It has been described as either a bold, innovative move or a desperate, foolhardy experiment.
The U.S. Golf Association, seeking to end the U.S. team's recent slump in Walker Cup matches, packed its squad with youngsters, ranging in age from 18 to 23 years old. It is the first time no mid-amateur has represented the U.S. in the Walker Cup, widely regarded as the premier amateur team event in golf.
The Royal & Ancient also skewed younger, selecting the youngest competitor to play a Walker Cup match, 16-year-old Oliver Fisher, but it made sure to put two veterans on its team -- Gary Wolstenholme, 44, and Nigel Edwards, 37.
By eschewing experience for talent -- only one U.S. competitor has participated in a Walker Cup -- the United States looks to reverse its worst run in Walker Cup history. The United States, which leads the overall series 31-7-1, has lost three in a row and four of the last five competitions. It hasn't won the biennial competition since 1997.
The Walker Cup takes place today and Sunday at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill.
The USGA "thought the 10 best players in this country at this point in time would be chosen for the team. That's what they did," said U.S. team captain Bob Lewis, who was part of four victorious Walker Cup teams. "There were several mid-ams that were playing well . . . [but] it was the feeling of the committee that they had not played their way onto the team."
Billy Hurley, a 23-year-old Leesburg native and Naval Academy graduate, is one of the team's elder statesmen. Hurley is the first from the Washington area to represent the United States on the Walker Cup since Marty West in 1979.
"We've got a lot of really mature guys on the team and a lot of guys who can flat out play," Hurley said.
The U.S. team is talented -- Matt Every was the low amateur at the U.S. Open and Brian Harman won the U.S. Junior Amateur as a 16-year-old -- but talent sometimes is not enough.
The R&A tried a similar youth movement in 1993. The Great Britain and Ireland team's oldest competitor that year was 24, and only one member had Walker Cup experience, while the U.S. team had four players in their forties. The result was a disastrous 19-5 loss for the GB&I team, the most lopsided result in Walker Cup history.
"The Americans traditionally picked some mid-amateurs," GB&I captain Garth McGimpsey said. "They've gone with all college kids this year. They seem to be copying things we've done and maybe discarded in the past."
The R&A discovered that younger players tend to falter in match-play competition. Because they are more accustomed to stroke play, they often lack the savvy of more mature players. Match play pits competitors directly against one another in the same groups. Stroke play is less pressure-filled because the leaders can be spread throughout the course.
Lewis was confident youth would prevail this weekend.
"It's not just be on the Walker Cup team and have that star after your name," Lewis said. "A lot of these guys want to win the Walker Cup and bring it back to American soil."