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Seminole An Inspired Walker Cup Choice

by Jim Nugent - November 18, 2013

Earlier this summer, with the Walker Cup approaching at the famed National Golf Links of America, an interesting idea occurred to Seminole Golf Club president Jimmy Dunne. Dunne, a 57-year-old New York banker and a passionate player, wondered “Why not Seminole?” as the host venue for this historic international competition.

And so, after a very rapid series of discussions with the USGA, the wheels were set in motion for the Walker Cup Match to be played at the famed South Florida club in the spring of 2021. Contracts have not been signed, much less drafted, but senior USGA officials made clear to me last week: This is going to happen.

In a corridor of America where secrets last for seconds, word began to leak in Palm Beach no sooner than Dunne’s letter to the membership began arriving in mailboxes on Monday of last week. Dunne likely sought the advice of his board and the counsel of some members, but once the idea took root in his mind, it was going to happen. As president of Seminole, he has a wide latitude with which to act; it’s good to be king at Seminole, and more clubs in America would be better for adopting a similar model.

If Dunne had any hesitation, it was no doubt removed when he attended the 2013 Walker Cup this past fall on his native Long Island. What he saw was a storied course with a similar culture and history as Seminole absolutely shine while hosting many of the world’s best amateurs and reminding people of its historical significance. One of the oldest courses in America, the National has stood the test of time and proved to be an extraordinary venue for the match. Dunne could only imagine a similar celebration of amateur golf at his beloved Seminole.

Seminole is the 1929 Donald Ross gem that sits seaside in Juno Beach, just north of Palm Beach. It hosts the Coleman Invitational each year, an elite mid- and senior-amateur invitational that is one of the most important of its kind in the world. It also reinstated the Pro-Member in 2004, a one-day affair whereby numerous LPGA and PGA tour players pair with a member in an 18-hole event. But the club has never hosted an outside event – and might never again after the Walker Cup.

Seminole is likely the most dificult sub-7,000-yard course in America. Famous for being the venue where Ben Hogan would spend weeks prepping for The Masters back in the day, the course is relatively benign when the wind is down. However, the wind is seldom down, and so the 6,800-plus-yard, par-72 track can be diabolical. The fairways are fast, firm and generous, and the green speeds can approach 12 on the Stimpmeter. It will provide a stern test to the world’s best amateurs. The winning side likely will be the one that controls its ball the best in the Seminole winds.

One wrinkle: To play the event when conditions are ripe, this match likely will be contested in the spring rather than later summer or early fall, as it has been for many years. But there is precedent for this; for many years, Walker Cups staged in Great Britain were contested in the spring.

This calendar shift will result in a different selection process for both sides. The R&A likely will monitor more closely the performance of the team candidates who play college golf in America in the fall and winter of 2020-21, and it might have to juggle the dates of key spring events such as the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Amateur. American selectors will have similar challenges, and both sides will have to work around NCAA strictures as well as the U.S. college calendar.

Seminole will be the fifth in a remarkable run of American golf treasures that have stepped up to hold this historic transatlantic competition. Ocean Forest began it in 2001, followed by Chicago Golf Club in 2005 and Merion in 2009. The National was the host this fall in a glorious affair, and Los Angeles Country Club will be the host in 2017 when the match next returns to America.

What’s next, Pine Valley? Not likely, unfortunately. Pine Valley stepped up to host the 1985 Walker Cup, but that was in a different, far less politically correct era. Its men-only membership policy likely would bring too much scrutiny to the club, to the R&A and the USGA, and to the Walker Cup itself. The same goes for Cypress Point, which hosted the match in 1981.

Augusta National? Perhaps. The club offered to host golf as, at the least, an Olympic demonstration sport in 1996, only to see the city of Atlanta complain that it wasn’t considered as a tournament site. More likely is Bandon Dunes, which already has hosted the Curtis Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Walker Cup. When it comes to the USGA, Bandon Dunes visionary Mike Keiser always will extend a warm and open hand.

Reproduced with kind permission of Global Golf Post - Subscribe now for free




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