Florida’s Ricky Castillo represented something much larger than the orange and blue this weekend.
Down in Juno Beach, Florida, Castillo was a member of a 10-man team carrying the stars and stripes.
The Walker Cup is a biennial tournament matching up amateurs from the United States against a team from Great Britain and Ireland. The United States Golf Association (USGA) selected golfers for the United States, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) made the selections for Great Britain and Ireland.
The two-day contest is composed of alternating-shot foursomes in the mornings and singles matchups in the afternoons.
Drama off the course became the lead story heading into the weekend. A stomach bug began to wreak havoc on the participating golfers Thursday. In a joint statement released Friday, the USGA and R&A referred to the spreading sickness as “gastrointestinal issues.” The statement clearly ruled out COVID-19 as a possible cause for the illness.
This year's event featured new accommodations for the two teams in preparation for COVID-19-caused complications. However, they ended up being utilized for a different purpose. Each team’s captain was given the ability to use one of two alternates if an original golfer fell ill.
Florida freshman Joe Pagdin served as the second alternate at Seminole Golf Club serving for the Great Britain and Ireland team. The Sheffield, England native did not end up seeing action.
With the majority of each team's golfers ready to go by Saturday, the foursomes teed off that morning.
Castillo began his weekend paired with Mac Meissner, a senior at Southern Methodist University. They won their match 2 up in a back-and-forth battle with GB&I’s Jack Dyer and Matty Lamb to secure a point for the United States. The Americans held strong and kept their lead intact throughout the last four holes to preserve victory.
Castillo continued his excellent play in the afternoon singles. Facing up against England native Ben Schmidt, the UF sophomore secured the lead on the first hole and never looked back. The Gator won the matchup 5 and 3.
The United States entered Sunday with a 7-5 lead.
Castillo was partnered with Pepperdine University sophomore William Mouw for the final round of foursomes. The duo scraped by Andrew Fitzpatrick and Barclay Brown for a 1-up win. The American duo trailed entering the 16th hole, but a birdie putt by Castillo drew them even. A par putt from Mouw on the following hole gave them the lead for good.
The United States clung to a narrow lead before the Sunday singles matches as they led 8.5 to 7.5.
Castillo drew Irishman John Murphy next. Just like Saturday, the Yorba Linda, California, native got off to a hot start. He took advantage when Murphy bogeyed three of the first four holes and headed for the back nine 3 up. The lead held throughout the rest of the afternoon round, and Castillo took the point, 2 and 1.
Castillo was the only golfer for Team USA to finish the weekend undefeated.
The United States team held their lead throughout Sunday and defended the cup by a final tally of 14 to 12.
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