NEWCASTLE, Northern Ireland (AP) — The U.S. team has three teenagers and only one player who has competed in a Walker Cup. It has not beaten Great Britain & Ireland on a links course since 1991, and that was a team that included Phil Mickelson and David Duval.
No wonder the Americans are underdogs in another cup.
A U.S. team led by NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark and U.S. Amateur champion Colt Knost will try to retain the Walker Cup when the two-day amateur competition begins Saturday at Royal County Down.
The Americans won the cup two years ago at Chicago Golf Club, 12 1/2-11 1/2, and lead the overall series 32-7-1. But the matches have been even over the last two decades, and one-sided when GB&I plays at home.
“I think the home team is always favored, mainly because of the style of play,” U.S. captain Buddy Marucci said. “For us to come over for a week and try to develop a game plan is the best we can hope for.”
Trip Kuehne, who lost the 1994 U.S. Amateur final to Tiger Woods, is the only American on the 10-man team with Walker Cup experience. This is his fourth team, having played for the first time in 1995.
“In 1995, I was a 23-year-old deer in the headlights,” Kuehne said. “I wasn’t prepared for anything, and the thing I have stressed to them is just be prepared. Your golf game is going to be there, and you’re going to play well, but just prepare yourself mentally for anything and everything that could happen.”
GB&I is led by a teenager of its own, 18-year-old Rory McIlroy of Ireland. He made the cut at the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year, then won the silver medal at the British Open as the low amateur when he tied for 42nd at Carnoustie.
The teams will play four matches of alternate shot and eight singles matches Saturday and Sunday.