US Walker Cup skipper gets down to business

The United States Walker Cup captain Spider Miller was in upbeat, jocular mood as preparations started in earnest for the defence of the famous trophy at Royal Lytham and St Annes this week.
Miller - looking ahead to Walker CupMiller - looking ahead to Walker Cup
Miller - looking ahead to Walker Cup

And if Miller’s demeanour and outlook is anything to by, the Americans should be a pretty relaxed bunch by the the time the first shot is played in anger on Saturday morning.

Nerves are the last thing on Miller’s mind.

Asked if the tension of the occasion could get to him, Miller said: “What have I got to be nervous about?

“I won’t make a bogey and I won’t be shaking over a putt.

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“It’s like a captain taking an aeroplane down, you wouldn’t want to see him shaking with nerves, would you?”

Miller also made light of picking of his task of picking the right combination for the foursomes and the singles.

“I am going to use the method have for picking stocks in the stock market - I will get my dart out, throw it, and see how it lands!”

But one gets the feeling that behind the light-hearted approach there is a serious intent to keep the Walker Cup on his side of the Atlantic.

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He has already consulted Dave Stockton, who led the United States to the 1991 Ryder Cup triumph and also had a team pep talk from the great Arnold Palmer.

Miller said “Dave Stockton was gracious enough to speak to me about strategy and various things and the philosophy he imparted to me is something I am in agreement with.

“He has been very helpful.

“I have known Arnold for a long time - for the kids (the US Walker Cup squad) to get to meet him was so special - he is not only the greatest golfer, but the greatest person.

“He took a lot of his time to talk with the kids for over an hour and he said they could ask him anything they wanted

“Arnold answered everything.”

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Miller has been impressed with the condition of Royal Lytham on what is not his first visit to the world-famous Links Gate venue.

.He said: “The course looks great and I have already thanked Paul Smith and his (greenkeeping) staff for the condition it is in.

“They have worked hard and this course is perfect, beautiful.

“I was here last summer for my first time and the course was good then, but it is great now.

“It is going to be a great competition.”

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Asked if he thought the players could cope with the demands of Royal Lytham, Miller joked: “If the players don’t adapt to the course, I am going to get my bull-whip out!

“But they are doing fine.

“I began to prepare for this two years ago and my first challenge was to get to know the kids.

“I have been able to do that - I have a great group and I am thrilled with them.

“The chemistry is good and we are excited - I am thrilled with the way they have coalesced with each other and the way they get along.

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“Nigel Edwards (the GB and I Ireland captain) and I get along great and we are going to get the teams together and make sure they get to know each other because that is what the competition is all about..”

On Tuesday night, the two teams were due to mingle together at a cocktail reception at Royal Lytham, with a trip round Blackpool Illuminations planned for the Americans after Friday’s opening ceremony.

Tickets are still available for the Walker Cup, but spectators can pay at the gate - under-16s, accompanied by adults, are admitted free.