JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Oklahoma State’s Austin Eckroat and Oklahoma’s Quade Cummins both made vital contributions to the American side Sunday as the U.S. held off Great Britain and Ireland 14-12 in the 48th Walker Cup at Seminole Golf Club.
After sitting out the morning’s foursome matches, Eckroat returned to the American lineup in dominant fashion on Sunday afternoon, recording a 7 and 6 victory over Mark Power during his singles match. With his session-opening victory, Eckroat finished the event with a 2-1 mark.
In his match with Power, Eckroat took three of the first four holes en route to a 3-up advantage. Power’s lone win came at the fifth before the Cowboy All-American would answer with a win at the sixth. Eckroat claimed the eighth and would make the turn with a 4-up advantage.
He would win the first three holes of the inward nine to close out the match and put the first point of the session on the board for the Americans.
Cummins, the Oklahoma senior, had a 2 up lead through 14 holes in his match with Barclay Brown, but lost three consecutive holes to fall one down going into the 18th hole. He rebounded to win that hole with a par, earning a crucial 1/2 point for the U.S. at a time when GB&I was staging a late afternoon rally.
The two Oklahomans paired together in a morning foursomes match on Saturday and lost 1 up to Power and John Murphy.
Eckroat bounced back during the afternoon singles matches, taking down Angus Flanagan, 1 up. Eckroat won two of the first three holes and led 1 up before Flanagan tied the match with a win at the eighth. Eckroat would claim the next two holes with birdies.
Flanagan would take Nos. 13-15 to move in front before Eckroat bounced back with wins at the 16th and 17th to retake the lead. They would tie the last to send the point Eckroat’s way.
Cummins lost his Saturday singles match 2 and 1 to Matty Lamb.
This Walker Cup will long be remembered for the strength and grit of both the USA and Great Britain & Ireland teams in the face of unusually adverse circumstances, including a stomach bug that made numerous players on both squads ill.
With abundant sunshine and a steady breeze off the Atlantic Ocean making Seminole play exceedingly difficult on Sunday, especially on and around the greens, the players faced a stern mental and physical test. The USA entered the day with a 7-5 lead, which was trimmed to 8½–7½ after the GB&I Team took 2½ out of 4 points in the morning foursomes session.
The 10 afternoon singles matches would therefore decide the first Walker Cup Match played in Florida, and the final result was in doubt nearly to the end. The USA eked out a 5½-4½ advantage in those matches to retain the cup.
“It was such an evenly matched contest and our guys were really fired up,” said USA captain Nathaniel Crosby. “I’ve been blessed to be part of their lives here for a few years and it’s been so great.”
Crosby’s counterpart, captain Stuart Wilson of GB&I, was proud despite the disappointing result.
“It’s been a great weekend of golf,” he said. “It’s the Walker Cup after all. The guys have come out fighting and tried to acquit themselves as best they can. But hats off to the USA Team and Nathaniel for pulling the victory off.”
“It’s incredible,” said Castillo. “I mean, this is the pinnacle of amateur golf, and to be a part of this team and be a part of a winning Walker Cup team is pretty special, especially going 4-0. I couldn’t be more excited right now.”
Another key contribution for the USA came from Cole Hammer. Playing in his second Walker Cup, the University of Texas junior notched a 3-0-1 record and clinched the 13th point for the USA, enough to officially retain the Walker Cup.
“It means the world. I had no idea that my match was going to be the clinching point, but it is really special,” said Hammer. “It’s so much more than just the 10 guys playing, too. Everyone at the USGA and R&A, and our team leaders, sacrificed so much for us to be successful this week. I owe them a huge thank you, and I just love my teammates.”
This Walker Cup demonstrated, perhaps more than any of the previous 47, the team spirit that defines the Match. A nasty stomach bug left members of both teams weak and unable to practice or play for three days, impacting pairings and requiring the use of alternates who are typically not even on-site at a Walker Cup. Two of the players most affected by that sickness showed considerable determination on Sunday as they saw their first action of the weekend.
Great Britain & Ireland’s Joe Long, the reigning Amateur champion, did not play on Saturday or in morning foursomes. Wilson put him out third in afternoon singles, and the 23-year-old Englishman earned a hard-fought 1-up victory over 2019 Walker Cup standout John Pak.
“It was quite tough sitting in bed most of the week. I just wanted to play one match,” said Long. “Come out this afternoon, just give it my best shot.”