A passion for golf permeates the Main Line, where courses remain busy even in light of the recent economic crisis. That success is further emphasized by the Sept. 12-13 arrival of the 2009 Walker Cup at Ardmore’s Merion Golf Club. Every other year, the competition pits teams of leading amateurs from the United States against those of Great Britain and Ireland. MLT recently caught up with Merion’s own George “Buddy” Marucci Jr., who reprises his 2007 role as captain of the U.S. team.
MLT: What’s the philosophy behind the Walker Cup?
BM: The matches were started to promote international goodwill between the U.S. and the countries of Europe after World War I. A lot of countries were invited, but the only ones that could field teams were Great Britain and Ireland. The idea is to find the 10 best players that not only represent the game of golf and their countries but also that philosophy—to play in the spirit of the matches.
MLT: What are your responsibilities as captain?
BM: Anything from handling logistical things like travel and accommodations, to clothing, equipment and making sure all of those things are in line for the players. We also observe and scout, and have a contribution in the selection of the team. Once the team is selected, you’re sort of like a football coach or baseball manager, lining up the players to where you think they’re going to be successful.
MLT: How is captaining a team different from being a member?
BM: Playing, you’re mainly responsible for producing the best game you can and winning points on the golf course. Captaining is not parental, but it’s more encompassing. We make sure that everything is out of the way of the players so they can hit their best game.
MLT: What does the Walker Cup mean to Merion Golf Club?
BM: It’s the epitome of amateur golf—the premier showcase. For Merion, it will give the course the opportunity to host an event it hasn’t before. Merion’s had more championships than many other clubs, so it adds to that legacy.
MLT: Is it more significant for you to serve as captain at Merion?
BM: It’ll be extremely special to be at home and around friends and fellow members, and to have an opportunity to showcase these players. There will be some added pressure, but I’m looking forward to that challenge.
MLT: What’s it like being a part of this 87-year-old tradition?
BM: It’s hard to describe. When you look at the people who’ve done this and you put your name next to them, it’s almost surreal. I really can’t believe that I’m next to Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet, Bill Campbell—people you’ve looked up to your whole life. It’s wonderful to be in that company.
MLT: Will you do anything differently this year compared to 2007?
BM: I’m going to try to get the chemistry right between the players, and make sure they enjoy playing for each other. I know the golf course pretty well, so I’ll have a little bit of an advantage there. Mainly, though, the responsibilities are the same.
MLT: What are your hopes for 2009?
BM: At the end of the day, if we’re true to our mission—to represent the game and the country well—we’ll be successful. Obviously, we also hope to win, but it’s bigger than that.
MLT: What has golf meant to the Main Line?
BM: If you look at some of the older areas, golf has played a significant part in a lot of lives in this city—certainly not just financially, but socially. Golf in Philadelphia is part of our everyday lives. It’s not resort-oriented; it’s not an afterthought.
To learn more about the 2009 Walker Cup, visit 2009walkercup.org.