NBC golf analyst Gary Koch competed on a pair of victorious USA Walker Cup Teams in 1973 and 1975 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, respectively. Koch registered an overall record of 4-1-2.
Looking back, how special was the Walker Cup experience for you?
Koch: As an amateur, it truly is … the greatest honor that you can possibly have. The feeling of representing your country and the opening ceremony, it’s really special.
How were your nerves on the first tee?
Koch: Standing on that first tee, Vinny Giles was my partner in the foursomes, and I basically told him I can’t hit it off the first tee. You are going to have to hit the first drive. I was just that anxious and nervous. And he had played a couple of Walker Cups before. So he was fine [with it]. He said, ‘OK, I’ll hit it.’ Now the next time in 1975, I was actually OK. I teed off the first tee.
The 1973 team had some guys who aren’t as well recognized today. Did some of the elite amateurs in 1973 turn pro early?
Koch: It was an interesting time back then. [Ben] Crenshaw desperately wanted to play, but the way [PGA] Tour qualifying was set up, you really had to make a decision. The deadline for the Qualifying School was very early. He just said I can’t stay around. And we lost two or three other really good collegiate players, so we ended with a team – there were some names like Doug Ballenger and Mike Killian and Jeff Ellis, but if you had gone down the top 10, they certainly wouldn’t have been in the top 10 players in the country. But the USGA did a nice job of putting the team together. We had nice chemistry. We were fortunate to win.
What’s your best Walker Cup memory?
Koch: The opening ceremony is just something you will never forget. Then in my next one [in 1975], I got to play at St. Andrews. The opening ceremony was on the steps of the Royal and Ancient [clubhouse]. I still have a lot of photos of those two [Walker Cups]. I look at them quite a bit. A lot of the guys from my 1975 team, I still see. Curtis Strange, Jay Haas, Craig Stadler … a lot of those guys I see quite often. We still talk about those days.