Walker Cup coaches looking for winning combos

ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) — Buddy Marucci acknowledges captaining the U.S. Walker Cup team isn’t rocket science – it’s chemistry.

Marucci is set to lead a U.S. team comprised of a teenager, eight 20-somethings and a 31-year-old against Britain and Ireland at Merion Golf Club in the two-day biennial competition starting Saturday.

The lifelong amateur and Merion member who captained the Americans to victory in 2007 is convinced that team bonding is equal in importance to each member’s talent.

“Chemistry on this team is great,” Marucci said on the eve of the matches after the teams’ practices were limited to the last five or six holes because of heavy rains and high winds pounding Merion East.

“This team, they’ve all won. It’s a very balanced group. So they walked in the room, they all felt kind of the same.”

The competition consists of four alternate-shot and eight singles matches on Saturday, followed by four alternate-shot and 10 singles matches Sunday.

The U.S. leads the series 33-7-1 and has won two straight.

Only two U.S. players have Walker Cup experience: Brian Harman of the University of Georgia, who played in 2005; and Rickie Fowler of Oklahoma State, who played for Marucci two years ago.

Both players put off turning pro until after the Walker Cup just for the chance to compete.

Harman was 2-0-1 when the Americans won in 2005 at Chicago Golf Club. Fowler was 3-1 in his matches at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland in 2007.

Britain and Ireland captain Colin Dalgleish has a team of first-time Walker Cup competitors, anchored by Scots Wallace Booth and Gavin Dear, both members of the winning squad at the European Amateur Team Championship.

Dalgleish said he was basing his pairings on players bringing out the best in each other.

“It’s a case of finding compatible people,” the Scot said. “I suppose we are trying to find compatible games, compatible personalities.”

Trying to find the right pairings for four alternate-shot matches on Saturday and Sunday was one of the tasks facing both coaches. Marucci said that chore was made easier by having such an agreeable bunch.

“I could put anybody with this team with anybody and I would not have one blink of an eye from everybody,” Marucci said. “They’ve been great. We’ve been able to kind of take advantage of that. What will happen tomorrow, I don’t know. But I know they’re all going to enjoy each other and get along.”

The blending process was made a tad easier for Marucci when the USGA selection committee added two more OSU players – college roommates Morgan Hoffmann and Peter Uihlein – to the American side.

Hoffmann said familiarity could play a role in the U.S. team’s success.

“We’re all really good friends, so it makes it a lot more comfortable, especially having my roommate, Peter,” said Hoffmann, from Saddle Brook, N.J. “It just feels like another college event, but bigger – a lot bigger.”

Rounding out the U.S. team are: Bud Cauley of Jacksonville, Fla.; Brendan Gielow of Muskegon, Mich.; Brian Harman of Savannah, Ga.; Adam Mitchell of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Cameron Tringale of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; and Drew Weaver of High Point, N.C.

Dalgleish said he was going to go back to earlier practice rounds to find the matchups that worked best for the GB&I team made up of seven Englishmen, two Scots and an Irishman.

“Since we went to Pine Valley (earlier in the week), the five foursomes pairings that we’ve gone with have been very comfortable,” said Dalgleish, who played on the 1981 GB&I team. “It’s just a case of picking four of these five.”

The rest of the GB&I team is: Tommy Fleetwood, Luke Goddard, Matt Haines, Eamonn “Stiggy” Hodgson, Sam Hutsby, Chris Paisley and Dale Whitnell, all of England; and Niall Kearney of Ireland.

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