Chun Honored to Have Been Team USA Assistant Coach at Palmer Cup
June 9, 2009
BERKELEY - Golden Bears assistant coach Walter Chun experienced the singular thrill of representing his country as the assistant coach for Team USA against Europe in the Palmer Cup June 4-5 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colo.
Meeting and hearing stories from Arnold Palmer was a unique thrill for the participants, too, but the contest between American and European collegians held at the site where Palmer won his only U.S. Open in 1960 ended in heartbreaking fashion. In what has become epic rivalry considered the collegiate version of the Ryder Cup, the Americans battled down to the wire but could not retake the Cup as the Europeans prevailed for the second straight yea with a 13-11 win, knotting up the all-time series at an even 6-6-1.
'Although we lost, I must say that it was one of the best experiences of my life,' coach Chun said. 'In addition to winning the 2004 NCAA Championship, representing my country is one of the greatest thrills and pressures I could ever imagine.'
With Europe needing only 2.5 points on the final afternoon to retain the Cup, Team USA briefly cut into Europe's lead when Marquette's Mike Van Sickle posted the largest singles victory in Palmer Cup history with an 8 and 7 win. Oklahoma State's Morgan Hoffmann was all square after 17 with the Americans leading or all square in the remaining matches, but his tee shot on No. 18 went into the water to the left of the fairway as Tim Sluiter of USC made par to give Europe the team victory.
'It's all about learning and I embraced it,' Chun said of his experience working with Washington head coach Matt Thurmond. 'Matt and I really wanted to have a unified team, and I think we accomplished that.'
Of Arnold Palmer, Chun said, 'Mr. Palmer is a legend. His stories were told like you were right there when they happened. He talked about the 1961 Masters, where he was leading by one going into 18. His drive was perfect in the 18th fairway. He lost his concentration and decided to shake hands with someone in the audience, who was prematurely congratulating him. Palmer ended up blocking his 7-iron into the bunker, chipped over the green, made double and lost by one.
'His point to us was that you must always maintain your concentration, and that concentration begins with practice,' Chun continued. 'Mr. Palmer said you cannot expect to automatically turn on your concentration once a tournament starts. Concentration must be worked on like all other aspects in the game. Concentration begins on the practice range.'
An amateur American team will have its next chances to compete against its European counterparts at the Walker Cup, where Team USA will play a select team from Great Britain and Ireland at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Penn., Sept. 12-13. The U.S. leads that all-time series, 33-7-1.