126. The 2021 R&A Men’s Home Internationals Are To Be Played In April

17th December 2020

The R&A have announced that the Men’s Home Internationals will now be played at Royal Dornoch G.C. in Scotland on 14-16 April 2021.

The decision has been made to assist Great Britain and Ireland’s (GB&I) preparations for the Walker Cup match against USA on 8-9 May 2021.

It now seems likely that the GB&I team will be selected immediately following the tournament and announced publically on Monday 19th April.

Royal Dornoch G.C. Championship Course (Photo: Royal Dornoch G.C.)

The R&A will be running the Men’s Home Internationals for the first time next year. They will be taking over from the four home golf unions that participate and have hosted it in turn since 1932.

The 2020 Home Internationals were scheduled to be played at Royal Dornoch G.C. on 9-11 September but were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 event was due to be played at Hankley Common G.C. in England on 8-10 September but it appears they will now have to wait until 2022 for their turn.

The Home Internationals are contested by 11-man teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales with the four countries playing each other over three successive days. Each match involves 5 foursomes and 10 singles, all played over 18 holes.

Ireland were champions four times between 2014-17 with England winning the title in 2018 and 2019.

It’s mid-September date in the amateur calendar has always been a surprise given it’s prestige and excellent basis for GB&I team selection. Mid-June to mid-August would be the ideal time for the Home Internationals to be staged as this would allow most of our U.S. college players to also participate.

It is worth noting that 7 of the recently announced 15 man 2021 GB&I Walker Cup Squad are studying in the United States. Their Spring seasons will be heading towards their NCAA Championship climax so these players won’t be able to participate in these ‘trials’.

An informal GB&I squad gathering will probably take place around the Jones Cup Invitational which is been played between 4-7 February 2021 and may involve a trip to Seminole GC.

The Raymond Trophy (Photo: Ayrshire Golf Blog)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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125. The R&A Announce Their 2021 GB&I Walker Cup Squad

2nd December 2020

The R&A today announced a 15-man Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup squad for the 2021 match.

The GB&I 2021 Squad (Graphic: The R&A)

Here is a list of all of the selected players with their current amateur rankings: –

Jake BOLTON (22) – England – SPWAR #19 / WAGR #54

Barclay BROWN (19) – England – SPWAR #54 / WAGR #135

Callum FARR (22) – England – SPWAR #99 / WAGR #112

Alex FITZPATRICK (21) – England – SPWAR #71 / WAGR #37

Angus FLANAGAN (21) – England – SPWAR #58 / WAGR #38

Benjamin JONES (21) – England – SPWAR #17 / WAGR #39

Matty LAMB (22) – England – SPWAR #43 / WAGR #83

Joe LONG (23) – England – SPWAR #7 / WAGR #50

John MURPHY (22) – Ireland – SPWAR #148 / WAGR #103

Tom MCKIBBIN (17) – Ireland – SPWAR #62 / WAGR #78

Joseph PAGDIN (19) – England – SPWAR #167 / WAGR #47

Mark POWER (20) – Ireland – SPWAR #33 / WAGR #32

Caolan RAFFERTY (27) – Ireland – SPWAR #49 / WAGR #26

Benjamin SCHMIDT (18) – England – SPWAR #40 / WAGR #34

Sandy SCOTT (22) – Scotland – SPWAR #97 / WAGR #8

As expected the squad is dominated by English players of whom there are ten. Ireland have contributed four, Scotland one and Wales none.

Alex Fitzpatrick, Caolan Rafferty and Sandy Scott were all members of the losing GB&I team at Royal Liverpool in 2019.

Whilst all of these players have justified their selection the Committee do appear to have given the benefit of any doubt to those with US playing experience, which makes sense for an away match, and higher WAGR rankings.

In my opinion English trio Haider Hussain SPWAR #46 (7th) / WAGR #143, Olly Huggins SPWAR #51 (9th) / WAGR #162 and Arron Edwards-Hill SPWAR #75 (14th) / WAGR #157 can consider themselves unfortunate to be overlooked for the squad.

Eight of the squad, if you include Tom McKibbin, are US-based and given the additional complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic it seems unlikely a practice / team building session will be held before the team gather in Florida. 
GB&I captain Stuart Wilson said “We have selected a talented group of players to work with in preparation for the match against the United States of America next year. We will be closely monitoring their form and results in a number of important events over the coming months while other players still have time to play their way into contention before we finalise the team which will travel to Florida. We will go to Seminole with belief in ourselves and will give it our best shot to win back the trophy.”

Given the small number of events scheduled to be played between now and when the final team will be announced in April, let alone the complications of travelling abroad to compete in many of them, it is going to take something exceptional for a player outside this initial group to break into the GB&I team.

The 48th Walker Cup match will be played at Seminole Golf Club in Florida on 8th and 9th May 2021.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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124. Sixteen Players Selected For USA 2021 Walker Cup Practice Session

24th November 2020

Sixteen players have been invited to attend a USA Walker Cup practice session on 16-18 December 2020 by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee.

The session will be overseen by captain Nathaniel Crosby and held at Bay Hill Club & Lodge and the nearby Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, both in Orlando, Florida.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The sixteen players, with their current SPWAR’s and home towns, are: –

Ricky Castillo – #13 – Yorba Linda, California
Pierceson Coody – #5 – Plano, Texas
Quade Cummins – #2 – Weatherford, Oklahoma
Cooper Dossey – #32 – Austin, Texas
Austin Eckroat – #8 – Edmond, Oklahoma
Stewart Hagestad – #64 – Newport Beach, California
Cole Hammer – #18 – Houston, Texas
McClure Meissner – #16 – San Antonio, Texas
William Mouw – #12 – Chino, California
John Pak – #9 – Scotch Plains, New Jersey
David Perkins – #14 – East Peoria, Illinois
Garett Reband – #35 – York, South Carolina
Cameron Sisk – #31 – San Diego, California
Tyler Strafaci – #6 – Davie, Florida
Davis Thompson – #3 – St. Simons Island, Georgia
Michael Thorbjornsen – #267 – Wellesley, Massachusetts

Mid-amateur Stewart Hagestad (2017-19), Cole Hammer (2017) and John Pak (2019) have all represented the USA in previous Walker Cup matches.

Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, has the highest SPWAR and there are 123 other American players above him in this particular ranking. However, he did recently reach the quarter finals of the 2020 U.S. Amateur and he does enjoy a WAGR of #32 which goes someway to explaining his inclusion.

Trey Winstead #18 in the SPWAR, Trent Phillips #21, Travis Vick #24 and Parker Coady #29, twin brother of Pierceson, can all consider themselves unlucky to miss out on an invite.

Lake Nona Golf & Country Club

Eight of the sixteen players invited are competing in the Arnold Palmer Cup, also being played at Bay Hill on 21-23 December, so the USGA is sensibly limiting travel for the invitees during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also an advantage to the visiting GB&I team as USA’s leading players will not be gaining the early look at Seminole that they may have been expecting.

Seven of the sixteen players from the 2019 Walker Cup practice session ultimately made the 10-man USA Team.

The 48th Match will be played at Seminole Golf Club, in Juno Beach, Florida on 8-9 May 2021.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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123. My Current GB&I Team And Squad With 200 Days To Go

Tuesday 20th October 2020

There are 200 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts on 8th May at Seminole GC in Florida.

So how is the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team shaping up and what opportunities to impress remain for the players before an announcement has to be made by The R&A presumably in early April ?

This was always going to be a challenging Walker Cup for the GB&I selectors given the early May start date. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse for them.

With the 2020 European amateur golf season effectively over the evidence to make an initial selection is now largely to hand so I thought I’d give the powers that be a helping hand.

_______________________________________________

Here are the ten GB&I players I would select, in order, if I had to choose the team today: –

N.B. Each player’s current SPWAR record shows only their counting performances of note.

1. Joe LONG (ENG)

Joe guaranteed himself a place in the GB&I team with his Amateur Championship win at Royal Birkdale. He has been impressive throughout the last two years and would have been a certainty for me even without his standout victory.

2. Matty LAMB (ENG)

Matty has been superb since play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur both of which enjoyed much stronger fields than normal in 2020.

3. Mark POWER (IRL)

Mark has enjoyed a great last 12 months. He transitioned to Wake Forest University and US College golf seamlessly in his freshman season. His decision to return home and travel to England for this year’s majors paid dividends enabling him to demonstrate beyond any doubt that he clearly belongs at the top table.

4. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG)

Angus stayed in the USA over the summer but whilst out of sight he certainly hasn’t been out of my mind. He seems to be loving life in Minnesota smashing it locally but also performing well in the biggest amateur events in the world.

5. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG)

Haider has arguably had as strong a set of results, admittedly without securing a win, as any GB&I amateur in 2020. His effort in travelling to Switzerland for the European Amateur was rewarded with a notable 3rd place finish.

6. Jake BOLTON (ENG)

Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has cemented his place in the upper echelons of GB&I amateurs. He performed well in the big summer events this year and his 4th place finish at the South Beach International Amateur in Miami last December is encouraging given the match will take place just up the coast.

7. Barclay BROWN (ENG)

Barclay didn’t make that big an impression on me during his freshman season at Stanford University. However, he delivered back home this summer forcing his way into my Walker Cup team with his play in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur.

8. Sandy SCOTT (SCO)

His results don’t jump out at you but Sandy was a rock in the 2019 match for GB&I at Hoylake and he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech. He also competed in the 2020 U.S. Open. With his experience he has to be in the team particularly as he also brings some welcome Scottish representation to the party.

9. Ben JONES (ENG)

In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 and played well around the subsequent year end. Whilst his results post lockdown in 2020 haven’t been as persuasive as I would have ideally liked I am staying loyal to him given his experience and overall track record.

10. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG)

Ben had an unbelievable 2019 albeit mainly in junior golf and started this year very well in Australia. This highly promising Yorkshireman has done more than enough to be included.

_______________________________________________

The other players knocking on the door and who would be included in my 20 man Squad are: –

11) Olly HUGGINS (ENG)

Olly has enjoyed a good season but needs to find a few more results to force his way into the ten man team.

12) Arron EDWARDS-HILL (ENG)

Arron is another very good player who has performed consistently well for a few years now.

13) Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL)

This Walker cup may come a bit too soon for Tom but he’s playing a lot (which I like) and as he is clearly capable of winning any tournament on his day could still easily force his way into the team.

14. Jack DYER (ENG)

Jack enjoyed an excellent summer on the British amateur circuit featuring well in nearly all of the majors as well as winning the South East of England Links.

15. Callan BARROW (ENG)

Like Jack Dyer above Callan deserves to be in the Squad in my opinion due to his current form which has elevated his status on the national stage in recent months.

16. Jack COPE (ENG)

After a long spell on the sidelines Jack has come back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy.

17. Callum FARR (ENG)

Always the bridesmaid never the bride English International Callum continues to be a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events to his name in recent years.

18. Joe PAGDIN (ENG)

I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. An excellent match play record and massive potential but needs to find his feet quickly at the University of Florida if he is to move up this list. I am sure his time will come if not this year.

19. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)

Alex was selected in 2019 but his results since the last match haven’t yet been sufficiently persuasive for me to include him in 2021. I wish he’d followed his Wake Forest teammate Mark Power home this summer and sought to earn his place out on the course.

20. John MURPHY (IRL)

Good US experience and continues to perform well for Louisville University but needs to deliver in higher class events to prove he is worthy of a place in my top 10.

Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) and James SUGRUE (IRL), who both played in 2019, are obvious absentees from the above list. I have assumed James will be turning pro once he has played in The Masters next month whilst Caolan has suffered with a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major events.

Other players to impress me this year include Sam BAIRSTOW (ENG), Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG), Mark BOUCHER (IRL) and Connor MCKINNEY (SCO) who have all stood out but don’t quite make my top 20.

_______________________________________________

Looking ahead the big unknown remains the future impact of COVID-19. Unfortunately the pandemic raises more questions than answers.

Will the match even take place and if it does, will it be behind closed doors ? Could it be postponed like the 2020 Curtis Cup match was ?

Restrictions are again tightening in many jurisdictions as we head into the higher risk winter period so how much golf will actually be played between now and the match ?

Will our leading players be able to travel to the USA for the South Beach International Amateur in Miami (December) or Jones Cup in Georgia (February) ?

Will golf union funds be available and will players be able to travel on tour to Australia and South Africa early next year as has become the norm in recent years ?

Those players attached to US Colleges will have a few events in the Fall and Spring seasons to help them make their cases with those based at home hoping the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs are staged.

There is an opportunity for some clubs to bring forward their 2021 competitions to March / early April to support the Walker Cup selection process. Perhaps The R&A needs to create a new tournament or even consider staging formal squad trials as used to happen.

I look forward to The R&A announcing their Squad in due course and to seeing how the amateur golf world pans out over the next six months.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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122. Joe Long Wins The 125th Amateur Championship

Monday 31st August 2020

Joe LONG (ENG) won the 2020 Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale G.C. yesterday beating Joe HARVEY (ENG) 4&3 in the 36 hole Final.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s Championship was postponed from June and limited to a single venue. More importantly the field was reduced from the normal 288 players to 120. The countries represented fell from 34 in 2019 to just 13 this year and 75 or 63% of the players ultimately came from Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) lowering the overall quality.

Strong winds and heavy rain on the opening day saw the stroke play qualifying reduced to 18 holes. Stroke play qualifying was introduced in 1983 and this was the first time in 37 years that The R&A have been unable to complete the full 36 holes.

Given the above it would not have been a major surprise to see an outsider pick up the title. The R&A will therefore be delighted that one of the leading amateurs in the world came through their demanding Amateur test.

img_7344

Joe Long (Photo: Richard Heathcote / The R&A / R&A via Getty Images)

Joe Long became the 51st Englishman to win the Championship following most recently in the footsteps of Harry Ellis who won at Royal St George’s in 2017.

The Lansdown G.C. member secured exemptions into the Open, Masters Tournament and US Open in 2021.

With the match starting in 250 days time in May 2021 Joe also guaranteed a place in the GB&I Walker Cup Team. His performances over the last 12 months had probably already assured him of selection so the result has in no way weakened the team.

Joe started the week in Lancashire ranked 102nd and 31st in the WAGR and SPWAR respectively so he was clearly one of the favourites for the title. Long jumped up to 65th and 5th in the WAGR and SPWAR following his victory.

In addition to runner-up Joe Harvey (ENG), Mark POWER (IRL) and Jake BOLTON (ENG), who reached the Semi-Finals, and Callan BARROW (ENG) and Barclay BROWN (ENG), who made the Quarter Finals, all raised their 2021 Walker Cup profiles.

Click here for more information on – The Amateur Championship – 2020 Preview, Reports & Results (GolfBible)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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121. Tyler Strafaci Wins The 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship

17th August 2020

Tyler STRAFACI, 22, won the 120th U.S. Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes G.C. yesterday beating Charles ‘Ollie’ OSBORNE, 20, by 1 Hole in the Final.

Along with exemptions into the 2021 U.S. Masters Tournament, the 2021 U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines and the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s (if he remains an amateur) the win also secures Strafaci a place on the USA’s 2021 Walker Cup team.

Strafaci, a rising 5th year at Georgia Tech University, has enjoyed an impressive summer winning both the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst and more recently the Palmetto Amateur.

He started the year ranked 27th in the SPWAR but has risen to 2nd by winning the amateur game’s most prestigious event. He started the week ranked 56th in the WAGR but will obviously move into the top 20 when this ranking is updated on Wednesday.

Strafaci was selected for the 16-man 2019 USA practice squad which met up at Seminole G.C. on December 14-18th 2018. However, he failed to make the final 10-man team that travelled to Hoylake.

Hailing from Davie, near Fort Lauderdale, in Florida Strafaci’s family home is a short distance from Seminole, the venue of the next May’s match.

All in all this appears a great result for the USGA and captain Nathanial Crosby who was on hand to watch the final in Oregon. Strafaci is an experienced player who has been at the top of the amateur game for a few years now, has clearly found a little extra this summer and also brings with him the added bonus of local interest (as well as prior knowledge of Seminole) to the match.

Tyler Strafaci With The Havemayer Trophy (Photo: Steve Gibbons / USGA)

With the USGA still committed to including a mid-amateur on their team Stewart HAGESTAD, 29, now also looks certain to make his third consecutive Walker Cup appearance.

Hagestad reached the Quarter Finals in Oregon losing to the eventual champion by 1 Hole.

With the 2020 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship cancelled earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic there are now few other major opportunities for mid-amateurs to shine before the USA team is confirmed in April 2021.

Hagestad has been working in finance and is about to start an MBA course at the University of Southern California. Ranked 41st on the SPWAR and a slightly inflated 15th on WAGR, even before this week’s Championship, it would be hard for anyone to dispute his potential inclusion.

Click here for more information on the – 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship – Preview, Reports & Results (GolfBible)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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120. The PGA Tour University Program Is Introduced

5th June 2020

On 1st June 2020 the PGA Tour announced its new PGA Tour University program.

The program is designed to improve the pathway for leading U.S. College golfers on to one of the PGA Tour’s satellite tours, namely the Korn Ferry Tour, Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and PGA TOUR Series – China.

A PGA Tour University Ranking is to be introduced for NCAA Division I golfers from all countries who are completing their fourth year in college.

This Ranking will be based on the World Amateur Golf Ranking methodology and will only include NCAA Division I Men’s Golf events, official PGA Tour events and Major Championship performances in the preceding two years.

Performances in other leading amateur events, such as the Western Amateur, St. Andrews Links Trophy, European Amateur or South Beach International Amateur, will not be of assistance to a player in this Ranking.

Each player will also have to compete in a minimum of nine events, including the NCAA Division I Men’s Regional Championship, during their final Senior year.

The first PGA Tour University Ranking will be unveiled prior to the 2020-21 Division I season commencing with weekly updates provided every Thursday during the season.

Starting from 2021 the leading 5 players on the the final PGA Tour University Ranking List, produced after the conclusion of the NCAA Men’s Division I Golf Championship (normally early June), will be awarded full tour membership of the Korn Ferry Tour. Players finishing 6th to 15th will be entitled to play on one of the three other International Tours. From here players will eventually hope to finish in the top 25 on the Korn Ferry Tour’s annual points list to earn promotion to the PGA Tour.It will be interesting to see how the PGA Tour University program affects players’ attitudes towards the Walker Cup and the selection of teams in the coming years.

The PGA Tour have clearly given some thought to this. Within their FAQ’s they state that if a top 15 PGA Tour University ranked player wishes to remain amateur to be considered for that year’s Walker Cup (or World Amateur Team Championship) they must declare this in writing to the PGA Tour within three days following the release of the final list. They will then be able to participate in tournaments as a non-member prior to these major amateur competitions. I assume they will be allocated order of merit points in the normal way so they are not disadvantaged by doing so. Thereafter, players will have 10 days following the conclusion of these amateur events to join the Tours they are eligible for membership of.

The emergence of a new ranking, highlighting the players that the PGA Tour considers best suited to fast tracking in to their own tournaments, may also produce a different dynamic for the two team Walker Cup selection committees, particularly the USGA, with the USA likely to have more players in the top 15 (and 25) than GB&I.

The PGA Tour University program appears to be an important new development for the elite amateur game and is therefore worth keeping an eye on with regard to its future impact on the Walker Cup.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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119. The 2020 World Amateur Team Championships Are Cancelled

6th May 2020

The International Golf Federation today announced the cancellation of the 2020 Men’s and Women’s World Amateur Team Championships.

Both events had already been moved to Singapore in February due to the social unrest in Hong Kong but have now fallen victim to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The men’s Eisenhower Trophy competition had been scheduled from October 21-24 and was due to feature up to 72 countries in a 72 hole stroke play competition.

As three-man team’s from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales would all have been competing the cancellation represents another blow to Great Britain & Ireland’s 2021 Walker Cup preparation and selection plans.

Whilst USA would also have been competing the loss is probably not as great to them as they will only miss out on blooding three of their leading players.

No one has yet suggested that the 48th Walker Cup will not be played as scheduled but with just a year to go there must now be some doubt as to whether the world will have returned to sufficient normality for the match to proceed as currently planned.

Seminole Golf Club (Photo © Carlos Amoedo)

In other news this week 2021 host venue Seminole Golf Club in Florida has agreed to stage the TaylorMade Driving Relief on 17th May. This two-man match featuring Rory McIlroy & Dustin Johnson playing Rickie Fowler & Matthew Wolff has been planned to benefit U.S. COVID-19 relief efforts.

The event will be aired live from 7-11 p.m. (BST) on Sky Sports in the UK and will give the watching public its first proper glimpse of the famed course. It’s a shame the event will steal some of the Walker Cup’s thunder in this regard but hopefully it will go some way to whetting the appetite for more next year.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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118. The 2020 St. Andrews Trophy Match Is Cancelled

22nd April 2020

The R&A and European Golf Association have announced the cancellation of the St Andrews Trophy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biennial international match between 9-man teams from Great Britain and Ireland and Continent of Europe was scheduled to take place at Royal Porthcawl on 23-24 July 2020.

The Continent of Europe were defending the St. Andrews Trophy having won it 15.5-9.5 at Linna Golf in Finland in 2018.

The match will next be played at Penati in Slovakia on 21-22 July 2022.

Royal Porthcawl G.C. (Photo: golfadvisor.com)

The cancellation, which had become inevitable in recent weeks, adds to the difficulties GB&I were already seeking to overcome in preparing for the 2021 Walker Cup match.

The Walker Cup is being contested next year at Seminole, Florida on 8-9 May so the GB&I selectors were faced with the prospect of having to choose a team without the normal benefit of having seen all of their players compete throughout the European amateur season.

The COVID-19 pandemic has now added to the challenge as it appears they are unexpectedly also going to lose out on evidence from a great deal of the 2020 season.

The copycat St. Andrews Trophy event, played in alternate years to the Walker Cup, provides an excellent early opportunity for GB&I to build team spirit and develop foursomes partnerships against top class opposition so represents a particular loss.

The 2020 St. Andrews Trophy match was also set to be Stuart Wilson’s first outing as GB&I men’s team captain.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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117. Stuart Wilson Appointed GB&I Walker Cup Captain For 2021

19th December 2019

Scotland’s Stuart WILSON (42) was today announced as the new captain of the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) men’s golf team.

Wilson is the Managing Secretary of Forfar G.C., the club he represented with distinction as a player for many years. He becomes the second GB&I captain to come from Forfar G.C., following in the footsteps of Sandy Saddler who led the team in 1977.

Stuart is married with two children.

His first match in charge will be against Continent of Europe in the St. Andrews Trophy which is being staged at Royal Porthcawl G.C. on 23-24 July 2020.

He will then captain the GB&I team against United States of America at the 48th Walker Cup match on 8-9 May 2021 at Seminole G.C. in Florida.

In all likelihood Wilson will also take in the 2022 St. Andrews Trophy before having the honour of captaining the GB&I Walker Cup team in his home country when the match returns to St. Andrews in 2023.

Stuart Wilson (Photo: carnoustiecountry.com)

The highlight of Wilson’s playing career was his victory in the 2004 Amateur Championship at St Andrews where he beat Lee Corfield 4&3 in the 36 hole final. He overcame Francesco Molinari 3&1 in the quarter finals in the same year.

A few weeks later he went on to win the low amateur Silver Medal at the Open Championship at Royal Troon when he finished tied 63rd. In his only other appearance at The Open he missed the cut at Royal Lytham & St. Annes’s in 2001 having come through qualifying.

In 2003 Wilson won the Lytham Trophy by 4-shots and was subsequently selected  for that year’s Walker Cup side at Ganton. GB&I won 12.5-11.5 with Stuart contributing two points from his four games; one and half of them coming with fellow Scotsman David Inglis in an unbeaten foursomes partnership.

A graduate of Abertay University in Dundee Wilson also represented GB&I in the Palmer Cup in 2001 and 2002, USA winning both matches.

Wilson has plenty of team captaincy experience firstly with Scotland Boys, then at the Junior Ryder Cup and most recently with GB&I Boys. However, he has found victories hard to come by to date.

USA beat Europe in both the 2012 and 2014 Junior Ryder Cup matches, firstly 14.5-9.5 at Olympia Fields C.C. and then 8-16 at Blairgowrie G.C.

In the Jacques Léglise Trophy Continent of Europe have twice beaten GB&I at home, at Ballybunion G.C. in 2017 and Aldeburgh G.C. in 2019 with Wilson’s team winning away at Kytäjä Golf, Finland in 2018.

Commenting upon his appointment Wilson said “I am very proud to be selected as the GB&I men’s team captain and look forward to leading a talented group of golfers at the St Andrews Trophy and the Walker Cup.”

“I have fond memories of my time as a player representing GB&I in these prestigious matches and I am determined to make a valuable contribution to the team as its leader and in helping the players.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on The R&A Boys’ Selection Committee and know first-hand the level of talent which is emerging. It feels like a very natural progression to be taking on this role to continue to foster these gifted amateur golfers.”

Stuart Wilson succeeds fellow Scot Craig Watson. Unfortunately for Craig he was unable to find the winning formula during his term of office.

GB&I currently hold neither the St Andrews Trophy or Walker Cup and with Continent of Europe seemingly getting stronger by the year and an away Walker Cup coming up in USA captain Nathanial Crosby’s back yard Wilson certainly has a big job on his hands. I wish him the best of luck.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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116. Nathanial Crosby Re-appointed USA Walker Cup Captain For 2021

25th October 2019

Nathaniel Crosby, who turns 58 on 29th October, has been re-appointed as captain of the USA Walker Cup team for the 2021 match which will be played at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida.

Crosby was always expected to be given the now customary second term after leading his USA team to a 15.5-10.5 away victory at Royal Liverpool G.C. last month and given the fact he lives close to and is a member of the famed Seminole club.

Upon confirming the captaincy Stuart Francis, USGA Championship Committee chairman, said “Nathaniel’s previous Walker Cup experience and guidance proved to be the right mix to lead the 2019 team to victory. Our players experienced life lessons from a true gentleman and competitor and we are excited to have him lead the team again at Seminole.”

Nathaniel Crosby (© USGA / Simon Dale)

“The 2019 Walker Cup experience was an unbelievable journey from start to finish, and I am honored to be allowed to once again guide an outstanding group of young men in 2021” said Crosby.

In an interview with the Silver Club Golfing Society Podcast on 16th September 2019, shortly after returning home from England, he spoke in more detail about the possibility of being re-appointed for 2021, saying, “It would be an incredible privilege to be picked again. I know that has been a tradition with the USGA over the last three decades. I worry about a (former) player or two who could be passed over. The funny thing about Seminole is that if you’re a Walker Cup captain you are one of ten people. I don’t even want to think about it and the possibilities at this point. It’s a definite commitment of time and effort and I don’t know how any experience could match what’s just happened for me. That being said I don’t want to take myself out of the running ! This privilege was a lifelong memory and a highlight of my life. It would be greedy to want another one.”

The 48th Walker Cup Match is scheduled for 8th – 9th May 2021 and will mark the first time that the biennial team competition will be held in the spring in the U.S.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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115. USA Win The 2019 Walker Cup 15.5-10.5

8th September 2019

RESULT: GB&I 10.5 – USA 15

A strong final day performance propelled USA to a comfortable 15.5 – 10.5 victory at Royal Liverpool G.C. in the 47th Walker Cup match.

The Americans won 10.5 out of the 14 points available on Day 2.

Throughout the first three sessions the match had been very competitive and finely balanced. It was therefore a disappointment that GB&I fell away badly coming down the home stretch and with it any chance of a grandstand finish for the large crowds was lost.

The USA Team Celebrate Their Win (Photo: GolfBible)

GB&I came into Day 2 with a promising two point advantage but after the USA had reduced that to 1-point at lunch by winning the second foursomes series 2.5 – 1.5 a rare away win seemed increasingly likely. It could have been even better for the USA with Scottish duo Euan Walker and Sandy Scott doing well to secure a half in their match.

With all 10 members of each team exposed in the final singles the additional strength in depth possessed by the USA was always likely to prove match defining.

As in Los Angeles two years ago USA won the Day 2 singles 8-2 to retain the trophy and bolster their already one sided Walker Cup record to P47 W37 L9 H1.

No USA team had won away since 2007 when the likes of Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Kyle Stanley prevailed at Royal County Down G.C. Before that USA’s previous away win was at Portmarnock in 1991 so every credit must be afforded to this class of 2019 for their achievement at Hoylake.

It was also the first time that a USA side had trailed after Day 1 and gone on to win, home or away, since 1963 at Turnberry.

After strong winds had buffeted the northwest coast of England in the build up to the match making practice more often a hindrance than a benefit the weekend turned out beautifully. Whilst GB&I lost any perceived advantage from the weather the sunny days and modest breeze added to the spectacle with around 11,000 supporters coming out to follow the match over the two days.

______________________________________________

Day 2 Foursomes – play started at 8.00am.

Conditions were again ideal. The sun was shining and the breeze modest at it’s peak.

GB&I captain Craig Watson sent out the same foursomes pairings in the same order as he had done on Day 1.

Captain Nathanial Crosby introduced Cole Hammer and Steven Fisk to the USA line up at the expense of John Pak and Isaiah Salinda, one of his two winning pairings on Day 1.

The pairing of Alex Fitzpatrick and Conor Purcell made a strong start to the opening game; birdies on the 2nd and 3rd holes giving them a 2Up advantage. Sadly having got themselves to 1Up with 5 to play they lost their way conceding three of the next four holes to effectively hand the match to the American’s.

I had great hopes for the Scottish pairing of Euan Walker and Sandy Scott so it was a disappointment to see them only collect a half point from their two foursomes games. Whilst their solid back nine and finish deserves credit, where they were 2 Down with four holes to play, they were nevertheless a little fortunate to be in a position to secure a half after their bogey ridden start.

Harry Hall and Conor Gough were drawn against Stewart Hagestad and Akshay Bhatia for the second time in foursomes. Having got the better of them yesterday the GB&I pair unfortunately gave the early initiative away and were never able to recover it despite scoring relatively well.

For the second day running the Tom Sloman and Thomas Plumb pairing played well. However, on Day 2 they were rewarded. They ran out easy 5&3 winners against Cole Hammer and Steven Fisk with an under par score.

Not Selected
Caolan Rafferty & James Sugrue (GB&I)
John Pak & Isaiah Salinda (USA)

Day 2 Foursomes Score: GB&I 1.5 – USA 2.5

By winning the session 2.5-1.5 USA had reduced GB&I’s lead to just one 1-point at lunch on the final day.

The USA had talked up their foursomes preparation before the match with long time USA team manager Robbie Zalzneck attributed the credit with focussing minds in this regard. Zalzneck, attending his ninth Walker Cup, was said to be fed up with seeing his team frequently handing GB&I a daily head start in the morning foursomes. Captain Crosby worked hard on pairings, which he retained throughout, and strategy and his team notably ended up 4.5-3.5 winners in the foursomes segment of the match.

______________________________________________

Day 2 Singles – play started at 1.15pm.

Day 2 saw a new set of games drawn save for Caolan Rafferty and Alex Smalley who played each other for a second time.

USA made their intentions clear from the start in most of the Day 2 singles matches, winning the first hole in six of the games.

Only Sandy Scott and Tom Sloman managed to secure winning points for GB&I as ultimately USA were allowed to run out convincing winners.

Isaiah Salinda beat Alex Fitzpatrick by 2 Holes in the opening match after he wore down his English opponent who had led on numerous occasions in the middle of their match.

John Pak, surprisingly left out of the morning foursomes given his play on Day 1, got the ball rolling for the USA. He beat Scotland’s Euan Walker 2&1 to secure a 100% winning match record – P3 W3. In his final amateur appearance Walker started poorly before fighting back well. However, Pak was equal to the challenge.

Sandy Scott highlighted his growing status by beating the previously unbeaten Brandon Wu 4&3. “I played very well today,” Scott said after his match, “I started well and made a few birdies and just had a rough patch in the middle but managed to hold on for the win.”

Having won his two foursomes Alex Smalley added a singles win to his Walker Cup resume on the final afternoon. Whilst Rafferty produced five birdies to keep the match competitive he was always going to struggle with eight bogeys also featuring on his scorecard.

Stewart Hagestad enjoyed a surprisingly easy 5&3 win against Harry Hall who struggled to apply any pressure to the tall Californian mid-amateur.

Andy Ogletree produced his best display of a largely disappointing competition to overcome the always combative Conor Gough who gave the U.S. Amateur champion plenty to think about. Two late birdies saw off Gough, 17 last Thursday, who clearly enjoyed playing in front of the large crowds.

John Augenstein hit the first tee shot of the match at 8.30am on Saturday and secured the trophy with his winning putt on the 15th green as he beat Thomas Plumb 4&3. “It really doesn’t matter who clinches it,” said Augenstein when interviewed afterwards, “The fact is that we’re a team and we won the Walker Cup for each other and for the United States and whoever else that we’re representing. It was really cool, and it was a special moment, but I did not know exactly that I had clinched it.”

Akshay Bhatia won his second point in three starts on Sunday against Amateur champion James Sugrue. With both players having been rested in the morning they were clearly ready to play come their 2.25pm tee time. Bhatia quickly moved in to a 4 Up lead after five holes and despite pockets of resistance from the Mallow man saw the game out with relative ease.

Cole Hammer, who looked anything but the best amateur in the world for most of the weekend, finally came good in his Sunday singles although Ireland’s Conor Purcell was far from his best in this 6&5 defeat.

Tom Sloman secured his second win of the day taking out Steven Fisk by 2 Holes. Whilst the trophy had long been won it is fair to say these two players were still giving it everything. The affable Sloman had become frustrated with the slow play of Fisk and his approach to concessions whilst Fisk was in no mood to leave Hoylake with three losses to his name. Fisk said afterwards “It’s hard to beat someone who holes everything and gets all the lucky bounces.” Having watched every shot of this game I certainly couldn’t argue with the former where the Somerset man holed putt after putt in a very impressive 8 birdie performance.

Walker Cup 2019 Score Reports (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)

Day 2 Singles Score: GB&I 2 – USA 8

Match Result: GB&I 10.5 – USA 15.5

______________________________________________

John Pak was the only player to emerge from the competition unbeaten, winning all three of his matches. 

This was clearly a team effort from the USA with nine of their ten players contributing a point.  Steven Fisk was the exception but he was unfortunate to be paired with an inspired Tom Sloman twice on Sunday.

Sandy Scott, with two wins and a half from his four matches, was the best point scorer for GB&I. Alex Fitzpatrick, Conor Gough and Tom Sloman can also be pleased with their contributions. Amateur champion James Sugrue, who played just the two singles was the only home player to leave Merseyside empty handed.

______________________________________________

“I let them just go play. They are very talented guys who believe in themselves. Their talent came to the surface. I could not be more excited for them and me – I’ve not won anything in about 38 years !” said a jubilant U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby. “These guys are inseparable and they’ve got a great memory now. This Walker Cup experience is going to be a memory, and a winning memory at that.”

Crosby stated early in the week that all of his players would play at least three games in the four session match. At every opportunity he reminded us that he had been benched twice at Royal Liverpool in 1983 by his then captain, Jay Sigel, and it was clear he didn’t want to leave any of his players feeling disappointed as he did back then despite being on a winning team.

“Obviously the boys are disappointed. It didn’t go quite to plan but they can be proud of their achievements to get in the team first of all and of their performance this weekend,” GB&I captain Craig Watson said. “I’m proud of all of them.”

“It was a tough course the way it was set up.” Watson explained (presumably forgetting that he was partially responsible for it – and if he wasn’t he should have been). “If you were ahead, early pars were enough to stay ahead because birdies were going to be few and far between, and the American boys did that very well. It’s been a fantastic week. The lads will probably learn a lot from this disappointment today.”

Signed 2019 Walker Cup Flag (Photo: GolfBible)

It is of course easy to be critical after the event. A winning captain and team inevitably receive all the plaudits whilst losing ones are always open to attack.

At the end of the day GB&I lost because they were out played in the final singles series. The USA team collectively played the better shots and holed more putts than their opponents.

That’s not to say that there aren’t lessons to be learned for The R&A selectors from this loss. Did we pick the right team – players on form with good links records ?, were our foursomes partnerships right ?, was our preparation right – we had three on site training sessions and a week of pre-match practice ?, why was our scoring generally poor ? and could / should we have set the course up differently ? are all questions that spring to mind.

Craig Watson also needs to review his own performance. This was his third match in charge of GB&I and he is yet to win one. He had previously drawn the 2016 St. Andrews Trophy match, played at Prince’s G.C., 12.5-12.5 against Continent of Europe and then suffered a record 15.5-9.5 loss in Finland in the same event in 2018.

Watson is expected to retain the GB&I captain’s role for the Seminole match in May 2021. Just like Spider Miller had to after USA’s 2015 loss at Royal Lytham he needs to reflect on what went well and what didn’t this week. Spider learned a few lessons and we saw a very different U.S. captain two years later in Los Angeles.

The difference in personality with his opposite number was stark this weekend. Watson seemed a quiet man, happier in the shadows than out front, whilst Crosby struck the bystander as a more inspirational character; somebody you would want to spend time with and play for.

Watson will in all likelihood come up against Nathaniel Crosby again but this time at the American’s home Club – that will be a much tougher assignment. I’m not looking for high fives or poetry in his speeches from the GB&I captain but perhaps a little more overt enthusiasm and leadership would help.

______________________________________________

From the USA team Akshay Bhatia, Steven Fisk, Isaiah Salinda, Alex Smalley and Brandon Wu are all turning Pro in the coming days.

Euan Walker and Tom Sloman are expected to do likewise before playing in the 2019 European Tour Qualifying School in the coming weeks. Other GB&I players are keeping their options open why they determine their own playing exemptions for 2020.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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114. GB&I Lead 7-5 After Day 1 Of The 2019 Walker Cup

7th September 2019

DAY 1 SCORE: GB&I 7 – USA 5

The opening day of the 47th Walker Cup match proved to be a positive one for the GB&I team who left Royal Liverpool G.C. pleased with their start but conscious that they had left points on the table which they may live to regret tomorrow.

Day 1 Foursomes (GB&I players first) – play started at 8.30am.

The Day 1 matches were played in near perfect conditions. The sun shone for most of the day with a gentle north westerly breeze barely affecting ball flights.

Alex Fitzpatrick and Conor Purcell delivered for GB&I in Game 1. Some outstanding putting and chipping from Purcell in particular led to a notable victory over the two recent U.S. Amateur Championship finalists.

In Game 2 John Pak and Isaiah Salinda made few mistakes in their win against the strong Scottish pairing of Sandy Scott and Euan Walker who let this game get away from them around the turn.

Without playing particularly well Harry Hall and Conor Gough were able to come through for GB&I in their match against Stewart Hagestad and Akshay Bhatia who started and finished the game poorly.

Brandon Wu and Alex Smalley played very well to overcome English pair Tom Sloman and Thomas Plumb in Game 4. The English pairing did little wrong but just came up against an inspired USA foursomes performance.

Not Selected
Caolan Rafferty & James Sugrue (GB&I)
Cole Hammer & Steven Fisk (USA)

Day 1 Foursomes Score: GB&I 2 – USA 2

______________________________________________

Day 1 Singles – play started at 1.45pm.

Alex Fitzpatrick had a notable victory against WAGR ranked world No. 1 Cole Hammer in a game of mixed quality. Hammer, who was not included in the morning foursomes, has struggled a little this summer and is clearly not at the same level as he was in 2018 when he was all conquering.

Euan Walker led Steven Fisk from the 2nd hole of their game and saw the match out but not without some nervous moments on the back nine. Again the above scorecard suggests that both players struggled on the links despite the near perfect conditions.

U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree and in form Sandy Scott played a higher quality match in game 3. The tough start to the back nine along the coastline nearly derailed the Scotsman but he battled hard down the stretch to secure his first point.

In a game of few birdies John Augenstein took some revenge for his morning foursomes loss against Conor Purcell who was unable to repeat his earlier heroics on and around the greens.

John Pak won the final two holes against James Sugrue, who had been struggling with a sore back, to steal a point that had looked like being GB&I’s for much of the afternoon. His superb approach and birdie putt on the last certainly got him and the American supporters excited. Pak’s win was certainly a late confidence builder for the U.S. party. A 7-5 overnight deficit certainly felt a lot better than the 8-4 one they appeared to be on course for.

Conor Gough secured his second win of the day with a consistent front nine and thankfully a solid par finish on the 18th after it looked like he was perhaps going to gift a half to Isaiah Salinda.

Caolan Rafferty will be pleased to pick up a win in his opening contribution. Alex Smalley didn’t appear to push him too hard and rarely looked comfortable on the greens this afternoon.

Walker Cup 2019 Score Reports (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox)

It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Tom Sloman who ended Day 1 with two losses but who arguably played better than anyone else on the GB&I team. Wu was unbeatable, completely in control of himself and his game, this afternoon. His scoring, even allowing was a conceded birdie on 12, was simply exceptional.

Not Selected
Harry Hall & Tom Plumb (GB&I)
Akshay Bhatia & Stewart Hagestad (USA)

Day 1 Singles Score: GB&I 5 – USA 3

Day 1 Final Score: GB&I 7 – USA 5

GB&I Captain Craig Watson said “It was a pretty good day. It could have been better, but we all knew the Americans were going to come back at us. I think the fact the Americans came in so close at the end could work in our advantage because we’ll be a bit more ready for the fight tomorrow. Everybody is well and looking forward to it.”

USA Captain Nathanial Crosby said: “I think we were a little slow in getting started this morning. But we fought hard to get back to all square going in to lunch. This afternoon I could not believe the amount of putts GB&I made in the first 45 minutes. I think John Pak winning his match maybe a turning point. We were pretty lucky to be 5-3 down when it looked like we could be 6-2 or even 7-1 down.”

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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113. The R&A Announces The GB&I Team For Hoylake

19th August 2019

The R&A announced their 10 man team for the 47th Walker Cup match on Monday 19th August.

The following players were selected: –

Alex FITZPATRICK (20) – Hallamshire, England
Conor GOUGH (16) – Stoke Park, England
Harry HALL (21) – West Cornwall, England
Thomas PLUMB (20) – Yeovil, England
Conor PURCELL (21) – Portmarnock, Ireland
Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Dundalk, Ireland
Sandy SCOTT (20) – Nairn, Scotland
Tom SLOMAN (22) – Taunton & Pickeridge, England
James SUGRUE (22) – Mallow, Ireland
Euan WALKER (24) – Kilmarnock (Barassie), Scotland

There are five English, 3 Irish and 2 Scottish players in the team.

Reserves
Benjamin SCHMIDT (16) – Rotherham, England
Benjamin JONES (19) – Northamptonshire County, England

GB&I captain Craig Watson said: “It has been a very difficult decision to select ten players for Great Britain and Ireland from a strong squad but we have been very impressed with the results of those we have picked and we believe they will give us the best chance of regaining the Walker Cup against a strong American team.

“The Walker Cup is a fantastic opportunity for these amateur golfers to demonstrate their talents on the big stage and it will be an experience that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. We are looking forward to the match at Hoylake and I’m sure the players will give it their very best to win.”

ME.

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112. USA Announce Their Final 7 Team Members

18th August 2019

The U.S.G.A.’s International Team Selection Committee announced the remaining members of their 2019 Walker Cup team shortly after the conclusion of play at the U.S. Amateur Championship on Sunday 18th August 2019.The following players were added to the U.S.A roster for the match at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 7-8 September 2019: –

John AUGENSTEIN (21) – U.S. Amateur runner-up
Steven FISK (22)
Andy OGLETREE (21) – U.S. Amateur champion
John PAK (20)
Isaiah SALINDA (22)
Alex SMALLEY (22)
Brandon WU (22)

They join: –

Cole HAMMER (19)
Akshay BHATIA (17)
Stewart HAGESTAD (28)

who were all selected on Wednesday 24th July 2019 based on their World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR). They were the three highest ranked U.S.A. players on that date.

Chandler PHILLIPS (22) and Ricky CASTILLO (18) are the first and second alternates respectively.

2019 U.S.A. Walker Cup Team (photo: Fox Sports / USGA TV Graphic) 

ME.

Copyright © 2014-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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111. My 2019 GB&I Walker Cup Team

18th August 2019

Here are the ten players I would select for the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) 2019 Walker Cup team.

This is not a prediction of who will be selected. It would probably be different if it was. This is simply the team I’d go for based on my observations and selection criteria.

I am conscious I have a) not attended any of the three practice sessions at Hoylake to see who has taken to the course and b) am not overly familiar with the players so don’t know too much about their personalities and potential impact in the team room. I am sure these are both factors that will influence the formal selection.

The GB&I team is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August by The R&A.

I have included three Appendices below which show my selection criteria, the performance records over the last 12 months of all of the players mentioned and finally the latest amateur rankings available to us. You may want to refer to these in reaching your own selection decisions.

Here is my GB&I team in the order I have selected them, along with five honourable mentions, as our friends in the U.S.A. like to say, to describe those who have just missed out: –

SPWAR as at 18/08/19 / WAGR as at 14/08/19

1) Euan WALKER (23) – Kilmarnock (Barassie), Scotland
SPWAR #4 / WAGR #14
Euan won the African Amateur Championship early in the year and has enjoyed a very consistent season thereafter. His runner-up spots at the Amateur Championship and European Amateur have taken him to the top of the GB&I rankings and made him my No. 1 selection.

Euan Walker (Photo: European Golf Association)

2) Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Dundalk, Ireland
SPWAR #13 / WAGR #23
Caolan has risen out of the pack in 2019 with a number of excellent results. The West of Ireland was his only win but look at the number of top 10s. He has a good links pedigree and has performed well in various match play events too.

Caolan Rafferty (Photo: Maynooth University) 

3) Tom SLOMAN (22) – Taunton & Pickeridge, England
SPWAR #27 / WAGR #35
The European Nations win at Sotogrande was the highlight of Tom’s season. He has a sound match play record and a well established foursomes partnership with Tom Plumb (see below). Current form looks good too with a strong qualification at last week’s U.S. Amateur.

Tom Sloman (Photo: England Golf / Leaderboard Photography)

4) Ben JONES (19) – Northamptonshire County, England
SPWAR #19 / WAGR #39
Ben secured his place with excellent results at The Amateur and European Amateur Championships. He is a competitive player with a good match play record. He has also won at Royal Liverpool before so should have positive memories of the host course.

Ben Jones (Photo: European Golf Association)

5) Sandy SCOTT (20) – Nairn, Scotland
SPWAR #43 / WAGR #51
Sandy took his positive finish to his U.S. college season with Texas Tech. into the summer events back in Europe. He played well in the Arnold Palmer Cup, The Amateur and the European Amateur Team Championships. An experienced international I assume he will pair up with compatriot Euan Walker in the foursomes.

Sandy Scott (Photo: texastech.com)

6) Tom PLUMB (20) – Yeovil, England
SPWAR #38 / WAGR #138
Tom won the Cape Province Open in South Africa and has enjoyed a very consistent season. He has played well in all of this summer’s links-based events too. An experienced match player his selection is supported by his long standing foursomes partnership with close friend Tom Sloman.

Tom Plumb (Photo: Pieter Els)

7) Harry HALL (21) – West Cornwall, England
SPWAR #26 / WAGR #76
Harry graduated from UNLV this year and is one of our most experienced players. He impressed in the events he came back to play in this summer with a number of high finishes. I think he deserves his amateur swan song at Hoylake although his late withdrawal from the English Amateur may come back to haunt him if his selection is tighter than I perceive.

Harry Hall (Photo: Las Vegas Review Journal)

8) James SUGRUE (22) – Mallow, Ireland
SPWAR #59 / WAGR #62
The Amateur champion enjoyed the best week of his golfing life just when it mattered most as far as 2019 Walker Cup selection is concerned. Anyone who wins The Amateur has earned their place and James brings a good links record and a solid match play record over a long period to the team.

James Sugrue (Photo: The R&A / Sam Barnes / Getty Images)

9) Jake BURNAGE (23) – Saunton, England
SPWAR #29 / WAGR #47
Jake’s win at the St. Andrews Links Trophy confirmed his credentials as one of GB&I’s best links players. Question marks over his match play record appear to have been partially answered with a recent run to the semi-finals of the English Amateur. He has been a little inconsistent this year but on his day is as good as anyone we can select. However, his non-selection for the 6-man England team at the European Team Championships suggests that one of The R&A selectors may not share my enthusiasm for him.

Jake Burnage (Photo: Burnage Family)

10) Ronan MULLARNEY (23) – Galway, Ireland
SPWAR #57 / WAGR #67
The more I have looked at Ronan’s record this summer, particularly in the major links events, the more I think he has every right to be included. He has an excellent match play record and won the Irish Close at Ballybunion just a few weeks ago so has form.

Ronan Mullarney (Photo: Pat Cashman Photography)

______________________________________________

The following players were close to being included in my team: –

11) Conor PURCELL (21) – Portmarnock, Ireland
SPWAR #22 / WAGR #16
I thought Conor was an absolute lock for the team when he won the Australian Amateur early in the season. Whilst there have been some good results, notably at the West of Ireland, the Irish Amateur Open and the European Amateur Team, the missed cuts at Lytham, the St. Andrews Links and the Amateur (played at his home club but admittedly whilst he was injured), concern me. Sadly there was no suggestion of an upturn in form at the U.S. Amateur this week either.

12) Conor GOUGH (16) – Stoke Park, England
SPWAR #242 / WAGR #2
Conor chose to concentrate on his exams this year and has therefore played a very restricted schedule. The 2018 Boys’ Amateur champion reminded us of his undoubted potential and tenacious match play skills though with his win at the English Amateur earlier this month. Worthy of consideration but lack of recent links golf and competition against GB&I peers make it hard for me to include him this time. He is our highest ranked player in the WAGR which may politically make it hard for The R&A selectors to leave him out.

13) Alex FITZPATRICK (20) – Hallamshire, England
SPWAR #54 / WAGR #41
Once Alex gained a place in the Wake Forest team he quickly found his feet, producing some notable finishes in the U.S. in 2019. I thought he would impose himself on the selectors when he returned to the U.K. this summer but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. He showed no liking for links golf missing the cut at both the St. Andrews Links and the Amateur Championship. If the match was in the U.S. one might give him the benefit of the doubt after his U.S. Amateur performances in 2018 and 2019 but unfortunately this year it isn’t.

14) Ben SCHMIDT (16) – Rotherham, England
SPWAR #114 / WAGR #8
Another excellent prospect whose win at the Brabazon Trophy was one of the highlights of the amateur year. Limited experience of men’s golf, match play and links courses stops me from throwing him in now. His time will come.

15) Josh MCMAHON (ENG) – Wallasey, England
SPWAR #126 / WAGR #149
Josh’s win at the Lytham Trophy in early May brought him in to the Walker Cup picture. Whilst it would have been nice to have local representation at Hoylake he simply hasn’t done as much over the season as the others listed above to warrant selection.

______________________________________________

Appendix 1

I have selected players who have demonstrated as many of the following characteristics to me as possible: –

1) Current form.
2) Championship wins in the last 12 months.
3) Links experience / results.
4) Match play experience / results.
5) Potential foursomes pairings.

______________________________________________

Appendix 2

Here is a summary of the results of all of the players I have considered for selection above as tabulated by both the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) and the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR):-

1) Euan WALKER (23) – Kilmarnock (Barassie), Scotland

2) Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Dundalk, Ireland

3) Tom SLOMAN (22) – Taunton & Pickeridge, England

4) Ben JONES (19) – Northamptonshire County, England

5) Sandy SCOTT (20) – Nairn, Scotland

6) Tom PLUMB (20) – Yeovil, England

7) Harry HALL (21) – West Cornwall, England

8) James SUGRUE (22) – Mallow, Ireland

9) Jake BURNAGE (23) – Saunton, England

10) Ronan MULLARNEY (23) – Galway, Ireland

______________________________________________

11) Conor PURCELL (21) – Portmarnock, Ireland

12) Conor GOUGH (16) – Stoke Park, England

13) Alex FITZPATRICK (20) – Hallamshire, England

14) Ben SCHMIDT (16) – Rotherham, England

15) Josh MCMAHON (ENG) – Wallasey, England

Appendix 3

Here are the latest GB&I amateur rankings that are available to us: –

Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (as at 18/08/19)

Click here to view the – Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking

World Amateur Golf Ranking (as at 14/08/19)

#2 Conor GOUGH (ENG)
#8 Ben SCHMIDT (ENG)
#14 Euan WALKER (SCO)
#16 Conor PURCELL (IRL)
#23 Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL)
#30 Joseph PAGDIN (ENG)
#35 Tom SLOMAN (ENG)
#39 Ben JONES (ENG)
#41 Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)
#47 Jake BURNAGE (ENG)
#51 Sandy SCOTT (SCO)
#62 James SUGRUE (IRL)
#67 Ronan MULLARNEY (IRL)
#73 Alex GLEESON (IRL)
#76 Harry HALL (ENG)
#85 Robin WILLIAMS (ENG)
#87 Mark POWER (IRL)
#88 David HAGUE (ENG)
#90 Bailey GILL (ENG)
#94 Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG)
#98 Jamie LI (ENG)
#107 Joe LONG (ENG)
#110 Charlie STRICKLAND (ENG)
#132 Billy MCKENZIE (ENG)
#136 Jake BOLTON (ENG)
#138 Tom PLUMB (ENG)

Click here to view the – World Amateur Golf Ranking

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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110. Gough And Schmidt Make Their GB&I Walker Cup Cases

5th August 2019

School’s out for summer and it’s two English school boys that have been making most of the noise since my last report.

But have either of them done enough to make the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team…..

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Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) won the English Boys’ U18 Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship for the Carris Trophy at Moor Park G.C. on 26th July.

Ben Schmidt (Photo: Schmidt Family)

Having won the Brabazon Trophy earlier this summer he became just the fourth player to win both the boys’ and men’s English Open Amateur Stroke Play titles in the same year. A remarkable achievement.

Ben’s rise to No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), which makes him GB&I’s highest ranked player, has had a number of observers understandably calling for his inclusion in our 2019 Walker Cup team.

I am still to be convinced.

I agree with his supporters that Ben has enjoyed a great season and is clearly one of Europe’s best U18 prospects. I am just not sure he is ready for the 2019 Walker Cup match or that his inclusion would necessarily be good for his development.

He justifiably should be under consideration by the selectors but I have a question mark over his lack of experience of both men’s amateur golf and elite match play games.

I also think he may have hampered his chances with his playing schedule over the critical final weeks. Indeed I wonder if his high WAGR will actually end up being his undoing.

Ben’s top 50 WAGR ranking on 26th June gained him an exemption in to the U.S. Amateur Championship which he is taking up. Play starts at Pinehurst in North Carolina on Monday 12th August.

The U.S. Amateur clashes with The R&A’s Boys’ Amateur Championship which is being played at Saunton. Ben would clearly have been one of the favourites for this title.

Ahead of this, for whatever reason, he chose not to enter last week’s English Men’s Amateur (30th July – 4th August) or take up his place in England’s team at The R&A Boys’ Home Internationals which start tomorrow in South Wales and finishes on Thursday 8th August.

Good performances at one or even both of these events – along with the Boys’ Amateur instead of the U.S. Amateur – could have easily pushed him over the line.

As it is all of his eggs are now in the U.S. Amateur Championship basket. Only time will tell if this strategy proves to be a successful one. If he makes the match play stage and can win a few games he will deserve his place in our team.

If Ben is selected he will probably become the first player to receive the honour without ever having played in any R&A Championship or selected GB&I team beforehand. His rise has been that meteoric.

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In many ways Conor GOUGH was last year’s Ben SCHMIDT. A string of wins albeit exclusively at the boys’ level. The main one of course being the prestigious Boys’ Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

Conor was selected for the original GB&I Walker Cup squad but due to focussing on his exams played none of the major amateur events during May and June. As a result it was no surprise to see him left out of the reduced 16-man squad a few weeks ago.

Like Schmidt Conor also received a WAGR generated exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship on 26th June. However, and I accept their circumstances were different, Conor chose to play the English Men’s Amateur and will be participating in the Boys’ Home Internationals before travelling to the United States.

In a stunning performance Gough won the English Men’s Amateur beating Callum Farr 3&2 in the Final at Hankley Common. On the way to the final he beat Jamie Li, Joshua McMahon, Curtis Knipes and Jake Burnage, once again highlighting his match play pedigree.

Conor Gough (Photo: Leaderboard Photography) 

This win inevitably brings Conor back to the table for GB&I Walker Cup selection.

Another major match play victory by the Englishman within two weeks of the 2019 selection date is hugely persuasive.

However, as you will see below I am not yet ready to add him into my team. As Aristotle said ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ and I need to see more.  However, if he does well this week at Ashburnham and shows up at the U.S. Amateur Championship he could very easily force his way in to the final line up.

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Conor Gough was clearly the star of the show at the English Men’s Amateur but in the context of the Walker Cup perhaps the real winner was fellow Englishman Jake BURNAGE.

Eight of the ten English members of the 16-man Walker Cup squad competed in what was, at least for me, an unofficial Walker Cup eliminator. It is after all a large group of English players that are in effect competing for the five remaining places.

Burnage ended up being the leading player out of the eight. Playing under some pressure he reached the Semi-Finals, winning four match play games, having also qualified well in 9th on 138 (-3). It was just the result the Devonian needed having already placed the St. Andrews Links Trophy on his C.V. in June.

The other squad players, some of whom really needed to move the dial to make the team, to differing degrees simply didn’t get it done – Tom SLOMAN (SP 37th / MP Rd4), Joshua MCMAHON (SP 45th / MP Rd4) Alex FITZPATRICK (SP 5th / MP Rd3), Matty LAMB (SP 24th / MP Rd3), Tom PLUMB (SP 7th / MP Rd2), Bailey GILL (SP 69th / MP Rd2) and David LANGLEY (SP MC).

Of the two missing players Harry HALL withdrew a week before to return to Las Vegas and I believe will not be playing again before the team is selected. Ben JONES chose to play in the Western Amateur Championship and will stay in the States before playing in the U.S. Amateur.

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Archie DAVIES, an original GB&I Walker Cup squad member, won the Welsh Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) last week at Tenby G.C.

Unfortunately in the context of this year’s Walker Cup selection this win is unlikely to bring Archie back into the discussion. He is another good young player who has every chance of making future teams though.


Runner Up Connor Jones (l) and Champion Archie Davies (r) Photo: Steve Jones)

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The Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) was also played last week and the Irish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) started yesterday at Ballybunion.

Unfortunately none of the remaining Scottish or Irish Walker Cup panelists – Sandy SCOTT,  Euan WALKER, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL, Caolan RAFFERTY and James SUGRUE – entered so it is hard to see how these Championships will impact the Walker Cup selection.

George BURNS beat Lewis IRVINE in the final of the Scottish Amateur on their 19th hole at Crail Golfing Society.

With the exception of Power, the other three Irish lads are playing in the U.S. Amateur next week and therefore were unable to enter due to the clashing dates.

7th August Update
Ronan MULLARNEY, who also won the stroke play qualifying by 6-shots, beat Rob BRAZILL in the final of the Irish Amateur by 1 hole at Ballybunion G.C.

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The previous week also saw the playing of the South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch G.C. (on the 24th-28th July).

Five Irish Walker Cup panelists, four of whom attended the practice session at Hoylake which clashed with the Stroke Play Qualifying, were given byes into the Match Play competition.

Unfortunately all of them struggled to make much of an impression. John MURPHY reached the Quarter Finals but James SUGRUE, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL and Caolan RAFFERTY all lost their Round 2 matches.

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Two weeks today, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship has concluded, I believe the GB&I Walker Cup squad will be announced.

Here are my current thoughts on the team and likely foursomes pairings as at 5th August: –

Euan WALKER (24) – Scotland
Sandy SCOTT (20) – Scotland

Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Ireland
Conor PURCELL (21) – Ireland
James SUGRUE (22) – Ireland [Amateur Champion – Automatic Selection]

Tom SLOMAN (22) – England
Thomas PLUMB (20) – England

Harry HALL (21) – England
Ben JONES (19) – England
Jake BURNAGE (24) – England

In summary I am sticking with the ten players I selected on 14th July in my article ‘107. Learnings From The European Team Championships’.

SCHMIDT and GOUGH in particular are knocking on the door after their recent wins but I am struggling to see who I would take out to accommodate them at the moment.

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It is of course never over till it’s over……

A handful of major events are still available to the players to impress the selectors over the next two weeks. Here is a list off the four I will be focussing on:-

Boys’ Home Internationals (6-8 August)
Conor GOUGH, Joe PAGDIN

Boys’ Amateur Championship (13-18 August)
Joe PAGDIN

U.S. Amateur Championship (12-18 August)
Alex FITZPATRICK, Conor GOUGH, Ben JONES, Conor PURCELL, Caolan RAFFERTY, Ben SCHMIDT, Sandy SCOTT, Tom SLOMAN, James SUGRUE, Euan WALKER.

Welsh Amateur Open Stroke Play Championship (16-18 August)
Bailey GILL, Matty LAMB, David LANGLEY, Josh MCMAHON

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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109. USA Selects First 3 Players For 2019 Walker Cup Team

24th July 2019

Cole HAMMER (aged 19), Akshay BHATIA (17) and Stewart HAGESTAD (28) have today earned berths on the 2019 U.S.A. Walker Cup team.

In July 2018 the USGA announced that with regard to the 2019 U.S.A. Walker Cup team three players would be selected earlier than normal based on the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR).

On 2nd July 2019 the USGA tweeted that they would be using the WAGR update as at today for this purpose.

The WAGR has ranked Cole Hammer 1st, Akshay Bhatia 4th and Stewart Hagestad 5th today and they are the three leading U.S. players on the list.

My views on the accuracy of the WAGR are well known and as such I am not convinced that this was a sensible idea by the USGA. Yes, by all means announce some players early but don’t use the WAGR (alone) to determine who they are would have been my advice.

All three players attended the December 2018 USGA practice session in Florida so were clearly in the mix already.

As an advocate of the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) my immediate response to these selections is to view where these players sit in this alternative and better ranking, particularly in the U.S. players-only list. Here is the answer (as at 12 noon on 24th July): –

Cole Hammer #2 (1st in the U.S.A.)
Akshay Bhatia #67 (37th in the U.S.A.)
Stewart Hagestad #33 (16th in the U.S.A.)

Whilst I would certainly not suggest that either Bhatia or Hagestad are weak players I imagine many of their peers, certainly those ranked well above them in the SPWAR, are questioning what is going on however transparent the policy may have been.

Stewart Hagestad is of course a mid-amateur and therefore his early inclusion fulfils the USGA’s commitment to include one player aged over 25 on the U.S.A. team.

The seven remaining players will be selected by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee on or shortly after 18th August 2019, the day the U.S. Amateur Championship finishes.

The Committee will gain additional selections if one of the above three players wins the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship or wins the 2019 Mark H. McCormack Medal winner (Men’s WAGR No. 1). Should another U.S. player secure either of these honours they will be automatically selected to the team.

The 47th Walker Cup match will take place at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 7th-8th September 2019.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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108. GB&I Squad Reduced To 16 For Latest Practice Session

23rd July 2019

The R&A today formally announced a revised GB&I squad of 16 players for September’s Walker Cup match against USA.

The players selected are:-
Jake BURNAGE, Saunton, 23
Alex FITZPATRICK, Hallamshire, 20
Bailey GILL, Lindrick, 21
Harry HALL, West Cornwall, 21
Benjamin JONES, Northamptonshire County, 19
Matty LAMB, Hexham, 21
David LANGLEY, Castle Royle, 25
Joshua MCMAHON, Wallasey, 23
Thomas PLUMB, Yeovil, 20
Mark POWER, Kilkenny, 18
Conor PURCELL, Portmarnock, 21
Caolan RAFFERTY, Dundalk, 26
Sandy SCOTT, Nairn, 20
Tom SLOMAN, Taunton & Pickeridge, 22
James SUGRUE, Mallow, 22
Euan WALKER, Kilmarnock (Barassie), 24

The players were invited to attend a practice session taking place today and tomorrow on Monday 15th July following a selection meeting immediately following the European Men’s and Boys’ Team Championships.

The Squad Practicing Today At Hoylake (Photo: Royal Liverpool G.C.)

There are 10 players from England, 4 from Ireland, 2 from Scotland and 0 from Wales.

This new squad includes three players not included in the initial panel of 26 selected in April; namely Matty LAMB, David LANGLEY and Joshua MCMAHON.

GB&I captain Craig Watson said “We have monitored results of the players originally selected since we last got together as a squad, while also keeping an eye on the performances of other players not included. We have brought in three new players who have had encouraging results in recent events and we look forward to working with them and the other players when we meet up at Royal Liverpool this week.”

The following 13 players have in effect been dropped from the squad –
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Archie DAVIES – Wales
Conor GOUGH – England
David HAGUE – England
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
John MURPHY – Ireland
Joseph PAGDIN – England
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Robin WILLIAMS – England

It is hard to argue with this new squad selection particularly as it was made before Joe PAGDIN‘s run to the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship semi-finals last week.

No one can be written off yet but the probability is the final 10-man GB&I team will come from these newly selected 16 players.

When I picked my latest squad on 14th July (107. Learnings From The European Team Championships ) I also reduced it to 16 players and included all of the above players except for Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick. I chose Ben HUTCHINSON and Ben SCHMIDT instead, although I did acknowledge Schmidt had entered the Carris Trophy at Moor Park and therefore would probably be replaced by Fitzpatrick.

The only sour note is the timing of this latest practice session even accepting the packed amateur golf calendar at this time of year. The South of Ireland Amateur Championship has had to issue byes to the match play stage for the Irish players who are competing at Lahinch this week and the Walton Heath Trophy has had to accept the late withdrawals of Messrs. Langley, Plumb and Sloman from its field.

I think we have the makings of a very competitive Walker Cup team and am increasingly looking forward to this being tested in 6 weeks time.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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