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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