Walker Cup News
USA’s Harman, Mitchell Use A Little ‘Luck’ In Win
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Ardmore, Pa. – As the Walker Cup commenced Saturday, benign sentiment pervaded the 42nd playing of the Match. Both squads were respectful of the other, yet quietly certain of their own destinies this weekend.
It took one day to alter the former sentence. Perhaps because, as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt.
Upon losing one full point to the USA tandem of Brian Harman and Adam Mitchell in the morning foursomes (alternate shot), Great Britain and Ireland’s Gavin Dear and Matt Haines were frustrated standing just off Merion Golf Club’s 16th green. Harman and Mitchell had just orchestrated a comeback 3-and-2 victory. The USA moved three points closer to retaining the official Cup and three-and-half points to win outright, while GB&I must register 13 ½ tallies. The Americans head into the afternoon singles matches with an 11-5 cushion.
“They got lucky,” said Scotland’s Dear, falling to 0-2-1 this weekend and 0-1-1 in matches he’s gone against Harman.
“If we were lucky, I don’t know what they are,” said Harman, 2-0-1 thus far to remain unbeaten in his Walker Cup career (4-0-2).
What makes the give-and-take more delicious is the fact that Harman and Dear will get reacquainted in the singles matches. They halved their singles match Saturday.
The foursomes duel Sunday got off to an inauspicious start for the Americans. They quickly fell three holes down by the time their heads stopped spinning on the fourth teeing ground. Dear and Haines landed heavyweight blows in the form of two birdies and a par out of the chute. Harman and Mitchell posted bogeys on two of the first three holes, seemingly out of synch.
When Mitchell missed a mid-range putt on the par-3 third, the deepest of all the greens at Merion, Harman dialed up a motivational tactic. Stealing a page from Howard Beale’s character in the 1976 classic ‘Network,’ Harman was mad as [heck], and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.
“We’re going to win this match, ” Harman told Mitchell at the time. “This is our match. This is our day.”
If Harman really believed it, he was being clairvoyant at the time. In an uncanny sort of way, soon the teams traded fortunes. By the time they wrapped up the sixth hole, the Americans had evened the match by going birdie-par-par. GB&I went par-bogey-bogey.
The Americans finally wrested the lead away on the 12th hole, in Merion parlance known as “Short Treachery.” The green will test the moxie of any putter and Mitchell passed the test, draining a lagging 3 ½-footer for par. Mitchell had been trying to channel his emotions as he felt the excitement of the USA-sided gallery. He fed off it, he said.
“It’s terrific seeing all these people out here, rooting for us in this environment,” said Mitchell, 22, of Chattanooga, Tenn., who plans on turning professional soon after the Walker Cup. “It’s hard not to get caught up in it.”
On the par-4 14th, a sweeping dogleg left, the USA grabbed their biggest lead at 2 up. After Haines left his approach shot short left of the green, Dear was granted relief from a sprinkler head. He struck a well-executed lazy wedge shot, the ball funneling back toward the hole on the undulating green, leaving Haines with a 14-footer.
In the meantime, Mitchell flared his approach from the middle of the fairway outside the gallery ropes, leaving Harman with a short-side chip. USA Captain George “Buddy” Marucci sauntered up to Harman and asked him “what kind of shot are you going to hit?”
The affable Harman simply went, “Ummmmm…..”
Moments later, he culled a flop shot that stopped 2 feet from the flagstick. Mitchell knocked it in for par, leading to Marucci to literally tip his cap in Harman’s direction on the next teeing ground.
Before finishing off GB&I on the 16th hole, Harman put the Americans 3 up with a 2-footer on No. 15. Dear had putted before Harman, maddened by his 8-footer that lipped out.
“I felt we got a little bit unlucky,” said Haines, 0-2-1 this weekend. “We didn’t get the bounces when we needed them.”
It was then Dear chimed in about it being one of those days when the breaks work against you.
If golf is about luck, Harman won’t belittle that.
“Hey, I hope I’m lucky some more this afternoon,” said Harman.
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Editor of Digital Media. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.