12th June 2023
The St. Andrews Links Trophy took place at The Home of Golf on 9th-11th June 2023.
There were three main stories from the events of last week: –
With 17 players from his 20-man GB&I squad competing captain Stuart Wilson arranged his second squad session at St. Andrews, inviting his players to practice together ahead of the competition.
I am sure Wilson will have been pleased to see many of his U.S. college based contingent back home and building team spirit with the rest of his squad.
Alongside the golf the squad were all fitted for their team clothes and given some basic media training during their time together. Fanny Sunesson, who was again caddying for 17 year old Frank KENNEDY (ENG), also shared some of her experiences with the players at a team dinner.
The missing squad members were Barclay BROWN (ENG), Josh HILL (ENG) and Matthew MCCLEAN (IRL). Brown, who came through Final Qualifying in California last Monday, and McClean, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, are both playing in this week’s U.S. Open Championship.
The only other notable player that was missing was Max KENNEDY (IRL), our leading player on the U.S. college circuit in 2022/23, who having been selected for the International team was obliged to play in the Arnold Palmer Cup in Pennsylvania. He tied one match and lost the other three. As a non-squad member I hope he doesn’t come to regret this choice in the coming weeks.
Selection Winners & Losers
Alex MAGUIRE (IRL), a player outside of the initial squad, was the big Walker Cup selection winner.
Having retained the East of Ireland Open Amateur last Monday the Laytown and Bettystown member confirmed his status as GB&I’s most in-form player by running away with the prestigious St. Andrews Links Trophy. After an opening round of 70 on the New Course he shot 66, 66 and 64 on the Old to win on -21 by 5-shots.
Whilst nothing can be taken for granted – ask Jake Burnage who won this event with a similar total in 2019 – this was a very persuasive statement.
I would argue that given the venue and the strength of field the St. Andrews Links Trophy is arguably the most important event, from a Walker Cup perspective, that our leading amateurs will play this season.
Alex Maguire (Photo: St. Andrews Links Trust)
Other players to enhance their selection prospects on the 2023 host course were Calum SCOTT (SCO) -15 3rd, Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) -12 7th, Frank KENNEDY (ENG) -11 8th, Charlie CROCKETT (ENG) -11 9th, Archie DAVIES (WAL) -8 16th and Jack BIGHAM (ENG) -8 18th.
Whilst making the top 40 and ties cut at the Links Trophy from a field of 144 players should never be dismissed Rob MORAN (IRL) -6 22nd, Gregor TAIT (SCO) -5 28th, Will HOPKINS (ENG) -4 29th, Sean KEELING (IRL) -3 32nd, Dylan SHAW-RADFORD (ENG) -2 34th, Paul CONROY (IRL) +1 39th and Mark POWER (IRL) +2 40th all arguably needed more to push their individual cases.
Whilst there were selection winners there were also losers too and sadly this included quite a few players who would, pre-tournament, have considered themselves to be very much in the mix. Matt ROBERTS (WAL) -1, Arron EDWARDS-HILL (ENG) -1, James CLARIDGE (ENG) Ev, Josh BERRY (ENG) Ev, Tyler WEAVER (ENG) Ev, Peter O’KEEFFE (IRL) Ev, James ASHFIELD (WAL) +1, Harley SMITH (ENG) +1, recent winners Liam NOLAN (IRL) +3 & Connor GRAHAM (SCO) +4, Hugh FOLEY (IRL) +4 and John GOUGH (ENG) +4 all missed the 36-hole cut.
As things stand, and I accept it is still relatively early days, the 2023 GB&I Walker Cup team is going to be one of hardest selections for many years with only a small number of players showing any sort of consistency as we enter the home straight.
I have been maintaining my own Walker Cup selection spreadsheet covering all of the events played in 2023. Based on this here’s how I rank my current team / top 20 after the St. Andrews Links Trophy: –
My GB&I 2023 Walker Cup Selection Spreadsheet (Graphic: Golf Bible)
The Old Course, St. Andrews
Whilst the history and tradition of the Old Course is second to none the St. Andrews Links Trophy, where the final three rounds were played around the 7,171 yard par 72 course, once again confirmed that it no longer presents a challenge worthy of a Championship unless the weather is particularly poor.
The scoring on the Old Course throughout was excellent with 68 or 69 seemingly the effective par and red figures emblazoned across the leaderboard in each round. Alex Maguire shot -20 for his final 54 holes, all played on the Old.
Click here to view the – 2023 St. Andrews Links Trophy Results
I have feared from the minute it was announced that the selection of the Old Course by The R&A may come back to haunt the GB&I team and play into the hands of an always outstanding USA team. I foresee them getting to grips with this course very quickly in September thus negating some of our home advantage.
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