Walker Cup: The Americans are readySeptember, 2015
Team America in confident mood ahead of this week's event.
When Jordan Spieth said he expected an amateur to win a Major championship within the next decade, it was because of amateurs such as those who have descended upon Lancashire for the Walker Cup this weekend.
Leading members of the team include Jordan Niebrugge, who shared sixth place at the Open on 11 under par, and Bryson DeChambeau, who became just the fifth player in history to win the NCAA Individual college title and the US Amateur in the same year.
Speaking ahead of the event, Niebrugge, who is just eight days younger than Spieth, said: “It’s just an honour to play for your country out there.
“I think this is the one tournament that we look up to and base a lot of our schedule, the tournaments we play, off of it. Besides that, it’s just the reward. I mean, this is a reward for all of our amateur golf. It’s probably the best reward you could possibly get.”
‘It’s the epitome of amateur golf as I look at it’ When Spieth spoke about the lack of “fear” among today’s amateurs, it was with the voice of experience. Just four years ago he was part of the last American Walker Cup team to visit the UK, playing at Royal Aberdeen.
With recent Major winners such as Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods first rising to prominence at previous Walker Cups it isn’t much of a stretch to suggest the next big name in golf could be treading the Royal Lytham & St Annes fairways this weekend.
If the charismatic DeChambeau is to make a career in the game, one thing is for certain and that he will do it his own way (see below). The Southern Methodiest University student explained how young amateurs such as those preparing to do battle this weekend are helping to further the game.
He said: “I’m practising as hard as I can every single day to make me the best that I can be so that I am prepared when I get out there. That’s the way I viewed it and tried to accomplish my goals that way.
“So I think on that note, we’re furthering the game that way. We’re pushing the game forward.
“[The Walker Cup] is the epitome of amateur golf as I look at it, and I’ve been working quite honestly four years for this.”
Team America meets ’The King’ on the course
In the build-up to the event, Walker Cup captain John ’Spider’ Miller joked that he would take the team to Blackpool on the Friday evening to prepare.
Having Googled Blackpool, Miller changed his mind, but a practice round at Hillside lead to a chance encounter with another of the North West’s most famous old relics.
The team bumped into Kenny Dalglish at Hillside, and Miller said: “I was informed of his record and the stature he has in the community and him being a legend and his nickname being ’The King’ and I thought it was great.
“He was kind enough to come over and meet all of our players, and he took a picture with us. I can see he was a fierce competitor and when I shook his hand, my hand just disappeared. But it was very nice of Kenny to do that.”
DeChambeau – rewriting the golfing laws through Physics
Shunning a peaked cap in favour of his vintage Hogan hat, Bryson DeChambeau will be an easily-recognisable presence on the course this weekend.
The Southern Methodist University student wrote his name into the history books with victory this year by becoming only the fifth player to win both the US Amateur and the NCAA Individual title in the same year.
But it was for his unusual golfing technique that DeChambeau caught the eye of the golfing community.
The Physics major took the opportunity to discuss his methods – from his club shafts all measuring the same length to testing each individual ball to see if it is perfectly-balanced.
“Just before the summer of 2011, I was talking to my coach and trying to figure out a way to maybe make it a little bit easier to hit the golf ball,” he said. “I had already started developing a single A plane swing at that time and I realized I couldn’t do that for every single club because I would have to change my posture 14 different times.
“Once I realized I couldn’t do it, I said, why can’t the irons be the same length? And for that matter of fact, why couldn’t the driver, 3-wood and hybrid be the same length?”
With his irons restructured so that the shafts were all of the same length as his 7-iron – 37.5 inches – and the club heads adjusted to accommodate, the Physics student said he saw instant success.
“It was a pretty incredible discovery at that point in time,” he said. “From then on out we have tried to perfect it as good as we can. It’s not perfect obviously, but it’s worked pretty well for the moment.”
DeChambeau’s eccentricities don’t stop with his clubs, however. He measures every golf ball prior to use to make sure there are no imperfections, with one in three not making the grade.
He explained: “In my part of the game, one yard could mean going into the bunker compared to the fairway, so it is important for me and I value that quite highly. I want to be playing the best golf balls every single time I tee it up.
“So for me to have that little bit of an advantage may be the deciding factor in winning a match.”