Division I college player of the year left off Walker Cup team

August 21, 2017

When the USGA announced its 10-player Walker Cup roster Sunday night, it raised some eyebrows by leaving off the Division I college player of the year.

Sam Burns, a 21-year-old from Shreveport, La., who won the 2017 NCAA Division I Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award a couple of months ago, announced in June that he wouldn’t be returning for his junior year at LSU; he was going to turn pro instead. But he chose to wait to make his professional debut, instead playing a full amateur schedule in the hopes of representing the U.S. Walker Cup team in its matches Sept. 9-10 at Los Angeles Country Club.

Burns, the 21st-ranked men’s amateur in the world, has had an up-and-down summer season. He finished fifth at the Northeast Amateur, and he qualified and tied for sixth at the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship, which was an alternate-field event the same week as the British Open. But he also missed the cut at the Western Amateur and failed to qualify for match play at last week’s U.S. Amateur, and in the end, his resume wasn’t enough to impress the USGA’s Team Selection Committee.

The committee has no formal points system, and team captain John “Spider” Miller acknowledged that he doesn’t have a vote on the final roster, opening up the committee to objections from across the golf world. Most incensed was Tour player John Peterson, who also went to LSU and was left off the 2011 Walker Cup team despite winning the NCAA title that year. He took to Twitter to cry foul:

Smylie Kaufman, also an LSU grad, shared in his disbelief:

Burns, however, stayed above the fray, thanking the USGA for considering him and citing the snub as motivation for the future.

Ultimately, what did Burns’ decision to wait to turn pro cost him? To start, he couldn’t accept the $113,312.50 he would have earned from his finish at the Barbasol. Nor could he use the result to play in the following week’s event; the Tour rule giving all top-10 finishers a berth in the next event applies only to professionals. Perhaps most importantly, Burns sacrificed the opportunity to use sponsor’s exemptions to play a busier summer Tour schedule and try to earn his full card for next season.

Burns is now expected to turn pro immediately, although he has not announced where he will make his debut.