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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122. Joe Long Wins The 125th Amateur Championship

Monday 31st August 2020

Joe LONG (ENG) won the 2020 Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale G.C. yesterday beating Joe HARVEY (ENG) 4&3 in the 36 hole Final.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s Championship was postponed from June and limited to a single venue. More importantly the field was reduced from the normal 288 players to 120. The countries represented fell from 34 in 2019 to just 13 this year and 75 or 63% of the players ultimately came from Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) lowering the overall quality.

Strong winds and heavy rain on the opening day saw the stroke play qualifying reduced to 18 holes. Stroke play qualifying was introduced in 1983 and this was the first time in 37 years that The R&A have been unable to complete the full 36 holes.

Given the above it would not have been a major surprise to see an outsider pick up the title. The R&A will therefore be delighted that one of the leading amateurs in the world came through their demanding Amateur test.

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Joe Long (Photo: Richard Heathcote / The R&A / R&A via Getty Images)

Joe Long became the 51st Englishman to win the Championship following most recently in the footsteps of Harry Ellis who won at Royal St George’s in 2017.

The Lansdown G.C. member secured exemptions into the Open, Masters Tournament and US Open in 2021.

With the match starting in 250 days time in May 2021 Joe also guaranteed a place in the GB&I Walker Cup Team. His performances over the last 12 months had probably already assured him of selection so the result has in no way weakened the team.

Joe started the week in Lancashire ranked 102nd and 31st in the WAGR and SPWAR respectively so he was clearly one of the favourites for the title. Long jumped up to 65th and 5th in the WAGR and SPWAR following his victory.

In addition to runner-up Joe Harvey (ENG), Mark POWER (IRL) and Jake BOLTON (ENG), who reached the Semi-Finals, and Callan BARROW (ENG) and Barclay BROWN (ENG), who made the Quarter Finals, all raised their 2021 Walker Cup profiles.

Click here for more information on – The Amateur Championship – 2020 Preview, Reports & Results (GolfBible)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, 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.

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