Walker Cup lore: 10 match tales you have to read to believe

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A golf writer making the GB&I team? Losing to Bobby Jones and then getting shot? Getting outdriven by Tiger Woods by 100 yards and beating him? Damaging the trophy with a terrible shot? Using 32 clubs in a match and helping prompt a rule change?

Never heard of those stories? Well, you're in luck. Here are 10 of the best tales from past Walker Cups:

Darwin
Darwin

Every golf writer’s dream

A journalist playing in the Walker Cup? That’s exactly what happened in the first official matches at National Golf Links in 1922.

Bernard Darwin was the 45-year-old golf correspondent for The Times in London but also the Great Britain team’s reserve. When Robert Harris was bitten by a “giant sandfly” while traveling to the U.S., Darwin replaced him on the eight-player roster and as captain.

While Darwin and Cyril Tolley were trounced by Francis Ouimet and Jesse Guilford in foursomes, 8 and 7, Darwin, who was a decent player having made the semifinals of the British Amateur in 1909 and 1921, won his singles match the next day against U.S. captain William C. Fownes Jr., 3 and 1.

The Americans, though, won the inaugural match, 8-4, their first of nine straight victories. The margin of victory would’ve been slightly larger had it not been for Chubby Hooman and Jess Sweetser playing on. Hooman defeated the American Sweester on the 37th hole because there were no more officials left on the course. That match remains the only one in Walker Cup history to go extra holes.

Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones

Poor Philip Perkins

The length of each match was permanently changed before the 1963 Walker Cup, switching from 36 to 18 holes, which means that Bobby Jones’ record 13-and-12 singles victory over Philip Perkins at Chicago Golf Club in 1928 is unbreakable under current rules.

Jones followed that landmark win over Perkins, who won the British Amateur earlier that year, by beating Perkins again in the final of the U.S. Amateur at Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton, Massachusetts, two weeks later. That 36-hole match ended in a 10-and-9 victory.

Four years later, Perkins found himself in another big match: the final of the Dixie Amateur. However, he never teed it up, as earlier that morning he was shot at a Miami nightclub. Perkins was partying in the dining room at the Embassy Club when six gunmen broke in trying to rob the casino.

“The first thing I knew anything was going on was when I glanced up and saw a large group of men, with bandage masks on their faces and guns of various sorts in their hands, coming in,” Perkins told reporters the next day. “After an experience with gangsters in New York I knew the best thing would be to do just what they said.”

But two of the people being held hostage that night were plainclothes police officers, who soon started to fire at the robbers. As the gunmen tried escape, one of them grabbed Perkins and used him as a human shield.

“As we approached the door, the fellow must have become nervous for he shot me from behind,” Perkins said. “As I fell, I saw him making a break for the door.”

Perkins, who was shot in the thigh, was taken to a nearby hospital to have the bullet removed. “I guess I won't be able to play,” he said later. His withdrawal gave the victory to American Tommy Goodwin, who nearly made a Walker Cup team in 1938.

Going back to the 1928 match in Chicago, Great Britain and Ireland had to replace veteran Cyril Tolley with Noel Martin, who lost his singles match in the 11-1 defeat. Tolley, a two-time British Amateur winner and six-time Walker Cupper in his career, missed the matches while dealing with a libel suit that he launched against a chocolate manufacturer, which used a caricature of Tolley in an advertisement while suggesting Tolley had received financial gain despite being an amateur. Tolley won the case and 500 euros in 1931.

Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones

Jones’ Grand Slam spark

Before Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930 by capturing the British Amateur, Open Championship, U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur, he kicked off his special year by leading the U.S. to victory in his fifth and final Walker Cup at Royal St. George's. Jones lost the only match of his career in foursomes before beating Roger Wethered, 9 and 8, in the next day’s singles session. He ended his Walker Cup career a U.S.-record 5-0 in singles, a mark nearly matched by Peter Uihlein (4-0).

Here are some excerpts from poet and satirist E.V. Knox on the 1930 Walker Cup:

At the top of his form was Bobby Jones,
Golf was his blood and golf his bones,
All the American courses there are
He had holed at some time under par;
From Oklahoma to Ohio
He had laid the golfing records low,
And was thought by many to be a snip
This year for the Amateur Championship.
He was a hard one to overwhelm,
And so were Willing and G. Von Elm,
And Voight and Moe and R. Mackenzie
Had driven opponents into frenzy.
Men looked at Johnston, men looked at Ouimet,
‘Golly!’ they said, ‘a darn good team, eh ?’

And later on in the poem:

Wethered working in vain while Jones
Sank his putts as a pond sinks stones,
Hole after hole and round by round –
But man by his destiny is bound;
Fate rings hims close, and his might is finished

Leonard Crawley
Leonard Crawley

A dented trophy

Leonard Crawley’s debut for Great Britain and Ireland at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1932 was memorable in more ways than one.

Crawley, who would play in four Walker Cups, skipped a cricket opportunity in order to play that week. He would go on to earn GB&I’s only point in an 8-1 loss. However, he also missed the opening session because of a badly injured left hand, which he had burnt at a cocktail party back home after a box of matches he was holding caught on fire.

When he got the call for singles after teammates John de Forest and Jack Bookless decided to go out partying in Boston and skip the second day, Crawley beat George Voight, 1 up, with his hand heavily bandaged. Midway through the 36-hole match, though, Crawley hit a wayward 5-iron on the 18th hole that struck the lid of the Walker Cup trophy and dented it. The dent was reportedly later removed about a decade later in St. Andrews.

Crawley went on to become the golf writer for the Daily Telegraph in London.

On the subject of hand injuries: U.S. captain Bill Campbell did not play the 1955 Walker Cup at St. Andrews after burning both of his hands in a candle accident.

walkercup36_pine_valley
walkercup36_pine_valley

So, why do we play with 14 clubs?

The most important takeaway from the 1936 Walker Cup at Pine Valley wasn’t a 9-0 U.S. rout. Instead, it was the 14-club rule.

Legend has it that a conversation between spectators and Cup legends Bobby Jones and Tony Torrance influenced the USGA’s decision two years later to implement the 14-club rule, a mandate that the R&A adopted in 1939. As U.S. player Albert Campbell won both of his matches using 32 clubs, including seven 9-irons and a few lefthanded clubs, Jones and Torrance asked each other how many clubs they carried. Jones said he won the Grand Slam six years earlier with 16 clubs and Torrance used 12. The median number, or 14, was then used as the basis for the rule. (Lawson Little, of course, also played a role, having used 26 clubs, including seven wedges, while winning both the British and U.S. amateurs in back-to-back years, in 1934 and '35.)

Seventeen years later at the 1953 Walker Cup at The Kittansett Club in Marion, Massachusetts, U.S. player Jimmy Jackson was nearly disqualified after he discovered on the third hole of his foursomes match that he was carrying 16 clubs. However, thanks to GB&I captain Tony Duncan, the penalty was changed to a loss of two holes.

Jackson and Gene Littler went on to erase their 3-down deficit through three holes, eventually beating James Wilson and Roy MacGregor, 3 and 2. The Americans won, 13-1.

Walker Cup
Walker Cup

Not like father, like son

Ireland’s Joe Carr played his record 10th and final Walker Cup in 1967 at Royal St. George’s, ending his career in the matches Cup-less. Four years after Carr’s last appearance, though, his son, Roddy Carr, was part of a victorious GB&I team that edged the U.S., 13-11, at the 1971 Walker Cup at St. Andrews.

In the first year in which halved matches began to count toward the score, the home side trailed by a point after Day 1. But behind the young Carr’s three-and-a-half points, Great Britain and Ireland prevailed in a tightly contested event that had just one match end before the 16th hole. Thirteen of the 24 matches reached the 18th hole, too, including Carr’s final singles match against Jim Simons, which Carr won, 2 up, with a 35-foot birdie make.

Here’s how Roddy Carr described the final hole while writing for the Irish Times:

There were 10,000 people around the green. And Pop, who was smoking at the time, was hidden among them somewhere. Earlier, out on the course, I had seen the puffs of smoke wafting up from behind bushes: our agreement was that he could watch me provided I couldn't see him.

Anyway, I knelt down behind the putt to study its line, and I said a Hail Mary. ‘Please Jesus, let me get it close,’ I prayed. This was more pressure than I had ever known. It was 11 yards and Tip [my caddie] gently urged me to give it a nice, smooth roll down towards the hole.

At that moment, I remember my mother's advice to do it the Harry Bradshaw way, which was hit and hark; don't move your head.

I was conscious of an amazing silence as I hit the ball. Then, after what seemed about five seconds, I looked up and thought ‘Oh no, it's only going to go halfway to the hole.’ It was so silent I could almost hear the crowd breathing.

The ball kept going. I couldn't see the hole because they didn't paint the inside of the cup in those days. And still it rolled. Eventually, I knew it was going to get close enough to be dead. So, I'd done my job. If Simons sank his, at least I had put him under sufficient pressure.

Suddenly, my ball appeared to stop on the lip of the hole. Then it fell in. And still, there was silence. It could have lasted no more than another split second before the crowd erupted, sending a shiver right through my body, from head to foot.

Next thing I remember was J.B. [Joe Carr] running out from the crowd and giving me a big hug. It wasn't his style to be demonstrative but now, as a father myself, I realize what a thrill it must have been for him. Though he had performed similar exploits many times himself, the buzz he got from watching his son must have been amazing.

Justin Leonard
Justin Leonard

From downpour to record rout

In 2009, the Walker Cup format again changed by adding two singles matches to the second day of competition, increasing the total number of points available from 24 to 26. However, that year wasn’t the first time that 10 singles matches were played in a single session.

Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minnesota, was awarded the 1993 Walker Cup after original host Chicago Golf Club was stripped of the matches for its policy of not admitting minority members (the club later changed its policy and received the 2005 matches). On the morning of Interlachen’s big debut, nearly 2 inches of rain fell on the course and several holes had spots where the standing water was ankle-deep.

The opening foursomes session was subsequently scrubbed, the first time that had happened in Walker Cup history, and a new format was adopted so that the teams would still play for 24 points. Ten singles matches were played that afternoon, followed by four foursomes and 10 more singles matches on the second day.

Once the players got out onto the course, though, the U.S. dominated, winning 19-5, which remains the most lopsided defeat in the event’s history.

“This may be the greatest Walker Cup team ever assembled,” U.S. captain Vinny Giles said after the victory.

Jay Sigel also played his ninth and final Walker Cup this year, turning pro to play on the senior tour shortly after. Sigel holds Walker Cup records for Cups won (eighth), matches played (33), matches won (18) and points won (20.5).

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

Taming the Tiger

Tiger Woods played his lone Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl in Wales in 1995, and the eventual 15-time major winner went 2-2 while battling food poisoning and stomach cramps for much of the week. Making matters worse, the Americans lost 14-10, starting a skid of four losses in five Cups, as heavy rains dominated the weekend.

“They clobbered us, but what I remember is it was the worst weather I’ve ever played in,” said John Harris, who teamed with Woods in foursomes, going 1-1, including a 2-and-1 loss on Day 2 to Padraig Harrington and Jody Fanagan. “It just kept raining.”

Woods beat fellow rookie Gary Wolstenholme, who went on to be a six-time Walker Cupper (he also beat Anthony Kim in singles in 2005), in the final singles session, but by then the Cup had already been decided. Wolstenholme’s singles win the previous day over Woods is what people remember most. Woods was almost 100 yards by the short-hitting Wolstenholme off the tee but hit three balls out of bounds, including on the final hole (his ball hit a man in the head before bouncing out of play), to lose, 1 up.

“There had been very little conversation between us,” Wolstenholme later wrote for The Guardian. “I tried to make some, but I got the impression that with the weather, the course and the trip over generally, he didn't enjoy the atmosphere of the Walker Cup. We shook hands, but I don't think he was very pleased that a lowly, middle‑aged golfer who couldn't hit it out of his shadow managed to beat him.

“It'll be on my tombstone: The man who beat Tiger.”

Stiggy
Stiggy

Gettin’ Stiggy with it

Arguably the greatest nickname in Walker Cup history goes to Eamonn Hodgson, better known as “Stiggy,” who competed for Great Britain and Ireland in two Walker Cups, in 2009 and ’11. He won his first two matches on the opening day in his debut before capping his Cup career with four straight match losses. He played just two sessions in his second start, losing both.

In speaking with the media during his first Walker Cup at Merion, the 5-foot-4 Englishman explained that his nickname came after he fell into a garbage dump as a 2-year-old:

“My dad was late at home from work, and the trash guy out there, we called him a bin man. I don't know what you guys call the guy who collects the trash. My dad missed him, so he had to go to the skip, the dumpsters, I think you call them, to put all our trash away. I was always glued to my dad's side. So, I went with him, and I was sort of messing around trying to help. Being knee-high, I fell into the skip, and I was rolling around, and I found a golf club. My dad, not knowing anything about golf, he thought it was a putter. And it turned out it was a mashie niblick, a 7-iron. And that's how I started golf. I went from there. And the story goes, there used to be a cartoon in England [Stig of the Dump], I don't think it's run anymore. So, people just started calling me Stiggy.”

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Don’t get Rory started…

Before the U.S. won two years ago at Royal Liverpool, Great Britain and Ireland had successfully defended its home turf five times in six Walkers Cups. The lone exception was 2007 at Royal County Down, where a loaded American squad that featured Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel edged a Rory McIlroy-led home side, 12.5-11.5, after Oklahoma State’s Jonathan Moore eagled the final hole to beat Nigel Edwards, 1 up, for the deciding point.

McIlroy, who raised the Irish flag during the opening ceremony, got off to a slow start. He halved his first foursomes match alongside Jonathan Caldwell with Johnson and Colt Knost, and then lost, 1 down, to Horschel in the opening singles session. He and Caldwell followed that with another foursomes loss, this time to Horschel and Fowler, who rallied from 4 down after five holes to win, 2 and 1.

During that match, Horschel nearly holed a bunker shot while also getting under McIlroy’s skin.

“I come down like a damn cheetah, yelling at the top of my lungs, running after the ball, ‘Go in! Go in!'” Horschel said earlier this year on Golf.com’s Subpar Podcast. “And it lips out. I guess [McIlroy] was pissed about that. I guess he was pissed about the day before when we played our singles matches.”

Appearing to finally have had enough, McIlroy smacked Horschel, 4 and 2.

“The first hole, he nukes a drive,” Horschel said of McIlroy’s opening tee ball in that last match. “I mean, he hit one so far down there, he had like literally an 8-iron into the green. He hit it to 15 feet, and I had 10 feet for birdie or whatever. And he makes this eagle putt, and he gives out the biggest yell, because he’s letting me know this s--- ain’t happening anymore. This is my house today. And I was like, ‘Damn, I’m f-----.’”