123. My Current GB&I Team And Squad With 200 Days To Go

Tuesday 20th October 2020

There are 200 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts on 8th May at Seminole GC in Florida.

So how is the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team shaping up and what opportunities to impress remain for the players before an announcement has to be made by The R&A presumably in early April ?

This was always going to be a challenging Walker Cup for the GB&I selectors given the early May start date. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse for them.

With the 2020 European amateur golf season effectively over the evidence to make an initial selection is now largely to hand so I thought I’d give the powers that be a helping hand.

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Here are the ten GB&I players I would select, in order, if I had to choose the team today: –

N.B. Each player’s current SPWAR record shows only their counting performances of note.

1. Joe LONG (ENG)

Joe guaranteed himself a place in the GB&I team with his Amateur Championship win at Royal Birkdale. He has been impressive throughout the last two years and would have been a certainty for me even without his standout victory.

2. Matty LAMB (ENG)

Matty has been superb since play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur both of which enjoyed much stronger fields than normal in 2020.

3. Mark POWER (IRL)

Mark has enjoyed a great last 12 months. He transitioned to Wake Forest University and US College golf seamlessly in his freshman season. His decision to return home and travel to England for this year’s majors paid dividends enabling him to demonstrate beyond any doubt that he clearly belongs at the top table.

4. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG)

Angus stayed in the USA over the summer but whilst out of sight he certainly hasn’t been out of my mind. He seems to be loving life in Minnesota smashing it locally but also performing well in the biggest amateur events in the world.

5. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG)

Haider has arguably had as strong a set of results, admittedly without securing a win, as any GB&I amateur in 2020. His effort in travelling to Switzerland for the European Amateur was rewarded with a notable 3rd place finish.

6. Jake BOLTON (ENG)

Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has cemented his place in the upper echelons of GB&I amateurs. He performed well in the big summer events this year and his 4th place finish at the South Beach International Amateur in Miami last December is encouraging given the match will take place just up the coast.

7. Barclay BROWN (ENG)

Barclay didn’t make that big an impression on me during his freshman season at Stanford University. However, he delivered back home this summer forcing his way into my Walker Cup team with his play in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur.

8. Sandy SCOTT (SCO)

His results don’t jump out at you but Sandy was a rock in the 2019 match for GB&I at Hoylake and he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech. He also competed in the 2020 U.S. Open. With his experience he has to be in the team particularly as he also brings some welcome Scottish representation to the party.

9. Ben JONES (ENG)

In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 and played well around the subsequent year end. Whilst his results post lockdown in 2020 haven’t been as persuasive as I would have ideally liked I am staying loyal to him given his experience and overall track record.

10. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG)

Ben had an unbelievable 2019 albeit mainly in junior golf and started this year very well in Australia. This highly promising Yorkshireman has done more than enough to be included.

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The other players knocking on the door and who would be included in my 20 man Squad are: –

11) Olly HUGGINS (ENG)

Olly has enjoyed a good season but needs to find a few more results to force his way into the ten man team.

12) Arron EDWARDS-HILL (ENG)

Arron is another very good player who has performed consistently well for a few years now.

13) Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL)

This Walker cup may come a bit too soon for Tom but he’s playing a lot (which I like) and as he is clearly capable of winning any tournament on his day could still easily force his way into the team.

14. Jack DYER (ENG)

Jack enjoyed an excellent summer on the British amateur circuit featuring well in nearly all of the majors as well as winning the South East of England Links.

15. Callan BARROW (ENG)

Like Jack Dyer above Callan deserves to be in the Squad in my opinion due to his current form which has elevated his status on the national stage in recent months.

16. Jack COPE (ENG)

After a long spell on the sidelines Jack has come back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy.

17. Callum FARR (ENG)

Always the bridesmaid never the bride English International Callum continues to be a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events to his name in recent years.

18. Joe PAGDIN (ENG)

I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. An excellent match play record and massive potential but needs to find his feet quickly at the University of Florida if he is to move up this list. I am sure his time will come if not this year.

19. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)

Alex was selected in 2019 but his results since the last match haven’t yet been sufficiently persuasive for me to include him in 2021. I wish he’d followed his Wake Forest teammate Mark Power home this summer and sought to earn his place out on the course.

20. John MURPHY (IRL)

Good US experience and continues to perform well for Louisville University but needs to deliver in higher class events to prove he is worthy of a place in my top 10.

Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) and James SUGRUE (IRL), who both played in 2019, are obvious absentees from the above list. I have assumed James will be turning pro once he has played in The Masters next month whilst Caolan has suffered with a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major events.

Other players to impress me this year include Sam BAIRSTOW (ENG), Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG), Mark BOUCHER (IRL) and Connor MCKINNEY (SCO) who have all stood out but don’t quite make my top 20.

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Looking ahead the big unknown remains the future impact of COVID-19. Unfortunately the pandemic raises more questions than answers.

Will the match even take place and if it does, will it be behind closed doors ? Could it be postponed like the 2020 Curtis Cup match was ?

Restrictions are again tightening in many jurisdictions as we head into the higher risk winter period so how much golf will actually be played between now and the match ?

Will our leading players be able to travel to the USA for the South Beach International Amateur in Miami (December) or Jones Cup in Georgia (February) ?

Will golf union funds be available and will players be able to travel on tour to Australia and South Africa early next year as has become the norm in recent years ?

Those players attached to US Colleges will have a few events in the Fall and Spring seasons to help them make their cases with those based at home hoping the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs are staged.

There is an opportunity for some clubs to bring forward their 2021 competitions to March / early April to support the Walker Cup selection process. Perhaps The R&A needs to create a new tournament or even consider staging formal squad trials as used to happen.

I look forward to The R&A announcing their Squad in due course and to seeing how the amateur golf world pans out over the next six months.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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105. James Sugrue Wins The Amateur Championship

27th June 2019

James SUGRUE (22) won the 124th Amateur Championship at Portmarnock G.C. last Saturday, becoming the 8th Irish winner in the process.

He beat Scotland’s Euan WALKER (23) by 2 Holes in a Final which went the full 36 holes.

Sugrue (22) made a dream start leading by 5Up after the opening nine holes. Walker then settled into the match and set about whittling down the lead he had partially gifted his opponent. He had reduced the deficit to 3Down by lunch and finally achieved parity on the 34th hole of the match. Inexplicably he then played two poor holes allowing the steadier Irishman to collect the Championship trophy in front of a large group of delighted home supporters.

Speaking to The R&A afterwards Sugrue said “It is hard to believe really. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Just to think about this win is unbelievable. Everything that comes with the win and all the crowds that were out there, it’s incredible.”

On his run to the final James also beat Harry Hall (2 Holes), Christopher Palsson (1 Hole), Sergio Parriego Cornejo (5&3), Koen Kouwenaar (19th) and David Micheluzzi (3&1).

James Sugrue (Photo: The R&A / Sam Barnes /  Getty Images)

The big hitting Corkman who plays his golf at Mallow now becomes exempt for The Open Championship, U.S. Amateur, The Masters and U.S. Open over the next 12 months.

He is now also assured of a place in the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team which will face USA at Royal Liverpool G.C. in September.

This win lifted him to 43rd in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and 68th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Sugrue was already a member of the 2019 GB&I Walker Cup initial squad and was enjoying a steady season posting a number of top 20 finishes. His previous biggest win was the 2017 South of Ireland Amateur played at Lahinch G.C. James should be a good addition to the team as he is strong links player and has a good match play record.

In addition to the finalists, Sugrue and Walker, a number of other players did well at Portmarnock.

Tom PLUMB ENG (-4) was medalist in The Amateur’s Stroke Play Qualifying competition. Sandy SCOTT SCO (-3) finished 3rd, Harry HALL ENG (-2) tied 4th, Caolan RAFFERTY IRE, David LANGLEY ENG and Jake BOLTON ENG (all -1) T6 and Eanna GRIFFIN IRE and Joe PAGDIN ENG (both Ev) tied 11th.

In the Match Play stage Ben JONES ENG reached the Semi-Finals, Sandy SCOTT SCO and Ronan MULLARNEY IRE the Quarter Finals and Matty LAMB ENG and Bailey GILL ENG the Last 16.

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The Amateur Championship – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results

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Recent Brabazon Trophy winner Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) continued his good form by picking up the Boys’ Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters title at Nizels G.&C.C.

Ben posted rounds of 66, 71, 71 and 70 for a 278 (-10) total and a 5-shot victory over fellow English prospect Max HOPKINS.

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Regional Qualifying for the 148th Open Championship took place on Monday 24th June at 13 venues across GB&I.

9 of the 13 competitions were won by amateur players with a total of 50 amateurs progressing to Final Qualifying on the day. More earned Reserve status and will follow as the four fields are finalised in the coming days.

Here are a list of some of the more notable qualifiers in the context of the Walker Cup: –

Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) – 1st 68 -3 at Alwoodley
Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) – T3 70 -1 at Alwoodley
Kieran CANTLEY (SCO) – 1st 65 -7 at Berwick-upon-Tweed
Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) – T1 65 -7 at Burhill
Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) – 4th 67 -5 at Burhill
Tom MCKIBBIN (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth
Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth
Tom PLUMB (ENG) – T8 70 -2 at Frilford Heath
Jake BURNAGE (ENG) – 1st 65 -7 at Minchinhampton

Other amateurs have exemptions into Final Qualifying so I anticipate there being well over 60 players to follow next Tuesday.

There is more information on the amateurs at Regional and Final Qualifying on my Golf Bible website.

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The GB&I selectors will shortly be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad for the next training gathering at Royal Liverpool G.C.

Here is my assessment of how the original 26 and other players who have emerged over the last two months will fare when the announcement is presumably made next week. In my defence I don’t have the results of the European Amateur Championship which finishes on Saturday to help me.

I have listed the players as I see their current form and my selection order: –

Current Team (if picked today)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Harry HALL – England
James SUGRUE – Ireland
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland
Conor PURCELL – Ireland
Thomas PLUMB – England
Ben JONES – England
Jake BURNAGE – England
Tom SLOMAN – England

July Squad Member
Bailey GILL – England
Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW
Matty LAMB – England NEW
Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW
David LANGLEY – England NEW
Ronan MULLARNEY – Ireland NEW
Alex FITZPATRICK – England

Dropped From Squad
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
Robin WILLIAMS – England
David HAGUE – England
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Joseph PAGDIN – England
John MURPHY – Ireland
Mark POWER – Ireland
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Conor GOUGH – England
Archie DAVIES – Wales

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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103. Jake Burnage Wins The St. Andrews Links Trophy

11th June 2019

The St. Andrews Links Trophy must be considered one of the main selection events in any home Walker Cup year.

With 72 holes of championship links golf, one of the strongest amateur fields and played just three months before the match it’s hard to think of too many better opportunities for Great Britain & Ireland’s (GB&I) leading players to state their case.

23 year old Jake BURNAGE (ENG) was this year’s champion and given the above is now very likely to make the GB&I team in September.

His 268 -20 total over 18 holes on the Jubilee (69) and 54 holes on the Old (64, 66 and 69) as well as the nature of his win, clawing back a 6-shot deficit on the final day, required all of his determination, experience and skill.

Jake Burnage (Photo: Burnage Family)

A member of Saunton G.C. in Devon Jake is unsurprisingly a links specialist but has also proven on more than one occasion in recent years that when he’s ‘on his game’ he can compete with anyone, anywhere.

This win lifted him to 30th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking which tells us this was no isolated performance either. His resumé includes winning the Walton Heath Trophy in 2017, being medalist at the Spanish International Amateur in 2018, finishing tied 3rd at the St. Andrews Links Trophy last year and impressively coming in 3rd at the South Beach International Amateur in Miami last December.

He is already a member of the 2019 GB&I Walker Cup initial squad and won the stableford competion played at Royal Liverpool G.C. during the last gathering in May.

Jake was obviously not the only player to make an impression in Fife. Some moved into the picture for the first time whilst others cemented their existing positions further.

Matty LAMB (ENG) -19 finished 2nd, Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) -17 3rd, James WILSON (SCO) & Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) -13 tied 4th and Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) -12 6th. I have previously extolled the virtues of Rafferty but the others will also have done their chances no harm in such a prestigious event.

Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) & Thomas PLUMB (ENG) -11 tied 7th, Bailey GILL (ENG) & David LANGLEY (ENG) -10 tied 12th and David HAGUE (ENG) -9 was 15th.

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The St. Andrews Links Trophy – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results 

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Whilst the St. Andrews Links Trophy was being played Sandy SCOTT (SCO) was in action for the International Team in the Arnold Palmer Cup match against USA.

Scott finished with a W2 H1 L1 record to help the Internationals win 33.5 – 26.5 at The Alotian G.C. in Arkansas.

His two wins came in the Mixed Fourball and Mixed Foursomes on Day 1 when he had the good fortune to be paired with Ireland’s Julie McCarthy who has been in very good form for Auburn in 2018/19. He halved his Singles against Will Grimmer (SPWAR #60) on the final day.

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Tom PLUMB (ENG) won the South West Counties Amateur Championship at Parkstone G.C. today, posting two 66’s for a -12 total.

The South West is currently one of England’s strongest counties with Somerset teammate Tom SLOMAN (ENG) -6 tied 2nd and Jake BURNAGE (ENG) Ev tied 18th amongst a number of notable players in the field.

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Accepting that the Amateur Championship will probably change the pecking order again (and my own thoughts with it) here’s my current team and some possible foursomes pairings: –

Conor PURCELL (IRE) and Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE)

Euan WALKER (SCO) and Sandy SCOTT (SCO)

Jake BURNAGE (ENG) and Harry HALL (ENG)

Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Tom PLUMB (ENG)

Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) and David LANGLEY (ENG)

For me Bailey GILL (ENG), Ben JONES (ENG), Josh MCMAHON (ENG), Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG), Matty LAMB (ENG), Ronan MULLARNEY (IRE) and Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) are now banging on the door and a good result next week from any of them would put pressure on some of the group I have chosen above.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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