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« Oy: Muirfield Village's New Presidents Cup Fence Kills Two Deer | Main | Dottie Lamenting Solheim Evolution: "It was about pouring your heart and soul into something you got no material benefit from." »
Wednesday
Aug212013

"Has the USGA shown an indifference to winning, and thus cheapened the best event in amateur golf, in order to celebrate the traditions of the game?"

Ryan Lavner at GolfChannel.com files a must-read analysis of the secretive Walker Cup selection process and concludes that "the best event in amateur golf is in the midst of an identity crisis" and that the wounds are entirely self-inflicted by the USGA.

After punching holes in every statistical theory that might justify the automatic inclusion of two mid-amateurs to beef up the Team USA's supposedly weak foursomes play, Lavner takes aim at the secrecy of the selection process.

One of the many appeals of the Ryder, Presidents and Solheim cups is that players and fans alike can track the standings until the cutoff date. It’s transparent. No secrets. Either they make it on merit, or they hope for a wild-card pick.  

The seven-man selection committee, meanwhile, treats the selection of the U.S. Walker Cup team like the government would issues of national security. Apparently, there is an internal system that ranks the tournaments based on strength of field, but its pseudo-points list isn't made public.   

“I’m not really trying to hide anything,” Burton said. “But at the same time these are very difficult decisions, and so we would prefer to keep our process internal.”

Of course the questions this time around are certainly tainted by the mandatory mid-amateur inclusions, but they still pale in comparison to the John Peterson boondoggle of 2011 when he offered a resume but was left off the team because of his personality, then finished T4 at the 2012 U.S. Open. Here was the committee then.

I expect a penetrating rebuttal from the Global Golf Post, Fox Sports and USGA messenging teams just as soon as the Fox team learns the difference between the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. Which, should be by 2015.

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Reader Comments (26)

This has always been a pet peeve of mine with the USGA, going way back. Even state run golf organizations have stepped out of the dark ages and created points lists to rank their players for team competitions, etc. About 15 years ago several really fine players who should have been named to our state team match against another state were slighted and caused quite an uproar. The organization was picking a team of mostly good guys who all knew eachother and enjoyed hoisting beers together once a year. Enough complaints put an end to the good ol boy school of team picking. For the USGA to still not release how they pick the team(no points list) is absolutely incredible. I know Peterson was shafted but before him was Luke List, another fine amateur who expected a nod, didn't get it, and was kept completely out of the loop on why he didn't make it. It's almost like an attitude of "it's our damn match, we'll pick who we want".
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
The heat will be on the mid-ams to produce points, but those guys can play and in no way does it "cheapen" the event. The process has been secretive and questionable for as long as I can remember...
I was tempted to come to the matches, the better to see NGLA in person, but after the Solheim Cup I fear that the crowds will be Colorado rowdy and after reading this I feel lukewarm about the team.
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Yes, we know just how uncontroversial the Ryder Cup selection process is . . .
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenternelson1457
3 foot 1,

Don't be scared away!

As usual on geoffshackelford.com, level 10 teeth gnashing has ensued about a minor issue. It's supposed to be an exhibition of amateurism and sportsmanship, and if a college kid who got left off is so good that his exclusion is a travesty, then he will be making millions on the PGA Tour in several years, so don't feel too much pity for him. Judging by previous Walker Cups, and given the logistics of getting out to the eastern end of Long Island, there will likely be about 5,000 people there. The Walker Cup may be the most pleasant spectator event in golf, and you won't need to worry about having access inside the ropes, since you can just walk along the fairways with the golfers. Nathan Smith and Todd White are excellent players -- it's not as if you're going to be watching a bunch of chops. Also, there is usually great sportsmanship and very little jingoism on display. Plus, National is one of the great places in golf. You should definitely go if you can.
08.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
Once again, it seems that the usga is bumbling and incompetent on those occasions when they are not venal and corrupt. But they sure got that anchoring thing right, didn't they? Uh huh.
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
I suppose it's their right to pick the team as they please, but as a card carrying member, it's also my right to call bullshite on the USGA on this method.
Their goal should be to pick the best US amateur golfers available. Their method should be transparent. If they wish to make 2 spots ''Captain's picks,'' fine. Say so beforehand.
The only thing to prevent one of the best 10 available from being on the team is compelling evidence he would be a bad teammate.
Conclaves for papal choice, I can abide. Walker team composition, I cannot.
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commentergov. lepetomane
Is there any difference between the way the executive comm is chosen and the way the Wlkr Cup Team is chosen? There must be a way to challenge the org. Someone ought to study the bi-laws. Find a way !
08.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCot Presnell
Transparency is sometimes overrated.
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
So Res, if you had a son who was a really great player, worked his ass off to make the team, was one of the FIVE best players in the USA, and then was for some reason left off the team, you would be fine with that and tell him "oh that's too bad bud, move on?" Some of these kids actually are willing not to play for the millions of dollars that they EARN. They delay turning pro so they can represent their country. Shouldn't they at least know the criteria that they are being judged on?
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Another anachronistic event (if there ever was a time) like the Ryder cup. The unwashed need not apply.
08.21.2013 | Unregistered Commenterpanco
"Traditions of the game" ? This term has an ever-changing definition. At Far Hills, it appears today's decision / news is the latest "tradition of the game".
There's no points or ranking system that's released and/or updated? How do the choosers at the USGA know who's really playing the best? Remote Viewing?

But this is old news. Happens all the time in golf. If I had a dollar for every "team selection" that snubbed me...well I'd have 3 bucks.

They should go with a ranking system and have 3 captains picks to satisfy their need for nepotism/favoritism fetishes.

Is is X-mas yet so we can focus on The Masters?
08.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Johnny there is a points list. Thats the whole point to this excercise. They cure cancer and fight global terrorism in Far Hills!
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Ranking at this level is much more difficult than the professional level simply due to different playing schedules. Nathan Smith won. State match play tournament that would not be equal to a top level college win but would be better than a regional mid-am event. How would that compare on a points scale against a college kid in Arizona winning something relatively minor?

Impossible to strictly rank and foolish to try.

Not say favoritism doesn't exist...just saying pure impartiality is impossible.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJS
Ol 'Harv,

I would be disappointed for my son, but I wouldn't feel badly for him. All of these kids have lived charmed lives, and nobody "deserves" anything in life. Regardless, none of that should keep 3 foot 1 from going to see the Walker Cup.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
The Scratch Players a d World Am Golf Ranking have it figured out how to approproately weight or grade different types of events and award points accordingly. And Nate Smiths win in the PA match play included several wins against very good college players including the reigning Ivy champ and then Brandon Mathews in the finals - yes the sane guy who made to quarters at US Am
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
I agree...my point was simply that it's impossible to rank the PA Match Play against the NorCal Am...or some such event and that's the crux of the problem. Any team selection has to be viewed over a long period of time and there's a chance some of these guys only play against each other a couple times per year.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJS
JSS its not even close to impossible. There are ways to mathmeatically figure anything out. We made it to the moon and back didnt we?
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Would you need to rank state tournaments? How many realistic Walker Cup candidates are playing state events? Sure, Niebrugge won the Wisconsin State Match Play and Wisconsin Am, but those didn't really get him on the team. He would have made it without those events. There are no more than 20 amateur events that matter in Walker Cup selection. There has been a long-rumored internal points list that the International Team Selection Committee uses, but the USGA won't confirm it. There's one main reason the points list is not made public. The USGA is afraid of offending amateur tournaments. They're afraid the Porter Cup would be offended if its winner got 600 points and the Northeast Amateur got 800 points. It hasn't stopped probably every other golfing country in the world from producing a points list to rank its top players, as well as most states in the union. This year there wasn't a John Peterson-esque snub, and the reasons the snubs are so controversial is because they're not based on a player's ability but vague things like "character, attitude, etc." Those things are obviously important, but there's always two sides to a story and the USGA isn't consistent in demanding its Walker Cup players be choir boys. There was one player who was selected twice to the team who was a notorious club thrower but the USGA overlooked that.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRank and file
R and F - if u read the asap presser transcript after the final 5 were announced post US Am then u would know that the USGA does not hide the fact that they have and use an internal points list for ranking our professional amateur golfers for the sole purpose of selecting our Walker Cuppers. So it is not a rumor and it is comfirmed thanks to Dan Burton the USGA official and head of this years selection committee.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
Good on the USGA for confirming that there is a points list, because that definitely was not the case in years past.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRank and file
Amen,

Whatever points system you "mathematically" come up with to compare the PA Match Play against the NorCal Am would be completely arbitrary because the strength of a field is never known until after the fact...way after.

I disagree that the State event mean nothing. The major nationals certainly mean exponentially more but does a 10th in the Porter Cup mean more than winning a State Match Play? No way!
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJS
@Amen, where is the points list and shouldn't the players know how they earn points? There is no "official" points list and that is what's wrong with it.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
I apologize profusely. I re-read the presser and u are correct there is no points list. They just rank tournaments and I agree a state level win is a tier below making match play in any USGA event.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
To riff on Ol Harv's observation.
Its their damn match, let them pick who they want.

And for those of us no longer paying our $15 to get a $2 hat from the USGA, we got no dog to fight with anyway. Though I believe my club automatically joins us annually, and I will admit those little notepads do make great grocery lists. I haven't been getting my hat, however, which is not a problem.
08.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrom Bones

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