NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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Driving into St. Andrews along A91, a visitor could spot equipment trucks with ease. They were in town for the Walker Cup to support their players in the same way professionals are treated for their events.
Titleist had the busiest tour van, and by a considerable margin. Of the 20 participants in the match, 16 players gamed a Pro V1 or Pro V1x golf ball. Similarly, 16 players had Titleist Vokey wedges in their bag, 13 players used a Titleist driver and irons, and 12 players putted with a Scotty Cameron. (On a related note, FootJoy was the top shoe and glove choice, in addition to being the apparel brand for Great Britain & Ireland.)
The Range Rat enjoyed getting a look inside the bag of Gordon Sargent, the top-ranked amateur who represented the U.S. side with distinction last week. The Vanderbilt junior, who recently signed a lucrative apparel deal with Nike, is among the Titleist contingent. We found it interesting that despite having world-class ball speed that takes a back seat to no one outside of a long-drive competitor, Sargent employs a 9-degree TSR2 driver and doesn’t feel the need to lower the loft as Bryson DeChambeau has in recent years. In fact, it’s become difficult to find a player, amateur or pro, with a driver loft lower than 9 degrees. There is a consensus that there is no need to launch the ball lower, given the technology available to players.
Sargent plays a T200 3-iron, a T100 4-iron and 620 MBs for the rest of his irons. The 3- and 4-irons have thicker soles that offer more playability and forgiveness, and the shorter irons are more classic blades, with very little offset. The latter is a “player’s iron,” and Sargent certainly qualifies.
It also was noticeable that Callaway, which had only American Caleb Surratt among the 20 Walker Cup competitors, shipped its truck over just for him. It was important to show the company’s commitment to Surratt and the most prominent event in amateur golf. Another excellent performer for the stars and stripes, the Tennessee sophomore has a 9-degree Rogue ST Triple Diamond driver. Unlike Sargent, his irons are a uniform set of Callaway Apex TCBs. He uses just three Jaws Raw wedges, with the highest-lofted one being 54 degrees.
In a recap of the summer of amateur golf that was, perhaps no brand has increased its marketability more than Ping. At four of the biggest amateur “majors” and nine prominent amateur events overall, the winner has played a Ping G430 driver. U.S. Amateur winner Nick Dunlap gamed a G430 LST, and U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Megan Schofill had a G430 Max. British Amateur victor Christo Lamprecht and Women’s British Amateur winner Chiara Horder play a G430 LST. This comes at a time when Ping’s drivers and fairway woods had a particularly strong summer in pro golf as well.
One last note: We have written at length about the changing tide in the amateur game and how professional it all feels with manufacturers and brands getting heavily involved, but the Walker Cup offered a welcome diversion from that trend. With the Old Course as host and players bonding to represent their countries with no monetary gain at stake, it sent us all back in time for a moment. Everyone was focusing on the core tenets of the game and the actual competition, which hasn’t happened enough for golf during the past couple of years.
In our view – as long as the top amateurs still decide to support it – the Walker Cup will become more of a sanctuary in the coming years. We asked last year whether the match was in trouble because of the best amateurs potentially leaving the amateur game without having a Walker Cup experience. Fortunately, the top three PGA Tour University finishers were from outside the U.S. and the U.K. and ineligible for the Walker Cup, so those college seniors had no decision to make. Also, one of the United States’ top players, Austin Greaser, got injured in the spring and decided to stay in school at the University of North Carolina instead of his previous plan of turning pro after the NCAA Championship. Greaser was not at the Walker Cup practice session last December because of his intentions.
So if the Walker Cup is in trouble, it didn’t happen at St. Andrews, where almost all of the game’s best amateurs showed up and put on a stellar show. For that, the Range Rat is deeply grateful.