Bombs away! Gordon Sargent, U.S. expecting ‘a lot of drivers’ at Walker Cup

Bombs away! Gordon Sargent, U.S. expecting ‘a lot of drivers’ at Walker Cup
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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – It was a little after 1 p.m. local time on Wednesday as Gordon Sargent strolled to the Old Course’s first tee with U.S. Walker Cup teammate Nick Gabrelcik.

“I just want to see where this goes,” said Sargent, as he pulled the headcover off his driver and proceeded to launch a tight, powerful draw down the right side – OK, he pushed it a centimeter or two – of the 375-yard hole. Sargent’s ball took three bounces before coming to rest in the Swilcan Burn.

The ultra-long Vanderbilt junior surely won’t be going with the big stick at No. 1 once the 49th Walker Cup begins Saturday at St. Andrews. But don’t expect Sargent or any of the other 19 competitors – U.S. or Great Britain and Ireland, long or short, aggressive or conservative – to be keeping the driver in the bag very much.

“It obviously depends on the wind, but I feel like every single hole, if you hit driver there’s at least a side to miss on, so I hit probably a good amount of drivers,” Sargent said. “It’s important to hit it in the fairway, but the fescue isn’t quite as tall as it normally is, so you can kind of hit it up there and be in some fine spots. There are some hole locations where you do need to be in the fairway. But I think it’s a lot of drivers, and if it fits your eye, it’s probably the play on those holes, too.”

That hit-it-hard strategy was wholly supported during a Wednesday practice round in which American players paired for alternate shot in mostly benign conditions and the turf softened by some overnight rain. Sargent played 12 holes with North Carolina’s Dylan Menante, and the duo shot 4 under with a bogey and a three-putt par at No. 10, one of two par-4s in which Sargent drove the green.

Before finding the front of the putting surface at the 386-yard, par-4 10th hole, Sargent hit a drive to 10 feet at the 414-yard, par-4 sixth, leading to an eagle. At the 351-yard 12th hole, Sargent’s drive found a bunker about 10 yards from the green. Menante said he had wedges – or less – into Nos. 2, 6, 10 and 12, and a 7-iron into the 480-yard fourth hole, where Sargent went 3-wood off the tee.

“A lot of wedges and putts, that’s the gameplan,” said Sargent, who is likely to pair with Menante at least once in foursomes.

The fan was turned up slightly for the into-the-wind closing stretch as Sargent switched to partner with Alabama’s Nick Dunlap, another bomber, and there were some short-irons that got dirty. Mid-amateur Stewart Hagestad estimates he got “pretty close” to using every club in his bag.

“If the weather’s great, you play for that,” Hagestad said. “And if it gets windy, gusty, you adjust accordingly.”

But based on Tuesday’s observations, even a little wind and rain won’t keep the driver at bay. There is sure to be a ton of wedges, pitches, putts and hopefully an onslaught of birdies and eagles once this storied competition gets underway this weekend.

Just don’t expect many 5-irons.

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