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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: –

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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.

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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.

_______________________________________________

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)

_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________

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)

_______________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________

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

_________________________________________

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.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

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.

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

94. Kevin O’Connell Wins the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship

28th September 2018

Kevin O’CONNELL (30) has won the 38th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Charlotte Country Club.

He beat Brett BONER (44) 4&3 in yesterday’s 36 hole final. The day before Boner had beaten 2016 champion and 2017 Walker Cup player Stewart HAGESTAD 1Up in the semi-finals, holing a lengthy birdie putt on the 18th.

Kevin O’Connell with the Robert T. Jones Jr Memorial Trophy (© USGA / Chris Keane)

The victory must make Kevin the early favourite for the mid-amateur berth in the 2019 U.S.A. Walker Cup team.

The 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship takes place a few weeks after the next Walker Cup match so there are few remaining ‘move the dial’ events for the over 25’s before the selection is made.

Meanwhile, assuming he stays amateur, Kevin will have plenty of opportunities to shine next year. His win has secured him exemptions into the 2019 Masters Tournament at Augusta National, the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links and the next two U.S. Amateur Championships (at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in 2019 and Bandon Dunes Resort in 2020).

Kevin O’Connell, who hails from Cary, North Carolina, studied at and played golf for the University of North Carolina before turning pro and trying three times to qualify for the PGA Tour. After his third failed attempt he applied and regained his amateur status in 2015.

“To be the champion right now is probably what I am most proud of and focused on. Just simply being a champion. All the stuff that comes along with it, I think that will hit me a little big later on.” said O’Connell, probably not even thinking about the Walker Cup, after hoisting the Robert T. Jones Jr Memorial Trophy.

Click here to view the – 2018 US Mid-Amateur Championship Results

ME.

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

93. England Win the 2018 Men’s Home Internationals

15th September 2018

The 2018 Men’s Home Internationals were played at Conwy Golf Club in Wales between 12th and 14th September.

ENGLAND won the tournament beating IRELAND 9 – 6 in the final day’s championship match. Ireland had won the event four years in a row but had to settle for second this year.

SCOTLAND finished third and WALES fourth.

The England Team With The Raymond Trophy (Photo: Wales Golf)

11-man teams play against each other in a round robin format. There are five foursomes and ten singles match play games contested in each match. The overall winner is the country with the highest number of match points. 1 point is awarded for a win, 0.5 for a half and 0 for a loss.

Here is a summary of the 2018 results: –

2018 Men’s Home Internationals (Photo: Wales Golf / Golfbox Scoring)

Click here to view the full – 2018 Men’s Home Internationals Results

With the exception of some lads who had returned to their U.S. Colleges earlier in September we had the 11 best players from each of the home nations playing competitive foursomes and singles match play golf in Conwy.

Even a year before the next Walker Cup match, and accepting that some of the participants may turn pro in the coming months, this was clearly a good event for a prospective 2019 player to find and establish a foursomes partnership and to hopefully record a few singles wins. The GB&I selectors will certainly have been watching.

Here is an analysis of the English and Irish individual performances at Conwy: –

It was a great week for David HAGUE (ENG) and Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) who both finished the tournament with 100% records, winning all six of their games.

Tom PLUMB (ENG) was also unbeaten, winning four of his games and halving two of his foursomes.

Mitch WAITE (ENG) and Andrew WILSON (ENG) lost just once in their six games. Mark POWER (IRE), Conor PURCELL (IRE) and James SUGRUE (IRE) all recorded four wins too.

David HAGUE and Andrew WILSON (ENG) won all three of their foursomes games leading England out in all three matches, which normally means you are playing your opponents best pairing.

Tiarnan MCLARNON and Ronan MULLARNEY (IRE) also won all three of their foursomes matches albeit they were sent out in the fifth game on each day. Another Irish pairing, Conor PURCELL and Mark POWER, also impressed winning two games and halving the other.

The 2018 Men’s Home Internationals reaffirmed the view that our 2019 Walker Cup team is likely to be dominated by English and Irish players.

Looking at the Scottish and Welsh individual performances:-

Euan WALKER was outstanding for Scotland winning five of his six games. Likewise Ryan LUMSDEN did his prospects no harm with four wins.

Paddy MULLINS did well for Wales and will have been particularly pleased with his two singles wins.

It appears that the Scottish and Welsh contingent will need to up their games over the next 12 months if they are to have anything other than a modest 2019 Walker Cup representation.

The 2019 Men’s Home Internationals will be played at Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland. The England Golf website suggests that has been scheduled to be played on 11-13th September next year, the week after the Walker Cup match.

In 2017 the Home Internationals were brought forward to August so that they could in theory be used to assist with GB&I Walker Cup team selection. However, because the 16-18th August dates then clashed with the U.S. Amateur it proved to be largely pointless as a competition and as a final selection trial. Just three of the final 10 man GB&I team competed at Moortown in 2017 with most of our leading amateurs choosing to play in the U.S. Amateur.

It is disappointing that the four home nation golf unions can not come up with a date in early August next year so that the Men’s Home internationals can properly fulfil it’s potential role in our 2019 Walker Cup preparations.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2018 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

92. Matthew Jordan Turns Pro

10th September 2018

Matthew JORDAN today confirmed he was turning Professional and had signed with management company Sportcircle.

Matthew is the last member of the 2017 Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team to transfer over to the paid ranks. The announcement came exactly one year after the conclusion of the match in Los Angeles.

Matthew Jordan At The KLM Open Today (Photo: Jeremy Morgan)

Uniquely he was selected for Bonallack Trophy (Europe), Walker Cup (GB&I), St. Andrews Trophy (GB&I), Eisenhower Trophy (England) and Home Internationals (England) men’s teams in recent years.

The individual highlights for the 22 year old from Royal Liverpool G.C. were his St. Andrews Links Trophy (2017) and Lytham Trophy (2018) wins.

Fittingly his final round as an amateur was a low one; a bogey free 65 (-8) last Saturday on Carton House’s O’Meara Course in the World Amateur Team Championship event.

He was ranked 16th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and 5th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking today reflecting his stellar amateur career.

He will make his debut at this week’s KLM Open on the European Tour. He also has further entries lined up at the Portugal Masters (20-23 September) and Dunhill Links (4-7 October) in the next few weeks.

Following hot on the heels of Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) over the weekend, the impending departure of Robin DAWSON (IRE) next week and the start tomorrow of the 2018 European Tour Qualifying School series it will be interesting to see who is left in a few month’s time to contest a place in our 2019 Walker Cup team.

Good luck to Matthew. Fingers crossed for a fast start this week in The Netherlands.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2018, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

91. GB&I Win The 2018 Jacques Léglise Trophy

5th September 2018

Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) won the 2018 Jacques Léglise Trophy match against Continent of Europe 15.5 – 9.5.

The GB&I Team With The Jacques Léglise Trophy (Photo: Joe Pagdin)

The match took place at Kytäjä Golf in Finland on Friday 31st August and Saturday 1st September.

This annual match is contested by two nine-player U18 boys’ teams. It is essentially the junior equivalent of the biennial men’s St. Andrews Trophy match. Four foursomes games are played each morning with Singles in the afternoon; eight on Day 1 and nine on Day 2.

This year GB&I were represented by: –

Barclay BROWN (17) – England
Archie DAVIES (17) – Wales
Conor GOUGH (15) – England
Max HOPKINS (15)  – England
Tom MCKIBBIN (15) – Ireland
Connor MCKINNEY (16) – Scotland
Joseph PAGDIN (16) – England
Mark POWER (18) – Ireland
Robin WILLIAMS (16) – England

Seven players were making their GB&I debuts in Finland. Mark Power and Robin Williams both played in 2017.

Click here to view the detailed – 2018 Jacques Léglise Trophy Results

GB&I’s Non-Playing Captain, Stuart WILSON, winner of the 2004 Amateur Championship, said afterwards: “We brought together the best team of golfers that we could assemble for this match and everyone performed brilliantly over the two days. We’re delighted with the performance and the players were really focussed on getting a result. I think we were strong on and around the greens and we knew we had a team of very good putters. The players definitely brought their A game this week.”

The win was GB&I’s 29th in the match since it was re-started with a new trophy in 1977. However, the Team had not enjoyed an outright victory since the 2014 match at Barsebäck in Sweden.

In a strong team performance where everyone contributed Conor GOUGH, Robin WILLIAMS and Barclay BROWN were the star men for GB&I.

Jacques Léglise Trophy GB&I Player Analysis (Photo: @GolfBible)

Given the number of GB&I players planning to turn Pro in the coming weeks I would not be surprised to see one or two of these players graduate to our 2019 Walker Cup team.

It will certainly be interesting to see if any of them can make the quick step up to the men’s ranks next year.

ME.

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90. GB&I Lose The 2018 St. Andrews Trophy Match

27th July 2018

The 32nd St. Andrews Trophy match was played on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th July at Linna Golf in Finland.

Like the Walker Cup the St. Andrews Trophy is played over two days and consists of match play foursomes and singles matches.

The Continent of Europe beat Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) 15.5 – 9.5 today.

GB&I entered the final day leading 7 – 5 but ended up being comprehensively outplayed by an inspired European team who won the Day 2 games 10.5 – 2.5 to run away with the match.

This was just the sixth time Europe had won the St. Andrews Trophy and their 6 point margin of victory was their best ever.

For more detail on the match please take a look at my preview and report on GolfBible – The St. Andrews Trophy Match – 2018 Preview, Reports & Results

The Continent of Europe (Photo: European Golf Association)

The R&A Selection Committee, including Non-Playing Captain Craig WATSON, announced GB&I’s nine man team for the match on 16th July. This was exactly the same team that I would have picked.

Todd CLEMENTS (21) – England
Robin DAWSON (22) – Ireland
David HAGUE (21) – England
Matthew JORDAN (22) – England
John MURPHY (20) – Ireland
Gian-Marco PETROZZI (21) – England
Nick POPPLETON (24) – England
Conor PURCELL (21) – Ireland
Mitch WAITE (23) – England

Following last September’s record breaking 19 – 7 defeat by the United States in the Walker Cup this heavy loss was another sobering experience for GB&I’s leading players.

The fact the European team was also weaker than may have been expected due to a number of their leading players competing at this week’s Porsche European Open on the European Tour or preferring to play in amateur events in the Unites States arguably makes the result even harder to take.

In The R&A’s match report GB&I Captain Craig WATSON said: “The team is obviously very disappointed but if you look at the scoring by the Continent of Europe you can see we were up against a very high standard of golf. This is the level that the players need to aspire to and achieve and when they look back on the performance there will be many learning points to take away. If you are to win a match like this you obviously need to make your fair share of putts when it matters. We just couldn’t match the Continent of Europe today. I don’t think we were complacent.”

In conclusion it would appear that the best GB&I team we could put out were simply outplayed by the Europeans, albeit only on the final day.

It should be noted that Matthew JORDAN (ENG) certainly left Finland with his reputation intact after winning three of his four matches.

The 2019 Walker Cup match at Royal Liverpool G.C. is now just over 400 days away and the GB&I group clearly need to see some improvement between now and then if that match is to be competitive.

It will be interesting to see how many of the nine players who played this week are still amateur in a year’s time and, if they are, whether they have maintained their form sufficiently to be selected for our Walker Cup team.

Earlier this week The R&A announced that the 2020 St. Andrews Trophy match will be played at Royal Porthcawl G.C. in South Wales on 23-24 July.

ME.

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89. USGA Introduce New Team Selection Guidelines

5th July 2018

The USGA have today announced the introduction of automatic selections to their international team selection process.

These new guidelines will be used for the first time for the men’s and women’s USA teams that will compete in this September’s World Amateur Team Championships in Ireland.

They will then be adopted for the 2019 Walker Cup Match and 2020 Curtis Cup Match.The selection of the 10-man 2019 USA Walker Cup team will now take place in two segments in the preceding August: –

1. a) The top 3 ranked USA players in the WAGR (as of early August and before the U.S. Amateur)*.

2. a) The 2019 U.S. Amateur champion*;

2. b) The 2019 Mark H. McCormack Medal winner (Men’s WAGRTM No. 1 / announced immediately after the U.S. Amateur Championship)*; and

2. c) The remaining selections, which will include at least one mid-amateur (25 years and older) player, will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee (ITSC).

*subject to the respective players being U.S. citizens and / or remaining amateur these individuals will now be automatically selected.

The USGA’s ITSC will continue to place primary emphasis on playing accomplishments, rankings and awards over the past two years, with particular focus on results in USGA competitions. It will also continue to adhere to an overarching guideline that a player named to any of its teams must have an unquestioned ability to appropriately represent the USA and USGA with character, sportsmanship and integrity.

The ITSC consists of 10 members, including representatives of the USGA Championship Committee, Executive Committee and international competition staff members. It is currently chaired by Martha Lang, who has competed in more than 60 USGA championships and is a former Curtis Cup player (1992) and captain (1996).

The Walker Cup captain will not have a formal vote on who makes the team but will provide “significant input” behind the scenes.

John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of Championships & Governance, said: “Adding these elements of transparency to our selections helps players understand the process and aspire to earn coveted spots on these top teams.”

The USA Team will defend the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, 7-8th September 2019.

ME.

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88. Nick Poppleton Added To St. Andrews Trophy Squad

12th June 2018

England’s Nick Poppleton (24) was added to the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) St. Andrews Trophy squad last week following his recent victory in the Brabazon Trophy.

The squad were meeting up ahead of the St. Andrews Links Trophy which was played last weekend so it made sense for Nick to be added to the group ahead of this.

He becomes the 11th Englishman in the squad which has now been increased to 21 players.

GB&I’s captain Craig Watson said, “Nick played exceptional golf to win the Brabazon Trophy last week and his selection for the Great Britain and Ireland squad is a reflection of his overall form. Nick’s inclusion shows there is still time for players to play their way into contention for the match and we are following the key amateur events closely.”

Nick Poppleton (Photo © GolfBible)

The St. Andrews Links Trophy saw three other players step firmly into the reckoning after shining on the New and Old Courses.

Ireland’s John Murphy won the event after a sudden death play off whilst England’s Jake Burnage and Laird Shepherd finished tied 3rd and 5th respectively. This competition enjoyed a much stronger field than the Brabazon so one must assume that all of them are now under close consideration too.

There may not be a formal announcement to this effect as I am not sure there are any further plans for the squad to meet up before the final team is selected.

Today’s SPWAR for all of the players mentioned above are shown below: –

Player SPWAR GB&I Rank
Jake Burnage, England 66 6
Laird Shepherd, England 94 12
John Murphy, Ireland 143 16
Nick Poppleton, England 193 24

With Harry Ellis (56th) expected to turn pro after this week’s U.S. Open Championship and Matthew Jordan (12th) rumoured to be following him after the Amateur Championship (assuming he doesn’t win it) all of the other GB&I player rankings are set for a boost shortly.

With Paul McBride signing with Hambric Sports and turning pro last week should Harry and Matthew follow suit it will mean that all of our 2017 Walker Cup team will have been lost to the amateur game within 10 months of the last match.

The big one’s up next. The Amateur Championship starts at Royal Aberdeen G.C. and Murcar Links G.C. on Monday 18th June 2018. Events in Scotland will certainly be an important yardstick when it comes to the final St. Andrews Trophy team selection.

By way of reminder the St. Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe will be played at Linna Golf in Finland on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th July 2018. Our nine-man team is set to be confirmed after the European Men’s Team Championship which concludes on 14th July.

ME.

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87. GB&I 2018 St. Andrews Trophy Squad Selected

14th May 2018

The R&A have today announced a 20 player Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) squad for the 2018 St Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe.

The match, played in alternate years to the Walker Cup, will take place at Linna Golf in Finland on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July 2018.

It was also confirmed that Scotland’s Craig Watson would return to the GB&I captaincy role after he was unfortunately unable to fulfil these duties at the 2017 Walker Cup due to a family bereavement.

Watson captained GB&I in the last St. Andrews Trophy match at Prince’s G.C., Kent in 2016. A 12.5 – 12.5 draw back then was good enough for GB&I to retain the trophy.

Captain Watson and Alfie Plant with the St. Andrews Trophy

(Photo: Darren Plant)

Watson said in the R&A announcement: “I’m delighted to resume the role and am excited about the potential of the new crop of players coming through and contending for a place in the team.”

As always the captain left the door open for other players to step forward in the coming months: “We know we will be in for a tough match in Finland and we will need a strong team if we are to win the trophy. I am sure the players we have identified, and others not currently in the squad, will be working hard to impress the selectors.”

The squad will meet up before the St Andrews Links Trophy event which starts on 8th June.

The final 9-man team will be announced after the European Men’s Team Championships, which conclude on 14th July.

Here is a list of the 20 players selected, along with their current Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (SPWAR) and GB&I SPWAR rank.

Player SPWAR GB&I Rank
Todd Clements, England (21) 21 2
Robin Dawson, Ireland (22) 128 12
Alex Fitzpatrick, England (19) 332 32
Calum Fyfe, Scotland (20) 182 15
Alex Gleeson, Ireland (24) 127 11
David Hague, England (21) 90 6
Harry Hall, England (20) 64 4
Benjamin Jones, England (19) 151 14
Matthew Jordan, England (22) 14 1
Rowan Lester, Ireland (22) 361 35
Sam Locke, Scotland (19) 205 18
Ryan Lumsden, Scotland (21) 102 8
Billy McKenzie, England (23) 211 19
Gian-Marco Petrozzi, England (21) 91 7
Caolan Rafferty, Ireland (25) 104 9
Sandy Scott, Scotland (19) 111 10
Jamie Stewart, Scotland (18) 131 13
Euan Walker, Scotland (22) 281 27
Robin Williams, England (16) 279 26
Andrew Wilson, England (24) 420 38

No one would argue that any of the above aren’t worthy of consideration for the GB&I team.

There are 10 English players in the squad, 6 from Scotland and 4 from Ireland. Sadly no one from Wales made the initial grade.

Only Royal Liverpool’s Matthew Jordan remains in the above selection from the 2017 Walker Cup team. Seven of the 10-man team having turned professional since the heavy loss in Los Angeles.

As the SPWAR rankings suggest GB&I currently has two outstanding players, Jordan and compatriot Todd Clements. To my eyes both have already done enough this season to warrant selection. However, the other 7 team spots are still broadly up for grabs, albeit fellow Englishman Harry Hall and Gian-Marco Petrozzi must also be close.

Below is a list of those players who are also highly ranked in the SPWAR and whose omission is therefore worthy of further discussion.

Player SPWAR GB&I Rank
Harry Ellis, England 48 3
Paul McBride, Ireland 71 5
Tom Plumb, England 197 16
Jake Burnage, England 204 17
Conor Purcell, Ireland 229 20
Daniel O’Loughlin, England 236 21
Mitch Waite, England 243 22

The two most obvious omissions for me are England’s Mitch Waite, who has won the Hampshire Salver this year and finished runner-up at the recent Lytham Trophy, and Conor Purcell, who has done well for Charlotte this year in the U.S., culminating in an invitation by the NCAA to play in this week’s Division I Regionals as an individual.

Finally, a quick word on the two other 2017 Walker Cup players who remain amateur and are listed in the second table above.

Harry Ellis withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Cup selection process in April signalling a clear intention to turn Pro after his forthcoming U.S. Open appearance in June. Hence his absence from the list is understandable.

Paul McBride is perhaps more of a surprise. He had intimated that he may stay amateur until the Autumn once he graduates from Wake Forest in the next few weeks. The World Amateur Team Championship (for the Eisenhower Trophy) is being held at Carton House, Ireland in September and this was supposedly a factor in his thinking. However, his omission from this squad is a clear indicator that he too will be turning pro very shortly.

ME.

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