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The biennial Walker Cup is a 10-man amateur golf team competition contested by the United States of America (USA) and Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I).
The USA team is selected by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the GB&I one by The Royal & Ancient (R&A).
An international match was first suggested in 1920 by George Herbert Walker, who was the President of the USGA at that time. Following World War I he was looking for ways to raise the profile of the game.
He originally invited all golfing nations to compete but other countries were unable to fund or raise a suitable team. An unofficial match took place at Royal Liverpool in 1921 ahead of that year’s Amateur Championship. The first proper match, by that time christened ‘The Walker Cup’ by the press, took place at National Golf Links of America in 1922.
Walker was the maternal grandfather and great-grandfather of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush respectively, the 41st and 43rd Presidents of the United States.
The match has always been played in a good spirit with the traditions of the game and the friendship between the USGA and R&A, golf’s two governing bodies, at it’s heart.
The 46th Walker Cup match took place at Los Angeles Country Club in California, USA on 9th and 10th September 2017. USA won 19 – 7 and now lead the 95 year old competition W36-L9-D1.
This unassailable lead is a result of the one-sided nature of the matches up until 1987. USA won 28 out of the first 31 matches, with GB&I winning just two and halving the other.
This one-sided history should come as no surprise given the differences in population and amateur golfing structure. The USA has a population of 320m whereas GB&I has only 70m. The US College system also provides a structured pathway to the pro game for US players which means that few consider turning pro until they are at least 22. Without this option the GB&I team continue to fight a losing battle with the pro game to retain their stronger young players.
Thankfully since 1989 the contests have become far more competitive with GB&I winning 7 of the 15 matches contested in this more recent period.
Since the start of the 1990’s home advantage has become key with away wins increasingly scarce. The last 5 matches have all been won by the home team and there have been just 3 away wins out of the last 13 contests.
The next Walker Cup match will be played in September 2019 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.
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