only member of the current squad who played in the 2013 Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America (he also played in 2011).  Jordan Niebrugge (WAGR – 64) could add some more experience from the victorious 2013 team but clearly needs to show some better form to get pack in the picture.  Of course, that is exactly what he did in 2013 as he was the player who forced himself onto the team last time through outstanding play.

In theory selection for the December 2014 USA practice squad means nothing but, as noted above, in practice it has in the past proven to be a good indicator.  There is still plenty of golf to be played next year so only time will tell how close the Selection Committee have got it on their first stab.  Another unknown in the USA selection equation is who will succeed the current Selection Committee Chairman Dan Burton who steps down from post in February 2015 ?  Only time will tell if a new person leads to a different approach and new names being put forward.

Finally, look out for my early thoughts on a possible ‘GB&I Squad’ which will be coming soon.

ME.

Copyright © 2014, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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