A talented United States side – led by the brilliant Maverick McNealy – hand out 19-7 thumping to Great Britain and Ireland in Los Angeles, writes Bryce Ritchie
Maverick McNealy As the saying goes... remember the name. The 21-year-old was the star of the show as the United States won the 46th Walker Cup at Los Angeles Country Club.
The Great Britain and Ireland side, led by captain Andy Ingram after Craig Watson stood down the week before due to family matters, were never really in the match and went down 19-7.
McNealy was one of three players in John ‘Spider’ Miller’s US side to go 4-0 for the week. Never before have three players done that in one Walker Cup.
The other players to post 100% records were local product Collin Morikawa from nearby La Cañada Flintridge, and 2017 US Amateur runner-up Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights.
In three Walker Cups, the USA had two players post 4-0 records - 1977 (John Fought and Lindy Miller), 1997 (John Harris and Brad Elder) and 2009 (Peter Uihlein and Rickie Fowler) - and GB&I achieved it once in 1999, with English duo Luke Donald and Paul Casey.
McNealy, who attended Stanford University, was tipped for the business world as business acumen is most certainly in the family blood. His father, Scott McNealy, co-founded Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle Corporation for $7.4billion in 2010.
He has since opted to turn professional, with his starring role in this Walker Cup the world No.2’s first real mark on the golf scene.
“I think it starts with the US team getting that big trophy and that was our goal at the beginning of the week and I’m so excited to be part of the 2017 winning Walker Cup team,” said McNealy. “That’s what’s most important to me. I’m so glad we could win this for our team, win this for Captain Miller, and win this for the country.
“It’s been unbelievable. I’ll never forget this week. It’s the end of my amateur career, but it means so much more than that to me, it’s been incredible.”
The Americans came into the last day - a double session of four foursomes and ten singles matches - with an 8-4 advantage. Instead of tripping up and letting GB&I think they had a small chance, they simply powered ahead. The USA went 3-1 in foursomes and 7-1-2 in singles to tie for the match’s second-largest margin of victory.
Only the 19-5 victory in 1993 at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, was greater, albeit the format and schedule were not the same. That year, 20 singles matches were contested due to weather postponing Saturday’s morning foursomes session. The USA also won the 1997 Match at Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, 18-6.
The Walker Cup format was tweaked in 2009 to add two more Sunday singles matches and 26 total points.
“I’m so proud of all the players,” said 67-year-old Miller, a two-time US Mid Amateur champion from Bloomington, who revealed the 2017 Walker Cup would be his swansong in amateur golf. “They have conducted themselves great this week, they have done everything I’ve asked, and I’m very proud of them all.”
Starting the final day, GB&I had high hopes it could eat into the USA’s four-point margin in foursomes, but only the English duo of Jack Singh Brar and Scott Gregory could forge a two-up victory. With the USA needing just two-and-a-half points going into the ten afternoon singles matches to reclaim the trophy, the biggest drama surrounded who would get the clinching point.
A dominant 6&5 victory by reigning NCAA champion Braden Thornberry over Paul McBride, of the Republic of Ireland, produced the first point. Reigning US Mid Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad, a Los Angeles Country Club junior member who had a large throng of supporters all weekend, avenged his Saturday defeat to Singh Brar, 2&1. The match ended in unusual fashion with Singh Brar, who was bidding to be GB&I’s only 4-0 player, striking the sand in the bunker on the 17th after his third shot failed to get out of the hazard. It resulted in a loss-of-hole penalty under Rule 13-4 (touching sand in a bunker).
“It’s really unfortunate the way it ended,” said Hagestad. “From a competitor one to another, that’s never the way that you want it to go. My heart goes out to him.
The clinching half-point came from 18-year-old Norman Xiong, the youngest player on the USA side, who halved his match against Gregory, the 2016 Amateur champion, to finish with a 3-0-1 record.
Despite ending up on the losing side, Gregory was proud of his fight in what was his final match as an amateur.
“I’m so competitive that I would still want to try and do my best,” said Gregory, who finished with a 2-1-1 record.. “Obviously, the goal at the start of the week was to win the Walker Cup and unfortunately we [did not] do that. But I think on a personal note I played really well, played well against Maverick [on Saturday], and the same again today. Both guys are such nice people.”
Even with the destiny of the trophy decided, seven other matches were still on the course, with players looking for some history. That included Morikawa and Ghim, who defeated reigning Amateur champion Harry Ellis (2&1) and Matthew Jordan (371) – both of England – to complete their perfect weekend.
Two past US Junior Amateur champions also finished with singles victories. Texan Scottie Scheffler, the 2013 champion, notched his first victory of the weekend with a one-up victory over 2017 US Amateur quarter-finalist Connor Syme, of Scotland. Zalatoris, the 2014 champion, beat Jack Davidson, of Wales, 3&2.
GB&I’s lone singles victory came from 2016 Stanford graduate David Boote, of Wales, who defeated reigning US Amateur champion Doc Redman. It prevented GB&I from failing to garner at least one Sunday singles victory since the 1989 Walker Cup at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, which ironically was the first GB&I victory on American soil. Robert MacIntyre, of Scotland, the 2016 Amateur runner-up, halved his match with Cameron Champ. Neither player won a hole after the left-handed MacIntyre birdied the tenth to square the match.
“The Americans are amazing, what a team,” said GB&I captain Andy Ingram. “Got to take my hat off to them, they have been superb all week.
“This is such a wonderful place. I love the climate, I love the people, I love the golf course. We have had some great fun.”
The 47th Walker Cup Match will take place September 7-8, 2019, at Royal Liverpool, where the USA will look to win for the first time on UK soil since 2007.