27. Grant Forrest Turns Pro

29th September 2016

Grant FORREST (23) turned professional yesterday having already signed with new Scottish management company Bounce Sport earlier in 2016.

Grant, from Craigielaw, has received an invitation to next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and will therefore make a home debut in Scotland a week today.

No one can say that Grant hasn’t done his apprenticeship.

He first came to prominence in 2009 winning the Scottish Boys Under-16 Championship. In 2010 he followed it up with the Scottish Boys Championship (U18) before securing the Scottish Amateur Championship at Royal Dornoch in 2012.

He then went out to the University of San Diego. He graduated in 2015 having won four times during his spell on the United States college circuit.

During this time he qualified for the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, won the 2014 St Andrews Links Trophy (which bodes well for next week) before playing his part in winning Arnold Palmer Cup (Europe) and St Andrews Trophy (GB&I) teams.

In 2015 Grant reached the final of The Amateur Championship at Carnoustie (which again bodes well for next week), where he lost to France’s Romain Langasque. This inevitably secured a spot in that year’s GB&I Walker Cup team albeit he struggled for form and was sparingly used by Captain Nigel Edwards at Royal Lytham.

He also played in the Scotland side that achieved back-to-back European Amateur Team titles in 2015 and 2016. His final amateur event came at the World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico, where despite being amongst the favourites, Scotland quickly fell down the Eisenhower Trophy rankings after an encouraging opening day.

Grant Forrest – 2016 Battle Trophy Winner (Photo: Crail GS)

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time playing amateur golf and will forever be grateful to both Scottish Golf and The R&A for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had over the years,” said Forrest.

Like stablemate Ewen Ferguson Grant has already benefitted from playing in some Challenge Tour events this season, albeit has failed to make the cut in any of these events.

With Jack Hume also expected to confirm that he is turning pro. shortly it now means that all of the 2015 GB&I Walker Cup team have made the switch. We now know for certain that GB&I will turn up in Los Angeles in 2017 with a completely new team made up of rookies.

Best wishes to Grant who will be looking to make an early mark in the European Tour’s Second Qualifying Stage in Spain in early November.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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26. The 2016 World Amateur Team Championship

25th September 2016

The AUSTRALIA team, consisting of Cameron DAVIS, Harrison ENDYCOTT and Curtis LUCK, won the 2016 World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico. Their 72-hole score of 534 (-38) equalled the best ever team score and helped them to a massive 19-shot win.

ENGLAND (-19) collected the silver medal with AUSTRIA and IRELAND (-18) sharing bronze. It is the first time that both ENGLAND and IRELAND have medalled since the home nations started competing individually rather than under the Great Britain & Ireland banner.

England – Nigel Edwards, Kevin Tucker, Scott Gregory, Jamie Bower, Alfie Plant, and Graham Walker  Celebrate their Silver Medals (Photo: Darren Plant). 

SCOTLAND (-11) finished a disappointing 11th given their strong team and great start to the event – they led after Round 1 on -10. WALES (-8), on the other hand, will be pleased with their encouraging T16 result.

Team Results
1. AUSTRALIA -38
2. ENGLAND -19
T3. IRELAND -18
11. SCOTLAND -11
T16. WALES -8

T6. USA -15

The full 2016 WATC Eisenhower Trophy team results can be accessed here: –
Eisenhower Trophy Team Results

AUSTRALIA’s Cameron DAVIS (269 / -17) recorded the Championship’s lowest individual score. His compatriot Curtis LUCK (271 / -15) finished second, helped in no small part by a 63 (-9) in Friday’s third round.

Looking ahead to the 2017 Walker Cup it is of course interesting to reflect on which of the 12 GB&I players performed in this elite company.

Individual Results
T3. Alfie PLANT (ENG) -12
9. David BOOTE (WAL) -9
T11. Jack HUME (IRE) -7
T20. Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) -5
T27. Robert MCINTYRE (SCO) -3
T38. Connor SYME (SCO) Ev
T38. Grant FORREST (SCO) Ev
T38. Scott GREGORY (ENG) Ev
T48. Stuart GREHAN (IRE) +2
T53. Jamie BOWER (ENG) +3
T71. Owen EDWARDS (WAL) +5
T100. Joshua DAVIES (WAL) +11

The 2016 WATC Eisenhower Trophy individual results can be accessed here: –
Eisenhower Trophy Individual Results

Clearly Alfie PLANT (-12), David BOOTE (-9), Jack HUME (-7) – reportedly now turning pro – Paul MCBRIDE (-5) and Robert MCINTYRE all played very well, finishing under par in the Top 30 Individual standings.

Ireland – Paul McBride, Neil Manchip, Tony Goode, Stuart Grehan and Jack Hume – Bronze Medalists (Photo: GUI Website).

Alfie PLANT – who holed a 9-foot birdie putt on the last green to secure second place for England – and David BOOTE both increasingly look probables for the 2017 Walker Cup team. Both seem to be playing consistently well at the moment with their potential selections having the aded benefit of bringing some experience and maturity to the team room.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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22. Ewen Ferguson Turns Pro

2nd September 2016

On the 29th August 2016 Scotland’s Ewen FERGUSON formally announced he was turning pro and that he would be making his debut at the Cordon Golf Open in France on the European Challenge Tour.

Ewen, who turned 20 in July, is a former British Boys Amateur champion and was a member of the 2015 Walker Cup team that defeated USA at Royal Lytham.

Whilst his pedigree is undoubted 2016 has not really provided him with the platform he will have hoped for. He has delivered few notable amateur performances and has been hampered by a troubling wrist injury.

Despite this he has appeared committed to this course of action for some time and his announcement has come as no surprise to anyone. Having already played in the Walker Cup and achieved more than most in the amateur game who can blame him. He may now have to endure a few more quiet seasons but hopefully he will gain experience of the pro game and keep moving forward.

Ferguson’s decision leaves just Grant FORREST and Jack HUME as the remaining amateur players from the last GB&I Walker Cup team.

Back in May 2016 I reported on changes that the European Tour had made to amateur playing rights on their feeder tour –  ‘Amateurs and the European Challenge Tour‘ – whereby amateurs could now earn points in the Road to Oman competition.

Ferguson and compatriot Grant Forrest (23), who also played in the last Walker Cup match, have grasped this opportunity benefiting from a new partnership between Scottish Golf and management company, Bounce Golf.

Earlier this year Ferguson played in both the Turkish Airlines Challenge and then the Montecchia Open by Lyoness, to his credit making the cut in both events. Unfortunately in France this week his two 75’s for a +10 total left him languishing in tied 137th spot 9 shots adrift of the +1 cut mark. Here’s a link to the Cordon Open Golf scores.

Forrest, who also missed the cut in these two early season Challenge tour events, again found the going surprisingly tough in France. Rounds of 74 and 79 and a +13 total saw him finish in tied 146th place, a long way off the pace.

Grant Forrest, unlike Ferguson, also competed for GB&I in the St. Andrews Trophy in July 2016 at Prince’s Golf Club. In his playing defence he has enjoyed a good amateur season with high finishes in the Lytham Trophy, Scottish Open Amateur, St Andrews Links Trophy, The Amateur and the European Amateur.

It is obviously too early to assess the success of the Scottish Golf / Bounce Golf alliance. The acid test for this will of course be whether the likes of Ferguson and his successors can make it onto and stay on the main European Tour in the years to come.

With Robert MACINTYRE and Connor SYME having both delivered better amateur seasons than Messrs. Ferguson and Forrest I expect they will be invited to experience the ‘bright lights’ of professional golf next year with Bounce Golf. Indeed I see both are teeing it up at next week’s Volopa Irish Challenge event at Mount Wolseley, presumably on the back of Scottish Golf invites. With both currently probables for the 2017 Walker Cup team I hope they don’t have their heads turned too soon. I think we may need both of them in Los Angeles if they maintain their form next year.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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20. The 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship

21st August 2016

Curtis LUCK (AUS) won the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion, beating Brad DALKE (USA) 6&4 in today’s 36-hole Championship match at Oakland Hills CC, in Detroit.

Whilst Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) are not celebrating a U.S. Amateur win this year the 2016 Championship proved to be a reasonably successful one for us.

I certainly can’t recall six of our players making the Top 64 cut in the stroke play qualifying before and therefore progressing to the match play stage. It was also good to see at least one of the six coming from each of the four home nations.

In exactly 12 month’s time the R&A will announce their 2017 Walker Cup team. So lets look at who put an early marker down at this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship and showed they have the ability to compete at the highest level.

11 GB&I players qualified for the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship: –

David BOOTE 22 (WAL)              – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Jamie BOWER 23 (ENG)              – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Ewen FERGUSON 20 (SCO)        – 2015 Walker Cup, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Grant FORREST 23 (SCO)           – 2015 Walker Cup, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Scott GREGORY 21 (ENG)          – 2016 Amateur Champion
Sam HORSFIELD 19 (ENG)        – 2016 US Open, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Jack HUME 22 (IRE)                     – 2015 Walker Cup, Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Robert MACINTYRE 20 (SCO)   – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Bradley MOORE 18 (ENG)         – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16
Jack SINGH BRAR 19 (ENG)      – Qualifier at Ada, Michigan (05/07/16)
Connor SYME 21 (SCO)              – Top 50 WAGR 29/6/16

Stroke Play Qualifying Stage – 15th-16th August

The U.S. Amateur starts with a 36-hole stroke play qualifying event to identify the 64 players who will contest the match play stage that will ultimately determine the champion.

Alex SMALLEY (USA) earned medalist honours with a 133 (-7) total after two impressive rounds at Oakland Hills; a 65 on the North Course, followed on Day 2 by a 68 on the tougher South Course.

56 players automatically qualified on +1 with 23 others on +2 having to endure a sudden death play-off for the remaining 8 spots.

18th hole, South Course, Oakland Hills CC (Photo: Oakland Hills CC) 

Here are the GB&I stroke play qualifying scores: –

T6     Scott GREGORY 21 (ENG)           -3     69 NC, 68 SC
T11   Sam HORSFIELD 19 (ENG)        -2      66 NC, 72 SC
T30   Connor SYME 21 (SCO)              Ev     70 SC, 70 NC
T41   Jack HUME 22 (IRE)                    +1     72 SC, 69 NC

T57   David BOOTE 22 (WAL)             +2     70 SC, 72 NC
T57   Bradley MOORE 18 (ENG)         +2     71 NC, 71 SC

Scott GREGORY was our leading stroke play qualifier finishing a very creditable tied 6th. He recorded just three bogeys over his 36 holes which must have been amongst the lowest in the whole field.

Sam HORSFIELD set himself up for qualification with a five birdie 66 (-4) on the North Course. A satisfactory 72 (+2) on the South on Day 2 saw him qualify as the 17th seed.

Connor SYME qualified with two symmetrical par rounds. On Day 1 he had one birdie and one bogey on each side of the South and on Day 2 he had three bogies on the front nine before recovering his qualification with three birdies on the back.

Jack HUME left himself some work to do on Day 2 after a 72 over the South on Day 1. The fact he was able to shoot a 69 on the North when he needed it bode well for his chances later in the week.

David BOOTE and Bradley MOORE both showed strong resolve to battle their way to +2 and a shot at the 23-into-8 match play play-off. Within a few minutes of each other on the morning of Day 3 they both holed long birdie putts on the second play-off hole (11th on the North Course) to progress.

So in summary Sam HORSFIELD, Scott GREGORY, Connor SYME, Bradley MOORE and Jack HUME all qualified for the match play stage and therefore in my view could all leave Oakland Hills with their heads held high. When one considers the quality of the field at the U.S. Amateur and looks at our historic record in achieving this feat you have to say this is the right hurdle for defining a good GB&I Championship performance.

By the same definition those GB&I players who missed the match play cut have to accept that they fell short: –

T80    Jack SINGH BRAR 19 (ENG)      +3    71 SC, 72 NC
T80    Ewen FERGUSON 20 (SCO)       +3    72 NC, 71 SC
T99    Robert MACINTYRE 20 (SCO)  +4    68 NC, 76 SC
T185  Grant FORREST 23 (SCO)          +9    73 NC, 75 SC
T243  Jamie BOWER 23 (ENG)            +11   74 SC, 77 NC

Jack SINGH BRAR looked nicely on track when he posted a 71 (+1) on the South Course and followed it with a 34 (-1) over his first nine holes on the North on Day 2. Unfortunately three bogeys over his last 5 holes saw him drift from comfortable qualification (+1) to a missed cut position (+3).

Ewen FERGUSON started nervously bogeying and double bogeying his first two holes on the North Course. Three late birdies on Day 1 helped him recover to a 72 (+2) but with the South to come the odds were always going to be stacked against him. He managed a 71 on Day 2 to his credit but it in reality it was too little too late for the Scotsman. Not helped by injuries this is proving to be a season to forget for the 2015 Walker cup man.

I had high hopes for Robert MACINTYRE heading into the week. He backed them up for me with a 68 (-2) on the North Course to start the week off. Unfortunately five bogeys and two double bogeys on his way to a 76 (+6) on the South saw him tumble down the leaderboard.

Grant FORREST and Jamie BOWER, who were both a long way off the pace, will both be disappointed with their performances this week.

Match Play Stage – 17th-21st August

Here’s is a summary of all of the GB&I match play results: –

Quarter Finals – Friday 19th August 2016
David Boote 62 (WAL) LOST 3&2 v. Brad Dalke 38 (USA)

Round of 16 – Thursday 18th August 2016
Dylan Meyer 33 (USA) WON 19th hole v. Sam Horsfield 17 (ENG)
David Boote 62 (WAL) WON 2&1 v. Collin Morikawa 14 (USA)

Round of 32 – Thursday 18th August 2016
Doc Redman 49 (USA) LOST 5&4 v. Sam Horsfield 17 (ENG)
Scott Gregory 9 (ENG) LOST 19th Hole v. Nick Carlson 41 (USA)
David Boote 62 (WAL) WON 3&1 v. Ben Schlottman 35 (USA)

Round of 64 – Wednesday 17th August 2016
Connor Syme 32 (SCO) LOST 2 Up v. Dylan Meyer 33 (USA)
Sam Horsfield 17 (ENG) WON 3&1 v. Hugo Bernard 48 (CAN)
Scott Gregory 9 (ENG) WON 7&5 v. Raymond Knoll 56 (USA)
Dawson Armstrong 2 (USA) WON 1 Up v. Bradley Moore 63 (ENG)
Bryson Nimmer 23 (U SA) WON 1 Up v. Jack Hume 42 (IRE)
Gavin Hall 3 (USA) LOST 3&2 v. David Boote 62 (WAL)

David BOOTE (WAL) was the most successful GB&I player at the 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship reaching the quarter-finals of the match play stage.

David Boote made few mistakes in the match play stage and his consistent play enabled him to see off Gavin Hall, Ben Schlottman and most impressively Collin Morikawa. He saved his best till last too, playing very well against Brad Dalke, where despite giving nothing away he ended up losing his quarter final match to an inspired opponent on the day. Boote has been playing consistently to a high level this summer and is now right at the top of the GB&I amateur game. If he chooses to remain amateur and can maintain this form he will surely secure a place in next year’s Walker Cup team.

Sam HORSFIELD beat Hugo Bernard, winner of the Canadian Amateur title last weekend, 3&1 in the Round of 64. He then played his very best golf to beat Doc Redman, shooting 29 on the front nine before finishing the match 7-under par on the 14th. Dylan Meyer, who just a few week’s ago beat Sam in the final of the Western Amateur, was next up. In a tight match Horsfield missed a short 3 footer for par on their 19th hole to allow Meyer to get the better of him again. It says everything about Horsfield, who this week moved to No. 1 in the SPWAR rankings, that the fact he didn’t reach at least the semi-finals this week has to be viewed as both a disappointment and a surprise.

Scott GREGORY had an easy first match with Raymond Knoll bogeying 7 of the 13 holes they completed. Scott played well in his final match – he was 3-under for the 19 holes contested, with just one bogey – but simply came up against an in form Nick Carlson; the local Michigan man playing well above himself all week. Carlson of course went on to reach the semi-finals before losing to Australian Curtis Luck yesterday.

Connor SYME lost to Dylan Meyer, the recent Western Amateur champion and nemesis of Sam Horsfield in Round 1. Syme gave the in form American a good game and will have been disappointed to lose 2 Up, particularly as he lost the last two holes to par.

The tough finish on Oakland Hills South Course proved too much for both Bradley MOORE and Jack HUME in their Round of 64 matches. Moore did well to fight back to All Square against the No. 2 qualifier Dawson Armstrong having been 2 Down with 6 holes to play. However, having birdied the 13th and 16th, he bogied the last two holes to let Armstrong progress. Hume was 1 Up with 3 to play before he bogeyed 16 and 17 to give his opponent, Bryson Nimmer a 1 Up lead which he saw out on the final hole.

You don’t get anywhere near the first tee of the U.S. Amateur without being a very accomplished golfer. So in terms of a stepping stone to 2017 Walker Cup selection it is often a case of looking at who did not perform and understanding why rather than those that did. The six players who made it to the match play stage clearly did very well and confirmed their standing as 2017 Walker Cup ‘probables’. Those that did not will know they need to learn from the experience and work on both their games and consistency to demonstrate they are more than ‘possibles’.

Click here to access all of the 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship Results 

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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18. The 2016 European Amateur Championship

10th August 2016

The 30th European Amateur Championship, a 72-hole stroke play event, was contested between 3rd – 6th August on the 7,100 yards Sea Course at the Estonia Golf & Country Club.

Italy’s Luca CIANCHETTI beat Norway’s Viktor HOVLAND on the seventh play-off hole to win this prestigious competition. Luca wins a nice trophy but more importantly an invitation to compete in next year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

Luca Cianchetti Euro Mens Amateur 2016

Luca Cianchetti (Photo: Italian Golf Federation)

Once again from a Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) perspective Scotland’s Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) -13 and Connor SYME (SCO) -12 rose to the top, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) is now also starting to show up regularly; he finished an impressive T9 on -9.

In total 37 GB&I players started the European Men’s Amateur Championship. In addition to the above the following 15 players had a good week making the Top 60 54-hole cut in a strong field: –
T13 Andrew WILSON (ENG)-8
T13 Craig ROSS (SCO) -8
T17 Ben AMOR (ENG) -7
T17 Daniel BROWN (ENG) -7
T17 Grant FORREST (SCO) -7
T26 Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) -5
T26 Stuart GREHAN (IRE) -5
T26 Sandy SCOTT (SCO) -5
T35 Matthew JORDAN (ENG) -4
T35 George BLOOR (ENG) -4
T44 Alex GLEESON (IRE) -2
T50 Marco PENGE (ENG) -1
T50 James WALKER (ENG) -1
T54 Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) Ev
T54 Owen EDWARDS (WAL) +1

Click here to review the complete final results from Estonia – 2016 European Amateur Championship Live Scores

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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17. GB&I Retain The St. Andrews Trophy

23rd July 2016

Great Britain & Ireland retained the 2016 St. Andrews Trophy earlier this week in an exciting match against the Continent of Europe.

The 31st contest in the series was halved 12.5-12.5 at Prince’s Golf Club in Kent but as the holders GB&I were able to keep the Trophy on home soil. It was the first time the match had been halved, GB&I winning 25 times and Europe just five times previously.

GB&I St Andrews Trophy 2016 Photo 2

Great Britain & Ireland (Photo: Darren Plant)

David BOOTE (WAL) proved to be the hero of the day bravely parring the 18th hole to secure a 1Up win in the final singles game of Day 2 against Spain’s Ivan CANTERO GUTIERREZ (ESP). 

GB&I had got off to the worse possible start losing the Day 1 foursomes 0-4. A recovery of sorts looked possible for the home team in the afternoon singles but some late reverses saw Europe rescue a 4-4 series result.

Going into Day 2 behind 4-8 few predicted GB&I could recover the situation. However, a 3.5-1.5 result in the Day 2 foursomes gave the team every reason to believe prior to the 9 singles commencing.  The singles were again a rollercoaster affair but GB&I managed to sneak them 5-4 to secure a dramatic half.

Whilst it does not take into account the quality of each player’s opposition it is still interesting to review the high level individual player contributions: –

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 06.40.38

From a GB&I perspective Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Stuart GREHAN (IRE) were our star men this week securing two singles wins and one foursome success.

Connor SYME (SCO), Jack HUME (IRE), David BOOTE (WAL) and Alfie PLANT (ENG) also played important point scoring roles during the competition.

Jamie BOWER (ENG), Grant FORREST (SCO) and Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) will be disappointed with their contributions.

GB&I and new captain Craig WATSON will no doubt be delighted to retain the St. Andrews Trophy. The Team showed real determination and fight to turn around a horrific start.

However, the reality is this was a disappointing performance and result.

Save for the inclusion of Sam HORSFIELD (ENG) and possibly Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) GB&I were able to put out their strongest team. Europe were sadly not in the same position. Adrian MERONK (POL) and Antoine ROZNER (FRA) would certainly have been included if not for the fixture clash with the European Challenge Tour event in France. Ugo COUSSAUD (FRA) and Gregoire SCHOEB (FRA), also playing in France, would probably have been considered too.

Europe have only won five St. Andrews Trophy matches out of 30, with just one of these victories coming away from the Continent. GB&I clearly have an advantage when playing such matches on links courses which they have far more experience of.

So, harsh as it may seem, I for one am not going to get too excited about a halved home match against a weakened Continent of Europe team. Much improvement will be needed if GB&I are going to give a hurt USA team a match on a parkland course in sunny Los Angeles at the 2017 Walker Cup.

For my full St. Andrews Trophy preview and daily match reports please visit my sister website www.golfbible.co.uk – St. Andrews Trophy – 2016 Preview and Results

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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15. The 2016 European Men’s Amateur Team Championships

9th July 2016

The European Men’s Amateur Team Championships finished today in France (Division 1) and Luxembourg (Division 2).

These are the events that highlight a player’s ability to compete at the highest level and help firm up foursome pairings for selectors down the line.

Scotland retained their European Team title and in particular Connor SYME, Craig HOWIE, Robert MACINTYRE and Grant FORREST have enhanced their already strong reputations further.

Ireland‘s Stuart GREHAN and Jack HUME qualified strongly and performed well in the match play stage as the their team finished a creditable 6th.

There was little to cheer for England who finished a disappointing 13th. Alfie PLANT did however perform well himself.

Wales finished 2nd in Division 2 but David BOOTE won the stroke play qualifier and all four of his match play games.

All in all, save for Craig HOWIE, who is really applying pressure on the R&A selectors (and me), I haven’t seen anything to suggest I need to alter my St. Andrews Trophy team selection which I published here a few days ago.

Here is my GB&I Player Performance Analysis covering these two events.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 18.01.22

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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14. The 2016 St. Andrews Trophy Team – My Selection

7th July 2016

Here’s my stab at the 2016 Great Britain & Ireland St. Andrews Trophy Team.

The St. Andrews Trophy has been played biennially between GB&I and Europe since 1956.

GB&I have won 25 times with Europe having just five wins to their name, albeit two of them came recently in 2010 and 2012. GB&I won the 2014 match, played in Barsebäck, Sweden, 14-10.

I anticipate this year’s match being a very close encounter.

With the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship coming to a conclusion at Golf de Chantilly in France on Saturday I expect the GB&I Team to be named by The R&A and Captain Craig Watson early next week.

These are the questions I’ve asked myself before selecting my Team: –

How many players do I need, where are we playing and what’s the format ?

The match is to be contested by a team of 9 GB&I players.

It is to be played on the links of Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, England on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st July.

On Day 1 4 foursomes and 8 singles will be played. On Day 2 there are again 4 foursomes but in a change to the recent format all 9 players will then compete in singles this year. I know from past experience that there is always a tendency to prefer pairs from the same country so need to consider that.

Who’s in the frame ? 

An 18-man St. Andrews Trophy Squad was announced on 24th March 2016.

This included David BOOTE (WAL), Jamie BOWER (ENG), Owen EDWARDS (WAL), Ewen FERGUSON (SCO), Grant FORREST (SCO), John Ross GALBRAITH (IRE), Alex GLEESON (IRE), Stuart GREHAN (IRE), Scott GREGORY (ENG), Jack HUME (IRE), Jack MCDONALD (SCO), Robert MACINTYRE (SCO), Greg MARCHBANK (SCO), Bradley MOORE (ENG), Marco PENGE (ENG), Craig ROSS (SCO), Connor SYME (SCO) and Ashton TURNER (ENG).

There were 7 players from Scotland, 5 from England, 4 from Ireland and 2 from Wales in the initial squad.

We can of course remove Jack McDonald from the above group as he turned pro on 31st March.

Who has performed well this year ?

Here is my 29th June 2016 Rankings Assessment which clearly shows who our leading players have been in the year to date, at least according to the two main Amateur Rankings.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 21.06.37

It seems unlikely to me that anyone outside my Combined Top 20 listed above will be selected. Unless of course The R&A go for a completely Scottish team – which given current form is not as outlandish a statement as it may at first seem.

Who’s showing form at this week’s European Men’s Amateur Championship ?

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 18.40.34

EMATC GB&I Stroke Play Scores

The above table clearly shows who performed well in the stroke play qualifying and how today’s first round match play has gone for our leading players.

In Division 2 David BOOTE was the medalist in the stroke play qualifying with a -9 36-hole total in Luxembourg.

Notable Omissions ?

At the end of June our highest ranked player was Sam HORSFIELD (ENG). I understand that Craig Watson watched and met with him at the Arnold Palmer Cup a few weeks ago at Formby but I don’t envisage him being considered or dare I say making himself available for this event. I am sure Sam will be committed to the series of major amateur events that are played in the United States during July and August.

Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) has been struggling with a wrist injury in recent weeks, withdrawing from three events in succession. I have therefore chosen to exclude him from my thoughts on fitness grounds. This is a shame for Ewen as he has started to show some good form lately with a 3rd place in the St Andrews Links Trophy and a good run at The Amateur.

So excluding Sam and Ewen here’s my team of 9, in order of selection: –

1. Grant FORREST (SCO) – since winning the Battle Trophy in Scotland he has strung to together a series of top quality results. Playing well in France and now back to his very best.

2. Jack HUME (IRE) – the South African SP and European Nations Individual 2016 champion was solid in the 2015 Walker Cup and outstanding in the Bonallack Trophy earlier this year.

3. Connor SYME (SCO) – the 2016 Australian Amateur champion has enjoyed an excellent season and is now undoubtedly one of GB&I’s top amateur players.

4. Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) – has peaked perfectly for this selection. Finalist in The Amateur and has taken that form into his last two events on the Challenge Tour and this week in France.

5. Scott GREGORY (ENG) – having just won The Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl he obviously must play. He’s delivered winning results for England in two international matches this year also.

6. Alfie PLANT (ENG) – a fantastic winner of the Lytham Trophy who has enjoyed good finishes at the French International Amateur (T11) and Brabazon Trophy (T7) since. A Kent-lad too which should help with local support.

7. Jamie BOWER (ENG) – he’s won three events this year including the prestigious Brabazon Trophy in Kent, albeit on an inland course. Jamie also got to the last 16 of the Amateur so has certainly backed up his early season wins in South Africa.

It starts to get a bit trickier from here on in, particularly around foursomes pairings, but I’ve given the benefit of the doubt to: –

8. Stuart GREHAN (IRE) – a strong performance this week for Ireland on the back of a positive contribution at the Arnold Palmer Cup. Stuart seems to be on an upward curve to me.

9. David BOOTE (WAL) – David has enjoyed a good season for Stanford in the US and delivered winning results at the Bonallack Trophy (where he played with Jack Hume) and Arnold Palmer Cup this year. He has also made a good start in Luxembourg this week for Wales at the Division 2 European Men’s Team Championship.

Having put my head above the parapet I have to say it would be hard for me to argue if any of Craig HOWIE (SCO – partnering Connor Syme at the Euros this week), Conor O’ROURKE (Naas GC, IRE – as is Jack Hume), Sandy SCOTT (SCO), Craig ROSS (SCO) or Bradley MOORE (ENG – a possible partner for Alfie Plant) were selected by The R&A based on 2016 performances and potential foursome pairings.

Let me know what you think by commenting below or on Twitter ?

ME.

Copyright © 2016, 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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10. Amateurs and the European Challenge Tour

22nd May 2016

On 24th February 2016 the European Challenge Tour announced changes to it’s regulations to allow amateurs to earn points in an amended 2016 Road to Oman competition.

A maximum of 6 amateur invites are now allowed for each tournament with any one amateur allowed to play in no more than 7 events during the season. Invites largely remain a gift of the National Golf Unions and Federations and can be traded for different events as they have been with pros for many years.

European Challenge Tour Logo

Subject to paying a membership fee an amateur can therefore now accumulate points and potentially graduation to the main European Tour if they finish in the Top 15 season ranking. Previously amateurs were unrewarded for their performances on the Challenge Tour.

Romain Langasque, who subsequently turned pro after The Masters, currently lies 4th in the ranking and is quickly showing how the new rules can be made to work to an amateur’s advantage. In March he finished 2nd in The Barclays Kenya Open as an amateur to get his Challenge Tour season off to a flying start. He has built on this to win more points in each of his subsequent four events as a pro.

Of course I am interested in seeing how the new rules work for GB&I amateurs and the impact it has on them turning pro.

The first to get on the bandwagon have been leading Scottish amateurs Ewen Ferguson and Grant Forrest. Last weekend the two of them completed the second of four European Challenge Tour events allocated to them by Scottish Golf and management company, Bounce Golf. The 2015 Walker Cup-winning pair played in both the Turkish Airlines Challenge and then the Montecchia Open by Lyoness.

To his credit Ferguson made the cut in both events. In Turkey he shot 70, 70, 76 and 67 to finish on -5 (€705). In Italy, where the event was reduced to 54-holes he shot 69, 66 and 74 to finish on -4. If he had been a pro he would have earned c.€1,400 for his two weeks work.

Forrest missed the cut in Turkey after rounds of 68 and 76. In Italy rounds of 70, 67 and 78 saw him finish on +2. Again if he had been a pro he would have earned c.€550 for his week’s work.

The potential monetary rewards they would have received would clearly not have covered either player’s costs which once again highlights the difficulties of turning pro. Of course the last two weeks were about experience rather than prize money for both of the Scottish lads but nevertheless the harsh realities of professional golf can never be completely ignored.

In an interview with the Challenge Tour on 18th May 2016 Forrest said: “To be able to mix your schedule up with some Challenge Tour events really gives you an insight into what the pro game is like. Now that there’s been the rule change where we can get points, it’s a huge step that’s really encouraging. There’s a bit of a difference between the amateur game and the Challenge Tour I’ve noticed. Everyone does their own thing out here but it surprised me a little bit how relaxed it was.”

Ferguson told the Challenge Tour in the same article: “The plan would be to turn professional at the end of this season. You never know how everything’s going to go in golf though – if you win the Amateur Championship or you win a pro event then everything could change. Turning pro is the end goal – sooner rather than later – and definitely by the end of this year. I still have targets in the amateur game that would be nice to achieve, and I just want to keep learning.”

I am pleased both players appear to have enjoyed and benefited from their recent Challenge Tour experiences.

However, what is now very clear, particularly in the case of Ewen Ferguson, is that they both plan to turn pro later this year and certainly before the next Walker Cup in Summer 2017.

This begs the question of Captain Craig Watson and the other GB&I selectors as to what role, if any, the pair should play in the forthcoming St. Andrews Trophy match. Of course neither would be guaranteed selection at the moment based on their 2016 form and rankings but what’s the point in selecting either of them if they plan to turn pro a matter of weeks after the match ?

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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7. Jack McDonald Turns Pro

31st March 2016

Jack McDonald one of the stars of the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) 2015 Walker Cup team today announced he was turning professional.

Jack played in three matches at the recent Walker Cup.  He was unbeaten in both of his foursomes, where he partnered superbly with his fellow Stirling University friend Cormac Sharvin.  He halved his final day singles against Lee McCoy, who finished 4th as an amateur at the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour just a few weeks ago.

Jack is the 7th member of the 10-man GB&I Walker Cup team to turn Pro.  Just Ewen Ferguson, Grant Forrest and Jack Hume remain amateurs.  Ewen and Grant also today announced they had signed with Edinburgh-based Bounce Sport “ahead of expected switches to the professional ranks later this year”.  The move has secured them four starts on the European Challenge Tour in 2016 as part of a new alliance between Bounce and Scottish Golf.

Jack won the 2009 Scottish Boys’ Stroke Play Championship aged 16 and has twice been a semi-finalist in the Amateur championship, in 2012 and 2015 where he lost to Romain Langasque. In 2014 he was part of the successful 2014 European Palmer Cup team and last year he was a member of the Scotland team that won the European Men’s Team Championship.

It was only 6 days ago that Jack was included in the R&A’s GB&I St. Andrews Trophy Squad announcement having spent the winter with Scotland Golf playing in Australia and South Africa.  Therefore it seems he was either playing his cards close to his chest or a late decision has been made. He currently has no playing rights on any professional tour.

As he said today “I have done a lot in the amateur game now. I think I’m ready to make the transition and that my game is there so I’m looking to just keep improving.”  He turned 23 on the 12th February so it is difficult to argue with his decision and thinking.

Jack had already entered the Final Stage of the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School.  His Walker Cup selection having exempted him from the First Stage qualifiers which concluded today.  He will now make his professional debut at Frilford Heath next week.  He was missing from yesterday’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, where he has been a Top 50 player for much of he last 12 months, so the writing was perhaps on the wall for an announcement this week.

Jack who plays out of the Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club in Scotland has signed for International Sports Management (ISM), the management company headed up by Chubby Chandler.  Fellow Walker Cupper Gavin Moynihan signed with ISM immediately after last September’s match at Lytham.

Jack McDonald signs for ISM 310316

Jack McDonald and Chubby Chandler (Photo: ISM)

Jack is expected to seek starts on the European Challenge Tour, the PGA EuroPro Tour and the MENA Tour (a well worn path for ISM clients).

I wish him every success as he embarks on the next chapter of his golfing life.  If he can get his game in order then commercially he should be a God send; he always seems to be smiling (even whilst playing) and appears to have a friendly personality to go with his youthful good looks.

I’ve got a 2016 target for him – qualify for The Open at Royal Troon, his ‘home’ Championship venue.

ME

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley All rights reserved.

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6. R&A Announces 2016 St. Andrews Trophy Squad

25th March 2016

The R&A and new captain Craig Watson (SCO) yesterday announced an 18-man GB&I Squad for the 2016 St. Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe.

7 players from Scotland, 5 from England, 4 from Ireland and 2 from Wales have been selected. They are listed below in alphabetical order: –

David BOOTE (WAL)
Jamie BOWER (ENG)
Owen EDWARDS (WAL)
Ewen FERGUSON (SCO)
Grant FORREST (SCO)
John Ross GALBRAITH (IRE)
Alex GLEESON (IRE)
Stuart GREHAN (IRE)
Scott GREGORY (ENG)
Jack HUME (IRE)
Jack MCDONALD (SCO)
Robert MACINTYRE (SCO)
Greg MARCHBANK (SCO)
Bradley MOORE (ENG)
Marco PENGE (ENG)
Craig ROSS (SCO)
Connor SYME (SCO)
Ashton TURNER (ENG)

The current GB&I Scratch Players World Amateur Golf Ranking is shown below: –

SPWAR 240316

The current GB&I World Amateur Golf Ranking is also shown below: –

WAGR 240316

As one would expect the Squad largely reflects the current rankings.

The obvious omission is Sam HORSFIELD (ENG) who has made a strong start to his freshman year at Florida on the US College circuit and sits near the top of both rankings. It is unclear at the moment whether the R&A have ignored him after his late Walker Cup withdrawal last summer or Sam has simply made himself unavailable. It is interesting to note that he has made himself available for Europe’s Palmer Cup Team and the match taking place against the United States at Formby GC in June.

Jimmy ALLEN (ENG) who was well placed in the rankings turned pro ahead of the MENA Tour opener in Morocco this week and was therefore not considered.

From an analysis of the two rankings – and in particular looking at those players that either sit in the Top 18 or above others that have been selected – the following players may consider themselves unlucky (or additionally motivated for the next few months): Paul KINNEAR (ENG),  Jamie SAVAGE (SCO), Paul MCBRIDE (IRE), Robin DAWSON (IRE), Craig HOWIE (SCO) and James WALKER (ENG).

A speedy recovery is hoped for both Jonathan THOMSON (ENG) and Sean TOWNDROW (ENG) who have both been battling injury and health issues in recent months and whose exclusions are understandable.

The match, which will be contested by a team of 9, is to be played at Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, England on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st July 2016. The St. Andrews Trophy has been played for since 1956. GB&I have won 25 times with Europe having just five wins to their name, albeit two of them came in 2010 and 2012.

Looking ahead to July’s match Craig Watson said: “We have a strong group of players to call upon again this year and there is a good mixture of experience and youth in the squad. We know we will be in for a tough match at Prince’s so we have to pick the best team we can and the players will be working hard throughout this season to impress the selectors”.

GB&I won the 2014 match at Barsebäck, Sweden by a 14 – 10 scoreline. Grant Forrest is the only member of that winning team to be included in the 2016 Squad.  His fellow Scottish Internationals Jamie Savage and Graeme Robertson are the only other members of the 2014 Team to remain amateur.

A long way to go until the 2017 Walker Cup but nevertheless it is worth recording the players that the R&A currently view as their strongest.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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5. Jack Hume Stars At The 2016 Bonallack Trophy

18th March 2016

Europe comfortably beat Asia-Pacific 21.5 – 10.5 in the 2016 Bonallack Trophy in Portugal.

Here is my analysis of the individual player contributions: –

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 19.54.24

Jack Hume (IRE) starred for Europe winning all four of the matches he was selected for. He has made a superb start to the season. The only surprise in Portugal was that he was rested for a session, the Day Fourballs.

David Boote (WAL) won three of his four matches, only losing his Day 1 Fourball where he was paired with Stefano Mazzoli (ITA).

Ashton Turner (ENG) was the only other GB&I player to win 3 matches. Paired with Bradley Moore (ENG) he lost his Day 1 Foursomes and Day 2 Fourball.

Grant Forrest (SCO) and Jack McDonald (SCO), who were paired together in the Foursomes and Fourballs, and Bradley Moore all lost their Final Day Singles matches thus falling into ‘negative territory’ in my analysis.

Finally, I am starting to develop the view that Bradley Moore’s match play performances are not comparable with his consistently strong stroke play results. I am going to have to research this topic further.

Bonallack Trophy 2016 Europe Winners Photo 2

Team Europe (Photo: Hugo Ribeiro / FPG) 

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley.  All rights reserved.

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4. Europe Announces It’s 2016 Bonallack Trophy Team

22nd February 2016

The European Golf Association (EGA) have recently selected their Bonallack Trophy team for this year’s match against Asia-Pacific.

Bonallack Trophy 2014 Europe Team

The 2014 Bonallack Trophy Winning European Team (Photo: EGA)

Players are supposedly selected with reference to the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) and guidance from national coaches and officials. No more than two players may be selected from the same country.

For the sake of completeness I thought it was worth recording the names of the six Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) players that have been included in the team: –

David BOOTE (WAL) – WAGR 79
Grant FORREST (SCO) – WAGR 25
Jack HUME (IRE) – WAGR 24
Jack MCDONALD (SCO) – WAGR 36
Bradley MOORE (ENG) – WAGR 54
Ashton TURNER (ENG) – WAGR 100

The rest of the 12-man European team are noted below: –

Ivan CANTERO GUTIERREZ (ESP) – WAGR 11
Luca CIANCHETTI (ITA) – WAGR 85
Mario GALIANO AGUILA (ESP) – WAGR 20
Jeroen KRIETEMEIJER (NED) – WAGR 132
Stefano MAZZOLI (ITA) – WAGR 39
Robin PETERSSON (SWE) – WAGR 38

It is clearly premature to link this match with the 2017 Walker Cup selection process.  Nevertheless the six GB&I players that have been invited to Portugal in March can take confidence from their inclusion and do now have the opportunity to put a marker down.  Who knows demonstrating some match-play tenacity, highlighting a new playing partnership or even just being a good team member may help one of them somewhere down the line.

Ashley Chesters (ENG) and Gavin Moynihan (IRE) were both members of the 2014 Bonallack Trophy Team who were victorious in India. Both made the 2015 Walker Cup Team the following year. Other GB&I players in the 2014 team included Ryan Evans (ENG), Dermot McElroy (IRE) and James Ross (SCO). Evans and Ross chose to turn Pro before the Walker Cup whilst McElroy just missed out on selection.

N.B. The WAGR quoted above was taken from the 17th February 2016 listing.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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