La Cañada Flintridge native Collin Morikawa capped a remarkable summer with a momentous victory, helping Team USA defeat Great Britain and Ireland, 19-7, to reclaim the prestigious Walker Cup this weekend at the Los Angeles Country Club.
“It’s the biggest honor to be on the USA team and represent my country the entire week,” said Morikawa, who was one of 10 American amateurs selected to take on their counterparts from Great Britain and Ireland. “We lost two years ago and the main goal was to win, no matter what it takes. I’m just really proud of this team.”
Morikawa, a 2015 La Cañada High School graduate, was one of three U.S. golfers to finish the competition with a perfect 4-0 record. He paired up with Norman Xiong of Canyon Lake for the foursome portion of the Walker Cup. The two are Pac-12 rivals; Morikawa plays for UC Berkeley and Xiong for the University of Oregon.
Together, they made history Saturday by defeating Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant, 8 and 7 — meaning the match ended when Morikawa and Xiong took an 8-hole advantage with seven holes to go. It was the largest margin of victory for an 18-hole foursome match in the history of the Walker Cup.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Morikawa said Saturday, when Team USA built an 8-4 lead. “We started off strong. I played with Norman this morning and four birdies to start a Walker Cup debut is something special and something I’ll always remember.
“And then we were able to finish early, so we got to watch some guys and that was pretty cool to just kind of support the team as much as you can. We wear this USA logo on our chest and hat as much as we can, and it’s an honor for us to be here.”
Team USA captain John “Spider” Miller, who captained the 2015 team as well, saw Morikawa and Xiong play early and figured he didn’t have to worry about them.
“The only thing I can tell you about Collin and Norm is that I saw their lead 1-up, 2-up…” Miller said on Saturday. “I thought, well, I’m not going out there and mess that up. Those boys are doing fine without me, so they didn’t see me at all this morning.”
Morikawa carried that momentum into singles play during the afternoon Saturday, when he defeated Ireland’s Paul McBride, 3 and 2.
In that match, the former Spartan led 4-up, before McBride fought back to cut Morikawa’s lead to 1-up. However, the local golfer wasn’t fazed; he birdied the 13th hole and parred the 14th while McBride bogeyed, giving Morikawa a 3-hole lead that he wouldn’t relinquish.
“I knew consistent play was going to be key,” Morikawa said. “The courses are in amazing condition, but tough as well. I just had to keep it on the fairway to make it easier on me.”
Morikawa never trailed in either doubles or singles during the first day of Walker Cup competition.
On Sunday, Morikawa and Xiong were paired together for a second consecutive day, winning, 2-up, this time. They faced Connor Syme and McBride, who struck early with a birdie that was not matched by the Americans, giving Morikawa his first deficit all weekend.
“That’s golf,” Morikawa said. “We didn’t come out here like it was going to be an easy match. Those guys were coming for us. We kind of went back and forth with them and then got a little ahead. And they made a great birdie on 7. Connor made a great putt. So it’s about just kind of taking it … one hole at a time and staying patient because you get ahead of yourself, you’re going to find yourself way behind.”
Syme and McBride erased a 2-up deficit by edging Xiong and Morikawa in the 12th and 14th holes, and it seemed as if momentum was favoring Great Britain and Ireland after the local duo was unable to convert a birdie on 15 that would have given them a lead.
But Morikawa and Xiong did not lose their composure as they headed into the final three holes.
“We can wipe off those bad shots really quickly,” Morikawa said. “Norman hit a great drive on 16 and I hit a pretty good shot and it came down that Norman had to make a putt. And he told me when we were walking up to the green that he was going to make it.”
Xiong came through with a clutch putt to go 1-up with two holes remaining. After an even 17th hole, the Pac-12 golfers secured the victory in the final hole after Syme and McBride bogeyed.
Morikawa then faced Ellis in singles competition on Sunday afternoon, winning his fourth match, 2 and 1, despite having quickly found himself in a hole.
Ellis won the first two holes but his lead was short-lived as Morikawa had a birdie on No. 6 and the English golfer bogeyed three holes, giving Morikawa a 2-up advantage. The LCF resident would hold on.
“To win all my matches and help my teammates is just a dream come true,” Morikawa said.
The Pac-12 All-American never was alone in his journey to help the U.S. reclaim the Walker Cup. Morikawa was one of the golfers with the most supporters on the course, including one who exclaimed, “I love you, Collin Morikawa!” after he teed off in singles play on Sunday.
“It’s awesome to be out here in Los Angeles close to home and have people supporting me,” he said with the biggest grin. “It’s all you can ask for.”
After a memorable summer of helping the Team USA capture the Arnold Palmer Cup and Walker Cup, winning the Northeast Amateur, finishing second at the Trans-Mississippi Amateur and reaching the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur, Morikawa traveled back to Berkeley for his junior year. He missed the Bears’ first men’s golf event of the season to play in the Walker Cup, but he traveled to Illinois with his teammates Wednesday for the Fighting Illini Invitational this weekend.