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JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Two years ago at Royal Liverpool, U.S. Walker Cup captain Nathaniel Crosby vowed to never sit one of his players more than once. After all, he knew what it felt like, as Jay Sigel sat Crosby twice in his only Walker Cup, in 1983.
After his formula was successful at Hoylake, Crosby was determined to repeat the process this week at Seminole Golf Club. However, a stomach virus had other plans, knocking out three of his players – Tyler Strafaci, Pierceson Coody and John Pak – for Saturday morning’s foursomes session. Strafaci wasn’t able to play at all, missing both sessions on Day 1.
“I originally had planned like I did at Liverpool to let everybody know who was playing on both days, Saturday and Sunday, and who was going to be sitting when and who was going to be playing all four,” Crosby explained, “but due to the circumstances you just didn’t know who was going to show up.”
Luckily for Crosby and the Americans, Strafaci is slated to play both Sunday sessions – in foursomes with Stewart Hagestad opposite Matty Lamb and Jack Dyer and in singles against Dyer – and no other player will have to sit twice as the U.S. looks to close out a fourth straight Walker Cup victory on the heels of a 7-5 lead at the midway point.
It was an exciting and competitive start to the 48th edition of this storied match. After a 2-2 foursomes split on Saturday morning, the Americans rallied around Strafaci, who was watching the scores from his phone at the hospital before returning to the course. William Mouw, who subbed in last-minute for the ill Strafaci, handled Ben Jones easily, 4 and 3, while Ricky Castillo delivered a convincing 5-and-3 win over Ben Schmidt.
The rest of the matches were much closer. Ireland’s Mark Power got an early singles point for GB&I with a 3-and-2 triumph over Davis Thompson while England’s Matty Lamb dropped Quade Cummins to 0-2 with a 2-and-1 win. Ireland’s John Murphy nearly came back from a 5-down deficit at the turn before losing to Cole Hammer, 3 and 1.
Hammer and Castillo both went 2-0 for the U.S. while Power is unbeaten for the visiting side.
Coody, despite swinging a club that he said “felt a little light,” looked healthier in fighting off Alex Fitzpatrick, 2 up, while Pak was spry, as well, though couldn’t top Barclay Brown in a back-and-forth match that ended on No. 17. Austin Eckroat was 1 down with three to play before edging Angus Flanagan on the final hole. He’ll get Power in Sunday singles after sitting Sunday morning with Cummins.
“I was a nervous parent all day is what it felt like to me,” Crosby said. “A lot of ebbs and flows in the matches, and I feel that the U.S. is very fortunate to have a narrow lead going into tomorrow.”
GB&I captain Stuart Wilson, who had to sit a sick Joe Long twice on Saturday and won’t play him until the final session, expressed his feeling that the result after Day 1 was tighter than the score would suggest.
“It was obviously a hard-fought day,” GB&I captain Stuart Wilson said. “The singles this afternoon it was very, very close to finishing the day at six-all, but unfortunately didn’t quite go our way toward the end there, but we’ve got an extra two points to play for tomorrow, and we still feel like we’re very much in it.”
Here are the Sunday pairings and tee times for foursomes and singles:
- 8:20 a.m. – Mark Power and John Murphy, GB&I vs. Pierceson Coody and John Pak, USA
- 8:35 a.m. – Alex Fitzpatrick and Barclay Brown, GB&I vs. Ricky Castillo and William Mouw, USA
- 8:50 a.m. – Angus Flanagan and Ben Schmidt, GB&I vs. Davis Thompson and Cole Hammer, USA
- 9:05 a.m. – Matty Lamb and Jack Dyer, GB&I vs. Stewart Hagestad and Tyler Strafaci, USA
- 2:15 p.m. – Mark Power, GB&I vs. Austin Eckroat, USA
- 2:26 p.m. – Alex Fitzpatrick, GB&I vs. Pierceson Coody, USA
- 2:37 p.m. – Joe Long, GB&I vs. John Pak, USA
- 2:48 p.m. – Matty Lamb, GB&I vs. Davis Thompson, USA
- 2:59 p.m. – Barclay Brown, GB&I vs. Quade Cummins, USA
- 3:10 p.m. – Angus Flanagan, GB&I vs. William Mouw, USA
- 3:21 p.m. – John Murphy, GB&I vs. Ricky Castillo, USA
- 3:32 p.m. – Jack Dyer, GB&I vs. Tyler Strafaci, USA
- 3:43 p.m. – Ben Schmidt, GB&I vs. Cole Hammer, USA
- 3:54 p.m. – Ben Jones, GB&I vs. Stewart Hagestad, USA