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 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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102. Ben Schmidt Wins The Brabazon Trophy

5th June 2019

Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) won the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship, played for the Brabazon Trophy, last weekend at Alwoodley G.C.

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The Schmidt Family (© Yorkshire Golf / Jonathan Plaxton)

The 16 year old from Rotherham G.C. played some great golf to post four under par rounds of 69, 64, 69 and 69 for a 271 (-13) winning total.

Having taken the lead after Round 2 he impressively showed the composure to hold off far more experienced players over the weekend and ultimately deliver a 5 shot victory. He became the youngest ever winner of this prestigious title, overtaking Sandy Lyle who was 17 when he won it in 1977.

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Ben Schmidt’s Scorecard (© England Golf / GolfBox)

Harry HALL (ENG) will have been disappointed with his final round but a course record 63 on Saturday and a 2nd place finish, having only returned from college in the United States a few days earlier, represented an excellent week’s work for the Cornishman.

Euan WALKER (SCO) finished 3rd, David LANGLEY (ENG) tied 5th, Ben JONES tied 7th, Tom SLOMAN (ENG) & Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) both tied 10th, Ben CHAMBERLAIN (WAL), Conor PURCELL (IRE) & Jake HAPGOOD (WAL) all tied 13th and Jake BURNAGE (ENG), Robin WILLIAMS (ENG) & James SUGRUE (IRE) all tied 18th at Alwoodley. All of them further advanced their Walker Cup chances with top 20 finishes as we move into the key selection month of June.

So what about Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) for the Walker Cup – after all he’s just won a ‘Major’ and in the process moved to the top of the England Golf Men’s Order of Merit ?

Ben rose 337 places in the SPWAR on Sunday to 109th (he’s 106th now after a few leading players subsequently turned Pro) and 1,416 places to 142nd in today’s WAGR release.

A victory in the Brabazon Trophy and such high rankings would normally put a player well in the picture for Walker Cup selection.

However, with important school exams on the immediate horizon and given his previously low WAGR ranking Ben is now going to be sitting out both this week’s St. Andrews Links Trophy and the following week’s Amateur Championship. He is also not playing in the European Amateur Championship which starts on 26th June.

Like James NEWTON (ENG), winner of the Irish Amateur Open a few weeks ago, this in my opinion is likely to greatly reduce his chances of gaining selection for the forthcoming Walker Cup match.

It will be interesting to see if England Golf select him for their Men’s European Team Championship team later this month or whether he will stay with the Boys Team. The former would give him another opportunity to impress.

Time is of course on Ben’s side but in my view circumstances look like conspiring against him with regard to the 2019 match.

For more information on this event, including a link to the full Results, please take a look at my Golf Bible article: Brabazon Trophy – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results 

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With around 75 days to go until the GB&I Walker Cup team is selected how’s our team shaping up ?

Conor PURCELL (IRE), Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE), Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Euan WALKER (SCO) look certainties today. All have 2019 wins to their names and consistent form to support their selections already.

Harry HALL‘s (ENG) result at the Brabazon Trophy was just what was required from him. His experience could be invaluable to the team too. He’s now a probable for me.

Ben JONES (ENG) is playing well and building up a consistent body of 2019 results. His sound match play record and win in the Duke of York Champions event at Royal Liverpool a few years ago also bode well for him.

Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) has played well for Wake Forest University since the turn of the year and if he can show up well against his GB&I peers – he hasn’t directly played against too many of them over the last year – in the big events coming up he will in my opinion be a strong candidate for selection.

The remaining three places are still open for me. I could currently make a case for Bailey GILL (ENG), David LANGLEY (ENG), Josh MCMAHON (ENG), Tom PLUMB (ENG), Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) and Sandy SCOTT (SCO).

In a year of surprise winners the results of the St. Andrews Links Trophy and Amateur Championship, and to a lesser degree the European Amateur, may not help but they will certainly provide us with more clarity. Will the above players confirm their status as Walker Cup favourites or will new players have come to the fore by the team we reach the end of June ?

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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98. Euan Walker And Tom Plumb Win In South Africa

7th March 2019

With all of the Australian and South African amateur events completed and both the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs played I thought it was time to recognise a few GB&I players who have made a strong start to the season.

Scotland’s Euan WALKER has enjoyed an excellent start to 2019; his consistency and high finishes, including a win, making him an obvious standout.

Here is a summary of his recent results: –

African Amateur Stroke Play – WON (72 67 67 71)

South African Amateur – SPQ 4th (71 65) / MP Rd 2

South African Stroke Play – Tied 7th (66 71 69 72)

Euan Walker (© Ian Rae)

At the time of writing Euan has risen to 34th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR), second in the GB&I-only list behind Conor PURCELL (IRE) who is 20th.

Conor has continued his good form in recent weeks producing more strong performances in South Africa. As he’s already in ‘my Team’ I’ve chosen to write about others on this occasion (See Article 97).

It is a little early to say Euan will make the GB&I Walker Cup team but he has certainly put himself in a very nice position. Compatriot Liam Johnston also won the African Amateur at Leopard Creek in 2017 and subsequently the Scottish Open Amateur but still managed to miss out on a trip to Los Angeles that September so he will know nothing can be taken for granted.

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Thomas PLUMB (ENG) showed some class in winning the Cape Province Open Championship in South Africa earlier this week with scores of 70 66 69 and 65 (-18).

Coming on the back of a tied 3rd place finish in the South American Amateur Championship in January he appears to also be trending positively towards Walker Cup selection. His reward for his win in George – a 38 place jump to 67th in the SPWAR.

Tom Plumb (© Pieter Els)

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Ben JONES (ENG) was relatively quiet last year as he transitioned from the junior to men’s ranks but seems to be nicely back on track now. He’s currently 98th in the SPWAR. Good match play results are obviously beneficial too: –

New South Wales Amateur – SPQ Tied 7th (69 72) / MP Semi-Finals

Spanish International Amateur – Medalist (71 66 -5) / MP Rd of 16

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Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) is a player I like a lot. He’s one of the few GB&I amateurs that seem to be able to go very low. The Dundalk man, now 47th in the SPWAR, did well on the Irish team trip to South Africa and looks set to remain within the GB&I Walker Cup picture throughout the coming months: –

South African Amateur – SPQ Tied 2nd (69 66) / MP Semi-Finals

South African Stroke Play – Tied 11th (75 67 68 71)

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Bailey GILL (ENG) is also coming on to my radar with a solid string of overseas results added to his résumé with some match play victories thrown in too. Currently 121st in the SPWAR I think he could be a player to watch closely this year.

Australian Amateur – MP Rd of 32

New South Wales Amateur – MP Rd of 16

Avondale Amateur – Tied 19th

Portuguese International Amateur – Tied 5th (71 70 67 72)

Spanish International Amateur – SP Tied 7th (70 72) / MP Rd of 16

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Many others have shown flashes of what they can do but will be looking for more consistency as the year continues. Callum FARR (ENG) SPWAR 334th, Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) 185th, David LANGLEY (ENG) 94th, Joe LONG (ENG) 151st, Ronan MULLARNEY (IRE) 171st, Laurie OWEN (ENG) 663rd and Mark POWER (IRE) 141st immediately spring to mind here.

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Over on the United States College circuit Sandy SCOTT (SCO), who was yesterday picked for the Arnold Palmer Cup International Team, also continues to gain confidence and impress. He’s 109th in the SPWAR.

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As the amateur calendar moves back home it will be interesting to see who can maintain their momentum and which other players start to come through.

By my calculation there is around 170 days left before the GB&I selectors have to make their final decisions. There is plenty of time for everyone to make their mark albeit I feel the countdown clock has certainly started to tick.

ME.

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

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87. GB&I 2018 St. Andrews Trophy Squad Selected

14th May 2018

The R&A have today announced a 20 player Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) squad for the 2018 St Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe.

The match, played in alternate years to the Walker Cup, will take place at Linna Golf in Finland on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July 2018.

It was also confirmed that Scotland’s Craig Watson would return to the GB&I captaincy role after he was unfortunately unable to fulfil these duties at the 2017 Walker Cup due to a family bereavement.

Watson captained GB&I in the last St. Andrews Trophy match at Prince’s G.C., Kent in 2016. A 12.5 – 12.5 draw back then was good enough for GB&I to retain the trophy.

Captain Watson and Alfie Plant with the St. Andrews Trophy

(Photo: Darren Plant)

Watson said in the R&A announcement: “I’m delighted to resume the role and am excited about the potential of the new crop of players coming through and contending for a place in the team.”

As always the captain left the door open for other players to step forward in the coming months: “We know we will be in for a tough match in Finland and we will need a strong team if we are to win the trophy. I am sure the players we have identified, and others not currently in the squad, will be working hard to impress the selectors.”

The squad will meet up before the St Andrews Links Trophy event which starts on 8th June.

The final 9-man team will be announced after the European Men’s Team Championships, which conclude on 14th July.

Here is a list of the 20 players selected, along with their current Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (SPWAR) and GB&I SPWAR rank.

Player SPWAR GB&I Rank
Todd Clements, England (21) 21 2
Robin Dawson, Ireland (22) 128 12
Alex Fitzpatrick, England (19) 332 32
Calum Fyfe, Scotland (20) 182 15
Alex Gleeson, Ireland (24) 127 11
David Hague, England (21) 90 6
Harry Hall, England (20) 64 4
Benjamin Jones, England (19) 151 14
Matthew Jordan, England (22) 14 1
Rowan Lester, Ireland (22) 361 35
Sam Locke, Scotland (19) 205 18
Ryan Lumsden, Scotland (21) 102 8
Billy McKenzie, England (23) 211 19
Gian-Marco Petrozzi, England (21) 91 7
Caolan Rafferty, Ireland (25) 104 9
Sandy Scott, Scotland (19) 111 10
Jamie Stewart, Scotland (18) 131 13
Euan Walker, Scotland (22) 281 27
Robin Williams, England (16) 279 26
Andrew Wilson, England (24) 420 38

No one would argue that any of the above aren’t worthy of consideration for the GB&I team.

There are 10 English players in the squad, 6 from Scotland and 4 from Ireland. Sadly no one from Wales made the initial grade.

Only Royal Liverpool’s Matthew Jordan remains in the above selection from the 2017 Walker Cup team. Seven of the 10-man team having turned professional since the heavy loss in Los Angeles.

As the SPWAR rankings suggest GB&I currently has two outstanding players, Jordan and compatriot Todd Clements. To my eyes both have already done enough this season to warrant selection. However, the other 7 team spots are still broadly up for grabs, albeit fellow Englishman Harry Hall and Gian-Marco Petrozzi must also be close.

Below is a list of those players who are also highly ranked in the SPWAR and whose omission is therefore worthy of further discussion.

Player SPWAR GB&I Rank
Harry Ellis, England 48 3
Paul McBride, Ireland 71 5
Tom Plumb, England 197 16
Jake Burnage, England 204 17
Conor Purcell, Ireland 229 20
Daniel O’Loughlin, England 236 21
Mitch Waite, England 243 22

The two most obvious omissions for me are England’s Mitch Waite, who has won the Hampshire Salver this year and finished runner-up at the recent Lytham Trophy, and Conor Purcell, who has done well for Charlotte this year in the U.S., culminating in an invitation by the NCAA to play in this week’s Division I Regionals as an individual.

Finally, a quick word on the two other 2017 Walker Cup players who remain amateur and are listed in the second table above.

Harry Ellis withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Cup selection process in April signalling a clear intention to turn Pro after his forthcoming U.S. Open appearance in June. Hence his absence from the list is understandable.

Paul McBride is perhaps more of a surprise. He had intimated that he may stay amateur until the Autumn once he graduates from Wake Forest in the next few weeks. The World Amateur Team Championship (for the Eisenhower Trophy) is being held at Carton House, Ireland in September and this was supposedly a factor in his thinking. However, his omission from this squad is a clear indicator that he too will be turning pro very shortly.

ME.

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