SEA ISLAND, Ga. - Bryce Molder, an All-American for four years at Georgia Tech who broke college scoring records held by Tiger Woods and David Duval, has decided to skip the U.S. Amateur next week to turn professional.
But miss the Walker Cup, which begins today and concludes Sunday at Ocean Forest Golf Club? No way.
The memories are too fresh for Molder. Two years ago, he was on the U.S. team that lost 15-9 - the most points Great Britain and Ireland had ever scored in the match-play competition that started in 1922, five years before the Ryder Cup came along.
"I don't think I can explain how I felt, watching them celebrate, and we're sitting there, can't do anything but watch," Molder said Friday. "I decided early on this year that if I got picked for the Walker Cup, I wouldn't turn pro early in the summer.
"Never in my mind did I ever think twice about playing."
Molder leads a 10-man American team that will try to win back the Walker Cup from a GB&I team led by former NCAA champion Luke Donald of England.
The format is four matches of alternate-shot each morning, followed by eight singles. GB&I captain Peter McEvoy and U.S. captain Danny Yates said they will try rotate players more frequently because of the severe heat.
Augusta State golfer Jamie Elson, the second-youngest player on the GB&I team at age 20, will team with Richard McEvoy in the alternate shot matches this morning, taking on Molder and Eger. Elson will sit out the singles matches this afternoon.
The Walker Cup essentially is the amateur version of the Ryder Cup, minus the bad behavior and acrimony that has marred the professional match-play event the past decade.
The cup is named after George Herbert Walker, a former U.S. Golf Association president and the great-grandfather of President Bush.
While the United States leads the overall series 31-5-1, the Walker Cup has mirrored the Ryder Cup in how closely it has been contested in recent years. Each team has won three of the past six matches.
The turning point was in 1989, when Phil Mickelson and Jay Sigel both gave up leads late in their singles matches, and GB&I won for only the third time, and the first time on American soil. That match was also played in Georgia, at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta.
GB&I goes for more history on Sea Island.
"This time, our motivation is that we've never retained the trophy," said captain Peter McEvoy, who played on the '89 team. "We have the opportunity to do something historic."
McEvoy said he feels this team is even stronger than the one that whipped the Americans at Nairn Golf Club in Scotland two years ago.
It starts with Donald, who won the NCAA title at Northwestern two years ago. There's also Elson, the NCAA runner-up, and British Amateur champion Michael Hoey, a former Clemson golfer.
The old guard is Gary Wolstenholme, a 40-year-old from England known for beating 19-year-old Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup - even though Woods routinely hit his drives 75 yards past him.
"With what he's achieved since then, it just makes it that much more special," Wolstenholme said.
The Englishman also is keenly aware of what's at stake for GB&I.
"Should we be successful by Sunday evening, we could be starting a definite trend toward British dominance," Wolstenholme said. "That's what the players are very aware of, and they're wanting to try to create history.
"We've been dealt a winning hand," he said. "We have just now got to play it."
The Americans counter with Molder, U.S. Amateur champion Jeff Quinney and runner-up James Driscoll, who flirted with the first-round lead at the Masters in April.
University of Georgia golfer Erik Compton is the first heart-transplant patient to play the Walker Cup, and the American team also features two men who will be eligible for the Senior Tour next year if they want to turn pro - David Eger and John Harris, both 49.
The last time Eger played the Walker Cup was 10 years ago, when Duval and Mickelson were his amateur teammates. Harris, a member at Augusta National, is playing in his fourth cup, and is 6-0 in singles, joining Bobby Jones as the only players to go undefeated in at least four singles matches.
"I think about the Walker Cup every day," Harris said, who last played in 1997.
Molder finished his college career with a 70.69 scoring average, beating the record of 71.10 set by Woods at Stanford.
The only thing that matters now is holding the Walker Cup on Sunday afternoon.
"This doesn't mean revenge," he said. "It's just another chance to compete, and hopefully have a little better outcome."
|What: 38th Walker Cup Matches|
Where: Sea Island, Ga.
Course: Ocean Forest Golf Club
Yardage/par: 7,140 yards, par 72
Format: Match play
Teams: 10-player amateur teams from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland
Series record: The United States leads the biennial matches 31-5-1
Television: 2 p.m. today (ESPN2), 3 p.m. today (ESPN), 4 p.m. Sunday (ESPN)
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