Nathan Smith won the deciding point in the United States’ 17-9 victory over Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup on Sunday, beating England’s Nathan Kimsey 4 and 3 in the fifth singles match at historic National Golf Links of America.
The United States, ahead 8-4 entering the final day in the biennial amateur event, split the four morning foursomes matches and won seven of the 10 afternoon singles matches.
The event, first played in 1922 at National Golf Links, is named in honor of former USGA President George Herbert Walker — President George H.W. Bush’s grandfather and President George W. Bush’s great-grandfather. George W. Bush attended the matches.
The US leads the series 35-8-1. In 2011, Britain and Ireland won 14-12 at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.
”It’s something I have been wanting for a long, long time, particularly after we lost in 2011,” US captain Jim Holtgrieve said. ”I was hoping I would get a mulligan for `13 and when I knew it was going to be at National Golf Links, which is where it all started, I wanted so bad to come here. Yes. I wanted to win, but I wanted to do something good for golf and this, to me, was truly good for golf.”
The 35-year-old Smith, a four-time US Mid-Amateur champion from Pittsburgh, won the par-3 13th and par-4 14th with pars and ended the match with a halve for bogey on the par-4 15th.
”This ranks at the top of the list,” said Smith, who has played in the Masters four times. ”I never wanted a point so much in my life. This means the most. I’m happy for Jim. Nobody deserves it more than him and loves the game of golf and put more hard work into a team than him.”
Alabama teammates Bobby Wyatt and Justin Thomas, 45-year-old South Carolina high school teacher Todd White, California’s Michael Kim, Oklahoma State’s Jordan Niebrugge and Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers also won singles matches.
”It took a long time to get to the matches, but once I was there, it seems like it just went by real quick,” Kim said. ”And you know, winning is great, but to win with these other nine guys who, you know, I’ve known for a while now, it’s special. And to represent your country is always an honor and something I’ll never forget.”
England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and Callum Shinkwin and Ireland’s Kevin Phelan won their singles matches. Fitzpatrick, a freshman at Northwestern, won the US Amateur last month.
”They adapted to conditions a little bit better,” Britain and Ireland captain Nigel Edwards said. ”The greens changed and there were very, very severe pin positions. They holed out a little bit better and I would say the short shots into the green, the distance control, that’s where they outdid us. When they did hit it over the back they got up and down and we didn’t.”
Wyatt beat England’s Neil Raymond 4 and 3; Thomas routed England’s Max Orrin 6 and 4; White topped Wales’ Rhys Pugh 4 and 3; Kim beat England’s Garrick Porteous 4 and 2; Niebrugge pounded England’s Jordan Smith 6 and 5; and Rodgers edged Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan 1 up.
”They all focused together,” Holtgrieve said. ”They all played together. They all worked together and they helped each other with their games. There were no individuals. It was a team.”
Fitzpatrick beat California’s Michael Weaver 3 and 2; Shinkwin edged Alabama’s Cory Whitsett 2 up; and Phelan beat Max Homa, the NCAA champion as a senior at Cal, 2 and 1.
In the morning foursomes, Whitsett and Wyatt beat Kimsey and Orrin 2 and 1, and Homa and Kim also earned a point for the United States, topping Porteous and Pugh 1 up. Fitzpatrick and Raymond beat Weaver and White 3 and 2, and Moynihan and Phelan topped Rodgers and Niebrugge 2 up.
Wyatt led the US with 3-1/2 points, and Kim was 3-0.
”It was just a wonderful week for everybody involved,” said Wyatt, part of Alabama’s NCAA championship team. ”I got to know some of the Great Britain and Ireland guys that I didn’t know. I really enjoyed that, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot of them down the road.”
The 2015 matches will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.