The U.S. captured golf’s Walker Cup as Nathan Smith, a 35-year-old investment adviser, scored the clinching point in a 17-9 victory against Britain and Ireland in the sport’s top amateur team competition.
The U.S. team, which held an 8-4 lead after the first day of competition, split yesterday’s foursomes matches and then won seven of 10 singles matches at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York.
While the 10-member U.S. team featured eight collegiate stars who may play golf professionally, it was Smith and 45-year-old Todd White, a high school teacher from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, who scored the 13th and 14th points to secure the Walker Cup, where a total of 26 points are available. After White won his match 4&3, Smith won by the same score to give the U.S. a 35-8-1 record in the biennial event.
“I never wanted a point so much in my life,” said Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’s played in four Masters Tournaments. “I was honestly tearing up out there.”
Smith, a former Division III All-American golfer now in his fifth year with Executive Wealth Counselors in Pittsburgh, was previously on the past two U.S. squads, including the team that lost the 2011 Walker Cup by a score of 14-12 at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in Scotland.
The U.S. had won three straight Walker Cup titles before the 2011 loss. Earlier this year, the U.S. Golf Association made it mandatory that the U.S. include two mid-amateurs -- players at least 25 years of age -- on its team.
“How could I write a better script?” U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve said about the match-play wins by his two oldest players. “That’s what this competition is all about. That’s what golf is all about -- developing these relationships. Now these two guys will be able to able to go talk to their communities and young people and go grow the game.”
The U.S. had a 13-4-1 record in singles matches at National Golf Links, which hosted the first Walker Cup competition in 1922 and was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, who helped found the USGA in 1894.
“What I really wanted was for 10 young men to have the greatest golfing experience of their career and we did that,” Holtgrieve said. “To play really hard for their country and to come and win this at this historic golf course, it doesn’t get any better.”
The American roster featured three players from the University of Alabama team that won the 2013 national championship -- Justin Thomas, Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt -- and another three who played together at the University of California, in Michael Kim, Michael Weaver and Max Homa. Wyatt collected a team-high 3 1/2 points in going undefeated, while Kim, the low amateur at the 2013 U.S. Open, went 3-0.
“It’s an unbelievable way to go out,” said Thomas, 20, the 2012 NCAA Player of the Year who said he’d turn pro following the Walker Cup. “I was so excited for this week. For this to happen is truly unbelievable.”
The Walker Cup is named after former USGA President George Herbert Walker, who originally created the event as the International Challenge Match. He’s a great-grandfather of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who visited with both teams this week and attended the matches.