|Published:||Sep 09, 2011 5:04 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Sep 10, 2011 6:30 AM EDT|
ABERDEEN, Scotland (AP) - With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks coming up this weekend, United States captain Jim Holtgrieve plans to commemorate the day when his golfers face Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup.
"I have a special letter that I'm going to read to the team on Sunday morning. It's a very special letter," Holtgrieve said Friday, a day before the event gets underway at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. "But, hey, these young men, they are just very talented golfers, and they know what they are doing. They are playing for their country in the greatest amateur competition that there is."
The Walker Cup, which is named after the grandfather of former United States President George H.W. Bush and great-grandfather of George W. Bush, is a team match play tournament played every two years. It opens Saturday with four morning alternate-shot matches and eight afternoon singles matches. On Sunday, there are four morning alternate-shot matches and 10 afternoon singles matches.
And it's on Sunday that things could get emotional.
"It's probably not going to affect our guys' playing. I think, if anything, they will play harder," said the 63-year-old Holtgrieve, who played on winning teams for the Americans in 1979, '81 and '83. "It's not going to affect their focus and their commitment and the way they manage their games out there.
"I'm convinced they are so mature about that. And whatever happens, will happen, and when the matches are over, we will obviously recognize what took place 10 years ago."
For some of the golfers, the Walker Cup is a chance to play on a team rather than go for individual goals.
"When it comes to the U.S. Opens I've played in, I just have to worry about going out there and fighting for me, and it's almost like I've got nothing to lose playing as an amateur," said 22-year-old Russell Henley, who won on the Nationwide Tour this year. "This week I'm fighting for a lot more than just me. And I think that adds a little bit of pressure, but it's a pressure I'm looking forward to and I feel like I'm ready for it."
Holtgrieve sprang a surprise when he announced his pairings for the opening foursomes, splitting up fourth-ranked Peter Uihlein and Nathan Smith, who won both their foursomes when the U.S. strolled to a 16½-9½ victory in the last Walker Cup.
That was played at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania two years ago, and Uihlein and Smith are the only players in the current U.S. team who featured in 2009.
Uilhein partners sixth-ranked Harris English in the opening match against Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart while Smith, currently ranked down at No. 108, is out in the third of the four foursomes with 21-year-old Blane Barber from Florida.
"All 10 players get along well together, they like each other and want to play with each other, so the only difficulty I had was who to leave out," said Holtgrieve.
Such is the strength in depth of Holtgrieve's 10-man team that he can afford to leave the world's second- and third-ranked amateurs - Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers - out of his foursomes lineups.
With strong winds and rain predicted for the weekend already at Royal Aberdeen, the Americans face some harsh Scottish weather. And that's something likely to suit the hosts more.
"I'm not so sure the guys like the coldness today," Holtgrieve said. "Obviously we hear the forecast is for wind. I have to be honest since I have not played in wind and rain over in Scotland, I hope that we don't have both."
Britain and Ireland captain Nigel Edwards, a veteran of four Walker Cups as a player, is ready for the challenging conditions.
"This year, it feels like we have been playing in a hurricane all summer," Edwards said. "Certainly from the Lytham Trophy, where it was really brutal. Every week has been the same."