U.S. Walker Cup team watch: Nick Dunlap rising after Northeast Am win

U.S. Walker Cup team watch: Nick Dunlap rising after Northeast Am win
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The Walker Cup at St. Andrews is just over two months away, and the 10-man U.S. squad for the Sept. 2-3 matches is already taking shape.

Last week the USGA announced the first three players named to the American side, with Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent, Stanford’s Michael Thorbjornsen and North Carolina’s David Ford being selected as the top three Americans in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. The USGA will announce the remaining seven representatives in two more waves, prior to and after the U.S. Amateur in mid-August.

It’s been an eventful start to the summer with two names boosting their stock – Vanderbilt junior Jackson Van Paris after winning the Sunnehanna Amateur and Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap after his Northeast Amateur triumph. No Americans advanced past the Round of 16 at the British Amateur this past week.

On the heels of the Northeast, the second of seven Elite Amateur Series events of the summer, here is a look at the current U.S. Walker Cup team race:

Tickets already punched

Gordon Sargent (WAGR: 1): After a sophomore season for Vanderbilt that saw him finish at No. 1 in Golfstat thanks to 11 top-7 finishes (three wins), Sargent redeemed himself for his Masters performance by earning low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open (T-39). How he tackles the Old Course with his length will be appointment viewing.

Michael Thorbjornsen (2): The Stanford senior qualified for his second straight U.S. Open earlier this month, and though he’s missed three pro cuts this summer, he enjoyed a nice spring that included a Pac-12 individual title.

David Ford (3): Won the year’s first big amateur event, the Jones Cup in January and followed with four top-7 finishes in the spring for North Carolina. There’s a chance he could pair with his twin, Maxwell, should the other Ford brother make the team.

Good bets

Ben James (5): A five-time winner as a freshman at Virginia, he was also solo sixth at the NCAA Championship. He missed the cut at Travelers after a T-52 at Sunnehanna, so you’d like to see him notch a strong showing or two this summer, but he’s probably done enough already to warrant a pick.

Caleb Surratt (8): The SEC individual champ didn’t qualify for nationals as Tennessee missed as a team, but he’s started the summer hot with a T-14 at Sunnehanna and runner-up at Northeast.

Dylan Menante (7): Last year’s U.S. Amateur semifinalist, the North Carolina fifth-year senior had a strong close to his spring – T-7 at ACCs, T-6 at regionals and T-4 at NCAAs – before tying for ninth in his three-peat bid at the Northeast.

Firmly in mix

Austin Greaser (4): With top-11s at regionals and nationals, the North Carolina fifth-year senior would be close to a lock if healthy. Was slated to have surgery on his ailing left hand after the Palmer Cup earlier this month with a target return date being the U.S. Amateur. We’ll keep monitoring the situation.

Stewart Hagestad (10): He’s the only top-50 American mid-amateur in WAGR. Also beat his closest mid-am competition, Evan Beck, by five shots at the Northeast, where he was T-32. With three Walker Cups under his belt, his experience is invaluable. Not to mention this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur is after the Walker Cup, and Hagestad advanced to the Round of 16 in that championship last year.

On bubble

Nick Dunlap (25): Stock rising quickly for the Alabama sophomore after top-4 finish at regionals, T-11 at NCAAs, qualifying for the U.S. Open and winning the Northeast by two over Surratt. Has a nice USGA pedigree, too, as a past U.S. Junior Amateur champion.

Michael Brennan (9): The Wake Forest standout owns five top-5s this year since figuring out his putter, including a win at ACCs. He also qualified for the U.S. Open and was T-22 at Northeast.

Preston Summerhays (16): Posted five top-5s his sophomore spring at Arizona State before shooting 63 in the second round of his U.S. Open final qualifier to punch his ticket to LACC. Like Dunlap, a former U.S. Junior winner.

Maxwell Moldovan (15): The Ohio State senior’s seven top-10 last season included a regional title. He then went and qualified for the U.S. Open and made the cut at LACC, finishing T-65.

Luke Clanton (14): After freshman spring at Florida State in which he had four top-10s in his last six events, including a regional title, Clanton has posted top-4s at Sunnehanna and Northeast.

Keep an eye on

Maxwell Ford (52): The Georgia junior has been busy this summer – runner-up at Dogwood, T-12 at Sunnehanna and T-9 at Northeast. Also had five top-20s this past spring, including T-18 at NCAAs.

Jackson Van Paris (60): Played sparingly as a freshman for loaded Vanderbilt, but this summer has shown his talent – win at Sunnehanna, T-7 at Northeast.

Canon Claycomb (36): The Alabama fifth-year senior has been model of consistency this year with nine top-25s in his last 10 events, including a T-4 at SECs, T-8 at Sunnehanna and most recently a T-19 at Northeast, where he opened in 66.

William Moll (28): The Vanderbilt fifth-year senior had a scorching run earlier this spring with three straight top-3s, and his T-4 at Sunnehanna boosted his stock. However, took a step back with T-37 at Northeast.

Cole Sherwood (13): The Vanderbilt senior struggled in the spring, not notching a top-20 in his last seven college starts. That said, a solo sixth a Northeast has him with some momentum.

Nicholas Gabrelcik (11): Six top-10s this past spring for the UNF senior, though no wins and there are strength-of-schedule concerns. Also was T-45 at Northeast.

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