2nd September 2023
Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) lead USA by 7.5-4.5 after the opening day of the 49th Walker Cup match at St. Andrews.
GB&I won both the morning and afternoon series of games; the Foursomes 3.0-1.0 and the Singles 4.5-3.5.
The home team’s 3-point lead represents their joint best Day 1 performance, matching their efforts 34 years ago at Peachtree G.C. in Atlanta.
John GOUGH and Calum SCOTT both starred for GB&I, each delivering two points for their team. Gordon SARGENT also won both of his games for USA.
The key, as always, was the home team’s ability to hole a few more putts and importantly come out on the right side of most of the tight encounters.
Six games needed to play the 18th hole today with the GB&I team winning four of these and halving another.
A delighted GB&I captain Stuart WILSON said “It’s obviously been a great day result wise for GB&I, but it’s been hard fought. Our guys showed grit and determination and kept fighting and managed to get some points to get us ahead on the board, so well done to our guys.”
American captain Mike MCCOY said” It wasn’t the day we were looking for. The message tomorrow is win some points. We’ve got a talented group of players and I think they’re ready to step up and give us an opportunity.”
GB&I now only require 6 of the 14 points still to play for tomorrow to record a famous win, just their 10th in the 49 matches that have been played to date.
Having arrived at St. Andrews on the back of three consecutive defeats and starting out as massive under-dogs it would be a great achievement if the home team could now see this out.
However, home supporters shouldn’t get ahead of themselves as GB&I also took an early 7.0-5.0 lead at Royal Liverpool in 2019 before collapsing to a 10.5-15.5 defeat on the final day.
Matt McClean Birdies the 18th Hole (Photo: Oisin Keniry / The R&A / R&A via Getty Images)
Here’s the detailed hole-by-hole scores for each game (with the caveat that these were match play games with concessions) alongside some of my own observations from being out on the course all day:-
Day 1 Foursomes – Course Information (Graphic: The R&A)
Day 1 Foursomes – Hole Locations (Graphic: The R&A)
GB&I 3 – 1 USA
Play started under cloudy skies at 8.30am with good crowds surrounding the 1st hole.
The USA pairing of Gordon SARGENT and Dylan MENANTE, who had the honour of hitting the first shot in the 49th Walker Cup match, got off to a dream start. Californian Menante converting from 12ft for birdie after a nerveless approach over the burn from the WAGR No. 1.
However, the opening game quickly returned to All Square when Sargent’s drive found the deep fairway bunker on the left side of the 2nd fairway. With Menante forced to play out backwards and to the left GB&I were able to par their way to a hole win in regulation.
Menante, who seemed to settle the quickest of all four players, holed from 20ft on the third to restore USA’s 1Up advantage.
On the par 5 5th Sargent found one of the left greenside bunkers with his approach whilst Mark POWER impressively found the heart of the green. After playing three shots in various bunkers and still lying 25ft from the hole the Amercan’s picked up, looking like 7 would be the best they could score.
After seeing just one of the first five holes halved the match settled down and a sequence of shared pars followed.
The turning point in Game 1 came at the start of the back nine and in particular on the 10th and 12th holes.
Power, who had looked good on the greens on the front nine, missed what appeared to be a very makeable 6ft winning birdie putt on the 10th after Barclay BROWN had judged his pitch beautifully to the back hole location. Such opportunities can rarely be given up.
After the par 3 11th was halved Power then pulled his drive off the 12th tee into the gorse bushes. Despite a lost ball Brown returned to the tee and indeed finished the hole with a six before the USA team were required to play another shot. Sargent having, despite the breeze being against him, driven over 330 yards into the swale at the front of the green and close to the tucked pin.
With USA 1Up Power misjudged his approach into the 13th green from the fairway, leaving it well short. When Brown played a poor recovery pitch 30ft past the hole USA were left to two putt for an easy win.
With momentum on their side and the GB&I pair starting to struggle with their games it appeared unlikely that Menante and Sergeant would give up their 2Up lead and that proved to be the case.
The win came on the 16th after Sargent hit a huge drive along the out of bounds line, drawing the ball back into the centre of the fairway. Menante pitched in close and Sargent converted from 7 feet with ease. The American’s celebrated a good 3&2 win with Menante looking very solid.
Sargent & Menante v. Brown & Power Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
Game 2 saw an outstanding performance from the Scottish pair, Calum SCOTT and Connor GRAHAM. Two of the most competitive players on the home team were clearly determined to win this point in front of a partisan following.
Six birdies and no mistakes saw them run out comfortable winners in a high quality game against Caleb SURRATT and Ben JAMES. Feeling the pressure after two quick fire GB&I birdies on 14 and 15 the Americans drove out of bounds on the 16th to hand the Scots the win.
Surratt & James v. Scott & Graham Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
After a slow start which saw the American’s Preston SUMMERHAYS and David FORD take an early lead GB&I pair Matthew MCCLEAN and John GOUGH‘s consistent play enabled them to regain parity before seemingly staying just one step ahead of their opponents for the rest of the round.
McClean’s birdie on the 13th and Gough’s fist pumping 7ft birdie putt on the 16th green proved the critical difference coming down the stretch in what was a tight match.
The game could have ended on the 17th but the left-handed Ford played a great shot from the infamous Road Hole bunker to keep the match alive.
Summerhays, who had holed well on the 17th in his contribution to the great sand save, missed a short left to right birdie putt on the 18th green to help see GB&I over the line.
Summerhays & Ford v. McClean & Gough Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
In Game 3 Alex MAGUIRE and James ASHFIELD established a strong lead on the front nine with a superb eagle on the par 5 5th the highlight. Ashfield holing an impressive 35ft uphill putt to the delight of the crowds.
Having been reeled in on the back nine a battling finish, with Maguire’s putting particularly to the fore, enabled the GB&I pair to secure an important win.
Firstly, Ashfield, who was playing with a strapped up right wrist, holed from 12ft on the 16th for par after his approach had overshot the green. Hagestad still had a chance from 7ft to claim the birdie and hole win but his own putt narrowly missed.
Ashfield chipped superbly to 10ft from left of the green on the Road Hole before Maguire converted for a great winning par. After Dunlap’s chip wasn’t so tidy and Hagestad missed his 15ft putt the GB&I pair came to the 18th with a restored 1Up lead.
After Nick DUNLAP‘s eagle putt on the home hole lipped out this year’s St. Andrews Links champion, Alex MAGUIRE stepped up and holed another 10 footer to halve the hole in birdie 3 and secure what could be a critical 1 Hole win for GB&I.
Dunlap & Hagestad v. Maguire & Ashfield Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
Day 1 Singles – Course Information (Graphic: The R&A)
Day 1 Singles – Hole Locations (Graphic: The R&A)
GB&I 4.5 – 3.5 USA
The sun broke through in the late morning and the Old Course was bathed in warm sunshine for most of the afternoon.
Eight Singles, to newly cut holes, were played in the Day 1 series with GB&I edging them 4.5-3.5 and extending their overall match lead to 7.5-4.5.
Barclay BROWN played steady par golf in Game 1 but Caleb SURRATT, a high quality player and still smarting after his morning defeat, was not going to be defeated again.
In near perfect conditions it was inevitable that birdies would be required to win a Singles and a class act like Surratt delivered them on the 5th, 9th and 12th holes.
Surratt v. Brown Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
The second game proved to be a birdie-fest. I am sure Nick GABRELCIK would have been pleased to accept five birdies standing on the 1st tee. How wrong he would have been. Calum SCOTT arrived in Fife in form and is certainly rising to the occasion. He shot eight birdies, six of which won holes, to secure his second point on a memorable day for the Nairn man.
Gabrelcik v. Scott Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
Having not been included in GB&I’s Foursomes line-up Jack BIGHAM will have wanted to impress in his Singles game against Gordon SARGENT.
After slipping to 2Down after 5 Holes matters looked bleak for the Hertfordshire man who is a rising sophomore at Florida State. It was therefore to Bigham’s credit that he was able to turn the match around with a string of birdies.
A 1 Hole lead standing on the 17th tee is never a secure position on the Old Course and so it proved in this game. Sargent’s par and birdie on the closing two holes good enough to regain control of the point.
Sargent v. Bigham Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
Austin GREASER will not have enjoyed his afternoon on the Liam NOLAN rollercoaster.
Nolan offset six birdies with five bogeys in his round but came good down the stretch and sealed the deal with a great birdie on the home hole.
Greaser v. Nolan Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
I was not surprised to see Mark POWER start poorly this afternoon after he seemed to lose some confidence on the back nine of his Foursomes this morning.
When David FORD holed a 60 yard bunker shot on the 10th hole for an eagle 2 and a 3Up lead, with Power already close to the hole in two, one feared that a heavy defeat maybe on the cards for the likeable Wake Forest graduate.
The fact he was able to settle himself and start playing high quality golf spoke volumes for his ability and character. It was also a good reminder for us all of why captain Wilson has so much faith in him.
Power won four holes in a row from the 12th to turn his match around; it appears two were won and two were handed to him with Ford bogeying.
A superb drive and birdie in front of a large crowd on the 18th green will no doubt be one of his abiding memories of the week, alongside his Irish flag raising duties at the Opening Ceremony.
Ford v. Power Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
Game 6 proved to be one of the best match ups of the Day with big hitting Preston SUMMERHAYS and reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt MCCLEAN playing out an entertaining half.
After McClean had given up a 1Up advantage after he found the Road Hole bunker the two players showed off amazing touches to two putt from significant distance on 18.
Summerhays v. McClean Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
Alex MAGUIRE seemed flat from the off this afternoon; perhaps drained from his putting exploits on the closing holes in the Foursomes.
An experienced player of Stewart HAGESTAD‘s quality needs no head start and with Maguire three putting for fun early on the game quickly got away from the Irishman.
Maguire fought as best he could but with his putter cold he fell to a disappointing 4&3 loss.
Hagestad v. Maguire Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
The much anticipated clash between the U.S. Amateur champion, Nick DUNLAP, and GB&I’s long-standing No. 1 John GOUGH proved to be a one-sided affair.
Dunlap got off to a bad start spinning his approach on the 1st back into the burn but nothing could have prepared him for Gough’s putting.
An incredible uphill 40 footer on the 2nd and a 15 footer on the 3rd set the tone with the Englishman demonstrating a sound touch all the way round.
After Dunlap had three putted the 4th and 5th he found himself 5Down. A this point I reminded myself that Scott Hoch has the biggest Singles win in 18 hole Walker Cup history, beating James Buckley by 9&7 in 1979.
Gough hit two poor shots to my eyes in the game; the first coming at the 7th where his short iron ran through the back of the green and for the only time in the round he was unable to get up and down from a tricky spot.
He would win the game on the 13th hole. After Dunlap found trouble off the tee and could only make 5 Gough produced a winning par, albeit he had to work for it. Having badly misjudged the wind he found himself towards the back of the green with a 50 foot left to right swinging and downhill putt. He judged the first effort superbly and without any fuss drilled the second from 6 feet into the back of the hole.
Gough has drawn Gordon Sargent in the Sunday Singles. A tough ask but what better way to end his amateur career than by beating the World No. 1.
Dunlap v. Gough Scoreboard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)
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