NEWCASTLE, N. Ireland—Links golf can be cruel to first-timers who don’t understand its quirky intricacies. Colt Knost has proven he’s a fast learner.
On his first trip to the British Isles, the reigning U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion did more than fall in love with the links game. Knost, a 22-year-old Texan, led the U.S. team to a dramatic 12½–11½ victory in the Walker Cup Match at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.
With the team's victory, Knost, who won two matches and halved two others in the biennial team competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland, made history. He is the first player to win the Amateur, Public Links and Walker Cup in the same year.
Knost, who won three points in the biennial amateur team competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland, prepared with practice rounds at Ireland's Royal Dublin, Portmarnock and County Louthall. But those courses were mere appetizers for competing at magical Royal County Down.
“It’s possibly the best course I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot,” said Knost. “I’ve seen pictures, but they do not do it justice. You have to think your way around. Obviously, you play the ball on the ground a lot more here. It’s very challenging. You just have to be very creative.”
He also received help from his teacher, Randy Smith, who knows a bit about preparing players for the links game. Smith was Justin Leonard's instructor when he won the 1997 British Open at Royal Troon.
Despite winning 12 matches en route to his two USGA championships, Knost could not close out the first match of his first Walker Cup. In his foursomes match with partner Dustin Johnson on Saturday morning, Knost missed a four-foot putt on the 18th green that would have won the match. He rebounded by winning both his afternoon singles and Sunday morning foursomes matches, both on the final green. In the afternoon, his halved singles match against Danny Willett to halt an early rally by the GB&I team.
Ultimately, Knost was overshadowed by the heroics of Jonathan Moore, who made an eagle on the 18th hole in his singles match Nigel Moore to win 1 up and clinch the Cup for the U.S.
When he returns to Pilot Point, Texas, Knost will face a difficult decision: when to turn pro. His USGA victories have qualified him for the 2008 Masters—but only if he remains an amateur.
"I could turn pro next week but there's no way I'll stay amateur any longer than the Masters," he said. "I can qualify for the U.S. Open and the British Open every year, but qualifying for the Masters is a little different deal."