JUNO BEACH, Fla. – When Mac Meissner drop-kicked his tee shot at the second hole of Seminole Golf Club into the water, it made him sick to his stomach.
“I thought I was going to go right back to where I was on Thursday night, just throwing up,” he said.
Meissner needed two IV bags that evening, one of several players at the 48th Walker Cup stricken with a stomach virus. But the SMU senior, who was first alternate for the U.S. squad, rose to the occasion, teaming with Ricky Castillo for a 2-up victory in the third of four morning foursomes match over Jack Dyer and Matty Lamb of Great Britain & Ireland.
Meissner wasn’t the only alternate called into active duty. Jake Bolton partnered with Angus Flanagan for GB&I and nailed clutch shot after clutch shot on the home stretch to secure a point for his team, 1 up, over Stewart Hagestad and William Mouw in the final foursomes match of the morning.
It was something out of a bad script for a movie – an outbreak of food poisoning knocking several players for a loop. Imagine an astronaut training for two years to go to the moon and the night before blast off falling sick. Bolton, who had avoided the Walker Cup plague, got a phone call from his captain, Stuart Wilson, late last night telling him to be ready to go. He thought he was here simply coming from England to provide moral support, but was happy to put the pom-poms down and drained a 35-foot putt at the 17th hole to win the hole and give his team a 1-up lead.
“We had to make it,” Bolton said.
Rescuing par from a waste bunker left of the green was no easy feat. How good was it? “It will probably be the best up and down of the week,” he said.
Then, for good measure, at 18, he stuffed a 5-iron from 175 yards into a strong breeze to 8 feet that all but locked up victory. If that’s the last shot he ever hits at the Walker Cup, it was a heckuva walk-off. But Bolton smiled at the thought of possibly getting an encore on Sunday.
“If I’m needed, I’ll be there,” he said.
As for Meissner, he heard rumblings throughout the day on Friday that Team USA might require his services, after all. How sure was he that he would be in a ceremonial role this week, soaking in the atmosphere and the experience of playing practice rounds at famed Seminole? He told his father, a urologist, who was on call this weekend in San Antonio, not to come. But as he and his teammate dealt with a stomach virus, his chance of playing hinged on how Pierceson Coody, John Pak and Tyler Strafaci recovered from the illness that made its way through both locker rooms. Ultimately, U.S. team captain Nathaniel Crosby decided that asking his players under the weather to play 36 holes was too big of an ask. Crosby informed his team around 9 o’clock during a meeting.
“I was instantly nervous but so excited,” said Meissner, who said it was too late for his parents to attend. “I worked my butt off to be able to have a chance to play and for that dream to come true has been so cool.”
Meissner was such an afterthought to play at the beginning of the week that it didn’t seem to matter that he didn’t have the same pants as his other teammates. But he and Castillo at least had some familiarity with their games, playing together in the first practice round on Sunday at Seminole and in the practice session in Orlando at Bay Hill. Nevertheless, they got off to a rocky start when Castillo tugged his tee shot left on the first hole and into a dicey lie in a bunker.
“I was thinking if he gets it inside 30 yards of the green it would be an amazing shot and he got it on to the fringe,” Castillo said.
But then Meissner hit “the worst drive of my life,” at the second before calming down and finding his rhythm.
“We were rock solid after that. It was pretty sick,” Meissner said.
No pun intended.
Meissner was quick to credit Castillo for hitting the shot that turned the match in their favor, a spectacular explosion from a bunker at No. 8 that led to a win for Team USA. But Meissner hit an equally impressive bunker shot. At the par-5 14th, Castillo’s second shot from 185 yards landed on the front of the green but before any of the fans could even begin to clap, the ball backed up all the way into the front bunker. It was a classic example of what they call at Seminole “green visited.”
“You got this,” Castillo said.
“No, I don’t. This lie sucks,” Meissner said of their ball that had rolled into a rake mark.
Meissner splashed to three feet and Castillo cleaned up for birdie. When GB&I took three putts from 30 feet, the match was even and Team USA won the 15th with Meissner canning the short birdie putt. Castillo delivered the knock out punch with an approach to 6 feet at 18 that was conceded when GB&I made bogey.
For Meissner, his foursomes performance may be his only chance to compete in the Walker Cup, but if that’s the case he’s perfectly pleased knowing his record will forever be etched in the record book as 1-0-0.
“I’ve got the best record in Walker Cup history if this is only my match,” he cracked before turning serious. “I’ve been blessed.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/08/mac-meissner-jake-bolton-walker-cup/