LOS ANGELES | Few things matter more in golf to U.S. Walker Cup captain John “Spider” Miller than the spirit of amateurism embodied in the Walker Cup Match, which takes place this weekend at Los Angeles Country Club. As he wraps up his four-year term as captain, Miller hopes the advance the match to a better place, to help it evolve to maintain its place as the premier international amateur competition in the game.
To that end, he is advocating adding a third day to future competitions, a change from the current weekend-only, 36-hole format, he told Global Golf Post. And his plan may be getting traction.
Miller wants to add a four-ball (best-ball) element to the competition, to make it more like most professional international competitions, including the Ryder Cup. His plan calls for the match to begin on Friday with foursomes matches in the morning and singles matches in the afternoon. Saturday would include morning foursomes followed by afternoon four-ball competition, and Sunday would feature 10 singles matches.
His reasoning is based on many factors. While the teams are together for more than a week at the match wherever it is held, the current competition takes place across only two days. The players want to compete – why not let them? Furthermore, there is little if any incremental cost associated with such a move. The course is paid for, and the players are cared for. Most importantly, he believes this move would elevate the Walker Cup. And moreover, the women’s Curtis Cup already takes place over three days, incorporating four-ball matches.
His idea is not new, and in fact has been discussed previously by the USGA and the R&A, which conduct the biennial competition named in honor of George Herbert Walker, who was USGA president when the match was begun in 1920. Walker was the grandfather and namesake of George H.W. Bush and great-grandfather of George W. Bush, the 41st and 43rd presidents of the United States, respectively. Resistance in the past is thought to have come from the R&A, out of fear of a perceived American depth of talent. Miller’s reply to that is to leave the team size at 10 players, rather than expanding the rosters.
He also points out that such a change in format could well benefit the Great Britain & Ireland side. While partners formats are not common in American amateur competition, they are part of the DNA of most in the United Kingdom. Golfers in the UK grow up playing four-ball and foursomes at a young age, and continue to play those formats throughout their amateur careers.
Miller believes he has the support of the USGA, and he is hopeful that the new R&A leadership will be receptive to the idea.