Where U.S. Walker Cup race stands with only U.S. Amateur to play
Following a thrilling Western Amateur, one event remains before the U.S. Walker Cup team in finalized.
Half of the team has already been selected: Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent, Stanford’s Michael Thorbjornsen, North Carolina’s David Ford, Alabama’s Nick Dunlap and Tennessee’s Caleb Surratt. But the U.S. Amateur, which begins a week from Monday at Cherry Hills south of Denver, provides the remaining hopefuls a final audition for the USGA’s selection committee and American captain Mike McCoy.
Per USGA rules, the winner of the U.S. Amateur, if American, will automatically earn a spot on the 10-man squad, which next month will face Great Britain and Ireland at St. Andrews.
As for the Americans who can punch their Walker Cup tickets without lifting the Havemeyer Trophy, here is how that race stacks up:
ALREADY A LOCK
Dylan Menante (5): It’s surprising he wasn’t already named to this team considering he was a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur and entering the Western had finished top 10 in five straight tournaments, including a T-4 at NCAAs and runner-up at the Southern. But him playing all four stroke-play rounds at the Western means that no matter what he does at Cherry Hills, he’ll be the Americans’ speedy leadoff man at St. Andrews.
Stewart Hagestad (15): When fellow mid-amateur Evan Beck qualified for the U.S. Amateur, it likely kept the USGA from giving Hagestad his fourth Walker Cup bid early. But let’s be honest, Beck would probably need to make the final at Cherry Hills to dethrone Hagestad, who just made the Round of 16 at the Western and reached the quarters of last year’s U.S. Am in addition to making the cut at the 2022 U.S. Open and winning the 2021 U.S. Mid-Amateur (also in this Walker Cup cycle). Hagestad is like having a playing captain at this point, and with a ton of young guns headed across the pond, his experience will be needed. Plus, GB&I will likely boast a strong mid-amateur in Matthew McClean, who just reached the semifinals of the Western. Hagestad should be the guy tasked with taking McClean down in a mid-am battle for the ages.
NEEDS TO MAKE MATCH PLAY
Maxwell Moldovan (23): He may be higher on my list, but his performance in USGA events alone should get him a serious look. He qualified for the past two U.S. Opens and made the cut at LACC. He also reached the Round of 16 of last year’s U.S. Amateur. He had a nice start to the year with three college wins and a top-7 at the Jones Cup. He also missed match play at the Western in a playoff.
Nick Gabrelcik (9): Winning the Southern Amateur probably launched the North Florida senior into the top 10 for Walker Cup, but he did lose some ground by missing the 36-hole cut at the Western by a shot. He rattled off a ton of top-10s last season for the Ospreys, but other than his Southern win, he’s done little this summer.
NEEDS TO WIN AT LEAST A MATCH, MAYBE MORE
Ben James (6): The Phil Mickelson Award winner has not followed his five-win freshman season with a strong summer. Since going third-win-sixth in the NCAA postseason, the rising Virginia sophomore has yet to crack the top 25, and he beat just 11 players while shooting 10 over at the Western. He’s losing ground quickly.
Preston Summerhays (16): He hasn’t done anything that jumps off the page this year, but the Arizona State junior has some nice resume builders. He qualified for the U.S. Open this summer and nearly made the cut at the 3M. He also was third at regionals and top 20 at the NCAA Championship. And then most recently, he qualified for the Sweet 16 at the Western.
Austin Greaser (6): He avoided hand surgery this summer, but he’s still played sparingly, missing the cut at the KFT’s NV5 Invitational before coming up a shot shy of playing two more rounds at the Western. His top-11s at regionals and nationals look good, as does his victory at last summer’s Western and made cut at the 2022 U.S. Open, but at this point, while a good week at Cherry Hills could get Greaser to Scotland, there might be 10 more deserving options.
NEEDS TO MAKE SEMIS
Luke Clanton (12): The Florida State sophomore needed to keep the momentum going after a run that included winning an NCAA regional and posting top-4s at the Sunnehanna and Northeast while also making match play at the North and South. However, he didn’t crack the top 60 at the Southern and missed the 36-hole cut at the Western. He’s still got hope, but he’ll need a deep run at the U.S. Amateur.
Cole Sherwood (13): A very pedestrian spring season knocked the Vanderbilt senior well off the radar, but his T-6 at Northeast and Round of 16 showing at Western, where he ran into the red-hot Dunlap, have him entering the U.S. Amateur with an outside chance.
NEEDS TO WIN (NOTABLES)
Jackson Van Paris (38): He was blistering to start the summer, winning the Sunnehanna before going T-7 at the Northeast and making the semis at Pinehurst. But he needed to go full Niebrugge to make the U.S. team. Now, he’s probably going to have to win the U.S. Am.
Drew Goodman (32): The Oklahoma junior is making a late push. In the past few months, he’s finished runner-up at an NCAA regional, top 20 at nationals, T-4 at the Trans-Miss and most recently advanced to the semifinals of the Western, where he was second in stroke play and took down Thor in the Round of 16.
William Moll (24): Has three top-10s in Elite Amateur Series events following a spring in which he finished sixth or better four times. He needs to lift the Havemeyer, just like almost everybody else, but he’s worth listing here.