110. Gough And Schmidt Make Their GB&I Walker Cup Cases

5th August 2019

School’s out for summer and it’s two English school boys that have been making most of the noise since my last report.

But have either of them done enough to make the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team…..

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Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) won the English Boys’ U18 Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship for the Carris Trophy at Moor Park G.C. on 26th July.

Ben Schmidt (Photo: Schmidt Family)

Having won the Brabazon Trophy earlier this summer he became just the fourth player to win both the boys’ and men’s English Open Amateur Stroke Play titles in the same year. A remarkable achievement.

Ben’s rise to No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), which makes him GB&I’s highest ranked player, has had a number of observers understandably calling for his inclusion in our 2019 Walker Cup team.

I am still to be convinced.

I agree with his supporters that Ben has enjoyed a great season and is clearly one of Europe’s best U18 prospects. I am just not sure he is ready for the 2019 Walker Cup match or that his inclusion would necessarily be good for his development.

He justifiably should be under consideration by the selectors but I have a question mark over his lack of experience of both men’s amateur golf and elite match play games.

I also think he may have hampered his chances with his playing schedule over the critical final weeks. Indeed I wonder if his high WAGR will actually end up being his undoing.

Ben’s top 50 WAGR ranking on 26th June gained him an exemption in to the U.S. Amateur Championship which he is taking up. Play starts at Pinehurst in North Carolina on Monday 12th August.

The U.S. Amateur clashes with The R&A’s Boys’ Amateur Championship which is being played at Saunton. Ben would clearly have been one of the favourites for this title.

Ahead of this, for whatever reason, he chose not to enter last week’s English Men’s Amateur (30th July – 4th August) or take up his place in England’s team at The R&A Boys’ Home Internationals which start tomorrow in South Wales and finishes on Thursday 8th August.

Good performances at one or even both of these events – along with the Boys’ Amateur instead of the U.S. Amateur – could have easily pushed him over the line.

As it is all of his eggs are now in the U.S. Amateur Championship basket. Only time will tell if this strategy proves to be a successful one. If he makes the match play stage and can win a few games he will deserve his place in our team.

If Ben is selected he will probably become the first player to receive the honour without ever having played in any R&A Championship or selected GB&I team beforehand. His rise has been that meteoric.

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In many ways Conor GOUGH was last year’s Ben SCHMIDT. A string of wins albeit exclusively at the boys’ level. The main one of course being the prestigious Boys’ Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

Conor was selected for the original GB&I Walker Cup squad but due to focussing on his exams played none of the major amateur events during May and June. As a result it was no surprise to see him left out of the reduced 16-man squad a few weeks ago.

Like Schmidt Conor also received a WAGR generated exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship on 26th June. However, and I accept their circumstances were different, Conor chose to play the English Men’s Amateur and will be participating in the Boys’ Home Internationals before travelling to the United States.

In a stunning performance Gough won the English Men’s Amateur beating Callum Farr 3&2 in the Final at Hankley Common. On the way to the final he beat Jamie Li, Joshua McMahon, Curtis Knipes and Jake Burnage, once again highlighting his match play pedigree.

Conor Gough (Photo: Leaderboard Photography) 

This win inevitably brings Conor back to the table for GB&I Walker Cup selection.

Another major match play victory by the Englishman within two weeks of the 2019 selection date is hugely persuasive.

However, as you will see below I am not yet ready to add him into my team. As Aristotle said ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ and I need to see more.  However, if he does well this week at Ashburnham and shows up at the U.S. Amateur Championship he could very easily force his way in to the final line up.

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Conor Gough was clearly the star of the show at the English Men’s Amateur but in the context of the Walker Cup perhaps the real winner was fellow Englishman Jake BURNAGE.

Eight of the ten English members of the 16-man Walker Cup squad competed in what was, at least for me, an unofficial Walker Cup eliminator. It is after all a large group of English players that are in effect competing for the five remaining places.

Burnage ended up being the leading player out of the eight. Playing under some pressure he reached the Semi-Finals, winning four match play games, having also qualified well in 9th on 138 (-3). It was just the result the Devonian needed having already placed the St. Andrews Links Trophy on his C.V. in June.

The other squad players, some of whom really needed to move the dial to make the team, to differing degrees simply didn’t get it done – Tom SLOMAN (SP 37th / MP Rd4), Joshua MCMAHON (SP 45th / MP Rd4) Alex FITZPATRICK (SP 5th / MP Rd3), Matty LAMB (SP 24th / MP Rd3), Tom PLUMB (SP 7th / MP Rd2), Bailey GILL (SP 69th / MP Rd2) and David LANGLEY (SP MC).

Of the two missing players Harry HALL withdrew a week before to return to Las Vegas and I believe will not be playing again before the team is selected. Ben JONES chose to play in the Western Amateur Championship and will stay in the States before playing in the U.S. Amateur.

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Archie DAVIES, an original GB&I Walker Cup squad member, won the Welsh Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) last week at Tenby G.C.

Unfortunately in the context of this year’s Walker Cup selection this win is unlikely to bring Archie back into the discussion. He is another good young player who has every chance of making future teams though.


Runner Up Connor Jones (l) and Champion Archie Davies (r) Photo: Steve Jones)

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The Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) was also played last week and the Irish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) started yesterday at Ballybunion.

Unfortunately none of the remaining Scottish or Irish Walker Cup panelists – Sandy SCOTT,  Euan WALKER, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL, Caolan RAFFERTY and James SUGRUE – entered so it is hard to see how these Championships will impact the Walker Cup selection.

George BURNS beat Lewis IRVINE in the final of the Scottish Amateur on their 19th hole at Crail Golfing Society.

With the exception of Power, the other three Irish lads are playing in the U.S. Amateur next week and therefore were unable to enter due to the clashing dates.

7th August Update
Ronan MULLARNEY, who also won the stroke play qualifying by 6-shots, beat Rob BRAZILL in the final of the Irish Amateur by 1 hole at Ballybunion G.C.

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The previous week also saw the playing of the South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch G.C. (on the 24th-28th July).

Five Irish Walker Cup panelists, four of whom attended the practice session at Hoylake which clashed with the Stroke Play Qualifying, were given byes into the Match Play competition.

Unfortunately all of them struggled to make much of an impression. John MURPHY reached the Quarter Finals but James SUGRUE, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL and Caolan RAFFERTY all lost their Round 2 matches.

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Two weeks today, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship has concluded, I believe the GB&I Walker Cup squad will be announced.

Here are my current thoughts on the team and likely foursomes pairings as at 5th August: –

Euan WALKER (24) – Scotland
Sandy SCOTT (20) – Scotland

Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Ireland
Conor PURCELL (21) – Ireland
James SUGRUE (22) – Ireland [Amateur Champion – Automatic Selection]

Tom SLOMAN (22) – England
Thomas PLUMB (20) – England

Harry HALL (21) – England
Ben JONES (19) – England
Jake BURNAGE (24) – England

In summary I am sticking with the ten players I selected on 14th July in my article ‘107. Learnings From The European Team Championships’.

SCHMIDT and GOUGH in particular are knocking on the door after their recent wins but I am struggling to see who I would take out to accommodate them at the moment.

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It is of course never over till it’s over……

A handful of major events are still available to the players to impress the selectors over the next two weeks. Here is a list off the four I will be focussing on:-

Boys’ Home Internationals (6-8 August)
Conor GOUGH, Joe PAGDIN

Boys’ Amateur Championship (13-18 August)
Joe PAGDIN

U.S. Amateur Championship (12-18 August)
Alex FITZPATRICK, Conor GOUGH, Ben JONES, Conor PURCELL, Caolan RAFFERTY, Ben SCHMIDT, Sandy SCOTT, Tom SLOMAN, James SUGRUE, Euan WALKER.

Welsh Amateur Open Stroke Play Championship (16-18 August)
Bailey GILL, Matty LAMB, David LANGLEY, Josh MCMAHON

ME.

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

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106. Europe – The Final Walker Cup Countdown

29th June 2019

This week has seen the European Amateur Championship played in Austria and also confirmation of the team selections for the European Men’s Amateur Team Championships which will be played in Sweden next month.

Below are my observations on both of these important matters with regard to the Walker Cup and my latest views on how the Walker Cup squad is shaping up.

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Matthias SCHMID (GER) won the European Amateur Championship at Diamond C.C. in Austria today. Rounds of 67, 73, a best of the week 63 and 70 took him to a 273 (-15) total and a comfortable 3 shot victory. The win brings with it an exemption into the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush G.C.

Matthias Schmid (Photo: European Golf Association)

Euan WALKER (SCO), bouncing back from his disappointment at The Amateur and confirming his status as Great Britain & Ireland’s (GB&I) No. 1 player, finished 2nd on -12. A final round 66 (-6) being the highlight of his week’s work.

Ben JONES (ENG) 68 and Joe LONG (ENG) 74 finished the Championship on -9 tied for 3rd place. Jones has come through strongly in recent weeks.

It was also another good week for Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) 69 who finished tied 6th on -8. Caolan seems to have played well all year.

Lytham Trophy winner Josh MCMAHON (ENG) -5 finished tied 13th which may be just what was required to help push him in to the next GB&I Walker Cup squad.

Harry HALL (ENG) will be disappointed with his tied 16th finish on -4. After a superb front nine of 31 (-5) today he looked like pushing Schmid all the way home but sadly a returning 43 (+7) destroyed much of his excellent work over the preceding three and half days. Hall has played very well since returning from Las Vegas in May.

The ever consistent David LANGLEY (ENG) was seventh and the last GB&I player to finish in the top 20 in Austria.

Here are the final results.

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European Amateur Championship Leading Results (Photo: EGA / Golfbox)

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

Here are the top 30 GB&I players in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR), updated today with the European Amateur Championship results: –

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Prior to the European Amateur Championship starting on Wednesday the home nations all had to confirm their teams for the 2019 European Men’s Amateur Team Championship.

This event will be played at Ljunghusen G.C. in Sweden on Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 July.

Ljunghusen is a heathland links course located on the Falsterbo Peninsula, south of Malmö.

16 teams, each consisting of 6 players, will be participating.

The first two days involve a stroke play qualifying competition with each team’s best five scores counting. Once completed the leading 8 teams contest the Championship match play whilst the bottom 8 play a separate second match play flight.

Ljunghusen G.C. (Photo: GEO Foundation / sustainable.golf)

In a Walker Cup year the home nation teams for this event are an important indicator as to where selectors mind’s are.

At the end of the day if you can’t make you own country’s 6-man team 6 weeks before the Walker Cup team selection then the message is fairly clear – you still have work to do to have a chance of playing for GB&I.

Team inclusion also provides the players with a unique opportunity to play foursomes and singles match play golf against the best players in Europe and potentially against their direct cometition for Walker Cup places.

Here are the home nation teams all of which had to be submitted by Wednesday 26th June and were therefore selected before the start of the European Amateur which finished today in Austria: –

Each player’s SPWAR as at 26th June 2019 – before the European Amateur – is in brackets after their name

ENGLAND
Alex FITZPATRICK (#65)
Harry HALL (#26)
Ben JONES (#28)
Matty LAMB (#69)
Tom PLUMB (#30)
Tom SLOMAN (#31)

At the time of selection England had 11 players in the top 100 of the SPWAR so picking a team was never going to be easy.

[There are now 13 English players in the updated top 100 – see SPWAR table above]

Jake Burnage (#29), winner of the St. Andrews Links Trophy, David Langley (#39), Bailey Gill (#45), a member of the winning England team at the European Nations in April, Ben Hutchinson (#55), Ben Schmidt (#92), winner of the Brabazon Trophy and selected for the Boys’ event which is played concurrently, Angus Flanagan (#127) and Josh McMahon (#133), winner of the Lytham Trophy could all make a case for being unlucky here based on either recent wins or form.

Looking at the SPWAR, and I accept rankings are not everything, Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick appear to be the two debatable names in the England team. To be fair to Lamb he has enjoyed a good June, just missing out on the St. Andrews Links title and progressing to the Last 16 of The Amateur. Unfortunately at this moment in time a selection on form can’t really be used to support Fitzpatrick, a player of great promise but one whose results haven’t really matched this recently. After a good finish to his U.S. college season with Wake Forest he chose not to play in the Brabazon Trophy (accepting the very tight scheduling), missed the cut at St. Andrews and then The Amateur and then withdrew (for reasons admittedly I don’t know) from the European Amateur.

IRELAND
Tiarnan MCLARNAN (#101)
Ronan MULLARNEY (#49)
Mark POWER (#204)
Conor PURCELL (#14)
Caolan RAFFERTY (#12)
James SUGRUE (#42)

John Murphy (#140) and Rowan Lester (#166) are ranked higher than Mark Power, who has been in exam mode for the last month, but neither have done enough to make a persuasive case since returning from their U.S. colleges in May. Tom McKibbin (#211) may have been a consideration but like Schmidt for England he has been selected for the Boys Team Championship.

SCOTLAND
Ryan LUMSDEN (#171)
Euan MCINTOSH (#169)
Sandy SCOTT (#36)
Jamie STEWART (#265)
Euan WALKER (#7)
James WILSON (#105)

Connor Mckinney (#191) is also highly ranked and I assume is being sent to the Boys’ event for which I think he still qualifies.

WALES
Ben CHAMBERLAIN (#402)
Archie DAVIES (#1,393)
Jacob DAVIES (#559)
Jake HAPGOOD (#266)
Matt ROBERTS (#947)
Gaelen TREW (#401)

Tom Froom (#1,032), Lewis Sanges (#1,149), Tom Williams (#1,195), Paddy Mullins (#1,257), Kieron Harmon (#1,351) and Oly Brown (#1,381) would have been discussed but the Welsh team is as most would have expected.

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The GB&I selectors will be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad after the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship for a training gathering to be held at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 23-24 July.

Here is my slightly revised assessment of how the original 26, and other players who have emerged over the last two months, currently fare with regard to this next selection. I now have the European Amateur Championship results and European Team Championship selections to hand which are obviously helpful.

I have listed all of the players in order of how I see their current form / Squad selection: –

Current Team (if picked on 29th June)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Harry HALL – England
James SUGRUE – Ireland
Ben JONES – England
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland
Thomas PLUMB – England
Tom SLOMAN – England
Conor PURCELL – Ireland
Jake BURNAGE – England

England Golf’s decision to leave Jake Burnage out of their team is obviously not a vote of confidence from Mr. Edwards – who certainly knows what he is doing and is perhaps rightly focussing on match play records – but for me his win at St. Andrews and links pedigree keep him in my team. Conor Purcell‘s form is also a bit of a concern and he ideally needs to regain it quickly if my early confidence in his selection is to be borne out.

A few players below are pushing hard for consideration.

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

I have pushed the experienced David Langley for some time now impressed by his consistent displays almost every week. Josh McMahon was unlucky not to be included in my July Squad earlier this week given his outstanding Lytham Trophy win. Today’s top 15 result at the European Amateur provides additional weight to his inclusion so I have added him.

My July squad is going to be England heavy but I believe this reflects recent results and form. The time for token selection gestures is over and we are now down to the serious business of finalising a team.

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

The final group of players, for a variety of reasons, simply haven’t done enough to stay in my Walker Cup squad assuming it is reduced to manageable numbers, which I have chosen to be 18.

The good or bad news for everyone, depending on where they sit, is I am not a selector and am simply expressing my own personal views.

ME.

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

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99. GB&I Initial Walker Cup Squad Announced

24th April 2019

The R&A has today announced an initial squad of 26 players for the 2019 Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

Those players that are available will meet at Royal Liverpool G.C. for a meal on the evening of Tuesday 30th April before playing the course on Wednesday 1st May.

The players, with their nationalities, ages and current SPWAR / WAGR, selected for the GB&I squad are: –

Jake BURNAGE, England (23) – SPWAR 108 / WAGR 78

Kieran CANTLEY, Scotland (21) – SPWAR 417 / WAGR 536

Ben CHAMBERLAIN, Wales (21) – SPWAR 825/ WAGR 455

Archie DAVIES, Wales (17) – SPWAR 1,127 / WAGR 304

Alex FITZPATRICK, England (20) – SPWAR 61 / WAGR 51

Bailey GILL, England (21) – SPWAR 148 / WAGR 159

Conor GOUGH, England (16) – SPWAR 381 / WAGR 29

David HAGUE, England (22) – SPWAR 195 / WAGR 94

Harry HALL, England (21) – SPWAR 71 / WAGR 104

Jake HAPGOOD, Wales (22) – SPWAR T354 / WAGR 491

Benjamin JONES, England (19) – SPWAR 136 / WAGR 80

Ryan LUMSDEN, Scotland (22) – SPWAR 117 / WAGR 92

Euan MCINTOSH, Scotland (50) – SPWAR 284 / WAGR 290 

John MURPHY, Ireland (20) – SPWAR 110 / WAGR 229

Joseph PAGDIN, England (17) – SPWAR 357 / WAGR 67

Thomas PLUMB, England (20) – SPWAR 86 / WAGR 279

Mark POWER, Ireland (18) – SPWAR 181 / WAGR 124

Conor PURCELL, Ireland (21) – SPWAR 20 / WAGR 25

Caolan RAFFERTY, Ireland (26) – SPWAR 35 / WAGR 38

Sandy SCOTT, Scotland (20) – SPWAR 74 / WAGR 81

Tom SLOMAN, England (22) – SPWAR 47 / WAGR 31

Jamie STEWART, Scotland (19) – SPWAR 184 / WAGR 142

James SUGRUE, Ireland (22) – SPWAR 273 / WAGR 415

Tom THURLOWAY, England (21) – SPWAR 284 / WAGR 354

Euan WALKER, Scotland (23) – SPWAR 41 / WAGR 98

Robin WILLIAMS, England (17) – SPWAR T354 / WAGR 115

The initial squad includes 12 players from England, 6 from Scotland, 5 from Ireland and 3 from Wales.

Of those named above I am on record as already saying Tom Plumb, Conor Purcell, Caolan Rafferty, Tom Sloman and Euan Walker are already ‘probables’ based on their 2019 wins and high rankings.

I also believe Alex Fitzpatrick and Sandy Scott are moving in that direction given their strong recent form on the U.S. College circuit.    

The timetable from here is now clear: –

A second practice session has been scheduled for July at the host venue which a reduced number of players will be invited to attend.

The final ten-man GB&I team is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship finishes.

The match against United States of America will then take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September at Royal Liverpool G.C.

In the official R&A Announcement Craig Watson, GB&I captain, said, “We have selected a talented group of players who are all in contention for a place in the team to play the United States of America and will be continuing to monitor the form and results of these players over the course of the season. We will also be looking closely at the performances of other players who have not been included in the squad and there is still time for them to play their way into our plans ahead of the final team selection later text his year.”

Whilst there are no major surprises in the selection it is perhaps worth looking in more detail at those players who have missed out and now have to fight their way back into the group.

Here are ten players, in alphabetical order, who are ranked highly but have missed out on the initial squad selection: – 

Oliver FARRELL, England (SPWAR 158 / WAGR 393)

Alex GLEESON, Ireland (SPWAR 292 / WAGR 114)

Ben HUTCHINSON, England (SPWAR 235 / WAGR 204)

David LANGLEY, England (SPWAR 114 / WAGR 278)

Rowan LESTER, Ireland (SPWAR 212 / WAGR 100) 

Jamie LI, England (SPWAR 234 / WAGR 119)

Joe LONG, England (SPWAR 169 / WAGR 157)

Ronan MULLARNEY, Ireland (SPWAR 139 / WAGR 205)

Daniel O’LOUGHLIN, England (SPWAR 191 / WAGR 294) 

Rory FRANSSEN, Scotland (SPWAR 210 / WAGR 283)

It will be interesting to see who makes the final 10-man team in August and how many of them were in the initial squad.

ME.

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

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91. GB&I Win The 2018 Jacques Léglise Trophy

5th September 2018

Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) won the 2018 Jacques Léglise Trophy match against Continent of Europe 15.5 – 9.5.

The GB&I Team With The Jacques Léglise Trophy (Photo: Joe Pagdin)

The match took place at Kytäjä Golf in Finland on Friday 31st August and Saturday 1st September.

This annual match is contested by two nine-player U18 boys’ teams. It is essentially the junior equivalent of the biennial men’s St. Andrews Trophy match. Four foursomes games are played each morning with Singles in the afternoon; eight on Day 1 and nine on Day 2.

This year GB&I were represented by: –

Barclay BROWN (17) – England
Archie DAVIES (17) – Wales
Conor GOUGH (15) – England
Max HOPKINS (15)  – England
Tom MCKIBBIN (15) – Ireland
Connor MCKINNEY (16) – Scotland
Joseph PAGDIN (16) – England
Mark POWER (18) – Ireland
Robin WILLIAMS (16) – England

Seven players were making their GB&I debuts in Finland. Mark Power and Robin Williams both played in 2017.

Click here to view the detailed – 2018 Jacques Léglise Trophy Results

GB&I’s Non-Playing Captain, Stuart WILSON, winner of the 2004 Amateur Championship, said afterwards: “We brought together the best team of golfers that we could assemble for this match and everyone performed brilliantly over the two days. We’re delighted with the performance and the players were really focussed on getting a result. I think we were strong on and around the greens and we knew we had a team of very good putters. The players definitely brought their A game this week.”

The win was GB&I’s 29th in the match since it was re-started with a new trophy in 1977. However, the Team had not enjoyed an outright victory since the 2014 match at Barsebäck in Sweden.

In a strong team performance where everyone contributed Conor GOUGH, Robin WILLIAMS and Barclay BROWN were the star men for GB&I.

Jacques Léglise Trophy GB&I Player Analysis (Photo: @GolfBible)

Given the number of GB&I players planning to turn Pro in the coming weeks I would not be surprised to see one or two of these players graduate to our 2019 Walker Cup team.

It will certainly be interesting to see if any of them can make the quick step up to the men’s ranks next year.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2018, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail