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83. Nathaniel Crosby Will Captain The U.S.A. Team In 2019

13th December 2017

The U.S.G.A. today announced that 56 year old Nathaniel CROSBY had been selected to captain the U.S.A. team at the 2019 Walker Cup match.

Stuart Francis, U.S.G.A. Championship Committee chairman, said “Nathaniel Crosby has proven experience as an amateur player at the highest levels in both individual and team competition, and this will lend itself well to providing leadership for the USA Walker Cup team in 2019”. He has the key attributes of “sportsmanship, patriotism and a competitive spirit, that will assist him as captain.”

Crosby played in the 1983 Walker Cup match at Royal Liverpool GC. His appointment therefore has a nice symmetry with the 2019 contest also being staged at the historic links in Hoylake, England.

Nowadays he plays much of his golf at Seminole G.C. where the Walker Cup is being staged in 2021. Whilst there are other candidates with links to this exclusive Florida Club it does seem likely that his appointment will be for the now standard two match term.

In the USGA announcement Crosby said: “I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain. It will again be a privilege to be a part of the Walker Cup competition. Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities.”

Former U.S. captains Jim Holtgrieve, Bob Lewis Jr and Jay Sigel were all teammates of Crosby’s in 1983.

Nathaniel Crosby (Photo: USGA / Simon Dale)

Nathaniel Crosby – Golf Biography

Nathaniel (‘Nate’) Crosby was introduced to golf by his famous father, Bing. Bing was often described as a golfer that liked to sing given his obsession with the game.

He started playing golf when he was 4, taking lessons from Maurice Ver Brugge at the family’s home club, Burlinghame C.C., near San Francisco, and went on to become a very accomplished golfer.

His biggest achievement was his victory, aged 19, in the 1981 US Amateur Championship at Olympic Club in San Francisco. Playing number 3 for the University of Miami during the year and having showed little form beforehand his win was something of a surprise. He did however have the benefit of sleeping in his own bed at his parent’s house during the event. Huge crowds, drawn by the Crosby name, saw Nathaniel beat Brian Lindley on the 37th hole of the final. He staged a great comeback having been both 4 Down with 10 holes to play and 2 Down with 3 to play.

Sadly his father was unable to witness his achievement. Bing had died four years earlier on 14th October 1977, collapsing from a heart attack after playing 18 holes at La Moraleja G.C. near Madrid. His last words being “That was a great game of golf, fellas.” However, Nathaniel later revealed he wore Bing’s 1941 US Amateur competitor badge around his neck all week rubbing it occasionally when seeking inspiration or calmness. “It was a something to relax me. It was a way of keeping positive thoughts in my mind. I knew he was up there and he was on my side.”

In 1982 Nathaniel achieved low amateur honours at the US Open Championship at Pebble Beach, finishing 59th, won the prestigious Porter Cup and helped the USA win that year’s World Amateur Team Championship title in Switzerland.

The USA won the 1983 Walker Cup match 13.5 – 10.5 at Royal Liverpool. Captained by Jay Sigel (who also played himself), Crosby lost his Day 1 Singles 6&4 to Phil Parkin before he and William Hoffer beat George Macgregor and Philip Walton by 2 holes in their Day 2 Foursomes game. He sat out both the Day 1 Foursomes and Day 2 Singles.

Crosby graduated from the University of Miami in 1984 with a degree in politics and public administration. He then turned professional, playing briefly in the U.S. before trying his hand on the European Tour. With little success he ‘retired’ after three years, moving into the business world in 1988.

He regained his amateur status in 1994. This was initially so that he could play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a tournament that had grown out of his father’s Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur (also known as the Crosby Clambake). After Bing’s death in 1977, the tournament was hosted by the Crosby family for eight years, before the association was finally ended in 1985. Nathaniel had also planned to compete in Senior amateur events but this doesn’t appear to have come to anything in recent years.

Nathaniel Crosby – Personal Biography

Nathaniel Patrick Crosby was born on 29th October 1961 in Hillsborough, California but now lives in Jupiter, Florida.

He is the seventh child of Bing Crosby and the youngest of his three children with his second wife, the entertainer Kathryn Grant. Grant was 31 years Bing’s junior when they married.

His four half brothers are now all dead. He has an elder brother Harry and a sister Mary. Mary famously played Kristin Shepard, the mistress responsible for shooting J.R. Ewing in the hit television series ‘Dallas’. Nathaniel also performed on stage and screen many times with various family members when he was a child.

Nathaniel has four children of his own, all from his first marriage – Nathaniel Jr (27), Brendan (25), Bridget (23) and Claire (21). He is now remarried to another divorcee, Sheila (Biggs), who has two children of her own – Turner (26) and Courtney (24).

When his playing career came to an end he moved into the golf equipment business working firstly for Toney Penna (a touring pro. who had been Nathaniel’s teacher), then The Nicklaus Equipment Company and finally Orlimar Golf. He is currently chairman of AppleTree Golf Society, a membership programme that is tied to around 30 premier golf clubs in vacation and second-home destinations.

In 2016 he released a book, written with the assistance of golf journalist John Strege, entitled ’18 Holes With Bing: Golf, Life and Lessons From Dad’, where he talked about his relationship with his father through their shared love of golf.

Additional information

In June 2008 Michael Bamberger wrote an interesting profile of Nathaniel Crosby for Golf.com. Read it here – http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/why-nathaniel-crosby-holds-special-place-game

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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82. Everybody’s Changing And I Don’t Feel The Same

11th October 2017

So little time,
Try to understand that I’m,
Trying to make a move just to stay in the game,
I try to stay awake and remember my name,
But everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same.

– “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane (2004)

It’s been all change in the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) amateur game since the 46th Walker Cup match finished a month ago.

Of course each Walker Cup seems to mark the end of a mini-era with both those players selected and those overlooked looking to move on with their golfing careers.

However, the number of players turning professional in recent weeks feels much higher than normal with elite amateur golf in GB&I decimated.

We have already lost 7 of the 10 members of our Walker Cup team to the professional ranks: –

David BOOTE (WAL)
Jack DAVIDSON (WAL)
Scott GREGORY (ENG)
Robert MACINTYRE (SCO)
Alfie PLANT (ENG)
Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG)
Connor SYME (SCO)

Of the remaining three players Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) and Harry ELLIS (ENG) have entered their Senior years at Wake Forest and Florida State respectively, whilst Matthew JORDAN (ENG) has resisted the temptation to jump to date. Could he have his sights set on a home Walker Cup appearance at Royal Liverpool in 2019 ? Wishful thinking on my part perhaps.

However, it is the number of other Internationals that have turned professional that makes the last few weeks so exceptional. Here’s a selection of names for you: –

Dan BROWN (ENG)
Joshua DAVIES (WAL)
Owen EDWARDS (WAL)
Colin FAIRWEATHER (IRE)
Tom GANDY (ENG)
Stuart GREHAN (IRE)
Evan GRIFFITH (WAL)
Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) 
Bradley MOORE (ENG)
Conor O’ROURKE (IRE)
Marco PENGE (ENG)                 
Craig ROSS (SCO)
Will WHITEOAK (ENG)
Jack YULE (ENG)

The exodus may not be over either.

Amateurs JR GALBRAITH (IRE)*, Josh HILLEARD (ENG) and Craig HOWIE (SCO) have all progressed to the Second Qualifying Stage of the European Tour’s Q-School series. Chris MACLEAN (SCO) is also this week out in Germany testing his game in the ProGolf Tour Q-School.

Whilst it’s sad to see all of these players move out of the amateur game I of course wish them all the best with their future careers. It will be interesting to see which ones survive and prosper in the coming years. Whatever happens I hope they can at least enjoy some of the journey.

Certainly playing in The Walker Cup is no guarantee of success in the professional golfing world. To date Paul DUNNE (who turned Pro in September 2015), Jordan SMITH (October 2014), Matthew FITZPATRICK (June 2014) and to a lesser degree Ashley CHESTERS (September 2015) and Callum SHINKWIN (September 2013) are the only players from the 2013 and 2015 Walker Cups to have made a notable transition. There is still time for some of the others to come through. A lot of very good elite amateurs have fallen by the way side, either unable to make the step up in play and / or get to grips with the demanding life of a touring pro.

Scotland’s Connor SYME leads the way for the 2017 crop at the moment with a tied 12th finish at the Portuguese Masters on debut and a tied 15th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last weekend. Earnings of €79,435 from two events has to be viewed as a dream start to his professional career.

One thing’s for sure, as day follows night, the next generation of young amateur golfers will soon appear. It will be interesting to see which players take the opportunity to step forward and fill the current void in 2018.

* In November 2017 JR GALBRAITH (IRE) also turned professional.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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81. Walker Cup Day 2 – USA Beats GB&I 19 – 7

10th September 2017 

The United States of America (USA) won the 46th Walker Cup match at Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) beating Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) 19 – 7.

The wining score of 19 points matched the most ever in Walker Cup history. USA had previously reached that total in 1993 when they won 19 – 5 at a rain affected Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota.

Here is the Individual Player Contributions chart from the match: –

Doug GHIM, Maverick MCNEALY and Collin MORIKAWA each went 4 – 0, the first time three players had accomplished this for one team in the same Walker Cup match. The previous record being two perfect 4 game records – USA in 1977 (John Fought and Lindy Miller), 1997 (John Harris and Brad Elder) and 2009 (Peter Uihlein and Rickie Fowler) and GB&I in 1999 (Luke Donald and Paul Casey).

Doug GHIM had also gone 4 – 0 in the Arnold Palmer Cup match earlier this summer. A memorable and unique double for him.

USA Celebrate Their Win At Los Angeles CC (Photo: GolfBible)

GB&I’s very slim hopes of staging a comeback on Day 2 depended on a strong morning Foursomes performance. Unfortunately they lost the series 3 – 1 to fall even further behind 11 – 5.

Scott GREGORY and Jack SINGH BRAR were GB&I’s only Foursomes winners. Gregory in particular played some great shots down the stretch, memorably holeing out from a bunker on 14 and delivering a long iron into the heart of the 18th green to close out the game 2Up.

The United States therefore went into the ten afternoon Singles matches needing just 2.5 points to win the Walker Cup.

Despite this Captain “Spider” MILLER took nothing for granted and later said he had challenged each player before the final series of matches started, telling them, “You have to win your match. Each one of you must win your match. We must win all ten matches. I was as direct as I can be. We had a good lead but there was going to be no letting up. I expected each one of them to win.”

Braden THORNBERRY certainly responded well to the instruction, the 2017 NCAA Division I Individual champion, thumping Paul MCBRIDE, 6 and 5 in game number 5 to get the ball rolling for USA.

Shortly afterwards Stewart HAGESTAD, avenging his Saturday defeat to Singh Brar, won 2 and 1 on the 17th green before Norman XIONG, at 18 the youngest player on either team, secured the final 0.5 point required to reach the all important 13.5 mark.

The Americans ended up winning seven of the 10 singles matches on Sunday afternoon.

The Day 2 Results (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

Scott GREGORY and Robert MACINTYRE provided some resistance for GB&I, halving their games. Gregory refused to accept defeat fighting back from 2 down against Norman XIONG with two to play to earn his half, sinking 30 foot and 8 foot par putts on the final two holes to do so. Similarly MacIntyre again demonstrated his match play credentials with an unbeaten Singles performance for GB&I. He beat long-hitting Cameron CHAMP easily yesterday before halving with him today.

The star man for GB&I on Sunday was David BOOTE who battled superbly to win his match against the reigning US Amateur champion Doc REDMAN. Surprisingly Redman ended up being the only US player not to contribute a point from the three games he participated in. Boote birdied the short 15th to go 2Up but the match was far from over given the three c.500 yard par 4 finishing holes still to be played. On 16 David got up and down from just short of the green before watching Redman trump him with a tap-in birdie. On 17, having called a penalty on himself for standing on his ball in the rough, he managed to get up and down from about 150 yards to secure an unlikely half in bogey. Finally on 18 Redman saw his accurate long iron approach run past the flag to the back of the green leaving himself a near impossible downhill putt. When he three putted for 5 the Welshman simply took two from 5 feet to secure a memorable win.

David Boote Celebrates His Singles Win With His Family And Caddie (Photo: GolfBible)

To view the USGA highlight packages of the final day’s play please take a look at my ‘Past Results’ page.

As one would expect GB&I Acting Captain Andrew INGRAM accepted the loss in good spirit. He said: “The Americans were amazing. I’ve got to take my hat off to them. They have been superb all week and good luck to them. We just couldn’t get going, we couldn’t get anything moving forward. The big advantage here has been the length of the course, our guys aren’t used to courses this long. We have worked hard. I asked the team when I came for 100 percent and they gave me 100 percent. I can’t ask for anything more.”

Asked how he thought GB&I could improve their away performances Ingram suggested: “I know it costs money but any chance of us getting our Squad out to America to let them see what it’s like, come to the venue, and play some golf so they can get a feel of it (would be beneficial). I think it’s quite a shock to the system when they come and play a course like this. Our guys aren’t used to playing courses this long.”

“Spider” MILLER was understandably delighted for his team: “We had a choice to be the 2017 Walker Cup team or the winning 2017 Walker Cup team. There’s certain things in their careers as golfers they will remember and playing and winning the Walker Cup is one of those defining moments they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

As always the GB&I team lacked the strength in depth of their opponents and in this match USA were able to bring this to bear, generally outplaying the visitors for the most part. Sometimes you just have to hold up your hands and accept the better team won – this was one of those occasions to my eyes.

____________________________________________

It was always going to be a big ask for GB&I to go to Los Angeles and be competitive let alone win. After all GB&I have only ever won twice in the USA and home teams have now won 11 of the last 13 matches.

I don’t believe a lengthy post-mortem is necessary but would add from what I saw myself – and in addition to the length point made by Andy Ingram – that the USA team also putted better on the quick and undulating greens and made better strategic decisions, particularly down the stretch.

Looking forward GB&I will next get the opportunity to regain the Walker Cup on 7th and 8th September 2019 when it will be staged at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.

Meanwhile GB&I players David BOOTE, Jack DAVIDSON, Scott GREGORY, Robert MACINTYRE, Alfie PLANT, Jack SINGH BRAR and Connor SYME are all expected to turn pro in the coming weeks. Good luck to all of them. Not the Amateur swan song they would have hoped for but nevertheless a trip and experience they will all remember for the rest of their lives.

ME.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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80. Walker Cup Day 1 – USA Leads GB&I 8 – 4

10th September 2017

USA lead GB&I 8 – 4 after Day 1 of the 2017 Walker Cup match being played at the superb Los Angeles CC.

The Day 1 Results (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

Day 1 Mornings Foursomes – USA 2 – 2 GB&I

I followed the match between Connor Syme / Paul McBride and Doc Redman / Will Zalatoris. The GB&I pair both played well once they had got over their initial nerves. The defining factors were the USA’s poor play on the par 3 holes (they bogeyed all three), McBride’s accurate approach play and most importantly Syme’s putting. The Scotsman holed 9 missable putts from within 10 feet which either halved or won holes. In the end they ran out comfortable winners.

Connor Syme and Paul McBride (Photo: GolfBible)

Scott Gregory and Jack Singh Brar beat Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ 3&2 to ensure the Day 1 Foursomes finished halved 2 – 2. In what was a tight match up until the turn the USA pair simply fell away on the back nine handing the game to GB&I with two bogeys and a double bogey on holes 14 – 16.

Scott Gregory and Jack Singh Brar ( Photo: GolfBible)

The other two matches represented humbling experiences for the GB&I pairs.

In Game 1 Collin Morikawa and Norman Xiong thrashed Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant 8&7. This was the biggest Foursomes win in 18 hole Walker Cup match history. The Americans birdied the first 4 holes winning them all and parred in to the 11th where hands were shaken. The GB&I pair were 5-over par at the conclusion. 18 year old Norman Xiong is starring in Los Angeles. He appears to have both the build and game to really make a name for himself in the future.

Maverick McNealy and Doug Ghim proved too strong for the Welsh pairing of David Boote and Jack Davidson in the final match of the series. USA birdied four of the first 6 holes to jump into a big lead which they defended comfortably with par golf. As GB&I sought to chase the game further errors allowed the USA to run out easy winners.

Day 1 Afternoon Singles – USA 6 – 2 GB&I

This session will probably prove to be the defining one of the 46th Walker Cup match. USA moved out in front and it is in all honesty hard to see how the GB&I team will be able to recover the position.

I was attracted to the match of Robert MacIntyre and Cameron Champ, having read that Bob didn’t have much family or friend support out here. Bob also has an excellent match play record so it was inevitable that he would give the big hitting American a good game. The fact he had been left out of the morning Foursomes was also likely to be a motivator for him. Whilst Champ was out of sorts, struggling for pars all the way round as well as with his short game, the Scotsman was simply outstanding. Gaining confidence as the match proceeded from his opponents difficulties Bob played a large number of great shots demonstrating an excellent all round game. By the time the match ended on the 14th green Champ was almost alone having lost his US gallery long before.

GB&I’s only other winner in the afternoon was Jack Singh Brar. He will take an unbeaten W2-L0-H0 record in to Day 2. Jack appears to have played very well looking at his hole scores. Five 3’s in his first 11 holes enabled him to take a 5Up lead on mid-amateur and LACC member Stewart Hagestad. Whilst he stumbled a little coming home he regrouped quickly to finish off a comfortable win.

Robert MacIntyre Enjoys His Singles Win (Photo: GolfBible)

Harry Ellis was 2Up in game 1 with with 5 holes to play. Unfortunately he bogeyed three of them – poor drives being largely to blame – and allowed Braden Thornberry, surprisingly left out of the morning Foursomes, to gain a flattering 2 holes win.

Connor Syme started well, leading Norman Xiong by 3Up after 6 holes. However, once Xiong settled he quickly came back and helped by three birdies won out impressively 2&1 against one of GB&I’s strongest players.

McBride appears to have played well but was simply unlucky to draw Collin Morikawa. The Californian was 3-under for the 16 holes played before winning 3&1. Against many of the other US players Paul may well have secured a win given his overall play.

Matthew Jordan also seems to have played well in his first match at this Walker Cup, coming out on the wrong side of a tight match. Will Zalatoris played the tough finishing holes a little better to eventually win by 2 holes on the 18th.

David Boote got off to a poor start bogeying three of the opening 4 holes and going 3 Down. Once he settled the Welshman played well, showing a great deal of fight. Doug Ghim certainly knew he had been in a game by the time he had seen out a 2&1 win on the 17th green.

In the final game Scott Gregory also played well. Leading 2Up after 11 holes he fell foul of the brutal finishing holes which to his credit Maverick McNeally negotiated very impressively. McNeally ended up winning 3&1 on the 17th green.

Day 2 – Morning Foursomes

At the end of play on Saturday the pairings / draws for Day 2 were announced.

GB&I go into Day 2 requiring an exceptional performance. A victory in the Sunday Foursomes series is essential if they are to stage a comeback and perhaps more likely add some respectability to the final score.

Unsurprisingly the GB&I pairing of Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant have been dropped with Matthew Jordan and Robert MacIntyre introduced in game 4.

The Day 2 Foursomes Draw (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

Day 2 – Afternoon Singles

Sunday sees 10 games and all 20 players out on the course contesting the Singles series.

The draw shows a number of repeat matches from Day 1 – Jack Singh Brar and Robert MacIntyre will again play Stewart Hagestad and Cameron Champ. Hopefully the results are the same on Day 2 !

Best of luck to GB&I. Let’s make USA work for every point today.

The Day 2 Singles Draw (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

ME

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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79. 20 Quick Observations From The Official Practice Day

9th September 2017

I spent yesterday at the Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) looking at the course and watching all of the players practice.

This is some of what I heard, saw and experienced: –

1. The North Course is even better than I thought it would be – and I arrived with high expectations having read a lot about the recent Gil Hanse renovation.

2. The clue was in the location – Beverly Hills – but it is far more hilly and undulating than any of the photos I had seen suggested.

3. Holes 3 – 8 in particular are magnificent. The land in this most northerly part of the property is stunning with height changes, steep banking and barranca framing all of the holes.

4. The Par 3’s are all excellent. The 4th (230 yards) and 11th (289 yards) are very long but both severely downhill so hugely inviting when stood on the tee.

5. In passing Lionel Ritchie’s house (see photo below) beside the 4th green is one of the finest properties I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. As I was admiring it one of the LACC members volunteered that the owner, no names were obviously mentioned, also owned the two properties next door (to the left) in addition to the main house.

Lionel Ritchie’s Property Overlooking The 4th Green (Photo: GolfBible)

6. The course is very long, particularly the back nine which plays 3,875 yards. There are four Par 4’s which are 500+ yards, including the three closing holes.

7. The fairways are very wide on all of the holes so I expect players will be using driver off many of the tees.

8. The rough looks low, almost non existent, but it is thick and tangly. Balls can sit up in it but equally fall through and penalise players for inaccuracy.

9. The bunkering is exceptional. Superbly shaped, large and often deep. Most of the bunkers, particularly those greenside, have a very thick collar of rough around them. Players will be shouting for their misdirected shots to find the sand as balls that finish here will be almost ‘dead’.

10. The greens are generally very large and looked quick. Getting the speed early on will be critical as will being on the right side of some of the tougher hole locations. The two exceptions being the Par 4 6th and the front portion of the short 17th which are very narrow targets.

The 46th Walker Cup Programme (Photo: GolfBible)

11. Many of the larger greens have small promontories, surrounded by sand, which will enable the USGA to really tuck some flags away if they wish.

12. LACC looks like being a very good match play course with a number of sporty risk reward holes evident.

13. The GB&I players – who played in group’s of 5, (1) Ellis / Davidson / Boote / Syme / Singh Brar and (2) Gregory / McBride / MacIntyre / Plant / Jordan – seemed to have been given free reign during the final practice session.

14. GB&I Group 1 didn’t play the full 18. They played holes 1, 2 and 9 before playing the back nine and walking in early. They then practiced their putting and went to the range.

A Signed 46th Walker Cup Flag (Photo: GolfBible)

15. There didn’t seem to be any competitive play going on yesterday and there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of R&A Selector observation taking place. It was as if the Day 1 foursomes pairings / singles order had already been determined and Friday’s play was irrelevant in this regard.

16. I anticipate that some players are going to be exposed by the length and severity of the LACC test. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some very one sided matches.

17. Understandably there are very few GB&I supporters in Los Angeles outside of each player’s family and close friends. You have to be pretty committed to make a 5,400 mile journey for an amateur golf event. Therefore this is going to be an away match in the strictest sense with a large partisan home crowd.

18. Recent Walker Cup matches have tended to go to the home team and historically GB&I have always struggled over here. I certainly travelled more in hope than expectation and reluctantly have to accept it is hard to see anything other than a comfortable USA win. As is always the case a good start to quieten the home crowd and build a little momentum this morning will be imperative for GB&I. I obviously wish GB&I well and hope our players can do themselves justice when proceedings begin. It would be great to witness a big sporting upset live.

19. The Day 1 pairings were announced at the opening ceremony and as with the original team selection it is hard before a ball has been struck to overly question them. It’s now down to the players to deliver.

20. Finally, the LACC is a very special place and everyone on site is delighted they have the opportunity to showcase their club and course. All of the membership / volunteers I came into contact with were proactive, friendly and welcoming. With two courses and superb practice facilities it has the space to accommodate any match or tournament.

ME.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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78. Craig Watson Stands Down As GB&I Captain

30th August 2017

The R&A today announced that Craig WATSON had stood down as Great Britain & Ireland’s (GB&I) 2017 Walker Cup Captain “due to a serious illness in his immediate family”.

So close to the match this will obviously be a huge disappointment to the 1997 Amateur champion from East Renfrewshire GC. He appears from the outside to have worked diligently over the last 18 months to get to know the players and build a good rapport with all of them.

The 2017 Walker Cup match against the United States of America starts in 10 days time at the Los Angeles Country Club. The Team are scheduled to fly out later this week.

Andy INGRAM, Chairman of the R&A’s GB&I Men’s Selection Committee since 2014, has taken over as Acting Captain. The Welshman is a member of Royal Porthcawl GC.

This is now the third match running where GB&I’s Walker Cup preparations have been disrupted somewhat.

In 2015 they were thrown into a spin when Florida-based Sam HORSFIELD withdrew just a few weeks before the match started at Lytham. He was replaced by Ewen FERGUSON and the Team went on to secure a resounding win.

Similarly in 2013 Captain Nigel EDWARDS had to fly home from Long Island in the week prior to the match after his father fell seriously ill. In the end he was able to return to the National Golf Links Of America, relieving the then Chairman of Selectors Jonathan PLAXTON. The final result in this earlier match wasn’t so positive for us though.

Of course the most famous withdrawal of a GB&I captain came in the first match in 1922, also at the National Golf Links of America. The Times golf correspondent Bernard DARWIN stepping in to what was a playing role in those days when the appointed man Robert HARRIS fell ill.

Andy Ingram with Jamie Donaldson in January 2015 (Photo: Steve Pope / Sporting Wales)

Andy INGRAM will be the fourth Welshman to Captain our Walker Cup team following in the footsteps of Nigel EDWARDS (2011, 2013 and 2015 – W2 L1), Clive BROWN (1995 and 1997 – W1 L1) and Tony DUNCAN (1953 – W0 L1).

He will also be just the fifth Captain out of the 27 who have performed the role up to and including this year not to have played in the match. Brown and Duncan are also in this group.

Ingram, who is now 57, is a former Welsh Boy’s and Youth International.

He captained the Welsh Men’s Home Internationals team on five occasions, including their Raymond Trophy victory at Royal St. David’s GC in 2002. He then went on to become the Chairman of the Welsh Teams and Performance Committee between 2004-2014.

Ingram also captained the winning European Junior Ryder Cup Team in the USA in 2004 and also at Celtic Manor in 2006 where Europe retained the trophy.

I am sure Craig will pick up the GB&I Captaincy reins again in 2018 ahead of the St. Andrews Trophy match in Finland in July and then again in 2019 for the next Walker Cup match which will be played at Royal Liverpool GC.

Best wishes go out to the Watson family and hopefully a speedy recovery can be reported in due course.

ME.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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77. The 2017 GB&I Walker Cup Team Has Been Announced

21st August 2017

The R&A announced the 2017 Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup Team earlier today.

The team, which will be captained for the first time by Craig Watson, is (in alphabetical order): –

David BOOTE (23) – Walton Heath GC, Wales
Jack DAVIDSON (20) – Llanwern GC, Wales
Harry ELLIS (21) – Meon Valley GC, England
Scott GREGORY (22) – Corhampton GC, England
Matthew JORDAN (21) – Royal Liverpool GC, England
Paul MCBRIDE (21) – The Island GC, Ireland
Robert MACINTYRE (21) – Glencruitten GC, Scotland
Alfie PLANT (25) – Sundridge Park GC, England
Jack SINGH BRAR (20) – Remedy Oak GC, England
Connor SYME (22) – Drumoig GC, Scotland

Reserves:
1st Conor O’ROURKE (26) – Naas GC, Ireland
2nd Craig HOWIE (22) – Peebles GC, Scotland

Top (l-r): Scott Gregory, Alfie Plant, Connor Syme, David Boote, Harry Ellis   Bottom (l-r): Jack Davidson, Jack Singh Bear, Matthew Jordan, Paul McBride, Robert MacIntyre

This is the Team that I predicted would be selected last Saturday so it is hard to say there are any surprises. The Selection Committee have delivered what most commentators were expecting.

Commenting on the Team announcement Captain Craig Watson said, “We have been very impressed with the performances of many of the GB&I players so far this season and it has been a difficult decision to select only ten players. The Americans will be determined not to lose two matches in a row but we have selected a strong team and I’m sure the players will give it their all to try to retain the trophy.”

A 19-man initial squad had been announced on 23rd January 2017 with two more players added to it in April.

From these David BOOTE, Jack DAVIDSONScott GREGORYRobert MACINTYRE, Paul MCBRIDEAlfie PLANT and Connor SYME have now been selected. Reserves Craig HOWIE and Conor O’ROURKE were also both in the squad.

Harry ELLIS, Matthew JORDAN and Jack SINGH BRAR played their way on to the Team during the season.

Copyright © 2015-2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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76. The 2017 USA Walker Cup Team Has Been Announced

21st August 2017

The United States Golf Association (USGA) confirmed the 2017 USA Walker Cup Team at the conclusion of yesterday’s U.S. Amateur Championship.

The team, which will be captained for the second time by John ‘Spider’ Miller, will be (in alphabetical order): –

Cameron CHAMP (22) – Sacramento, California (SPWAR #4)
Doug GHIM (21) – Arlington Heights, Illinois (SPWAR #1)
Stewart HAGESTAD (26) – Newport Beach, California (SPWAR #71)
Maverick MCNEALY (21) – Portola Valley, California (SPWAR #25)
Collin MORIKAWA (20) – La Canada Flintridge, California (SPWAR #2)
Doc REDMAN (19) – Raleigh, North Carolina (SPWAR #6)
Scottie SCHEFFLER (21) – Dallas, Texas (SPWAR #11)
Braden THORNBERRY (20) – Olive Branch, Mississippi (SPWAR #3)
Norman XIONG (18) – Canyon Lake, California (SPWAR #16)
Will ZALATORIS (21) – Plano, Texas (SPWAR #12)

The USA Walker Cup Team (Photo: USGA)

With the match being played at the Los Angeles Country Club it is interesting to note that five of the players selected are from California.

Maverick MCNEALY will be the only returning player on either side, having also competed in the 2015 match at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Selecting the USA Walker Cup team must be one of the hardest tasks in golf given the strength in depth available. Following the U.S. Amateur the USA had 8 players in the Top 10 of the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR), 17 in the Top 20 and 30 in the Top 50.

Based on these rankings, Theo HUMPHREY (#5), Nick HARDY (#8), Sam BURNS (#9) and John ODA (#13) can all consider themselves unlucky to miss out on selection for the USA team. Allowing for current form (Norman XIONG) and the mid-amateur policy (Stewart HAGESTAD) Maverick MCNEALY is arguably the most fortunate to be included.

Looking back at the 16 man USA Walker Squad that was announced in November 2016, and who practiced at the Los Angeles Country Club in December 2016, just 6 made the final line up. The successful players being Doug GHIM, Stewart HAGESTADMaverick MCNEALYCollin MORIKAWAScottie SCHEFFLER, and Will ZALATORIS. Those missing out were Dawson ARMSTRONG, Sean CROCKER, Brad DALKEGavin HALL, Nick HARDY, Scott HARVEY, Rico HOEY (turned Pro in June), Dylan MEYER,  John ODA and Jimmy STANGER.

The USGA were true to their April 2017 word concerning a softening of their mid-amateur (over 25) selection policy, reducing their ‘commitment’ from two to one. As expected Stewart HAGESTAD, the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, was the recipient of this place. Scott HARVEY, who has also enjoyed a good 2017 season and played in the 2015 match, will no doubt be disappointed.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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75. My 2017 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team

19th August 2017

Here is my Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team for the Walker Cup match to be played on 9th and 10th September against USA at the Los Angeles Country Club.

My selection has primarily been driven by a wish to pick players with consistent and winning records in 2017. However, I have also had to temper this with the fact this is an away match likely to be played in sunny, near perfect conditions.

In previous years stronger foursomes partnerships have been established in prior international matches. For various reasons I do not believe this is the case in 2017 and as such have largely ignored pairings, although I am confident that sound partnerships can be formed from the players I have selected.

Each player is listed below in the order I would select them with a summary of their notable performances in 2017 (courtesy of the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking): –

1. CONNOR SYME (Scotland)

2017 – US Amateur MP – Quarters
2017 – European Amateur Team A MP – W3/H0/L1
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T8
2017 – British Open Final Qualifying – Co-Medalist
2017 – European Amateur – T17
2017 – British Amateur – T67
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – 5th
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T8
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T7
2017 – Battle Trophy (SCO) – Champion
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T7
2017 – African Amateur – 2nd

Connor is an experienced player who has performed consistently well on the international stage for some time now. Not quite at his very best this year but he pleasingly seems to be finding some form as the match approaches. His performance this week at the U.S. Amateur clearly demonstrates his pedigree.

2. MATTHEW JORDAN (England)

2017 – US Amateur Qualifying – 1st Alt
2017 – European Amateur Team A MP – W3/H0/L3
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T2
2017 – European Amateur – 6th
2017 – British Amateur – 64’s
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – Champion
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – 2nd
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – 5th
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T4
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T7
2017 – Hampshire Salver (ENG) – 8th
2017 – Quadrandular (ENG, ESP, ITA, GER) MP – W4/H1/L1

Matthew has probably enjoyed the best overall year of any GB&I amateur golfer. His superb run of results in the heart of our season, culminating in a win at the St Andrews Links Trophy, saw him move swiftly through the ranks and in to a fully deserved place on our team.

3. ALFIE PLANT (England)

2017 – British Open – T62
2017 – European Amateur Team A MP – W5/H0/L1
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T2
2017 – European Amateur – Champion
2017 – British Amateur – T78
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T34
2017 – Spanish International Amateur MP – 16’s
2017 – Spanish International Amateur Medal – T4
2017 – New South Wales Amateur (AUS) MP – 32’s
2017 – New South Wales Amateur Medal – T9
2017 – Australia Amateur MP – 32’s
2017 – Master of the Amateurs (AUS) – T14

A man for the big occasion Alfie was always going to find a way into our Walker Cup Team. Having said that for much of the year it looked unlikely for the 2016 Lytham Trophy winner. His memorable victory at the European Amateur changed his 2017 story completely and when he backed it up with a strong showing in the European Amateur Team and a silver medal winning performance at The Open he was assured of his place.

4. JACK SINGH BRAR (England)

2017 – US Amateur MP – 64’s
2017 – US Amateur Medal – T8
2017 – English Amateur Medal – T6
2017 – US Amateur Qualifying – Medalist
2017 – European Amateur – T7
2017 – British Amateur MP – 16’s
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – T18
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T2
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – Champion
2017 – Hampshire Salver (ENG) – Champion

2017 – Spanish International Amateur MP – 32’s
2017 – Spanish International Amateur Medal – T9
2017 – New South Wales Amateur (AUS) MP – Quarters
2017 – New South Wales Amateur Medal – T9
2017 – Avondale Amateur Medal (AUS) – 2nd
2017 – Australian Amateur MP – 16’s

Jack has enjoyed an excellent season with consistently good results throughout. He secured his spot relatively early with wins at the Hampshire Salver and Lytham Trophy, followed by a 2nd at the Brabazon. A couple of surprising match play losses in recent weeks are a slight concern but are more than offset by his international experience and continued improvement.

The Walker Cup 

5. JACK DAVIDSON (Wales)

2017 – Home Internationals (GB&I) – W4/H1/L1
2017 – Welsh Amateur (Closed) MP – Champion
2017 – Welsh Amateur Medal – T4
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T12
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – 9th
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T35
2017 – Welsh Open Amateur – 3rd
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T13
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – Champion
2017 – Spanish International Amateur MP – Champion
2017 – Portuguese International Amateur – T7
2017 – South American Amateur – 3rd

Jack is the only GB&I amateur to win three times this year – the Spanish International Amateur, European Nations and the Welsh Amateur – with two of these wins coming in match play events. When you add this to his other high finishes this season and impressive Home Internationals results this week he has become a strong pick for us.

6. HARRY ELLIS (England)

2017 – US Amateur Medal – T65
2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W4/H0/L2
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T8
2017 – British Amateur MP – Champion
2017 – British Amateur Medal – 3rd
2017 – NCAA D1 Washington Regional (USA) – T5
2017 – USA Collegiate D1 Rank (all year, pre-Regionals) – 73

Harry’s superb comeback win in the Amateur Championship in June deservedly sealed his place in the team. It came on the back of a good US College season where he produced a number of impressive results for Florida State. He also delivered for England in the European Amateur Teams where his foursomes partnership with Alfie Plant was unbeaten.

7. PAUL MCBRIDE (Ireland)

2017 – Home Internationals (GB&I) – W4/H1/L0
2017 – European Open (European Tour) – T47
2017 – European Am Team Medal – T2
2017 – European Amateur – T13
2017 – British Amateur – Quarters
2017 – USA Collegiate D1 Rank (all year, pre-Regionals) – 53

I have been really impressed with Paul’s play this summer since he returned home from Wake Forest where he had also played well during the regular US College season. With his experience in the US and good current form, including an unbeaten Home Internationals this week, I expect him to play a leading role in Los Angeles.

8. SCOTT GREGORY (England)

2017 – US Amateur Medal – T70
2017 – English Amateur (Closed) MP – Quarters
2017 – English Amateur Medal – T10
2017 – Cobra Puma (PGA EuroPro Tour) – T4
2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W3/H1/L1
2017 – European Amateur – T32
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T26
2017 – New South Wales Amateur (AUS) – Champion
2017 – New South Wales Amateur Medal – T3
2017 – Avondale Amateur Medal (AUS) – 21st
2017 – Australian Amateur MP – 16’s
2017 – Australian Amateur Medal – T12

Scott has played a mixed Pro / Am schedule this year, enjoying the fruits of his 2016 Amateur Championship win but making it hard for us to properly assess his standing. He has had a steady year on the amateur circuit, the highlight being an early season win in Australia, and has played relatively well in the last few weeks. His international experience and impressive match play record also underpin his selection. Finally, with fellow Hampshire men Singh Brar and Ellis already in my team his inclusion may bring useful foursomes flexibility too.

9. ROBERT MACINTYRE (Scotland)

2017 – US Amateur Medal and MP – 32’s
2017 – Vierumaki Finnish (Challenge Tour) – T53
2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W3/H0/L1
2017 – European Amateur – T4
2017 – British Amateur Medal and MP – 16’s
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T24
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T25
2017 – Match Play 9 (Challenge Tour) – T33
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T16
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T7
2017 – Australian Amateur MP – Semi’s

Robert has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in 2017 without delivering either the consistency or the win I would like to have seen. Again his international experience and strong match play record, including a good performance at this week’s US Amateur, mean he is well worth his place.

10. DAVID BOOTE (Wales)

2017 – US Amateur Medal – T85
2017 – Western Amateur (USA) – T52
2017 – European Amateur Team B Match – W2/H0/L1
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T16
2017 – British Open Final Qualifying (3 spots) – T4
2017 – European Amateur – T26
2017 – British Amateur – 64’s
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T4
2017 – US Open Sectionals (15 spots) – 18th
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – 7th
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T26
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T29
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T10
2017 – Portuguese International Amateur – T4
2017 – Australian Amateur MP – 32’s

I have wanted to select David from the start, albeit he has (or perhaps other players have) made it harder than I would have liked. A 2016 graduate of Stanford University he offers California / USA experience and has an excellent track record in international team competitions. His 2017 results offer good consistency in premier events, albeit there are few top 10s and no wins. A potential foursomes pairing with fellow Welshman Jack Davidson helps his selection. I hope his decision to play the Western Amateur rather than the South of England and Welsh Amateur doesn’t come back to haunt him when the selection that matters is made.

__________________________________________________

Appendix 1 – An Apology To My Reserves

Scotsmen LIAM JOHNSTON and CRAIG HOWIE have every right to expect to be selected for this year’s GB&I team. Indeed they still maybe !

Look at their 2017 playing records below and then compare them with those of Scott Gregory, Robert MacIntyre and David Boote. Johnston has won two big events this year – how can he not be in the team you may ask ?

If this match was taking place on a links course at home then I would probably have both of them in my team. Unfortunately for them it is not and that has influenced me.

However, our Captain, Craig Watson, is Scottish and I certainly would not question him if he pushed his fellow Selection Committee members for one or both of their inclusions.

The best I can offer is the opportunity to be my Reserves.

11. Liam JOHNSTON (Scotland)

2017 – Western Amateur (USA) – T18
2017 – European Amateur – T17
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – 7th
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – Champion
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T10
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T13
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T24
2017 – African Amateur – Champion
2017 – South African Amateur – Quarters
2017 – Cape Province Open Am (RSA) – 26th
2017 – South African Stroke Amateur – T5

Liam started 2017 very well with a number of excellent performances in South Africa, including victory in the prestigious African Amateur. He has played well back home over the summer too culminating in a second win at the Scottish Open Amateur. His performance in the Western Amateur a few weeks ago was encouraging but a W0/H3/L3 performance at the Home Internationals was badly timed.

12. Craig HOWIE (Scotland)

2017 – Home Internationals (GB&I) – W2/D2/L2
2017 – Scottish Amateur (Closed) MP – 32’s
2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W2/H0/L2
2017 – European Amateur – T32
2017 – British Amateur MP – 32’s
2017 – British Amateur Medal – T11
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T10
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – T3
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T25
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T7
2017 – Craigmillar Park Open Am (SCO) – Champion
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T19
2017 – African Amateur – 5th
2017 – South African Amateur Medal – T11
2017 – Cape Province Open Am (RSA) – T9
2017 – South African Stroke Amateur – T7

Craig has enjoyed a consistently good year with nine top 11 finishes recorded. He perhaps needed to convert one of them into a big win to really push himself into the selection picture for this away match. His match play results seem reasonably robust also.

Appendix 2 – Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking – GB&I Only (as at 18/08/17)


Appendix 3 – World Amateur Golf Ranking – GB&I Only (as at 13/08/17 / released 16/08/17)


ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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74. Ireland Win The 2017 Men’s Home Internationals

18th August 2017

The Men’s Home Internationals came to a dramatic conclusion this afternoon at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds.

The Raymond Trophy was won by IRELAND. They drew the deciding match with ENGLAND 7.5 – 7.5 but in doing so pipped the home nation by a half point in total match points earned, 26.5 against 26.0.

Ireland (Photo: Leaderboard Photography) 

This was Ireland’s fourth consecutive victory in the event, a national record for them in the long history of this competition.

For the second year running Colm CAMPBELL found himself in the all important  final Singles game. Once again he delivered. His half, having been 5 Down after 6 holes, against Jake BURNAGE pushed Ireland up to 7.5 points which they had known at the start of play would be enough for them to secure the title. 

Here is the final Points Table with the ‘Countback’ information at the bottom: –

Points Table (Photo: England Golf Event Microsite)

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

With the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup squad due to be announced on Monday this was the final opportunity for many of our players to stake their claim.

Here is my Individual Performance analysis which is based on the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) approach to Team events: –

Clearly the big winners were Jack DAVIDSON (WAL) and Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) who certainly did themselves no harm with very strong individual performances.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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73. Connor Syme Shines At The U.S. Amateur Championship

18th August 2017

The 117th U.S. Amateur Championship started last Monday at Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.

Within the field of 312 players from 29 different countries were nine players from Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I).Here is a list of how they have got on in order of success: –

1. Connor SYME 21 (SCO)
SP – 72 BA / 70 RV (+2) Tied 35th
MP – Lost Quarter Finals 2&1 to Doug Ghim (USA)

2. Robert MACINTYRE 21 (SCO)
SP – 68 BA / 74 RV (+2) Tied 35th
MP – Lost Round of 32 3&1 to Dawson Armstrong (USA)

3. Jack SINGH BRAR 20 (ENG)
SP – 69 RV / 69 BA (-2) Tied 8th
MP – Lost Round of 64 3&1 to Joey Vrzich (USA)

4. Harry ELLIS 21 (ENG) – 2017 Amateur Champion
SP – 73 BA / 71 RV (+4) Tied 57th
Missed out in 13-for-8 play-off for a final MP spot
MP- Did Not Qualify

5. Scott GREGORY 22 (ENG)
SP – 70 BA / 75 RV (+5) Tied 66th
MP – Did Not Qualify

6. David BOOTE 22 (WAL)
SP – 76 RV / 70 BA (+6) Tied 81st
MP – Did Not Qualify

7. Alfie PLANT 25 (ENG)
SP – 74 RV / 76 BA (+10) Tied 130th
MP – Did Not Qualify

8. Stuart GREHAN 24 (IRE)
SP – 75 BA / 76 RV (+11) Tied 156th
MP – Did Not Qualify

9. Daniel SUTTON 21 (ENG)
SP – 79 RV / 76 BA (+15) Tied 206th
MP – Did Not Qualify

Riviera Country Club (Photo: California GOLF)

From a Walker Cup perspective the U.S. Amateur Championship for me was about whether David BOOTE, Scott GREGORY or Stuart GREHAN could deliver a performance that could underpin their potential selection for the GB&I team. Boote and Gregory may both still make the final R&A team but given the competition for places I believe the decision will be finely balanced.

Good luck to Connor SYME (USA) in his Quarter Final match today against Doug GHIM (USA). What a psychological boost it would be for our Walker Cup Team if he could get to the Semi-Finals or dare I dream even further.

To view the full Stroke Play Qualifying and Match Play Stage please click here – U.S. Amateur Championship Live Scoring

For more information on the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship please click here to read my – GolfBible Preview and Daily Reports

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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72. GolfWeek’s Alistair Tait Picks His GB&I Walker Cup Team

16th August 2017

In a golfweek.com article entitled ‘Projecting The 2017 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team’ Alistair Tait today laid out his thoughts on our Team’s selection.

His Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team is (in alphabetical order): –

David BOOTE (Wales)
Jack DAVIDSON (Wales)
Harry ELLIS (England)
Scott GREGORY (England)
Matthew JORDAN (England)
Paul MCBRIDE (Ireland)
Robert MCINTYRE (Scotland)
Alfie PLANT (England)
Jack SINGH BRAR (England)
Connor SYME (Scotland)

Alistair’s GB&I team contains five players from England, two from Scotland, two from Wales and one from Ireland.

In his article Alistair suggests that performances and rankings are not the only selection considerations: “GB&I Walker Cup teams aren’t always the strongest teams assembled due to the inner politics of British amateur golf. The team always has to be at least slightly representative of the other nations, even if that means taking a slightly weaker side. On this occasion, there is good strength from Scotland, Ireland and Wales to complement the normally strong English contingent.”

The 2017 match at the Los Angeles Country Club is fast approaching with play scheduled for the weekend of 9th and 10th September.

Take a look at the full GolfWeek article by clicking on the link in the opening paragraph.

I will of course be announcing my own team this coming weekend so stay tuned.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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71. Todd Clements Wins The English Men’s Amateur

7th August 2017

Todd CLEMENTS yesterday won the English Men’s Amateur Championship at The Berkshire Golf Club near Ascot.

In a match befitting the Final he eventually beat Staffordshire’s Jack GAUNT 2&1 in a rollercoaster affair where momentum swung from one side to the other.

Todd qualified in tied 3rd place on -9 after rounds of 66 (Blue) and 68 (Red).

David LANGLEY medalled after rounds of 61 and 68 respectively for a superb -14 score. Unfortunately the curse of the medalist struck him in his first match play game.

Prior to the Final the man from Braintree Golf Club in Essex reeled off a sequence of tight match play wins on the Red Course on route to securing the title at the famous heathland course: –

Round 2 Sam TURNER – 1 Hole
Round 3 Timothy SHIN – 3&2
Round 4 Joe LONG – 2&1
Quarter Final Jake BOLTON – 1 Hole
Semi-Final Nick POPPLETON – 1 Hole

Whilst by no means a favourite at the start of the week CLEMENTS has been building up to a breakthrough win so his victory was not a huge surprise.

For the last few years he has wintered in Dubai and produced a number of notable finishes on the professional MENA Golf Tour. His best came in October 2016 in the MENA Golf Tour Championship where he finished tied 5th.

Back home in 2017 he has produced some other reasonable finishes too – tied 7th at the Lytham Trophy, tied 25th at the Brabazon Trophy and tied 24th at the St. Andrews Links Trophy – but this prestigious title is clearly a big step forwards for him.

For more information on the English Men’s Amateur Championship please click these links – Stroke Play Qualifying Results and Match Play Results

Todd Clements (Photo: Leaderboard Photography) 

Todd, now 20, has risen to 207th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking. However, as the now 34th best Great British and Irish (GB&I) and 16th best English player in this list he is clearly too far back to make a late burst for the 2017 Walker Cup team. I trust he will be rewarded with a place in the England team for the upcoming Men’s Home Internationals though.

The English Men’s Amateur in some respects was notable for those players who chose not to compete. These included Matthew JORDAN, Alfie PLANT, Harry ELLIS and Harry HALL. From a Walker Cup perspective, particularly if you already have some good results in the bag, as the first three players do, there can clearly be as much to be gained from not playing as actually teeing it up.

So let’s have a look at how those leading English players – those in the Walker Cup squad and current selection mix – that did make their way to The Berkshire got on (in order of success): –

Tom SLOMAN – SP 69 65 (-9) T3 / MP SF Lost to Jack Gaunt 1 Hole
Scott GREGORY – SP 64 72 (-7) T10 / MP QF Lost to Tom Sloman 1 Hole
Bradley MOORE – SP 71 70 (-2) T32 / MP Rd 4 Lost to Nick Poppleton 2&1
Gian-Marco PETROZZI – SP 71 71 (-1) T45 / MP Rd 4 Lost to Jack Gaunt 4&2
Daniel BROWN – SP 66 71 (-6) T13 / MP Rd 3 Lost to Bradley Moore 3&2
Josh HILLEARD – SP 70 68 (-5) T18 / MP Rd 3 Lost to Scott Gregory 4&2
Jack SINGH BRAR – SP 65 70 (-8) T6 / MP Rd 2 Lost to Harry Bayley 2 Holes
James WALKER – SP 71 73 (+1) T76 / MP DNQ
David WICKS – SP 73 71 (+1) T76 / MP DNQ
Jake BURNAGE – SP 71 73 (+1) T76 / MP DNQ
Marco PENGE – SP 73 77 (+7) T178  / MP DNQ

Somerset’s Tom SLOMAN continues to impress, following up his Amateur Championship Last 32 and recent Dutch U22 Open victory with another good performance here.

Scott GREGORY is clearly finding some form with a solid European Amateur Team competition and PGA EuroPro Top 5 followed up with a good run at The Berkshire. Is a Quarter Final result enough to force him into the Walker Cup reckoning though ?

Both Scott and Jack SINGH BRAR would do their chances the world of good by making the Match Play stage of the US Amateur Championship next week.

It was a shame to see JAKE BURNAGE come up short at the English Men’s Amateur given the run of form he’s been on. He will no doubt be selected for the England team at the Men’s Home Internationals so will get a further chance to show what can do then.

My current thinking re. English players in our 2017 GB&I Walker Cup team are that Matthew JORDAN, Alfie PLANT and Harry ELLIS are already assured of their places, that Jack SINGH BRAR is all but there and that SCOTT GREGORY still has every chance. It’s hard to see anyone else getting a look in at this stage given the competition for places.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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70. Sam Locke Wins The Scottish Men’s Amateur

6th August 2017

Sam LOCKE yesterday won the 90th Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship at Prestwick Golf Club, beating Ryan LUMSDEN 9&8 in the 36-hole Final.

The win, and certainly the size of it, was something of a surprise as LUMSDEN, who plays US college golf at Northwestern, entered the final as the favourite being the more experienced and highly ranked player.

Relatively unknown outside Scotland up until this week 18 year old Sam LOCKE is from the Banchory Golf Club in Aberdeenshire. He has been supported by the Paul Laurie Foundation since he was 14 and is coached by his father Andrew.

From a starting field of 264 players Sam finished tied 5th in the Stroke Play Qualifier after rounds of 67 (PSC) and 73 (PGC).

He then beat Duncan MCNEILL (19th hole), Michael SMYTH (1 hole), James WILSON (4&3), Sandy SCOTT (3&2) and Alasdair MCDOUGALL (3&2) before his memorable victory over LUMSDEN.

Sam led 5 Up after nine, helped by Ryan bogeying five of the opening holes. A relaxed Locke then birdied 5 of the holes on the morning back nine to take full control of the Final and a 10 Up lead into lunch. He then saw the match out comfortably in the afternoon.

For more information on the Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship please click – Stroke Play Results and Match Play Results.

After the Final Sam said in an interview with Scottish Golf “It’s nice to get a big win under my belt and hopefully I can kick on from here and enjoy more success. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and practice hard.”

Sam will now be allocated one of the two remaining places in the Scottish Men’s Home Internationals Team for the competition at Moortown Golf Club in two weeks time.

Whilst it is too late for Sam to make his way into the 2017 Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup selection picture I look forward to following his progress in the coming years, starting in Leeds very shortly.

Sam Locke with his father Andrew Locke (Photo: Andrew Locke)

So getting back down to Walker Cup business let’s look at how the leading Scottish players, those that are closer to the selection discussion than Sam, got on. Here is a quick summary:-

Craig HOWIE – SP 73 72 (+3) T29 / MP Rd 3 to Sandy Scott 1 hole
Sandy SCOTT – SP 66 68 (-8) T1 / MP QF to Sam Locke 3&2
Ryan LUMSDEN – SP 75 64 (-3) T3 / MP Runner Up
Jamie STEWART – SP 82 71 (+11) T112 / MP DNQ
Calum FYFE – SP 67 67 (-8) T1 / MP Rd 4 to Chris Maclean 1 hole
Chris MACLEAN – SP 68 74 (Ev) T14 / MP SF to Ryan Lumsden
Craig ROSS – SP 72 70 (Ev) T14 / MP Rd 4 to Ryan Lumsden 20th hole
Rory FRANSSEN – SP 71 69 (-2) T5 / MP Rd 2 to Darren Howie 3&2
Euan MCINTOSH – SP 69 76 (+3) T29 / MP Rd 2 to NHM Beattie 4&3

Craig HOWIE was the leading Scottish Walker Cup candidate (of those competing) going in to the event and it’s fair to say he could have done with a stronger performance to cement his position in our 10 man team given the increasing competition for places.

Sandy SCOTT has enjoyed a good summer back home from Texas Tech. but needed to win at Prestwick in my opinion to have any chance of forcing himself into the 2017 GB&I Walker Cup selection picture. His time will come.

Ryan LUMSDEN, whilst disappointing in the Final, should be pleased with his overall performance. He continues to impress and like SCOTT should prove to be a strong GB&I Walker Cup candidate in 2019.

Scotland’s three leading players chose not to play in their national Amateur Championship.

Liam JOHNSTON and Connor SYME joined Wales’ David BOOTE in playing in the Western Amateur at Skokie CC in Illinois. After the United States Amateur and the Amateur Championship the Western Amateur nowadays has the third strongest field in amateur golf. Therefore securing a positive result here is not easy.

Liam JOHNSTON did so, enhancing his standing by shooting rounds of 72, 66, 68 and 71 at the Western for a -7 total. Unfortunately his tied 18th finish meant he missed out on a ‘Sweet 16’ Match Play place by 1 shot.

Connor SYME started well with a 68 but a disappointing 75 in Round 2 saw him miss the 36 hole cut in the 72 hole Stroke Play Qualifying stage.

For more information on the Western Amateur Championship please click these links: Stroke Play Qualifying Results and Match Play Results.

Robert MACINTYRE took advantage of a Scottish Golf / Bounce Golf invite to compete on the European Challenge Tour in the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge.

The event was reduced to 54 holes today after heavy rain which was disappointing for Robert as his final -5, tied 53rd, finish didn’t really reflect how well he played. His 8, 6, 5 scores (+6) on the 12th, 13th and 14th holes of his third round ruined what looked like being a top 20 finish at worse. He was also -3 after 10 holes of his final round this morning when play was abandoned.

Nevertheless making the cut on the Challenge Tour is no mean feat for an amateur so in my eyes this is another encouraging week for the man from Oban on the west coast of Scotland.

For more information on the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge please click this link: European Challenge Tour Finnish Challenge Results

So in summary, as far as Scottish hopes for the Walker Cup go, good weeks for Liam JOHNSTON and Robert MACINTYRE but not so good for Craig HOWIE and Connor SYME.

The battle for places continues with just the US Amateur Championship and the Men’s Home Internationals to be played.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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69. Jack Davidson Reignites His Walker Cup Hopes With Welsh Amateur Win

5th August 2017

Jack DAVIDSON won the 2017 Welsh Men’s Amateur Championship yesterday at Aberdovey Golf Club.

The win pushes him firmly back into the Walker Cup picture after he had drifted out a little in recent months, primarily due to the good form of other players.

Jack didn’t make a great start to this event. He was +4 after 5 holes of the Stroke Play Qualifier. However, he recovered well and after rounds of 71 and 69 he finished tied 4th, out of a field of 75 players, on -2. Evan GRIFFITH achieved medalist honours with impressive rounds of 68 and 64 (-10).

The Newport man went on to win five Match Play games to secure the title: –
Round 1 (18) Theo BAKER – 6&5
Round 2 (18) Zach GALLIFORD – 3&2
Quarter Final (18) Shaun HARPIN – 3&2
Semi-Final (18) Evan GRIFFITH – 2 holes
Final (36) Tim HARRY – 8&7

For more information on this week’s Welsh Men’s Amateur Championship please click these links: Stroke Play Qualifying Results and Match Play Results

Jack Davidson (Photo: Jonathan Davidson)

In picking up his home Championship Jack became the first Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) player to win three elite amateur titles in 2017.

Back in March Jack won the Spanish International Amateur Championship and the European Nations Individual (Wales also came first in the Team competition). The first of these also involved a Match Play second stage like the Welsh Amateur.

It was good to see Jack reassert his match play credentials after a disappointing European Amateur Team Championship in Austria. Having qualified well in tied 12th he lost all three of his single games as Wales collapsed to a 16th (last) place finish.

It is easy to be dismissive of the Welsh Amateur title, in terms of the field size and depth, but I thought this win spoke volumes for Jack and his Walker Cup credentials. My view is a win is a win and as such should not be demeaned in any way. It also shows a bit of character to win when you are the favourite to do so as Jack probably was in Aberdovey.

David BOOTE, Wales’ highest ranked player, missed the Championship to play in the Western Amateur at Skokie CC in Illinois. He made the 36 hole Stroke Play Qualifier cut but missed the 72 hole ‘Sweet 16’ Match Play cut after rounds of 68, 73, 75 and 74. He finished tied 52nd in the Stroke Play standings.

For more information on the Western Amateur Championship please click these links: Stroke Play Qualifying Results and Match Play Results.

Jack Davidson wasn’t in my last Walker Cup team (see News Update 65) but I am now starting to think how can I not include someone who has won three times in 2017 ? When I do my imaginary gee-up speech before play begins in Los Angeles it would be nice to say “hey guys we’ve got the Spanish Amateur, the European Nations Individual and the Welsh Amateur champion on our side”.

The problem is someone else is going to have to come out to make way for him – who ?

The updated Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) has Jack up 8 places to 61st following his Welsh Amateur win. He is 12th in the GB&I only list on the back of a strong 2017.

Jack Davidson’s Performance Record (Source: SPWAR)

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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68. Irish Walker Cup Hopes Remain On A Knife Edge

31st July 2017

At Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s in 2015 Ireland contributed five players to the winning Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

With six players in the 21 man Squad at the end of April 2017 the Irish could have confidently hoped for two or three representatives in this year’s team. Fast forward to August, the month of selection, and they are surprisingly trending towards one or perhaps even none.

Last week was a big one for Irish amateur golf. An opportunity for their leading players to really step forward. This was because the South of Ireland Amateur Championship was played at Lahinch Golf Club.

Already a prestigious event in itself The South again took on greater importance in this Walker Cup year. This is because the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship starts on 22nd August, a day after the 2017 GB&I Walker Cup Team is expected to be announced. Therefore unlike their English, Scottish and Welsh peers, who play their national championships this week, the Irish don’t have their most prestigious (closed) amateur competition in the qualifying timeframe. The South effectively becomes it in a Walker Cup year.So let’s have a look at how Ireland’s leading players got on last week.

In something of a surprise James SUGRUE beat Conor O’ROURKE 3&2 in the South of Ireland Amateur Championship Final on Sunday.

With SUGRUE, having done little else of note this year, well out of the Walker Cup picture O’ROURKE was therefore the main Irish winner at Lahinch as far as potential selection goes.

O’ROURKE has had a good season, finishing tied 13th in the Irish Amateur Open, the Brabazon Trophy and the European Amateur before last weekend’s 2nd place. A solid follow up to his breakthrough St. Andrews Links Trophy win in 2016.

In broad terms Ireland’s other leading candidates all did well in the Stroke Play Qualifying but lost early in the Match Play. In the defence of all of the players the latter stage was played in frequently very challenging wet and windy conditions making this form of the game even more of a lottery than normal.

Here’s a quick summary of how the other key Irish players got on at The South: –

Rowan LESTER – SP -1 1st / MP QF
Colm CAMPBELL – SP +14 T38 / MP Rd 3
Stuart GREHAN – SP +10 T13 / MP Rd 2
Robin DAWSON – SP +3 2nd / MP Rd 1
Alex GLEESON – SP +6 T4 / MP Rd 1
John-Ross GALBRAITH – SP +12 T18 / MP Rd 1

My conclusion from the above set of results is that only O’ROURKE and to a lesser degree Rowan LESTER, furthered their Walker Cup cases at the Championship. Unfortunately for both of them they are probably too far back to make the team now. Yes a ‘W’ next to their name, or for that matter one of the others, would have been helpful but the likelihood is that even that would not have been enough for any of them.

In terms of the updated Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (as at 01/08/17), Conor O’ROURKE jumped 25 spots to 94th, Rowan LESTER 72 to 256th and James SUGRUE 1,040 places to 884th. O’ROURKE is now 4th in the Irish list behind Paul MCBRIDE (46th), Robin DAWSON (59th) and John-Ross GALBRAITH (60th).

Irish players will get further opportunities to shine at next week’s Mullingar Scratch Trophy and at the Men’s Home Internationals at Moortown GC between 16-18 August. However, as I have said before with the US Amateur scheduled against the Home’s the influence this event will have on our Walker Cup selection remains to be seen.

For more information on the South of Ireland Amateur Championship please click these links – SP Results and MP Results

The obvious name missing from the above list is of course Paul MCBRIDE, the man I still think has a very good chance to make the GB&I Team for the match at  Los Angeles CC.

MCBRIDE missed The South of Ireland to take up an amateur invitation to play on the European Tour at the Porsche European Open near Hamburg. In a strong field Paul shot rounds of 70, 72, 72 and 72 for a 286 (-2) total and a tied 47th finish. Making the cut as an amateur at any European Tour event is no mean achievement so I view this as a positive performance which should hopefully stand him in good stead for the final run in.

Interestingly Sean CROCKER, who is on the fringes of the US Team selection, shot 284 (-4) and finished tied 33rd after rounds of 69, 70, 71 and 74 in Germany.

Please click here for more information on the Porsche European Open – Results

Irish hopes now lie solely with Paul MCBRIDE in my view and in what is increasingly becoming a close call for the final spaces he will still need to finish the Walker Cup season strongly if he is to secure a much coveted place on the GB&I Team.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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67. Is Jake Burnage Timing His Run To Perfection ?

30th July 2017

“You could have a big dipper
going up and down, all around the bends,
you could have a bumper car, bumping,
this amusement never ends”

I am sure Peter Gabriel didn’t have the Walker Cup in mind when he wrote ‘Sledgehammer’ in 1986 but these lyrics from it are certainly starting to describe the final weeks of our 2017 Walker Cup selection journey.

My mind returned to the song after Englishman Jake BURNAGE, referring to the Walker Cup, said “My aim is to knock down the door with a sledgehammer this fortnight.”

A justifiably confident Jake was speaking after completing stage one of his personal selection plan, victory in the South of England Open Amateur Championship at Walton Heath GC.

In the days before the South of England Championship Jake had been debating whether to withdraw and save himself for the English Men’s Amateur Championship which takes place this coming week at The Berkshire. However, he realised he simply couldn’t afford to if he was to fulfil his ambition of being selected for the 2017 Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

At this late stage in proceedings he knew he had to win to remind the selectors he was still around. The fact he did so around the famous Old and New Courses at Walton Heath, in challenging weather conditions and leading from the front on the final day, where 36 holes had to be played, was hugely impressive.

Jake shot rounds of 68 New, 70 Old, 68 New, 71 Old for a 277 (-11) total which included 22 birdies to hold off compatriot Jack YULE (-10) by 1 shot. A dramatic final hole, just like at the European Amateur a month ago, made the contest appear closer than in reality it was.

The 22 year old Devonian, who didn’t start playing golf until he was 16, wasn’t born when the song was a worldwide hit but his first swing of his imaginary sledgehammer certainly hit the mark.

Take a look at The South of England Open Amateur Championship results here – Results

Jake Burnage with The SEOAC’s Michael Lunt Trophy (Photo: GolfBible)

So is Jake dreaming or could he really break into the GB&I 2017 Walker Cup team at this late stage ?

Jake started the year ranked 436th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR). He is now 73rd, 14th in the current GB&I-only list, after a good run of form, which has included 8 Top 10 results in 2017: –

July 2017 – South of England Amateur – Champion
July 2017 – Biarritz Cup, France – Tied 8th
July 2017 – Chiberta Grand Prix – Tied 10th
June 2017 – Berkshire Trophy – Tied 6th
June 2017 – Brabazon Trophy – Tied 2nd
May 2017 – Lytham Trophy – 3rd
April 2017 – Hampshire Hog / Salver – 1st / 2nd
April 2017 – Duncan Putter – 4th

For those interested in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) Jake started 2017 in 590th place. A surprising 41 place fall last Wednesday sees him currently sitting 350th. The WAGR therefore see him as the 41st best GB&I player, albeit when his South of England win is factored in this week this glaring error should be rectified a little.

Clearly his 2017 form is as good, if not better, than most of the other GB&I players.

Save for his excellent results in the Lytham and Brabazon it could be argued by his detractors that the majority of his 2017 Top 10’s have been in weaker field events.

It could also be pointed out that Jake is also still to be selected for England so it is a big leap to think he could make a GB&I team next month.

However, as Jake clearly understands himself, if he can some how find his way to the later stages of the English Men’s Amateur Championship this coming week then his selection hopes may really start to gain some momentum. If he does so then it will also mean he has demonstrated some match play credentials which would also be beneficial to his case.

He must now be assured of selection for the English team for the Men’s Home Internationals at Moortown GC on 16-18 August which will give him a final chance to impress. He was after all unlucky to miss out on being selected for the England team that finished runners-up at the recent European Men’s Team Championship in Austria.

If – and it’s a big if – he can deliver at the English Men’s Amateur Championship and then follow it up with a solid contribution at the Home Internationals Jake Burnage would unquestionably give the selector’s something to think about.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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66. Alfie Plant Wins The Silver Medal At The Open

24th July 2017

Englishman Alfie PLANT (25) yesterday collected the Silver Medal at the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

The Silver Medal is awarded to the lowest amateur competitor who makes the cut at The Championship. It was first awarded in 1949 and previous recipients include José Mariá Olazábel (1985), Tiger Woods (1996), Justin Rose (1998) and Rory McIlroy (2007).

The 2017 Open will of course be remembered for Jordan Spieth’s fine win – amazing to think he is 1 year and 21 days younger than Alfie – and Brandon Grace’s record breaking 62 in Round 3; the lowest Major score in 157 years and 442 Championships.

Alfie shot rounds of 71 73 69 and 73 for a 286 (+6) total. He finished tied 62nd ahead of both Andy Sullivan (-7) and Danny Willet (+9).

This prestigious prize was secured on Friday when he was the only amateur to make the cut with a 144 (+4) 36-hole score.

Alfie Plant With The Silver Medal (Photo: Golf Monthly)

The other competing amateurs, Connor SYME (73 76 +9), Luca Cianchetti (75 76 +11), Maverick McNealy (78 74 +12), Harry ELLIS (77 75 +12), all missed the +5 cut.

I am sure Captain Craig Watson will have been pleased to see Alfie, already a certainty for our Walker Cup team after his performances in recent weeks, once again deliver at the highest level and under the most extreme pressure.

Click here to view the – 2017 Open Championship Results

In other news…..

Scott GREGORY also showed that he can mix it with the Pros last week. He finished tied 4th at the COBRA PUMA GOLF Championship on the PGA EuroPro Tour. Scott shot rounds of 65, 74 and 73 (-4) at Machynys Peninsula GC. He is pushing hard for inclusion in our Walker Cup Team.

The above reports are certainly encouraging from the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) perspective. However, need to be tempered by some of the results our amateur friends in the USA are delivering with the ‘big boys’.

Sam Burns was the latest to impress in USA. He shot rounds of 68 66 66 and 66 (-18) to finish tied 6th in the Barbasol Championship on the US PGA Tour last weekend.

Other US amateurs to deliver on the PGA Tour this year include: –
Braden Thornberry – T4 FedEx St Jude Classic
Scottie Scheffler – T27 US Open
Cameron Champ – T32 US Open
Stewart Hagestad – T36 The Masters
Maverick McNealy – T44 John Deere Classic
Sahith Theegala – T49 Genesis Open, Los Angeles
Nick Hardy – T55 John Deere Classic

I think it’s hard picking a GB&I Walker Cup Team but it doesn’t compare to the job facing the USA selectors.

I noticed today that Maverick McNealy, the golden boy of US college and amateur golf, is only the 15th highest ranked US player in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking. He is rated 18th in the World. Could he miss out given that Mid-Amateurs Stewart Hagestad (63rd) and Scott Harvey (85th) are relative outliers meaning there may only be 8 spots available for US college players ?

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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65. England Win Silver At The European Men’s Amateur Team Championship

16th July 2017

The European Men’s Amateur Team Championship concluded yesterday at the Diamond CC in Austria. Spain were victorious beating England 4-3 in the Final.

ENGLAND came 2nd, SCOTLAND 5th, IRELAND 7th and WALES 16th.

So what does this mean from a Walker Cup perspective ?

Here’s my assessment of the individual performances of the 24 Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) players who were competing. I have tried to take into account stroke play qualifying scores, match play results, singles or foursomes games played and the quality of the opposition faced.

For more information on this event please take a look at my GolfBible article – European Men’s Amateur Team Championship – 2017 Preview, Results & Reports (15/07/17)

There are now just 36 days until the GB&I team is announced, assuming this will take place on 21st August, the day after the US Amateur finishes.

In conclusion events in Austria largely confirmed my initial thoughts on our team selection with most of the players previously listed doing well.

Unfortunately those on the periphery, save for Scott GREGORY, largely failed to take advantage of the opportunity this Championship gave them to state their cases more forcibly. England’s Gian-Marco PETROZZI also showed that his Walker Cup race may not yet be run with two singles wins.

Jack SINGH BRAR chose to make himself unavailable for England last week, preferring to travel to New York to try and qualify for the US Amateur. A potentially high risk strategy but one that in the end paid off. He won the qualifier at Paramount CC by 4 shots with two rounds of 66. Results

So if I had to pick the GB&I Walker Cup team today this is who I would go for (in order): –

1. Matthew JORDAN (ENG)
2. Connor SYME (SCO)
3. Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG)
4. Liam JOHNSTON (SCO)
5. Craig HOWIE (SCO)
6. Robert MACINTYRE (SCO)
7. Alfie PLANT (ENG)
8. Harry ELLIS (ENG) *
9. David BOOTE (WAL)
10. Paul MCBRIDE (IRE)

* Selection supposedly confirmed following Amateur Championship win.

I think the first eight, probably nine, in the above list are increasingly secure based on 2017 results and current form. With there being four each from both England and Scotland one would hope foursomes pairings could be found fairly easily amongst them too.

David BOOTE continues to be a consistent performer with a number of solid results this season. When you add in his four years experience of playing in the US at Stanford – let’s not forget the 2017 match is an AWAY one – you have to say his exclusion from our 2017 team would be a big surprise. With Jack DAVIDSON having lost a bit of form in recent weeks the potential all Welsh foursomes partnership appears to be drifting away from his case though. Nevertheless I am sure there will be a list of team mates delighted to have him as their partner in Los Angeles.

Paul MCBRIDE qualified well in Austria (-3 / Tied 2nd) but will have been disappointed to lose all three of his singles games, albeit these were all tight affairs – two were by 1 hole and the other on the 19th. McBride has played very well since returning home from the US and what gives him the edge for me at the moment is his three years of US College experience. McBride will be a Senior at Wake Forest next Autumn. Interestingly one of his teammates, Will Zalatoris, has a good chances of making the US team too. It was also interesting to read this morning that McBride has been granted a place in the European Tour’s Porsche European Open in Hamburg in two week’s time. If he can make the cut there then that would certainly be a huge boost to his chances.

Whilst by no means the primary concern, which is of course selecting the best team to win, BOOTE and McBRIDE also enable a full house to be delivered, i.e. a representative from all four of the GB&I nations to be included. This hasn’t happened that often in recent years but would no doubt be beneficial for the profile of the match on our side of the Atlantic.

After this week it is probably Scott GREGORY now, rather than Jack DAVIDSON, Robin DAWSON or John Ross GALBRAITH, who is pushing hardest for inclusion. Whilst he was only the tied 10th best GB&I stroke play qualifier Scott once again showed what a tough match player he is in the later stages.

So what events are left that can move the GB&I Walker Cup dial over the next four weeks ?

First up are the closed English, Scottish and Welsh Amateur Championships which are all being played at the start of August. The Irish Amateur continues to be played in late August, starting this year on 22nd. In a Walker Cup year this is a huge scheduling error and one that could prove costly in a tight selection race, particularly as things stand for Paul MCBRIDE. *

*The South of Ireland Championship starts on 26th July and whilst not as prestigious as the Irish Amateur in fact may be more important this year.

The US Amateur (14-20 August) is of course the big one but I anticipate that will have a relatively limited GB&I field with no more than 8 of our players competing.

The Men’s Home Internationals (16-18 August) will also be an important event but as it is scheduled against the US Amateur some of it’s value to the selectors will inevitably be lost.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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64. Scott Gregory: The Walker Cup Conundrum

7th July 2017

At the end of my News Article ‘61. Alfie Plant Wins The European Amateur’ dated 2nd July 2017 I floated a potential Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup Team based solely on 2017 performances to date.

I named 10 players but mentioned 13 in total who had all enjoyed strong golfing year’s. Scott GREGORY (ENG) was not one of them.

Yesterday I received the following Comment to this Article and my team selection from Mike Gregory, Scott’s Dad: –

“You leave out Scott Gregory who was Amateur Champion last year and NSW Amateur Champion this year, plus experience of playing in 3 Majors plus Memorial. Also currently 6 in the world. Would you really leave him out?”

My answer is ‘Yes’ Mr. Gregory I would – at least at the moment.

Let me explain in detail because Scott Gregory has the potential to be one of the GB&I selectors’ biggest dilemma’s.

The first thing to say is I do have some empathy with Mike’s view. Scott is clearly a very good player and his 2016 Amateur Championship victory was an outstanding achievement, one I would certainly rate more highly than playing in any Walker Cup. He has also represented both GB&I and England in recent years and has always done well. There is no question he has a strong match play pedigree and would be an experienced and competitive member of our Walker Cup team if called upon.

My position is not in any way meant as a criticism of Scott but simply a reflection of the fact I currently believe there are 10 more deserving players based on 2017 form and results. If the Walker Cup had been last year he would have strolled selection. Unfortunately for him it wasn’t.

Scott Gregory (Photo: Andrew Griffin)

Scott’s problem in my eyes is his 2016 Amateur win has proven to be something of a poisoned chalice when it comes to the 2017 amateur golf season and in turn the Walker Cup selection debate.

Here is a list of Scott’s events and results this year: –

03-07/1/17   Australian Master of the Amateurs – 81 75 76 75 T59
17-18/1/17   Australian Amateur SP Qualifying – 69 75 +2 T12
19-22/1/17   Australian Amateur MP – Lost to Kevin Yuan (AUS) in Rd 3
24-27/1/17   Avondale Amateur Medal – 70 69 73 71 -1 21st
30-31/1/17   New South Wales Amateur SP Qualifying – 69 69 -6 T3
01-03/2/17   New South Wales MP – 5 rounds Champion
28/3/17   Georgia Cup – beat Curtis Luck 19th hole Won
06-09/4/17   The Masters (Pro) – 82 75 MC
29-30/4/17   England v. Spain – Foursomes W1 L1 / Singles W1 L1
04-07/5/17   Lytham Trophy – 80 72 MC
10-14/5/17   Irish Amateur Open – 75 75 73 72 T26
29-04/6/17   The Memorial Tournament (Pro) – 76 72 MC
15-18/6/17   The US Open Championship (Pro) – 75 73 MC
28-01/7/17   European Amateur Championship – 71 74 66 71 T32
04/7/17  The Open Final Qualifying (Royal Cinque Ports) – 71 71 T7 DNQ

I am sure Scott will have benefitted from playing in two Major’s, as well as in Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament, but he has missed the cut in all of them. If he had a made a cut in one of these, like a number of the potential US Walker Cup players did, then I would be pleased to view these collective performances more positively.

Scott did win the New South Wales Medal (NSW) in early February. Any overseas win is impressive and this one had a match play element too. However, the NSW Medal sits outside the Top 50 amateur golf events in the world and as such the field wasn’t of the very highest quality.

Save for Scott’s match play win over 2016 US Amateur champion Curtis Luck in the 18 hole Georgia Cup match there hasn’t really been much more to build a case for selection around in 2017.

Sadly I think Scott’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) of 6th tells us more about the inadequacies of that ranking system than Scott’s current standing in the amateur game. How can I take the WAGR seriously when at the same time it has Matthew Jordan 74th, Liam Johnston 92nd and Jack Singh Brar 95th after the seasons they have had ? I don’t take any pleasure in saying this but frankly any Walker Cup selector that looks at the WAGR for guidance as to our team should not be in their position.

The Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) is the only ranking worth considering for the selection task because, as I have said many times before, it ages points over time and therefore accurately reflects current form. Scott is today ranked 87th in the SPWAR, the 17th highest GB&I player, which may be a little harsh but better reflects his weighted results in amateur and pro golf over the last two years.

For more information on this area please take a look at my News Article ’63. GB&I Amateur Golf Rankings – 30th June 2017′ or for more detail the Rankings page on my sister website www.golfbible.co.uk.

The good news for Scott is there is still some golf to be played before the Team has to be finalised and there is also the matter of foursomes partnerships that need to be factored in to the final analysis.

Scott will have the opportunity to strengthen his case in the forthcoming European Amateur Team Championships, the English Men’s Amateur (Closed) and the US Amateur.

In terms of foursome partners he has played with Josh HILLEARD (England v. France), Stuart GREHAN (GB&I, St. Andrews Trophy) and Jack SINGH BRAR (Spain v. England) in recent times. Fellow Hampshire players Singh Brar and Harry ELLIS would appear to offer obvious Walker Cup options. However, alternatively the selectors also have the option of pairing Jack and Harry together.

I have nothing against Scott and I wish him all the best in the coming weeks.

Finally, as I mentioned to another correspondent a few days ago the ultimate response to such debates is who would you take out of the current ten to accommodate another player and why ? Not a question I would want Mr. Gregory to answer with regard to Scott but one I am sure the R&A’s Selection Committee will have to ponder in a few cases in the weeks ahead.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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