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Rory McIlroy is one of those who teed off in the Walker Cup before going on to great achievements as a professional.
Rory McIlroy is one of those who teed off in the Walker Cup before going on to great achievements as a professional.

Golf's Walker Cup proves to be ground for those who walk the talk

Humble tournament, open only to amateurs, remains one of the most unsullied events in global golf, writes Steve Elling.

It is not nearly as noisy as the Ryder Cup, nor is it as globally notable as the fairly new Presidents Cup, the other match-play event that pits a team of American tour stars against a league of nations.

It is not even the Solheim Cup, the successful women's version of the former.

But the humble Walker Cup, open only to amateurs, has a history all its own and remains one of the most unsullied events in global golf. Which is saying plenty in a time of rights fees, title sponsors, merchandising trade-offs and quasi-amateurism.

The 44th Walker Cup matches begin this weekend on Long Island, in New York, and the American contingent will try to win back the chrome cup that it lost in upset fashion to the Great Britain & Ireland side in Scotland in 2011, snapping a streak of three consecutive American victories.

Watching the Walker is like watching an Under 21 football series. It becomes a fun exercise in trying to identify which players are going to succeed wildly or mildly, or not at all at the next level. It is akin to prospecting.

Over the years, the rosters have been populated with too many household names to recite, but Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are three of the most prominent. The US list of past participants is even more impressive. As a case in point, nine of the 10 members of the US team from 2005 have already logged at least one season on the PGA Tour.

It is like a Ryder Cup, except with training wheels, an occasional bad haircut and a palpable degree of innocence not-quite-lost.

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