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.

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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

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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

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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…..

____________________________________________

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.

____________________________________________

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.

____________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________

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)

_________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________

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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107. Learnings From The European Team Championships

14th July 2019

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the Men’s and Boys’ European Team Championships played respectively in Sweden and France.

Both Championships combined 36 holes of stroke play qualifying with three rounds of match play, including foursomes and singles.

Men’s

ENGLAND finished 2nd, disappointingly losing in the Final for the third year running, this time to host’s Sweden. In what proved to be a good Championship for the home nations SCOTLAND finished 3rd, IRELAND 5th and WALES a very creditable 6th.

Here’s my assessment of the individual GB&I men’s team performances. You will appreciate this is an art not a science but I am confident the list is broadly correct.

Euan WALKER (SCO) continued to enjoy his rich vein of form, winning the stroke play qualifying easily and playing relatively well in the match play stage. If he had won all of his match play games he may well have risen to No. 1 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking; as it is he has stayed in 4th but the gap has been closed.

I have been bullish about Sandy SCOTT (SCO) for the Walker Cup for some time on the back of his strong play for Texas Tech in the U.S. this season. Sandy performed very well in Sweden fully justifying my faith in him. It’s a shame that Scotland’s needs meant he and Euan Walker couldn’t be paired together in the foursomes this week.

Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Tom PLUMB (ENG) both qualified well and won all three of their foursomes games together. Their selection and pairing looks a certainty to me now.

From an Irish perspective Conor PURCELL presented a welcome return to form right on cue and Caolan RAFFERTY ticked along nicely, albeit his match play results were disappointing. However, Mark POWER (IRE) is the player that really grasped the opportunity presented by this event. A solid qualification was followed by singles wins (playing at No. 2) over John Axelsen DEN (4&3), Maximillian Hermann GER (20th) and Jacob Davies WAL (19th).

Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO), Gaelen TREW (WAL) and Harry HALL (ENG) also won all three of their singles in Sweden. Interestingly they all qualified poorly over the opening two days but clearly found something as the week progressed. In the context of the Walker Cup the wins were particularly useful for Hall.

For the record Trew, playing No. 1 for Wales, impressively beat Ben Jones ENG (1 Hole), Alejandro Del Ray ESP (1 Hole) and Conor Purcell IRE (4&3).

Ben JONES ENG, who had played so well at the Amateur Championship a few weeks ago, qualified strongly but lost his way in the match play stage losing all three of his games.

From a Walker Cup perspective it would have been good to see Hall and Jones given a foursomes run out at some point as they are both strong candidates for selection and this is therefore a possible pairing.

Alex FITZPATRICK ENG followed a similar path to Jones, qualifying well before losing all three of his singles, albeit each by the slender margin of 1 Hole.

In addition to Trew Ben CHAMBERLAIN was the standout for Wales, qualifying in 10th and enjoying a good win over Ronan Mullarney on the final day.

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The European Men’s Amateur Team Championship – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results

Boys’

Only IRELAND and ENGLAND played in the European Boys Team Championship in Chantilly, France. Ireland finished 4th and England 5th as France took the title.

SCOTLAND and WALES played in the Division 2 Championship in Poland.

Here’s my assessment of the individual GB&I boys’ Division 1 team performances.

Joe PAGDIN (ENG), Max HOPKINS (ENG), Tom MCKIBBIN (IRE) and Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) were the standout performers for me in the Boys’ Team Championship.

Pagdin, who won all four of his games in last week’s AJGA Wyndham Cup in North Carolina, continues to show encouraging match play form. If he had held on to his lead over the final holes of his Round 2 match against Tom Sloman in The Amateur I may be talking him up even more now.

Pagdin and McKibbin both fly to the USA today for this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur. They will need to go deep, as will Ben Schmidt in the U.S. Amateur in August, to have a chance of making the GB&I Walker Cup team.

Pagdin and McKibbin also have the opportunity to make a late Walker Cup case in the Boys’ Amateur Championship being played at Saunton G.C. in August. Both played well in this event last year at Royal Portrush G.C.

The Boys’ event clashes with the U.S. Amateur which is why Schmidt won’t be in Devon. Indeed it is possible that Pagdin may also be a late qualifier for the U.S. Amateur having now moved into the World Amateur Golf Ranking Top 50.

All three are of an age and have the potential to play multiple Walker Cup’s for GB&I but the 2019 match now looks like coming too soon for them.

____________________________________________

The GB&I selectors will be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad this weekend with an announcement expected tomorrow.

The next squad training gathering is being held at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 23-24 July.

If the decision was mine I would select 16 players giving me 8 foursomes pairings to work with at Hoylake.

Here are my current thoughts on the team / squad and pairings (all in selection order): –

Team (as at 14th July)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland

Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Conor PURCELL – Ireland

Tom SLOMAN – England
Thomas PLUMB – England

Harry HALL – England
Ben JONES – England

James SUGRUE – Ireland [Amateur Champion – Automatic Selection]
Jake BURNAGE – England

Other Squad Players
David LANGLEY – England NEW
Josh MCMAHON – England NEW
Mark POWER – Ireland
Bailey GILL – England
Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW
Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW [Training session clashes with U18 Carris Trophy]

Since my last squad selection I have taken out Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick and added Mark Power to the second group solely based on their performances at the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship.

Dropped From Original Squad
Alex FITZPATRICK – England [Training Session replacement for Schmidt ?]
Joseph PAGDIN – England
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
David HAGUE – England
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Robin WILLIAMS – England
John MURPHY – Ireland
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Archie DAVIES – Wales
Conor GOUGH – England

The final group of players, for a variety of reasons, simply haven’t done enough to stay in my Walker Cup squad.

The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, The Open Championship, The English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh (Closed) Amateur Championships, The Boys’ Amateur Championship and The U.S. Amateur are now the only events left that can influence the GB&I team selection which is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August.

ME.

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

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106. Europe – The Final Walker Cup Countdown

29th June 2019

This week has seen the European Amateur Championship played in Austria and also confirmation of the team selections for the European Men’s Amateur Team Championships which will be played in Sweden next month.

Below are my observations on both of these important matters with regard to the Walker Cup and my latest views on how the Walker Cup squad is shaping up.

____________________________________________

Matthias SCHMID (GER) won the European Amateur Championship at Diamond C.C. in Austria today. Rounds of 67, 73, a best of the week 63 and 70 took him to a 273 (-15) total and a comfortable 3 shot victory. The win brings with it an exemption into the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush G.C.

Matthias Schmid (Photo: European Golf Association)

Euan WALKER (SCO), bouncing back from his disappointment at The Amateur and confirming his status as Great Britain & Ireland’s (GB&I) No. 1 player, finished 2nd on -12. A final round 66 (-6) being the highlight of his week’s work.

Ben JONES (ENG) 68 and Joe LONG (ENG) 74 finished the Championship on -9 tied for 3rd place. Jones has come through strongly in recent weeks.

It was also another good week for Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) 69 who finished tied 6th on -8. Caolan seems to have played well all year.

Lytham Trophy winner Josh MCMAHON (ENG) -5 finished tied 13th which may be just what was required to help push him in to the next GB&I Walker Cup squad.

Harry HALL (ENG) will be disappointed with his tied 16th finish on -4. After a superb front nine of 31 (-5) today he looked like pushing Schmid all the way home but sadly a returning 43 (+7) destroyed much of his excellent work over the preceding three and half days. Hall has played very well since returning from Las Vegas in May.

The ever consistent David LANGLEY (ENG) was seventh and the last GB&I player to finish in the top 20 in Austria.

Here are the final results.

fullsizeoutput_37f2

European Amateur Championship Leading Results (Photo: EGA / Golfbox)

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The European Amateur Championship – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results

Here are the top 30 GB&I players in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR), updated today with the European Amateur Championship results: –

 ____________________________________________

Prior to the European Amateur Championship starting on Wednesday the home nations all had to confirm their teams for the 2019 European Men’s Amateur Team Championship.

This event will be played at Ljunghusen G.C. in Sweden on Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 July.

Ljunghusen is a heathland links course located on the Falsterbo Peninsula, south of Malmö.

16 teams, each consisting of 6 players, will be participating.

The first two days involve a stroke play qualifying competition with each team’s best five scores counting. Once completed the leading 8 teams contest the Championship match play whilst the bottom 8 play a separate second match play flight.

Ljunghusen G.C. (Photo: GEO Foundation / sustainable.golf)

In a Walker Cup year the home nation teams for this event are an important indicator as to where selectors mind’s are.

At the end of the day if you can’t make you own country’s 6-man team 6 weeks before the Walker Cup team selection then the message is fairly clear – you still have work to do to have a chance of playing for GB&I.

Team inclusion also provides the players with a unique opportunity to play foursomes and singles match play golf against the best players in Europe and potentially against their direct cometition for Walker Cup places.

Here are the home nation teams all of which had to be submitted by Wednesday 26th June and were therefore selected before the start of the European Amateur which finished today in Austria: –

Each player’s SPWAR as at 26th June 2019 – before the European Amateur – is in brackets after their name

ENGLAND
Alex FITZPATRICK (#65)
Harry HALL (#26)
Ben JONES (#28)
Matty LAMB (#69)
Tom PLUMB (#30)
Tom SLOMAN (#31)

At the time of selection England had 11 players in the top 100 of the SPWAR so picking a team was never going to be easy.

[There are now 13 English players in the updated top 100 – see SPWAR table above]

Jake Burnage (#29), winner of the St. Andrews Links Trophy, David Langley (#39), Bailey Gill (#45), a member of the winning England team at the European Nations in April, Ben Hutchinson (#55), Ben Schmidt (#92), winner of the Brabazon Trophy and selected for the Boys’ event which is played concurrently, Angus Flanagan (#127) and Josh McMahon (#133), winner of the Lytham Trophy could all make a case for being unlucky here based on either recent wins or form.

Looking at the SPWAR, and I accept rankings are not everything, Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick appear to be the two debatable names in the England team. To be fair to Lamb he has enjoyed a good June, just missing out on the St. Andrews Links title and progressing to the Last 16 of The Amateur. Unfortunately at this moment in time a selection on form can’t really be used to support Fitzpatrick, a player of great promise but one whose results haven’t really matched this recently. After a good finish to his U.S. college season with Wake Forest he chose not to play in the Brabazon Trophy (accepting the very tight scheduling), missed the cut at St. Andrews and then The Amateur and then withdrew (for reasons admittedly I don’t know) from the European Amateur.

IRELAND
Tiarnan MCLARNAN (#101)
Ronan MULLARNEY (#49)
Mark POWER (#204)
Conor PURCELL (#14)
Caolan RAFFERTY (#12)
James SUGRUE (#42)

John Murphy (#140) and Rowan Lester (#166) are ranked higher than Mark Power, who has been in exam mode for the last month, but neither have done enough to make a persuasive case since returning from their U.S. colleges in May. Tom McKibbin (#211) may have been a consideration but like Schmidt for England he has been selected for the Boys Team Championship.

SCOTLAND
Ryan LUMSDEN (#171)
Euan MCINTOSH (#169)
Sandy SCOTT (#36)
Jamie STEWART (#265)
Euan WALKER (#7)
James WILSON (#105)

Connor Mckinney (#191) is also highly ranked and I assume is being sent to the Boys’ event for which I think he still qualifies.

WALES
Ben CHAMBERLAIN (#402)
Archie DAVIES (#1,393)
Jacob DAVIES (#559)
Jake HAPGOOD (#266)
Matt ROBERTS (#947)
Gaelen TREW (#401)

Tom Froom (#1,032), Lewis Sanges (#1,149), Tom Williams (#1,195), Paddy Mullins (#1,257), Kieron Harmon (#1,351) and Oly Brown (#1,381) would have been discussed but the Welsh team is as most would have expected.

_________________________________________

The GB&I selectors will be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad after the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship for a training gathering to be held at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 23-24 July.

Here is my slightly revised assessment of how the original 26, and other players who have emerged over the last two months, currently fare with regard to this next selection. I now have the European Amateur Championship results and European Team Championship selections to hand which are obviously helpful.

I have listed all of the players in order of how I see their current form / Squad selection: –

Current Team (if picked on 29th June)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Harry HALL – England
James SUGRUE – Ireland
Ben JONES – England
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland
Thomas PLUMB – England
Tom SLOMAN – England
Conor PURCELL – Ireland
Jake BURNAGE – England

England Golf’s decision to leave Jake Burnage out of their team is obviously not a vote of confidence from Mr. Edwards – who certainly knows what he is doing and is perhaps rightly focussing on match play records – but for me his win at St. Andrews and links pedigree keep him in my team. Conor Purcell‘s form is also a bit of a concern and he ideally needs to regain it quickly if my early confidence in his selection is to be borne out.

A few players below are pushing hard for consideration.

July Squad Member
David LANGLEY – England NEW
Josh MCMAHON – England NEW
Bailey GILL – England
Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW
Matty LAMB – England NEW
Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW
Ronan MULLARNEY – Ireland NEW
Alex FITZPATRICK – England

I have pushed the experienced David Langley for some time now impressed by his consistent displays almost every week. Josh McMahon was unlucky not to be included in my July Squad earlier this week given his outstanding Lytham Trophy win. Today’s top 15 result at the European Amateur provides additional weight to his inclusion so I have added him.

My July squad is going to be England heavy but I believe this reflects recent results and form. The time for token selection gestures is over and we are now down to the serious business of finalising a team.

Dropped From Squad
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
Robin WILLIAMS – England
David HAGUE – England
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Joseph PAGDIN – England
John MURPHY – Ireland
Mark POWER – Ireland
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Conor GOUGH – England
Archie DAVIES – Wales

The final group of players, for a variety of reasons, simply haven’t done enough to stay in my Walker Cup squad assuming it is reduced to manageable numbers, which I have chosen to be 18.

The good or bad news for everyone, depending on where they sit, is I am not a selector and am simply expressing my own personal views.

ME.

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

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105. James Sugrue Wins The Amateur Championship

27th June 2019

James SUGRUE (22) won the 124th Amateur Championship at Portmarnock G.C. last Saturday, becoming the 8th Irish winner in the process.

He beat Scotland’s Euan WALKER (23) by 2 Holes in a Final which went the full 36 holes.

Sugrue (22) made a dream start leading by 5Up after the opening nine holes. Walker then settled into the match and set about whittling down the lead he had partially gifted his opponent. He had reduced the deficit to 3Down by lunch and finally achieved parity on the 34th hole of the match. Inexplicably he then played two poor holes allowing the steadier Irishman to collect the Championship trophy in front of a large group of delighted home supporters.

Speaking to The R&A afterwards Sugrue said “It is hard to believe really. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Just to think about this win is unbelievable. Everything that comes with the win and all the crowds that were out there, it’s incredible.”

On his run to the final James also beat Harry Hall (2 Holes), Christopher Palsson (1 Hole), Sergio Parriego Cornejo (5&3), Koen Kouwenaar (19th) and David Micheluzzi (3&1).

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

The big hitting Corkman who plays his golf at Mallow now becomes exempt for The Open Championship, U.S. Amateur, The Masters and U.S. Open over the next 12 months.

He is now also assured of a place in the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team which will face USA at Royal Liverpool G.C. in September.

This win lifted him to 43rd in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and 68th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Sugrue was already a member of the 2019 GB&I Walker Cup initial squad and was enjoying a steady season posting a number of top 20 finishes. His previous biggest win was the 2017 South of Ireland Amateur played at Lahinch G.C. James should be a good addition to the team as he is strong links player and has a good match play record.

In addition to the finalists, Sugrue and Walker, a number of other players did well at Portmarnock.

Tom PLUMB ENG (-4) was medalist in The Amateur’s Stroke Play Qualifying competition. Sandy SCOTT SCO (-3) finished 3rd, Harry HALL ENG (-2) tied 4th, Caolan RAFFERTY IRE, David LANGLEY ENG and Jake BOLTON ENG (all -1) T6 and Eanna GRIFFIN IRE and Joe PAGDIN ENG (both Ev) tied 11th.

In the Match Play stage Ben JONES ENG reached the Semi-Finals, Sandy SCOTT SCO and Ronan MULLARNEY IRE the Quarter Finals and Matty LAMB ENG and Bailey GILL ENG the Last 16.

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The Amateur Championship – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results

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Recent Brabazon Trophy winner Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) continued his good form by picking up the Boys’ Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters title at Nizels G.&C.C.

Ben posted rounds of 66, 71, 71 and 70 for a 278 (-10) total and a 5-shot victory over fellow English prospect Max HOPKINS.

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Regional Qualifying for the 148th Open Championship took place on Monday 24th June at 13 venues across GB&I.

9 of the 13 competitions were won by amateur players with a total of 50 amateurs progressing to Final Qualifying on the day. More earned Reserve status and will follow as the four fields are finalised in the coming days.

Here are a list of some of the more notable qualifiers in the context of the Walker Cup: –

Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) – 1st 68 -3 at Alwoodley
Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) – T3 70 -1 at Alwoodley
Kieran CANTLEY (SCO) – 1st 65 -7 at Berwick-upon-Tweed
Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) – T1 65 -7 at Burhill
Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) – 4th 67 -5 at Burhill
Tom MCKIBBIN (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth
Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth
Tom PLUMB (ENG) – T8 70 -2 at Frilford Heath
Jake BURNAGE (ENG) – 1st 65 -7 at Minchinhampton

Other amateurs have exemptions into Final Qualifying so I anticipate there being well over 60 players to follow next Tuesday.

There is more information on the amateurs at Regional and Final Qualifying on my Golf Bible website.

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The GB&I selectors will shortly be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad for the next training gathering at Royal Liverpool G.C.

Here is my assessment of how the original 26 and other players who have emerged over the last two months will fare when the announcement is presumably made next week. In my defence I don’t have the results of the European Amateur Championship which finishes on Saturday to help me.

I have listed the players as I see their current form and my selection order: –

Current Team (if picked today)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Harry HALL – England
James SUGRUE – Ireland
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland
Conor PURCELL – Ireland
Thomas PLUMB – England
Ben JONES – England
Jake BURNAGE – England
Tom SLOMAN – England

July Squad Member
Bailey GILL – England
Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW
Matty LAMB – England NEW
Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW
David LANGLEY – England NEW
Ronan MULLARNEY – Ireland NEW
Alex FITZPATRICK – England

Dropped From Squad
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
Robin WILLIAMS – England
David HAGUE – England
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Joseph PAGDIN – England
John MURPHY – Ireland
Mark POWER – Ireland
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Conor GOUGH – England
Archie DAVIES – Wales

ME.

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

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103. Jake Burnage Wins The St. Andrews Links Trophy

11th June 2019

The St. Andrews Links Trophy must be considered one of the main selection events in any home Walker Cup year.

With 72 holes of championship links golf, one of the strongest amateur fields and played just three months before the match it’s hard to think of too many better opportunities for Great Britain & Ireland’s (GB&I) leading players to state their case.

23 year old Jake BURNAGE (ENG) was this year’s champion and given the above is now very likely to make the GB&I team in September.

His 268 -20 total over 18 holes on the Jubilee (69) and 54 holes on the Old (64, 66 and 69) as well as the nature of his win, clawing back a 6-shot deficit on the final day, required all of his determination, experience and skill.

Jake Burnage (Photo: Burnage Family)

A member of Saunton G.C. in Devon Jake is unsurprisingly a links specialist but has also proven on more than one occasion in recent years that when he’s ‘on his game’ he can compete with anyone, anywhere.

This win lifted him to 30th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking which tells us this was no isolated performance either. His resumé includes winning the Walton Heath Trophy in 2017, being medalist at the Spanish International Amateur in 2018, finishing tied 3rd at the St. Andrews Links Trophy last year and impressively coming in 3rd at the South Beach International Amateur in Miami last December.

He is already a member of the 2019 GB&I Walker Cup initial squad and won the stableford competion played at Royal Liverpool G.C. during the last gathering in May.

Jake was obviously not the only player to make an impression in Fife. Some moved into the picture for the first time whilst others cemented their existing positions further.

Matty LAMB (ENG) -19 finished 2nd, Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) -17 3rd, James WILSON (SCO) & Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) -13 tied 4th and Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) -12 6th. I have previously extolled the virtues of Rafferty but the others will also have done their chances no harm in such a prestigious event.

Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) & Thomas PLUMB (ENG) -11 tied 7th, Bailey GILL (ENG) & David LANGLEY (ENG) -10 tied 12th and David HAGUE (ENG) -9 was 15th.

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The St. Andrews Links Trophy – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results 

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Whilst the St. Andrews Links Trophy was being played Sandy SCOTT (SCO) was in action for the International Team in the Arnold Palmer Cup match against USA.

Scott finished with a W2 H1 L1 record to help the Internationals win 33.5 – 26.5 at The Alotian G.C. in Arkansas.

His two wins came in the Mixed Fourball and Mixed Foursomes on Day 1 when he had the good fortune to be paired with Ireland’s Julie McCarthy who has been in very good form for Auburn in 2018/19. He halved his Singles against Will Grimmer (SPWAR #60) on the final day.

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Tom PLUMB (ENG) won the South West Counties Amateur Championship at Parkstone G.C. today, posting two 66’s for a -12 total.

The South West is currently one of England’s strongest counties with Somerset teammate Tom SLOMAN (ENG) -6 tied 2nd and Jake BURNAGE (ENG) Ev tied 18th amongst a number of notable players in the field.

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Accepting that the Amateur Championship will probably change the pecking order again (and my own thoughts with it) here’s my current team and some possible foursomes pairings: –

Conor PURCELL (IRE) and Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE)

Euan WALKER (SCO) and Sandy SCOTT (SCO)

Jake BURNAGE (ENG) and Harry HALL (ENG)

Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Tom PLUMB (ENG)

Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) and David LANGLEY (ENG)

For me Bailey GILL (ENG), Ben JONES (ENG), Josh MCMAHON (ENG), Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG), Matty LAMB (ENG), Ronan MULLARNEY (IRE) and Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) are now banging on the door and a good result next week from any of them would put pressure on some of the group I have chosen above.

ME.

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

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102. Ben Schmidt Wins The Brabazon Trophy

5th June 2019

Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) won the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship, played for the Brabazon Trophy, last weekend at Alwoodley G.C.

IMG_0881

The Schmidt Family (© Yorkshire Golf / Jonathan Plaxton)

The 16 year old from Rotherham G.C. played some great golf to post four under par rounds of 69, 64, 69 and 69 for a 271 (-13) winning total.

Having taken the lead after Round 2 he impressively showed the composure to hold off far more experienced players over the weekend and ultimately deliver a 5 shot victory. He became the youngest ever winner of this prestigious title, overtaking Sandy Lyle who was 17 when he won it in 1977.

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Ben Schmidt’s Scorecard (© England Golf / GolfBox)

Harry HALL (ENG) will have been disappointed with his final round but a course record 63 on Saturday and a 2nd place finish, having only returned from college in the United States a few days earlier, represented an excellent week’s work for the Cornishman.

Euan WALKER (SCO) finished 3rd, David LANGLEY (ENG) tied 5th, Ben JONES tied 7th, Tom SLOMAN (ENG) & Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) both tied 10th, Ben CHAMBERLAIN (WAL), Conor PURCELL (IRE) & Jake HAPGOOD (WAL) all tied 13th and Jake BURNAGE (ENG), Robin WILLIAMS (ENG) & James SUGRUE (IRE) all tied 18th at Alwoodley. All of them further advanced their Walker Cup chances with top 20 finishes as we move into the key selection month of June.

So what about Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) for the Walker Cup – after all he’s just won a ‘Major’ and in the process moved to the top of the England Golf Men’s Order of Merit ?

Ben rose 337 places in the SPWAR on Sunday to 109th (he’s 106th now after a few leading players subsequently turned Pro) and 1,416 places to 142nd in today’s WAGR release.

A victory in the Brabazon Trophy and such high rankings would normally put a player well in the picture for Walker Cup selection.

However, with important school exams on the immediate horizon and given his previously low WAGR ranking Ben is now going to be sitting out both this week’s St. Andrews Links Trophy and the following week’s Amateur Championship. He is also not playing in the European Amateur Championship which starts on 26th June.

Like James NEWTON (ENG), winner of the Irish Amateur Open a few weeks ago, this in my opinion is likely to greatly reduce his chances of gaining selection for the forthcoming Walker Cup match.

It will be interesting to see if England Golf select him for their Men’s European Team Championship team later this month or whether he will stay with the Boys Team. The former would give him another opportunity to impress.

Time is of course on Ben’s side but in my view circumstances look like conspiring against him with regard to the 2019 match.

For more information on this event, including a link to the full Results, please take a look at my Golf Bible article: Brabazon Trophy – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results 

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With around 75 days to go until the GB&I Walker Cup team is selected how’s our team shaping up ?

Conor PURCELL (IRE), Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE), Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Euan WALKER (SCO) look certainties today. All have 2019 wins to their names and consistent form to support their selections already.

Harry HALL‘s (ENG) result at the Brabazon Trophy was just what was required from him. His experience could be invaluable to the team too. He’s now a probable for me.

Ben JONES (ENG) is playing well and building up a consistent body of 2019 results. His sound match play record and win in the Duke of York Champions event at Royal Liverpool a few years ago also bode well for him.

Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) has played well for Wake Forest University since the turn of the year and if he can show up well against his GB&I peers – he hasn’t directly played against too many of them over the last year – in the big events coming up he will in my opinion be a strong candidate for selection.

The remaining three places are still open for me. I could currently make a case for Bailey GILL (ENG), David LANGLEY (ENG), Josh MCMAHON (ENG), Tom PLUMB (ENG), Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) and Sandy SCOTT (SCO).

In a year of surprise winners the results of the St. Andrews Links Trophy and Amateur Championship, and to a lesser degree the European Amateur, may not help but they will certainly provide us with more clarity. Will the above players confirm their status as Walker Cup favourites or will new players have come to the fore by the team we reach the end of June ?

ME.

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

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101. James Newton Wins The Irish Amateur Open

21st May 2019

James NEWTON (ENG) from Prestbury G.C. won the Irish Amateur Open Championship last weekend at County Sligo G.C.

Clearly players from Cheshire have got the memo that the Walker Cup is coming to the county in 2019. Josh McMAHON (ENG) from nearby Wallasey G.C. also won the Lytham Trophy just a few weeks ago.

James Newton (© Pat Cashman Photography / @GUIGolf)

Newton recorded rounds of 66, 66, 69 and 74 for a 275 -9 total.

He held the lead after 36 holes and showed good composure to see out the Championship over the final two days. Sunday’s final round started shakily and his nerves weren’t helped by a late triple on the 16th but as you can see from his scorecard below there was also a lot of good golf played too.

James Newton’s Complete Scorecard (© GUI / Golfbox)

Normally the winner of the Irish Amateur Open, played on a tough links course, would be thrown straight into Walker Cup selection discussions, particularly in the year of a match and certainly when it is a home one.

However, in the case of James Newton matters are a little more complicated.

This victory was completely out of the blue. He started the week ranked 1,879th in the SPWAR and 2,710th in the WAGR. He was 250-1 in the pre-event betting with BoyleSports.

As a result of this high WAGR he has already missed the entry cut-off for the Brabazon Trophy, St. Andrews Links Trophy and The Amateur Championship, three of the bigger events on the road to The Walker Cup. He tried to qualify for the Brabazon at Lindrick last Tuesday (14th May) but missed out in the 18 hole shoot out and with The Amateur field set over the weekend he has no way of playing in that either. The St. Andrews Links Trust may come to his rescue in Scotland though; they have four places that are still to be allocated for their event which starts on 7th June. I hope they do as he has earned it.

Perhaps England golf, who can be forgiven as they do stage two Brabazon qualifiers, and The R&A should afford themselves more flexibility to manage situations like this. At face value one would always want the reigning Irish Amateur Open champion in your field.

Newton rose 1,523 places to 356th in the SPWAR and is now the 47th best GB&I player according to this ranking. Nevertheless without the opportunity to play in these big three events in the coming weeks it is hard to see how he can make a late Walker Cup break through.

In a post round interview with the Golf Union of Ireland Alan Kelly asked what his plans were for the rest of the season. I think he was taken a back by Newton’s response: “I’ve not got too much on now, one event next week (the Lagonda Trophy)”, fully reflecting the above situation.

Looking at a few of the other performances in Ireland: –

Conor PURCELL (IRE) finished 2nd, five shots further back on 280 -4, further confirming his status as GB&I’s number 1 player.

Another Irishman Ronan MULLARNEY, who was a little unfortunate to miss out on selection for the Walker Cup squad, featured throughout. After an opening course record 62 (-9) he finished on Even par for 5th.

It was also good to see Josh MCMAHON (ENG) back up his Lytham Trophy win with a tied 7th finish on 286 +2.

Euan WALKER (SCO) +2 tied 7th and Mark POWER (IRE) +4 tied 17 were the best of the other Walker Cup squad members. There were nine members of the 26-man squad in total playing with chairman Andy Ingram and selector Padraig Hogan both in attendance at Rosses Point.

For more information on this event, including a link to the full Results, please take a look at my Golf Bible article: Irish Amateur Open – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results 

ME.

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

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100. Josh McMahon Wins The Lytham Trophy

7th May 2019

The 55th Lytham Trophy arguably provided more questions than answers when it comes to the selection of the 2019 Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

This is not unusual. Lytham is one of our more challenging courses and whilst conditions were relatively benign last weekend there was enough wind around to cause difficulties for those players that were unable to draw upon their A games.

The Lytham Trophy is always an important indicator in home Walker Cup years. The theory being if you can deliver here you may well be able to deliver on a similar links course in four months time. It’s no coincidence that most Lytham Trophy winners go on to be selected for the GB&I team.

Josh MCMAHON (ENG) won the competition with rounds of 71, 73, 73 and 71 for a 288 (+8) total. His 40 foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole will live long in the memory. It was a welcome return to form for the Wallasey man and rocketed him into Walker Cup contention. As he lives and plays just a few miles away from Hoylake his selection would certainly be good for the event and ticket sales.

Josh McMahon With The Lytham Trophy (© Golf Bible)

Tom MCKIBBIN (N.I.) is another player who must now be on the selector’s radar. Arriving on the back of wins at The Peter McEvoy Trophy and Junior Invitational in USA he finished a very creditable tied 6th on (+11). What a three weeks he’s had. With exams on the horizon it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his current form and how he manages his schedule.   

Of the recently announced 26 GB&I Walker Cup squad players 16 competed at Royal Lytham. 

Eight of them made the cut; all advancing their causes in the process. Here is a summary of their scores and results: –

Bailey GILL (ENG) 70 75 70 76 (+11) T6 – leading after 54 holes.

Ben CHAMBERLAIN (WAL) 75 74 72 73 (+14) T12

James SUGRUE (IRE) 75 73 73 74 (+15) T14

Euan MCINTOSH (SCO) 72 73 72 79 (+16) T16

Tom PLUMB (ENG) 71 75 75 77 (+18) T20

Ben JONES (ENG) 71 74 74 79 (+18) T20

Tom SLOMAN (ENG) 74 72 75 78 (+19) T24

Euan WALKER (SCO) 72 76 77 77 (+22) T41

Other non-squad players from GB&I to perform well in Lancashire were Jack BROOKS (ENG) and Harry GODDARD (ENG) who both finished tied 2nd on +9, Max MARTIN (ENG), Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) and Stephen ROGER (SCO) tied 8th on +12 and Laurie OWEN (ENG) tied 12th on +14.

The other eight squad players on show missed the 36 hole top 40 and ties cut which fell at 149 (+9). 49 of the 144 starters advanced. Here is a summary of their scores: – 

Kieran CANTLEY (SCO) 70 80 (+10) MC

Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) 74 78 (+12) MC

Conor PURCELL (IRE) 75 79 (+14) MC

David HAGUE (ENG) 75 79 (+14) MC

Mark POWER (IRE) 77 78 (+15) MC

Robin WILLIAMS (ENG) 82 78 (+20) MC

Jake BURNAGE (ENG) 76 84 (+20) MC

Jake HAPGOOD (WAL) 77 84 (+21) MC

The ten remaining squad players did not play at Royal Lytham. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG), Harry HALL (ENG), Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO), John MURPHY (IRE), Sandy SCOTT (SCO), Jamie STEWART (SCO) are all still involved in the NCAA Division I Championships in USA and therefore they were understandably absent. Having said that Jake BENSON (ENG) is too and he teed it up; perhaps he received special dispensation from his Rice University coach. Tom THURLOWAY (ENG) travelled back from Jacksonville in Florida for the Hoylake squad session at the start of the week but perhaps didn’t enter expecting to still be involved in the NCAA’s with his University. Joe PAGDIN (ENG) is at high school in Florida so his entry would have been a surprise before the summer recess, even before considering the cost.

The other UK-based squad members, Archie DAVIES (WAL) and Conor GOUGH (ENG), are embroiled in school exams so chose to pass. Davies attended the Hoylake session at the start of last week whilst Gough is in action at this week’s British Masters where he has been afforded an invite by the European Tour.   

Royal Lytham & St. Annes G.C. (© Golf Bible)

For additional information please take a look at my Golf Bible article: 2019 Lytham Trophy – Preview, Reports & Results.

ME.

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

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99. GB&I Initial Walker Cup Squad Announced

24th April 2019

The R&A has today announced an initial squad of 26 players for the 2019 Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

Those players that are available will meet at Royal Liverpool G.C. for a meal on the evening of Tuesday 30th April before playing the course on Wednesday 1st May.

The players, with their nationalities, ages and current SPWAR / WAGR, selected for the GB&I squad are: –

Jake BURNAGE, England (23) – SPWAR 108 / WAGR 78

Kieran CANTLEY, Scotland (21) – SPWAR 417 / WAGR 536

Ben CHAMBERLAIN, Wales (21) – SPWAR 825/ WAGR 455

Archie DAVIES, Wales (17) – SPWAR 1,127 / WAGR 304

Alex FITZPATRICK, England (20) – SPWAR 61 / WAGR 51

Bailey GILL, England (21) – SPWAR 148 / WAGR 159

Conor GOUGH, England (16) – SPWAR 381 / WAGR 29

David HAGUE, England (22) – SPWAR 195 / WAGR 94

Harry HALL, England (21) – SPWAR 71 / WAGR 104

Jake HAPGOOD, Wales (22) – SPWAR T354 / WAGR 491

Benjamin JONES, England (19) – SPWAR 136 / WAGR 80

Ryan LUMSDEN, Scotland (22) – SPWAR 117 / WAGR 92

Euan MCINTOSH, Scotland (50) – SPWAR 284 / WAGR 290 

John MURPHY, Ireland (20) – SPWAR 110 / WAGR 229

Joseph PAGDIN, England (17) – SPWAR 357 / WAGR 67

Thomas PLUMB, England (20) – SPWAR 86 / WAGR 279

Mark POWER, Ireland (18) – SPWAR 181 / WAGR 124

Conor PURCELL, Ireland (21) – SPWAR 20 / WAGR 25

Caolan RAFFERTY, Ireland (26) – SPWAR 35 / WAGR 38

Sandy SCOTT, Scotland (20) – SPWAR 74 / WAGR 81

Tom SLOMAN, England (22) – SPWAR 47 / WAGR 31

Jamie STEWART, Scotland (19) – SPWAR 184 / WAGR 142

James SUGRUE, Ireland (22) – SPWAR 273 / WAGR 415

Tom THURLOWAY, England (21) – SPWAR 284 / WAGR 354

Euan WALKER, Scotland (23) – SPWAR 41 / WAGR 98

Robin WILLIAMS, England (17) – SPWAR T354 / WAGR 115

The initial squad includes 12 players from England, 6 from Scotland, 5 from Ireland and 3 from Wales.

Of those named above I am on record as already saying Tom Plumb, Conor Purcell, Caolan Rafferty, Tom Sloman and Euan Walker are already ‘probables’ based on their 2019 wins and high rankings.

I also believe Alex Fitzpatrick and Sandy Scott are moving in that direction given their strong recent form on the U.S. College circuit.    

The timetable from here is now clear: –

A second practice session has been scheduled for July at the host venue which a reduced number of players will be invited to attend.

The final ten-man GB&I team is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship finishes.

The match against United States of America will then take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September at Royal Liverpool G.C.

In the official R&A Announcement Craig Watson, GB&I captain, said, “We have selected a talented group of players who are all in contention for a place in the team to play the United States of America and will be continuing to monitor the form and results of these players over the course of the season. We will also be looking closely at the performances of other players who have not been included in the squad and there is still time for them to play their way into our plans ahead of the final team selection later text his year.”

Whilst there are no major surprises in the selection it is perhaps worth looking in more detail at those players who have missed out and now have to fight their way back into the group.

Here are ten players, in alphabetical order, who are ranked highly but have missed out on the initial squad selection: – 

Oliver FARRELL, England (SPWAR 158 / WAGR 393)

Alex GLEESON, Ireland (SPWAR 292 / WAGR 114)

Ben HUTCHINSON, England (SPWAR 235 / WAGR 204)

David LANGLEY, England (SPWAR 114 / WAGR 278)

Rowan LESTER, Ireland (SPWAR 212 / WAGR 100) 

Jamie LI, England (SPWAR 234 / WAGR 119)

Joe LONG, England (SPWAR 169 / WAGR 157)

Ronan MULLARNEY, Ireland (SPWAR 139 / WAGR 205)

Daniel O’LOUGHLIN, England (SPWAR 191 / WAGR 294) 

Rory FRANSSEN, Scotland (SPWAR 210 / WAGR 283)

It will be interesting to see who makes the final 10-man team in August and how many of them were in the initial squad.

ME.

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

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98. Euan Walker And Tom Plumb Win In South Africa

7th March 2019

With all of the Australian and South African amateur events completed and both the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs played I thought it was time to recognise a few GB&I players who have made a strong start to the season.

Scotland’s Euan WALKER has enjoyed an excellent start to 2019; his consistency and high finishes, including a win, making him an obvious standout.

Here is a summary of his recent results: –

African Amateur Stroke Play – WON (72 67 67 71)

South African Amateur – SPQ 4th (71 65) / MP Rd 2

South African Stroke Play – Tied 7th (66 71 69 72)

Euan Walker (© Ian Rae)

At the time of writing Euan has risen to 34th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR), second in the GB&I-only list behind Conor PURCELL (IRE) who is 20th.

Conor has continued his good form in recent weeks producing more strong performances in South Africa. As he’s already in ‘my Team’ I’ve chosen to write about others on this occasion (See Article 97).

It is a little early to say Euan will make the GB&I Walker Cup team but he has certainly put himself in a very nice position. Compatriot Liam Johnston also won the African Amateur at Leopard Creek in 2017 and subsequently the Scottish Open Amateur but still managed to miss out on a trip to Los Angeles that September so he will know nothing can be taken for granted.

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Thomas PLUMB (ENG) showed some class in winning the Cape Province Open Championship in South Africa earlier this week with scores of 70 66 69 and 65 (-18).

Coming on the back of a tied 3rd place finish in the South American Amateur Championship in January he appears to also be trending positively towards Walker Cup selection. His reward for his win in George – a 38 place jump to 67th in the SPWAR.

Tom Plumb (© Pieter Els)

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Ben JONES (ENG) was relatively quiet last year as he transitioned from the junior to men’s ranks but seems to be nicely back on track now. He’s currently 98th in the SPWAR. Good match play results are obviously beneficial too: –

New South Wales Amateur – SPQ Tied 7th (69 72) / MP Semi-Finals

Spanish International Amateur – Medalist (71 66 -5) / MP Rd of 16

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Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) is a player I like a lot. He’s one of the few GB&I amateurs that seem to be able to go very low. The Dundalk man, now 47th in the SPWAR, did well on the Irish team trip to South Africa and looks set to remain within the GB&I Walker Cup picture throughout the coming months: –

South African Amateur – SPQ Tied 2nd (69 66) / MP Semi-Finals

South African Stroke Play – Tied 11th (75 67 68 71)

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Bailey GILL (ENG) is also coming on to my radar with a solid string of overseas results added to his résumé with some match play victories thrown in too. Currently 121st in the SPWAR I think he could be a player to watch closely this year.

Australian Amateur – MP Rd of 32

New South Wales Amateur – MP Rd of 16

Avondale Amateur – Tied 19th

Portuguese International Amateur – Tied 5th (71 70 67 72)

Spanish International Amateur – SP Tied 7th (70 72) / MP Rd of 16

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Many others have shown flashes of what they can do but will be looking for more consistency as the year continues. Callum FARR (ENG) SPWAR 334th, Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) 185th, David LANGLEY (ENG) 94th, Joe LONG (ENG) 151st, Ronan MULLARNEY (IRE) 171st, Laurie OWEN (ENG) 663rd and Mark POWER (IRE) 141st immediately spring to mind here.

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Over on the United States College circuit Sandy SCOTT (SCO), who was yesterday picked for the Arnold Palmer Cup International Team, also continues to gain confidence and impress. He’s 109th in the SPWAR.

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As the amateur calendar moves back home it will be interesting to see who can maintain their momentum and which other players start to come through.

By my calculation there is around 170 days left before the GB&I selectors have to make their final decisions. There is plenty of time for everyone to make their mark albeit I feel the countdown clock has certainly started to tick.

ME.

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

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97. Conor Purcell Wins The 2019 Australian Amateur Championship

20th January 2019

Ireland’s Conor PURCELL has won the Australian Men’s Amateur at Woodlands G.C. in Victoria.

Conor Purcell (© Golf Australia)

He beat Nathan BARBIERI on the 37th hole of an exciting championship match after the Australian pulled an approach into the par 4 1st’s green and was unable to get up and down.

Purcell had led the Final 4 Up with 10 holes to play so having been pegged back will have been delighted to finally get the job done. His brother Gary, a tennis coach in Australia, caddied for him making it a family affair.

His victory comes with two nice playing exemptions; the ISPS Handa Vic Open (7-10 February) and the Emirates Australian Open (5-8 December).

In a nice gesture by Woodlands G.C. Conor was also awarded honorary membership of the host course at the prize giving.

Having chosen to leave the University of North Carolina, Charlotte after his sophomore year in 2018 this represents a superb start to the new season for the man from Malahide, near Dublin.

In my opinion he has now assured himself, even at this early stage, of a place in the 2019 Great Britain and Ireland 10-man Walker Cup team.

A win in 2019, a strong match play track record and a high ranking in the SPWAR tick the three main boxes I would be looking at as a selector.

Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking 20/01/19 – Conor Purcell

As you can see from the above table this victory lifted Conor to a career high of 20th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking.

Having also reached the Semi-Finals of the 2018 Amateur Championship and Irish Amateur Close and enjoyed a winning record in last year’s Men’s Home internationals no one can question his match play credentials.

With some of the pressure now off him I expect Conor to continue to perform well this year. He can also look forward to the 2019 Amateur Championship, the most important event on the path to Walker Cup selection, being staged at his home club Portmarnock G.C. in June.

ME.

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

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96. Tickets Go On Sale For Royal Liverpool 2019

3rd December 2018

Tickets have today gone on sale for the 47th Walker Cup match which will be played at Royal Liverpool G.C. on the weekend of 7th – 8th September 2019.

Day tickets will cost £25.00 for adults and £15.00 for youths (16-24).

A weekend pass will cost £40.00 for adults and £20.00 for youths.

Under 16’s will be granted free access on both days as long as they are accompanied by a youth or adult.

It appears that entry will be free on the practice days and for the opening ceremony on the Friday afternoon.

Click here to buy – Walker Cup 2019 Tickets

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With 278 days to go until the match starts Great Britain and Ireland’s (GB&I) selection options were further reduced last week with the news that both Mitch WAITE (ENG) and Nick POPPLETON (ENG) had decided to turn professional.

Both Waite and Poppleton played for GB&I in the St. Andrews Trophy match against Europe last July. At the time of the announcement Waite was also GB&I’s highest rated player in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking.

Of the nine man team and two reserves selected for the St. Andrews Trophy just four remain amateur heading into 2019; David HAGUE (ENG), John MURPHY (IRE), Conor PURCELL (IRE) and Euan WALKER (SCO).

ME.

Copyright © 2018, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

95. 2019 Walker Cup Practice Squads Revealed

19th November 2018

The USGA’s International Team and The R&A Men’s Selection Committees have invited various players to attend 2019 Walker Cup practice sessions in December.

The U.S. gathering is scheduled to take place between December 14th– 18th  at Seminole G.C. in Florida.

16 players will be in attendance (current SPWAR / WAGR): –

John AUGENSTEIN – Owensboro, Kentucky (6 / 27)
Akshay BHATIA – Wake Forest, North Carolina (104 / 29)
Will GORDON – Davidson, North Carolina (9 / 37)
Stewart HAGESTAD – Newport Beach, California (80 / 15)
Cole HAMMER – Houston, Texas (15 / 11)
Brandon MANCHENO – Jacksonville, Florida (39 / 50)
Bryson NIMMER – Bluffton, South Carolina (11 / 38)
Kevin O’CONNELL – Cary, North Carolina (270 / 21)
Matt PARZIALE – Brockton, Massachusetts (130 / 155)
Chandler PHILLIPS – Huntsville, Texas (22 / 12)
Trent PHILLIPS – Inman, South Carolina (105 / 37) *
Isaiah SALINDA – South San Francisco, California (13 / 32)
Alex SMALLEY – Wake Forest, North Carolina (16 / 24)
Tyler STRAFACI – Davie, Florida (21/ 75)
Matthew WOLFF – Agoura Hills, California (14 / 5)
Brandon WU – Scarsdale, New York (19 / 47)

* Davis RILEY – Hattiesburg, Mississippi (10 / 8) withdrew on 25th November having decided to forego his final semester of eligibility at Alabama University and turn professional. He was replaced by Trent PHILLIPS.

Stewart Hagestad is the only member of the 2017 USA Team who will attend the practice session and one of three mid-amateurs invited; the others being Matt Parziale and Kevin O’Connell.

The absence of Collin Morkikawa (2 / 2), Braden Thornberry (3 / 3) and Justin Suh (4 / 1) suggests all three have made their intentions to turn Pro at the end of the current U.S. College season known to the USGA.

Zachary Bauchou (12 / 18) and Philip Knowles (20 / 69) are two of the more noteworthy U.S. players missing from the list.

John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of Championships said: “This practice session presents an excellent opportunity for the players, the captain (Nathaniel Crosby) and the USGA to become familiar with each other as we begin the process of team selection. While these 16 talented individuals represent the first pool of potential team members, we expect many others will be considered as the selection process moves toward its conclusion next August.”

Looking back at recent Walker Cup practice sessions six of the 16 players named in 2017 made the final 10-man USA Team whilst nine of the 16 did so in both 2013 and 2015.

The final 2019 USA Walker Cup team will potentially include five automatic selections drawn from: –

– the top 3 USA players in the WAGR (as of early August).

– the 2019 U.S. Amateur champion (if eligible);

– the Mark H. McCormack Award winner (WAGR world No.1 immediately after U.S. Amateur – if eligible);

The remaining five to seven U.S. players will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee after the U.S. Amateur concludes.

The R&A, who chose not to make a formal announcement, have also recently invited a group of players to a practice session to be held at the 2019 venue Royal Liverpool G.C. on 18-19 December 2018 *.

Unfortunately the dates clash with the South Beach International Amateur which a number of Great British and Irish players have already committed to. Amongst those planning to be in South Florida and high in the rankings are Jake BURNAGE (ENG), Conor GOUGH (ENG), David LANGLEY (ENG), Ben JONES (ENG), Joe PAGDIN (ENG), Tom PLUMB (ENG) and Robin WILLIAMS (ENG). I assume all of them will be sending their apologies.

*Subsequently photos were released by The R&A reporting that 10 players attended the two day session. These were: –

Bailey GILL (ENG)
Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)
Jake HAPGOOD (WAL)
Billy MCKENZIE (ENG)
Conor PURCELL (IRE)
Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE)
Sandy SCOTT (SCO)
Jamie STEWART (SCO)
Tom THURLOWAY (ENG)
Euan WALKER (SCO)

The 47th Match will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England on September 7th– 8th 2019.

ME.

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