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Golf notebook: U.S. Amateur champ will oppose U.S. in Walker Cup

The SportsXchange

--Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who last week captured the U.S. Amateur Championship, will lead the Great Britain and Ireland team that will play the United States in the 44th Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., on Sept. 7-8.

Fitzpatrick heads a team that features six other Englishmen, two Irishman, a Welshman and for the first time since 1949, not one player from Scotland.

"We believe we have selected a strong team which includes some of the best amateur players in the world," Great Britain and Ireland captain Nigel Edwards said. "The players have all competed at the highest levels of the amateur game and will relish the challenge of facing the Americans on their home soil.

"There will be some who are disappointed not to make the team, but it is the job of the selectors to carefully consider the players available and select the strongest team they can. We are very much looking forward to what promises to be a great match next month."

The other Englishmen include British Amateur champion Garrick Porteous, English Amateur champion Callum Shinkwin, St. Andrews Links Trophy winner Neil Raymond, plus Max Orrin, Nathan Kimsey and Jordan Smith.

Rhys Pugh of Wales, who plays at East Tennessee State, is the only returnee from the team that beat the Americans two years ago, having earned three points at Royal Aberdeen.

Kevin Phelan of Ireland, who plays at North Florida State, is joined by Gavin Moynihan, the 2012 Irish Amateur champion.

The 18-year-old Fitzpatrick, who won the British Boys' Championship last year, earned the silver medal as low amateur in the Open Championship at Muirfield and become the first Englishman since 1911 to win the U.S. Amateur.

The U.S. named the last five players of its team last week, selecting Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh; Michael Weaver of Fresno, Calif.; Todd White of Spartanburg, S.C.; Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon, Wis.; and Bobby Wyatt of Mobile, Ala.

Earlier, Max Homa of Valencia, Calif.; Michael Kim of Del Mar, Calif.; Patrick Rodgers of Avon, Ind.; Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky.; and Cory Whitsett of Houston were chosen for the American team.

The U.S. leads the series 34-8-1, but since Great Britain and Ireland ended an eight-match losing streak in 1989, the teams are 6-6.

--Padraig Harrington missed the cut in the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago and failed to qualify for the PGA Tour playoffs, finishing the regular season at 130th in the FedEx Cup standing, five spots short of making the field for the Barclays.

Harrington, who was No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings after winning three majors in a span of 13 months through the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, fell to No. 85 in the rankings last week.

Harrington, who was planning to play in all four postseason events, missed the PGA Tour playoffs for the first time and quickly changed his schedule, starting with the Wales Open this week at Celtic Manor.

"I haven't really scored well. I can't put everything together in a given week," said Harrington, who is 57th in the European Tour's Race to Dubai and hopes to gain ground while many of the top players are playing in the PGA Tour playoffs.

"You have to have patience and accept that this going to happen every so often and try and be patient and to wait for it to turn around."

Harrington, who has missed the cut in his last three events -- the Reno-Tahoe Open, the PGA Championship and the Wyndham -- has to get his game back quickly because his five-year exemption as a major champion has run out on both tours.

The Wales Open is the first event in which points will be awarded for the 2014 Ryder Cup team, and Harrington has set making the European team for the matches at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland as one of his goals.

Harrington also hopes to climb back into the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings to qualify for the Masters.

--Lydia Ko of New Zealand has not won an amateur golf tournament in 2013, but she did enough against the pros to remain the No. 1-ranked woman in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

That has allowed the 16-year-old Ko to win the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the top woman amateur in the world for the third consecutive year. Fitzpatrick claimed the men's award.

"It means a lot," said Ko, who last year at the age of 15 became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour at the Canadian Women's Open and celebrated winning the McCormick Medal by successfully defending her Canadian title last week. "And to have won the medal three years in a row makes it more special. It's awesome.

"I won the U.S. Amateur last year. I wanted to win that championship so much and to have won it, it was great. Without winning it, I may not have been able to maintain my position."

In February, Ko captured the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women's Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour, in addition to tying for third in the Australian Women's Open, tying for 17th in the Wegman's LPGA Championship and tying for 25th in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Ko, who last week was No. 19 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, last year captured the U.S. Women's Amateur and the Australian Women's Amateur, plus two professional events, the Canadian Women's Open and the Bing Lee Samsung Women's New South Wales Open in a banner season. She also was medalist in the World Women's Amateur Championship.

Fitzpatrick capped a big 2013 season by earning the silver medal as low amateur in the British Open at Muirfield before becoming the first Englishman to win the United States Amateur Championship in 102 years at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

The 18-year-old Fitzpatrick, who captured the 2012 British Boys Amateur Championship and will follow in Luke Donald's footsteps by playing at Northwestern University, earned spots in the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship next year -- as long as he remains an amateur -- by winning the U.S. Amateur.

"I'm absolutely delighted to win the McCormack Medal," Fitzpatrick said. "For this to come along at the same time as winning the U.S. Amateur Championship is really special.

"I had a fair idea that if I had a good finish I might be able to scrape it, but it was great that it went my way. It has been an amazing few weeks for me ever since the (British) Open, and I am really happy to have achieved so much."

The Mark H. McCormack Medals are named in honor of the late Mark McCormack, the founder of the International Management Group who created the world ranking system for professional golf.

--Matt Kuchar, who teamed with Gary Woodland to end the United States' 12-year winless streak in the World Cup of Golf two years ago, has committed to defend the title at Royal Melbourne Golf Club on Nov. 18-24.

Kooch's partner has yet to be determined.

"Representing my country is a real honor whether in the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup or the World Cup," said Kuchar, who was No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings as of last week. "It was a great experience to win the World Cup in 2011 with Gary Woodland and I am looking forward to defending at Royal Melbourne."

Two years ago, Kuchar and Woodland won the 56th World Cup by two strokes over England's Ian Poulter and Justin Rose and Germany's Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka on the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Haikou in Hainan Island, China.

The U.S. has won a record 24 times in the World Cup, but before last year had not brought home the trophy since David Duval and Tiger Woods won in 2000 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The World Cup of Golf was an annual event from its founding 1953, when Roberto DiVecenzo and Antonio Cerda of Argentina won in Montreal, until 2009, although it was not played in 1981 and 1986.

Starting with 2011, it became a biennial event.

Also making early commitments to this year's tournament were Matteo Manassero of Italy and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand.

--Charley Hull, the 17-year-old from England who was one of the stars as Europe retained the Solheim Cup two weeks ago at Colorado Golf Club, had her petition to join the LPGA Tour accepted by commissioner Michael Whan.

LPGA Tour rules stipulate that players must turn 18 by Jan. 1 in order to enter Qualifying School, but players can petition for a waiver based on their play in professional events.

Hull, who will turn 18 on March 20, is scheduled to play the second stage of LPGA Q-School beginning Oct. 8 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla.

"Charley is going to be around for a long time, and it's pretty neat to see the future of their team," Paula Creamer said after being routed by Hull, 5 and 4, in singles on the last day of the Solheim Cup.

"She was a good player and she represented her country very well."

Hull, who captured the 2011 Welsh Ladies Open Stroke Play Championship, the 2011 English Women's Stroke Play Championship and the 2012 Harder Hall Invitational in the U.S. before during pro last March, finished second in her first five starts on the Ladies European Tour and is fourth on the Order of Merit.

Last year, she helped Great Britain and Ireland win the Curtis Cup, and in Colorado she posted a 2-1 record in the Solheim Cup.

"I didn't really feel that nervous, to be honest, because this is how I always look at golf," Hull said of her Solheim performance. "I'm not going to die if I miss it. Just hit it and find it and hit it again."

In 2011, Whan approved 16-year-old Lexi Thompson's petition to play before turning 18, but he he denied 16-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn's request a year later.

Thompson captured the 2011 LPGA Navistar Classic and the first stage of Q-School by 10 shots before her petition was approved.

Hull played last week in the Canadian Women's Open on a sponsor invitation and finished in a tie for 17th.
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