68. Irish Walker Cup Hopes Remain On A Knife Edge

31st July 2017

At Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s in 2015 Ireland contributed five players to the winning Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

With six players in the 21 man Squad at the end of April 2017 the Irish could have confidently hoped for two or three representatives in this year’s team. Fast forward to August, the month of selection, and they are surprisingly trending towards one or perhaps even none.

Last week was a big one for Irish amateur golf. An opportunity for their leading players to really step forward. This was because the South of Ireland Amateur Championship was played at Lahinch Golf Club.

Already a prestigious event in itself The South again took on greater importance in this Walker Cup year. This is because the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship starts on 22nd August, a day after the 2017 GB&I Walker Cup Team is expected to be announced. Therefore unlike their English, Scottish and Welsh peers, who play their national championships this week, the Irish don’t have their most prestigious (closed) amateur competition in the qualifying timeframe. The South effectively becomes it in a Walker Cup year.So let’s have a look at how Ireland’s leading players got on last week.

In something of a surprise James SUGRUE beat Conor O’ROURKE 3&2 in the South of Ireland Amateur Championship Final on Sunday.

With SUGRUE, having done little else of note this year, well out of the Walker Cup picture O’ROURKE was therefore the main Irish winner at Lahinch as far as potential selection goes.

O’ROURKE has had a good season, finishing tied 13th in the Irish Amateur Open, the Brabazon Trophy and the European Amateur before last weekend’s 2nd place. A solid follow up to his breakthrough St. Andrews Links Trophy win in 2016.

In broad terms Ireland’s other leading candidates all did well in the Stroke Play Qualifying but lost early in the Match Play. In the defence of all of the players the latter stage was played in frequently very challenging wet and windy conditions making this form of the game even more of a lottery than normal.

Here’s a quick summary of how the other key Irish players got on at The South: –

Rowan LESTER – SP -1 1st / MP QF
Colm CAMPBELL – SP +14 T38 / MP Rd 3
Stuart GREHAN – SP +10 T13 / MP Rd 2
Robin DAWSON – SP +3 2nd / MP Rd 1
Alex GLEESON – SP +6 T4 / MP Rd 1
John-Ross GALBRAITH – SP +12 T18 / MP Rd 1

My conclusion from the above set of results is that only O’ROURKE and to a lesser degree Rowan LESTER, furthered their Walker Cup cases at the Championship. Unfortunately for both of them they are probably too far back to make the team now. Yes a ‘W’ next to their name, or for that matter one of the others, would have been helpful but the likelihood is that even that would not have been enough for any of them.

In terms of the updated Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (as at 01/08/17), Conor O’ROURKE jumped 25 spots to 94th, Rowan LESTER 72 to 256th and James SUGRUE 1,040 places to 884th. O’ROURKE is now 4th in the Irish list behind Paul MCBRIDE (46th), Robin DAWSON (59th) and John-Ross GALBRAITH (60th).

Irish players will get further opportunities to shine at next week’s Mullingar Scratch Trophy and at the Men’s Home Internationals at Moortown GC between 16-18 August. However, as I have said before with the US Amateur scheduled against the Home’s the influence this event will have on our Walker Cup selection remains to be seen.

For more information on the South of Ireland Amateur Championship please click these links – SP Results and MP Results

The obvious name missing from the above list is of course Paul MCBRIDE, the man I still think has a very good chance to make the GB&I Team for the match at  Los Angeles CC.

MCBRIDE missed The South of Ireland to take up an amateur invitation to play on the European Tour at the Porsche European Open near Hamburg. In a strong field Paul shot rounds of 70, 72, 72 and 72 for a 286 (-2) total and a tied 47th finish. Making the cut as an amateur at any European Tour event is no mean achievement so I view this as a positive performance which should hopefully stand him in good stead for the final run in.

Interestingly Sean CROCKER, who is on the fringes of the US Team selection, shot 284 (-4) and finished tied 33rd after rounds of 69, 70, 71 and 74 in Germany.

Please click here for more information on the Porsche European Open – Results

Irish hopes now lie solely with Paul MCBRIDE in my view and in what is increasingly becoming a close call for the final spaces he will still need to finish the Walker Cup season strongly if he is to secure a much coveted place on the GB&I Team.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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61. Alfie Plant Wins The European Amateur

2nd July 2017

England’s Alfie PLANT yesterday won the European Mens Amateur Championship at Walton Heath Golf Club.

This was no ordinary victory either. The quality of the event and venue, the nature of the win and it’s timing even surpassed Plant’s win at the Lytham Trophy last year.

The European Amateur had an exceptionally strong field, expected to be the fifth best in amateur golf this year.

Plant, who is 25 next Thursday, shot rounds of 72, 66, 67 and 68 for an impressive 273 (-15) total. His birdie on his 72nd hole will live long in the memory as he forced his way into a play off with Italian pair Luca CIANCHETTI, the defending champion, and Lorenzo SCALISE, both of whom bogeyed the 18th in an exciting finale in Surrey.

Plant and Scalise (both Even) saw off Cianchetti (+1) in the initial three hole aggregate play-off before the Englishman birdied the 2nd sudden death play-off hole to secure the most prestigious win of his career. Plant did not miss a shot in the play-off and can now look forward to competing in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in a few weeks time.

Alfie Plant (Photo: GolfBible)

Plant’s win, like Harry ELLIS’ last week at The Amateur Championship, has just thrown another grenade into the GB&I Walker Cup team selection box. Neither player was probably in the Walker Team prior to their wins. Whilst Ellis is assured of his place, because of the ‘selection rule’ concerning The Amateur, Plant’s position is not quite as clear cut. Having said that it would be a surprise to most commentators if he was to now miss out, certainly to those who witnessed yesterday’s action.

Plant has the added selection value of appearing to be a really nice lad, often with a smile on his face, who would be an experienced and welcome member of any amateur golf team. There was perhaps evidence of this when England Golf selected Alfie last week for their 6-man European Team Championship team. What seemed a debatable choice at the start of this week of course now looks like an inspired one. His entourage – he is probably the best supported amateur golfer in the world – would certainly add something to the atmosphere in Los Angeles too !

In the context of the 2017 Walker Cup a number of our leading players took the opportunity to reassert their cases with good performances. These included: –

Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) – 68 70 70 66 (-14) T4
Matthew JORDAN (ENG) – 68 68 73 66 (-13) 6th
John-Ross GALBRAITH (IRE) – 75 70 66 65 (-12) T7
Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) – 72 72 66 66 (-12) T7
Sandy SCOTT (SCO) – 69 71 67 70 (-11) T10
Daniel BROWN (ENG) – 68, 73, 66 71 (-10) T13
Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) – 70 69 72 67 (-10) T13
Conor O’ROURKE (IRE) – 67 70 70 71 (-10) T13
Connor SYME (SCO) – 72 71 67 69 (-9) T17
Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) – 68 69 71 71 (-9) T17

Other notable scores by players who are in the Walker Cup squad / mix and made the 54 hole cut included: –

Owen EDWARDS (WAL) – 71 74 67 69 (-7) T26
David BOOTE (WAL) – 69 73 70 69 (-7) T26
Scott GREGORY (ENG) – 71 74 66 71 (-6) T32
Colm CAMPBELL (IRE) – 70 72 69 71 (-6) T32
Craig HOWIE (SCO) – 69 70 71 72 (-6) T32
Stuart GREHAN (IRE) – 70 72 71 70 (-5) T39
Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) – 71 72 71 71 (-3) T47
Jake BURNAGE (ENG) – 69 72 72 72 (-3) T47
Robin DAWSON (IRE) – 68 73 72 72 (-3) T47
Harry ELLIS (ENG) – 71 70 72 73 (-2) T52

Just for those who have read this far….

If I had to pick the Walker Cup team today, and let’s not forget there are now no major amateur events left, save for the short field European Men’s Amateur Team Championship, where everyone will be able to play against each other, I would go for (in order) 1. Jordan, 2. Singh Brar, 3. Syme, 4. Johnston, 5. MacIntyre, 6. Boote, 7. Howie, 8. Ellis, 9. Plant and 10. McBride. For this last spot I did have to toss a coin to exclude Davidson, Dawson and Galbraith who are all still pushing hard for a spot.

For the full story on the European Amateur Championship, including Results link, take a look at my GolfBible report – The European Amateur Championship – Preview, Reports & Results

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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58. Matthew Jordan Wins The St. Andrews Links Trophy

13th June 2017

On the 1st March Matthew JORDAN shot 92 (+20) in the first round of the Spanish International Amateur at El Saler. He inevitably missed the cut the following day despite shooting a respectable 74 in round 2.

Things were not going according to plan for the man from Royal Liverpool GC.

He had spent much of November and December in Spain practicing and had been expecting to come out strong in 2017. After all he had broken through in 2016 and posted a number of good results both at home and abroad.

In December he flew to Miami to play in the South Beach International Amateur. He made the cut but his +1 score was only good enough for a tied 51st finish.

In January he represented England in the Quadrangular Match at Costa Ballena in Spain where the team finished a disappointing 3rd despite a more encouraging individual W4 L1 H1 performance.

Unfortunately Matthew then found out that his entry to the Portuguese International Amateur had been incorrectly processed and as such there was no place for him in the field.

He needed his luck to change and what better way than to play in a competition you like and have done well in before – the Hampshire Salver. Matthew finished 8th in the two day aggregate event at Blackmoor and North Hants in April. Not as good as his tied 3rd in 2016, where he won the Hampshire Hog on the Sunday, but nevertheless a step in the right direction.

Despite this return to form it’s hard to believe the England selectors, having understandably overlooked him for the European Nations Cup in late March, spent too long considering whether to include him in their 6-man team for the mixed international against Spain at the end of April. A return to El Saler, the match venue and scene of the 92, wouldn’t have helped.

How the picture has changed.

Amazingly within the space of a few months it’s now a question of who the same England selectors will pick alongside Matthew for the European Men’s Team Championship in Austria in July.

I also think we can now say his place in the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team is assured. How can it not be ?

This is because Matthew has delivered a superb sequence of results in the heart of our season that have lifted him from 552nd (5/04/17) in the SPWAR to 26th (13/06/17) and which culminated in him winning the prestigious St. Andrews Links Trophy last weekend.

Matthew Jordan (Photo: Kenny Smith)

Just look at this playing record since mid-April: –

1st – St Andrews Links Trophy (9-11 June)

2nd – Scottish Open Amateur (2-4 June)

5th – Brabazon Trophy (25-28 May)

T4  – Irish Open Amateur (11-14 May)

T7  – Lytham Trophy (5-7 May)

8th – Hampshire Salver (15-16 April)

Whilst the main story has to be Matthew’s there were also a number of other noteworthy performances in Scotland.

JR GALBRAITH (IRE) finished 2nd at St. Andrews on -10. He led after a round 1 66 and consolidated his position with three rounds of 71, 70 and 71. This came on the back of an 8th place (-2) finish at the Scottish Open Amateur the week before.

Similarly Laird SHEPHERD (ENG) has also enjoyed his time in Scotland. He finished 4th (-8) at the Links Trophy having recorded a tied 9th (Ev) result the week before at Western Gailes.

Both Galbraith (SPWAR 70) and Shepherd (SPWAR 146) have moved up the rankings as a result of these performances. Whilst, at least for me, they both still have some work to do if they are to be selected for our Walker Cup team they at least now have the platform to do it.

A number of other Walker Cup hopefuls finished in the top 20 at the Links Trophy too (results shown after countback applied) : –

David BOOTE (WAL)                    73 69 69 69  -8  6th

Liam JOHNSTON (SCO)               71 71 69 71  -6  7th

Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG)   72 71 71 69  -5  8th

Jack DAVIDSON (WAL)               71 73 70 69  -5  9th

Robin DAWSON (IRE)                 69 71 74 70  -4  11th

Craig HOWIE (SCO)                     69 72 69 74  -4  14th

Colm CAMPBELL (IRE)              72 68 70 74  -4  17th

Dan BROWN (ENG)                    72 72 72 69  -3  18th

In particular Boote, Davidson, Howie and Johnston all tightened their grip on a Walker Cup place after another solid week’s work. 

Click here to view the – 2017 St Andrews Links Trophy Results

Click here to view the – Golf Bible St Andrews Links Trophy Preview and Daily Reports

The Walker Cup picture seems to be getting clearer but there’s still plenty of golf to be played, starting next week with the big one – The Amateur Championship. Will the existing form players continue their runs or will a new name take the opportunity to breakthrough ?

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2017, Mark Eley. All Rights Reserved.

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53. JSB Secures His Walker Cup Place At The Brabazon Trophy

30th May 2016

Kyle MCCLATCHIE (-10) won the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship last weekend at Woodhall Spa becoming the fifth South African to lift the famous Brabazon Trophy.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a good event for the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) players in the field, including many of the Walker Cup squad members.

The main plaudits this week go to Jamie STEWART (SCO), Jake BURNAGE (ENG) and Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) who all finished on -9 to tie for second place. Interestingly none of the three are in the current Walker Cup squad.

Jamie STEWART had a superb weekend shooting the two lowest scores in rounds 3 and 4; a 67 (-6) and a 68 (-5) respectively. Coming quickly on the heels of his tied 7th place at the Lytham Trophy, as well as a number of other good finishes this year, he is increasingly looking like a potential dark horse for the Walker Cup. A couple more top 10s and the selectors will certainly have to look more closely at his credentials.

Jake BURNAGE fits a similar mould to Stewart. He continued his rich vein of form at Woodhall. Having finished 3rd at the Lytham Trophy he put together a very consistent 71, 70, 70 and 72 at Woodhall Spa. I was particularly impressed with his three birdies in a row finish on the final day.

Barring a complete collapse in form over the coming weeks Lytham Trophy winner Jack SINGH BRAR‘s tied second place at the Brabazon with scores of 67 70 74 72 must surely have secured his spot in the GB&I Team. It certainly has in mine.


Jack Singh Brar (Photo: Leaderboard Photography)

Another non-Squad member Matthew JORDAN (ENG) has also started to show up well. He has now finished in the Top 10 at the Lytham Trophy (T7), Irish Amateur Open (T4) and the Brabazon Trophy (5th) in the last month. Coming from a little further back than some of his peers he still has work to do if he is to make our Walker Cup team but few others are demonstrating his consistency and 2017 form.

Dan BROWN (ENG) finished in 6th place, the best from the Walker Cup squad players, to get back on track after a relatively quiet spell.

David BOOTE (WAL) finished 7th and Connor SYME (SCO) tied 8th. As I  have stated previously Syme is a certain Walker Cup pick for me and Boote, if not yet quite at that level, is a very strong probable.

In an aside David Boote nearly made himself a Walker Cup certainty on Monday when he just missed out on a spot in the 2017 US Open Championship at Erin Hills. Whilst the Sectional Qualifier at Walton Heath, his home club, played to his strengths his new course record 62 (-10) on the New Course was hugely impressive. A slightly disappointing 73 on the Old Course in the afternoon saw him ultimately miss out in a -9 ‘7 for 4’ play-off unfortunately. US Open SQ Results

16 of the 21 GB&I Walker Cup Squad players competed at the Brabazon Trophy. Here are their scores and finishing positions: –

Dan BROWN                 72 – 68 – 75 – 72      -5      6th
David BOOTE               74 – 69 – 72 – 73      -4      7th
Connor SYME               78 – 70 – 70 – 71      -3      T8
Conor O’ROURKE        71 – 72 – 72 – 75      -2      T13
Craig ROSS                    70 – 67 – 79 – 76       E      T20
Alex GLEESON             76 – 71 – 75 – 72     +2      T25
Robert MACINTYRE   68 – 70 – 83 – 73     +2      T25
Craig HOWIE                74 – 74 – 71 – 75     +2      T25
Jack DAVIDSON           72 – 70 – 75 – 78      +3     T35
Alfie PLANT                  71 – 70 – 81 – 74     +4     T37
James WALKER            71 – 79 – 75 – 80    +13    T59

Robin DAWSON           68 – 83                               MC
Marco PENGE               79 – 73                               MC
Owen EDWARDS         74 – 78                                MC
Colm CAMPBELL         73 – 79                               MC
Bradley MOORE                                                      WD (+9 after 10 holes)

Sandy SCOTT (SCO) had entered but withdrew before play commenced having only just returned from Texas Tech in the US.

Barry HUME (SCO), Stuart GREHAN (IRE), Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) were the other four squad players that didn’t compete last weekend. Gregory of course has an interesting few weeks ahead of him with invitations to The Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour followed by the US Open Championship to enjoy.

Given his limited 2017 schedule I can only assume Barry Hume is working and therefore unable to compete as often as he would like.

Click this link to view the – Brabazon Trophy Final Results

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All Rights Reserved.

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51. Peter O’Keeffe Wins The Irish Amateur Open

15th May 2017

Peter O’ KEEFFE yesterday won the Irish Amateur Open Championship. His scores of 70, 70, 73 and 73 for a +2 total were good enough to see off a strong field at the magnificent links of Royal County Down GC.

The 35 year old from Douglas graduated from Southeastern Louisiana with a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science in 2008 before embarking on a career in professional golf.  However, after five years toiling on the European Challenge Tour and six attempts at Q-School he gave it up, eventually returning to the amateur ranks in 2016.

The 6ft 5″ Irishman’s win was something of a surprise as despite his experience and undoubted quality it had been assumed that he was now more interested in embarking on a new career as Golf Fitness Instructor within the Dennehy’s Health and Fitness business based around Cork than mixing it with the young amateurs again.

Whilst it is clear O’Keeffe still has ambitions in the amateur game and will probably now be selected by Ireland for this year’s Home Internationals I believe it is highly unlikely he will be able to use this prestigious win to push himself in to GB&I Walker Cup contention. After all he has not entered either of the upcoming ‘majors’, the Brabazon Trophy or the St. Andrews Links Trophy. If he enters the Amateur Championship (entries close this coming Sunday) and does very well then perhaps he can prove me wrong.

Here is the Golf Union of Ireland’s report of O’Keeffe’s famous win with highlights of his final round: –

Scotland’s Chris MACLEAN and England’s Tom SLOMAN enjoyed their best ever finishes in major events, tied 2nd on +5. MacLean obviously likes tough courses. You may recall that back in March he was the only player to record an under par score (-1) as he achieved medalist honours at El Saler in the 36-hole Spanish International Amateur stroke play qualifier.

After finishing 13th last week at Lytham Josh HILLEARD (England) impressed again with a tied 4th result (+6) in the Irish Amateur Open. Perhaps the Somerset man can recapture his form of last year and make a late push for inclusion in the Walker Cup team ?

Scotland’s Liam JOHNSTON, another non-squad member, will perhaps be even more pleased with his tied 10th place (+8) in Northern Ireland. Having finished tied 15th at Lytham last week, and with the additional support of a great set of results in South Africa earlier in 2017, his Walker Cup hopes appear to be strengthening by the week.

Thankfully after the disappointments of Lytham most of the GB&I Walker Cup squad players performed reasonably well at Royal County Down. Connor SYME, Craig HOWIE and Alex GLEESON all recorded  confidence boosting Top 10s.

Here are their scores and finishing places in detail : –

Connor SYME                 74 – 71 – 73 – 73    (+ 7)   T7
Craig HOWIE                  73 – 71 – 72 – 75    (+ 7)   T7
Alex GLEESON               72 – 69 – 78 – 73    (+ 8)   T10
Conor O’ROURKE          72 – 72 – 78 – 71    (+ 9)   T13
Robin DAWSON             71 – 75 – 71 – 77    (+10)  T16
David BOOTE                  73 – 72 – 74 – 76   (+11)  T26
Scott GREGORY              75 – 75 – 73 – 72   (+11)  T26
Colm CAMPBELL           79 – 73 – 71 – 73   (+12)  T30
Craig ROSS                      73 – 72 – 81           (+13)  MC

Click here to view the full – Irish Amateur Open Results

There is no rest up in the elite amateur schedule. It’s now onto the Welsh Open Stroke Play and the French International Amateur this week before the Brabazon Trophy the following week.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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50. Jack Singh Brar Wins The 2017 Lytham Trophy

7th May 2017

Jack SINGH BRAR today won the prestigious Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club. His rounds of 68, 73, 72 and 75 for a +8 total earned him a memorable wire-to-wire victory.

On the back of a good set of results in Australia and his recent Hampshire Salver win Jack is now clearly very well placed to secure a spot within the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

There are now only 125 days until the match starts and around 110 until the Teams are selected.

Jack is currently not in the GB&I Walker Cup squad. He also chose to step away from the formal England Golf coaching set up at the start of this season. However, following his big win on the Fylde Coast he has risen to 48th in the SPWAR and is now the fifth highest GB&I player (fourth if Sam Horsfield, who is expected to turn Pro in early June, is excluded). Sometimes it pays to trust yourself and ‘plough your own furrow’ in this life.

Jack Singh Brar With His Father Ami (Photo: @AMcGlue)

Two other English players finished 2nd and 3rd at Lytham.

The Walker Cup claims of Charlie STRICKLAND (+10), who only turns 18 later this month, will have grown a little bit louder this weekend too. Charlie won both the Duncan Putter and U18 Peter McEvoy Trophy in April but his 2nd place at Lytham is a step up on both. A man who’s confidence is growing and now has it all to play for.

Jake BURNAGE (+11) also followed up his Hampshire Hog win at North Hants GC a few weeks ago with a creditable third place here.

This was the first major amateur men’s competition of the 2017 GB&I season. As such most of our likely Walker Cup candidates were on display. Out of the current 21-man GB&I Squad only Paul MCBRIDE and Sandy SCOTT, both still competing for their US Colleges, and Barry HUME, who chose not to enter, were not present in Lancashire.

I think it is fair to say that the 2017 Lytham Trophy was generally not a confidence boosting week for our leading players and Walker Cup hopes.

Owen EDWARDS (+15 / 9th) was the highest finisher from the 18 GB&I Walker Cup squad players competing.

Here are the Lytham Trophy scores of the Walker Cup squad players: –

Owen EDWARDS          76 – 74 – 74 – 71  (+15)  9th
Jack DAVIDSON            79 – 70 – 72 – 75  (+16)  14th
Robert MACINTYRE    76 – 73 – 70 – 78  (+17)  21st
David BOOTE                76 – 76 – 77 – 71  (+20)  29th
Dan BROWN                  78 – 71 – 77 – 77  (+23)  34th

13 of the GB&I squad members missed the +12 36-hole cut as you can see below:-

Alfie PLANT                   80 – 73  (+13)  46th
Scott GREGORY             80 – 73  (+13)  47th
Craig HOWIE                 79 – 74  (+13)  48th
Stuart GREEHAN          79 – 74  (+13)  50th
Alex GLEESON              82 – 72  (+14)  56th
James WALKER             82 – 73  (+15)  74th
Bradley MOORE            79 – 76  (+15)  80th
Connor SYME                 80 – 76  (+16)  85th
Colm CAMPBELL          79 – 77  (+16)  86th
Conor O’ROURKE         79 – 78  (+17)  91st
Robin DAWSON            83 – 76  (+19)  104th
Craig ROSS                     82 – 78  (+20)  111th
Marco PENGE                94 – 74  (+28)  139th

Click here to view the – 2017 Lytham Trophy Results

Click here to read my report – GolfBible 2017 Lytham Trophy Preview & Results

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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42. Jack Davidson Reigns In Spain

6th March 2017

Jack DAVIDSON won the Spanish International Amateur Championship yesterday at the challenging El Saler course near Valencia.

For the man from Newport, Wales this was by far the best result of his career. The Spanish Amateur is one of the world’s top 20 amateur events nowadays enjoying a strong entry from across Europe every year. First played in 1911 former winners include Philip Walton (1981), Jose Maria Olazábel (1983-84), Darren Clarke (1990), Sergio García (1998), Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño (2003), Joost Luiten (2005), Danny Willet (2008) and Romain Langasque (2016).

Jack Davidson (Photo: Adolfo Luna)

The 36-hole stroke play qualifier was played in strong winds which caused havoc with the scoring, particularly in Round 1. Chris MACLEAN (SCO) eventually achieved medalist honours with an impressive 143 (-1) total. He was the only player to record an under par score. Stuart GREHAN (IRE) 144 (E) was 2nd whilst Alfie PLANT (ENG) and Harry GODDARD (ENG), both 146 (+2), also qualified well finishing in tied 4th. Interestingly the eventual Champion shot rounds of 76 and 75 to secure the 32nd and final place in the match play stage with a 151 (+7) total.

Amongst those to miss out on the match play were Initial Walker Cup Squad members Barry HUME (+8), Bradley MOORE (+8), Conor O’ROURKE (+10), Robert MACINTYRE (+11), Colm CAMPBELL (+11), Alex GLEESON (+14) and Owen EDWARDS (+16). In addition in form Irish player Robin DAWSON (+8) also just missed out.

Davidson beat Maclean (2&1), Javier Sainz (1Up), David Puig (3&2) and Kevin LE BLANC (2&1) in the semis to set up a 36-hole final with Englishman Marco PENGE. Penge went into lunch with a 1-hole lead but Davidson came out strongly in the afternoon. The Welshman moved into the lead after a birdie on the fourth and didn’t relinquish it, eventually running out a 4&3 winner on the 15th green.

Marco Penge will be disappointed that the Spanish title evaded him particularly as this was the second match play final he has lost this year. He reached the final of the New South Wales Amateur in Australia a month ago before losing by 1-hole to compatriot Scott GREGORY. Gregory who lost last year’s Spanish Amateur final to Langasque was missing this year as he paces himself ahead of his Masters appearance next month. Nevertheless Penge can take solace in the fact he has moved a few steps closer to the Amateur World’s top 50 (he’s now 55th in the SPWAR) and has once again demonstrated competitive match play skills. Both should stand him in good stead as this Walker Cup year progresses. He won’t have long to dwell on the final as next week he starts his defence of the Sunningdale Foursomes, which he and girlfriend Sophie Lamb won last year.

There is no denying that Jack Davidson’s win was a surprise but upon closer inspection he does appear to be a player growing in confidence and ability. This season he has already finished 3rd in the South American Amateur (74 67 69 68 -10) and followed that up with a tied 7th place result at the Portuguese International Amateur (71 75 74 66 -2) last month.

Jack started 2017 ranked 580th in the SPWAR. He is now 131st and 18th in the GB&I list. The Spanish International Amateur is clearly a prestigious title and it will be interesting to see if he can build on this in the coming months and push himself further into the Walker Cup reckoning. With David BOOTE already well placed could we see at least two Welsh players in the final 2017 GB&I team ?

Whatever happens no one can take this title off him and 2017 will be a memorable year. Well done to Jack on a great win and good luck for the rest of the year.

Jack Davidson Holes The Winning Putt (Photo: Adolfo Luna)

Spanish International Amateur Results
– Stroke Play
– Match Play
Final Hole-By-Hole

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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39. GB&I Walker Cup Squad Announced

23rd January 2017

The R&A have today announced an initial Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) squad for the 46th Walker Cup match which will take place on 9-10 September 2017 at the Los Angeles Country Club.

GB&I Captain Craig Watson said “We have identified a strong group of players who are all in contention for a place on the team and we will be monitoring their performance and results over the coming season. We will also pay close attention to the progress and form of players who have not been included in this current squad as they also have the opportunity to play their way into contention for the team selected to play the USA in September.”

The following 19 players were included in the initial squad: –

ENGLAND
Daniel BROWN (Masham, Yorkshire)
Scott GREGORY (Corthampton, Hampshire)
Bradley MOORE (Kedleston Park, Derbyshire)
Marco PENGE (Golf at Goodwood, Sussex)
Alfie PLANT (Sundridge Park, Kent)
James WALKER (Oaks, Yorkshire)

IRELAND
Colm CAMPBELL (Warrenpoint, County Down)
Alex GLEESON (Castle, Dublin)
Stuart GREHAN (Tullamore, County Offaly)
Paul MCBRIDE (The Island, Dublin)
Conor O’ROURKE (Naas, County Kildare)

SCOTLAND
Craig HOWIE (Peebles, Borders)
Barry HUME (Haggs Castle, Glasgow)
Robert MACINTYRE (Glencruitten, Argyll & Bute)
Craig ROSS (Kirkhill, Lanarkshire)
Sandy SCOTT (Nairn, Nairnshire)
Connor SYME (Drumoig, Fife)

WALES
David BOOTE (Walton Heath, Surrey)
Owen EDWARDS (Llanwern, Newport)

The current rankings of the selected players are shown in the table below: –

As the above rankings clearly show the GB&I Team would have been much stronger with Sam HORSFIELD in it. However, his exclusion makes clear he is intending to turn Pro shortly after the US College season ends and certainly before the match in September. It’s a shame he couldn’t hang on a little longer – his golfing CV will be all the poorer for having never played in the Walker Cup.

On 23rd January 2015 a 20-man squad was announced for the Royal Lytham match. This included Bradley NEIL (SCO), Ashley CHESTERS (ENG), Grant FORREST (SCO), Sam HORSFIELD (ENG), Nick MARSH (ENG), Gavin MOYNIHAN (IRE), Paul HOWARD (ENG), Ben STOW (ENG), Paul DUNNE (IRE), Jack HUME (IRE), Jamie SAVAGE (SCO), Gary HURLEY (IRE), Adam CHAPMAN (ENG), Jack MCDONALD (SCO), Cormac SHARVIN (IRE), Jimmy MULLEN (ENG), Tomasz ANDERSON (ENG), Daniel BROWN (ENG), Graeme ROBERTSON (SCO) and David BOOTE (WAL). As you can see from the names highlighted above only Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) was able to break into this group and that only came about when Sam Horsfield withdrew.

Whilst the rankings mean little in the heat of match play golf the task facing GB&I later this year is emphasised by the fact that the United States currently has 9 players in the Top 20 of both the SPWAR and WAGR.

I had been unsure as to whether a GB&I Walker Cup Squad would be announced for the 2017 match.  Whilst Past Captain Nigel Edwards had announced one ahead of the 2015 home match at Royal Lytham he had previously been dismissive of a Squad for the 2013 away match at the National Golf links of America.

Speaking in 2013 Edwards said: “We’re not picking a squad this year simply because it works well when the match is played here, but with the match being in America there is no point bringing guys together to play a golf course that would bear no resemblance to the real thing. As for traveling over there for a site visit with them, the schedule is so busy that it’s almost impossible to get the guys together, especially with some players in college golf. Besides, often we would pick a squad in the past, and some of the guys would turn professional and drop out. Others playing in college golf would not be named in the original squad, then would play well in the winter and would look conspicuous by their absence from the squad.”

GB&I squads, with team gatherings in the build up to the match, were first introduced in 1995 to try and arrest a series of losses. The improved team spirit and better prepared foursome pairings have contributed to an upturn in GB&I fortunes over the last 20 years.

With no team practice sessions announced by The R&A today one may question what new Captain Craig Watson has got out of showing his hand in this way. Of course it provides some match PR and enables us to see how our leading players react to their inclusion or exclusion. Despite this I am sure their will be some informal dinners ahead of the Lytham Trophy and / or Brabazon Trophy events to start the team building.

For away matches, like Nigel Edwards suggested, I think it may be better to leave any formal statements until the actual team announcement. Then gather a little earlier so that more preparation is done immediately before the match. With the US Amateur Championship being played literally down the road in Los Angeles a few weeks before the Walker Cup the golfing calendar would certainly have appeared to suit this approach in 2017.

Either way with a GB&I Squad now announced the match is very much on the horizon. I am certainly looking forward to following the twists and turns of selection over the next 7 months.

Today’s full R&A announcement can be read here – ‘R&A Announce GB&I Walker Cup Squad’

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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11. The 2016 Lytham Trophy And St. Andrews Links Trophy

6th June 2016

I thought it was worth recording the two biggest wins in Great British and Irish (GB&I) amateur golf in 2016 to date.

These being Alfie Plant (ENG) in the Lytham Trophy and Conor O’Rourke (IRE) in the St. Andrews Links Trophy.

Both are notable because of the quality of the fields that contested the events and because of the Open Championship venues that staged them. Rarely does anyone win a 72-hole stroke play competition at Royal Lytham or St. Andrews without being some player.

There were some similarities in the wins too. Both players came into the events relatively unheralded and both proceeded to get off to good starts before happily leading throughout.

Alfie Plant Lytham Trophy 2016 Photo 2

Alfie Plant (Photo: Darren Plant)

Alfie Plant won the Lytham Trophy by 7-shots in what were largely awful playing conditions. Rounds of 67, 73, 74 and 70 gave him a +4 total and enabled him to overcome compatriot Bradley Moore (ENG) who had pinched the Rd. 3 lead on the morning of the final day. Moore finished T2 on +11 with Ugo Coussard (FRA) and Jamie Savage (SCO) after a disappointing final back-9.

Other GB&I Top 10 finishers were James Walker (ENG) and Grant Forrest (SCO), both +12 tied 5th, and Ashton Turner (ENG) and Gian-Marco Petrozzi (ENG), +13 and tied 8th.

The Lytham Trophy results can be viewed in detail by clicking this link – Results

Conor O’Rourke won the Links Trophy yesterday with a magnificent performance. He showed admirable composure and no shortage of game to complete a famous wire-to-wire victory at The Home of Golf.

Conor shot 65 on the New Course on Friday and followed it up with weekend rounds of 69, 71 and 70 on the Old to pick up by far the biggest title of his amateur career with a 275 (-12) total.

More so than Plant this win seemed to come from absolutely nowhere. Prior to play commencing O’Rourke was ranked 1,245th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR). Admittedly he was a lower, at 549th, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) but either way this was one of the biggest amateur competitions in the world with a field to reflect it’s status.

Scottish players were very well represented in the final standings with seven appearing in the top 20. Sandy Scott (-11 / 2nd), Ewen Ferguson (-10 / 3rd), Calum Fyfe and Jamie Savage (both -9 / tied 5th) -9 all standing out.

Ireland had Dermot McElroy (-8 / 7th) and Colm Campbell (-2 / 20th) in the Top 20. However, England will be disappointed that they only had Adam Chapman (-6 / tied 9th), who continues to show a welcome return to form in 2016, to shout about. Joshua Davies (WAL), a regular winner at home, finished tied 21st on -1 showing he’s capable of mixing it with the best on his day too.

The Links Trophy results can be viewed in detail by clicking this link– Results

The question now is can Alfie Plant and Conor O’Rourke build on these two outstanding performances in the coming weeks to stake a strong claim for inclusion in the 2016 St. Andrews Trophy team squad and who knows possibly the 2017 Walker cup one.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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