England’s Nick Poppleton (24) was added to the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) St. Andrews Trophy squad last week following his recent victory in the Brabazon Trophy.
The squad were meeting up ahead of the St. Andrews Links Trophy which was played last weekend so it made sense for Nick to be added to the group ahead of this.
He becomes the 11th Englishman in the squad which has now been increased to 21 players.
GB&I’s captain Craig Watson said, “Nick played exceptional golf to win the Brabazon Trophy last week and his selection for the Great Britain and Ireland squad is a reflection of his overall form. Nick’s inclusion shows there is still time for players to play their way into contention for the match and we are following the key amateur events closely.”
The St. Andrews Links Trophy saw three other players step firmly into the reckoning after shining on the New and Old Courses.
Ireland’s John Murphy won the event after a sudden death play off whilst England’s Jake Burnage and Laird Shepherd finished tied 3rd and 5th respectively. This competition enjoyed a much stronger field than the Brabazon so one must assume that all of them are now under close consideration too.
There may not be a formal announcement to this effect as I am not sure there are any further plans for the squad to meet up before the final team is selected.
Today’s SPWAR for all of the players mentioned above are shown below: –
Jake Burnage, England
Laird Shepherd, England
John Murphy, Ireland
Nick Poppleton, England
With Harry Ellis (56th) expected to turn pro after this week’s U.S. Open Championship and Matthew Jordan (12th) rumoured to be following him after the Amateur Championship (assuming he doesn’t win it) all of the other GB&I player rankings are set for a boost shortly.
With Paul McBride signing with Hambric Sports and turning pro last week should Harry and Matthew follow suit it will mean that all of our 2017 Walker Cup team will have been lost to the amateur game within 10 months of the last match.
The big one’s up next. The Amateur Championship starts at Royal Aberdeen G.C. and Murcar Links G.C. on Monday 18th June 2018. Events in Scotland will certainly be an important yardstick when it comes to the final St. Andrews Trophy team selection.
By way of reminder the St. Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe will be played at Linna Golf in Finland on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th July 2018. Our nine-man team is set to be confirmed after the European Men’s Team Championship which concludes on 14th July.
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.
Todd Clements, England (21)
Robin Dawson, Ireland (22)
Alex Fitzpatrick, England (19)
Calum Fyfe, Scotland (20)
Alex Gleeson, Ireland (24)
David Hague, England (21)
Harry Hall, England (20)
Benjamin Jones, England (19)
Matthew Jordan, England (22)
Rowan Lester, Ireland (22)
Sam Locke, Scotland (19)
Ryan Lumsden, Scotland (21)
Billy McKenzie, England (23)
Gian-Marco Petrozzi, England (21)
Caolan Rafferty, Ireland (25)
Sandy Scott, Scotland (19)
Jamie Stewart, Scotland (18)
Euan Walker, Scotland (22)
Robin Williams, England (16)
Andrew Wilson, England (24)
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.
Harry Ellis, England
Paul McBride, Ireland
Tom Plumb, England
Jake Burnage, England
Conor Purcell, Ireland
Daniel O’Loughlin, England
Mitch Waite, England
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.
So little time, Try to understand that I’m, Trying to make a move just to stay in the game, I try to stay awake and remember my name, But everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same.
– “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane (2004)
It’s been all change in the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) amateur game since the 46th Walker Cup match finished a month ago.
Of course each Walker Cup seems to mark the end of a mini-era with both those players selected and those overlooked looking to move on with their golfing careers.
However, the number of players turning professional in recent weeks feels much higher than normal with elite amateur golf in GB&I decimated.
We have already lost 7 of the 10 members of our Walker Cup team to the professional ranks: –
David BOOTE (WAL) Jack DAVIDSON (WAL) Scott GREGORY (ENG) Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) Alfie PLANT (ENG) Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) Connor SYME (SCO)
Of the remaining three players Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) and Harry ELLIS (ENG) have entered their Senior years at Wake Forest and Florida State respectively, whilst Matthew JORDAN (ENG) has resisted the temptation to jump to date. Could he have his sights set on a home Walker Cup appearance at Royal Liverpool in 2019 ? Wishful thinking on my part perhaps.
However, it is the number of other Internationals that have turned professional that makes the last few weeks so exceptional. Here’s a selection of names for you: –
Dan BROWN (ENG) Joshua DAVIES (WAL) Owen EDWARDS (WAL) Colin FAIRWEATHER (IRE) Tom GANDY (ENG) Stuart GREHAN (IRE) Evan GRIFFITH (WAL) Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) Bradley MOORE (ENG) Conor O’ROURKE (IRE) Marco PENGE (ENG) Craig ROSS (SCO) Will WHITEOAK (ENG) Jack YULE (ENG)
The exodus may not be over either.
Amateurs JR GALBRAITH (IRE)*, Josh HILLEARD (ENG) and Craig HOWIE (SCO) have all progressed to the Second Qualifying Stage of the European Tour’s Q-School series. Chris MACLEAN (SCO) is also this week out in Germany testing his game in the ProGolf Tour Q-School.
Whilst it’s sad to see all of these players move out of the amateur game I of course wish them all the best with their future careers. It will be interesting to see which ones survive and prosper in the coming years. Whatever happens I hope they can at least enjoy some of the journey.
Certainly playing in The Walker Cup is no guarantee of success in the professional golfing world. To date Paul DUNNE (who turned Pro in September 2015), Jordan SMITH (October 2014), Matthew FITZPATRICK (June 2014) and to a lesser degree Ashley CHESTERS (September 2015) and Callum SHINKWIN (September 2013) are the only players from the 2013 and 2015 Walker Cups to have made a notable transition. There is still time for some of the others to come through. A lot of very good elite amateurs have fallen by the way side, either unable to make the step up in play and / or get to grips with the demanding life of a touring pro.
Scotland’s Connor SYME leads the way for the 2017 crop at the moment with a tied 12th finish at the Portuguese Masters on debut and a tied 15th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last weekend. Earnings of €79,435 from two events has to be viewed as a dream start to his professional career.
One thing’s for sure, as day follows night, the next generation of young amateur golfers will soon appear. It will be interesting to see which players take the opportunity to step forward and fill the current void in 2018.
* In November 2017 JR GALBRAITH (IRE) also turned professional.
The United States of America (USA) won the 46th Walker Cup match at Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) beating Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) 19 – 7.
The wining score of 19 points matched the most ever in Walker Cup history. USA had previously reached that total in 1993 when they won 19 – 5 at a rain affected Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota.
Here is the Individual Player Contributions chart from the match: –
Doug GHIM, Maverick MCNEALY and Collin MORIKAWA each went 4 – 0, the first time three players had accomplished this for one team in the same Walker Cup match. The previous record being two perfect 4 game records – USA in 1977 (John Fought and Lindy Miller), 1997 (John Harris and Brad Elder) and 2009 (Peter Uihlein and Rickie Fowler) and GB&I in 1999 (Luke Donald and Paul Casey).
Doug GHIM had also gone 4 – 0 in the Arnold Palmer Cup match earlier this summer. A memorable and unique double for him.
USA Celebrate Their Win At Los Angeles CC (Photo: GolfBible)
GB&I’s very slim hopes of staging a comeback on Day 2 depended on a strong morning Foursomes performance. Unfortunately they lost the series 3 – 1 to fall even further behind 11 – 5.
Scott GREGORY and Jack SINGH BRAR were GB&I’s only Foursomes winners. Gregory in particular played some great shots down the stretch, memorably holeing out from a bunker on 14 and delivering a long iron into the heart of the 18th green to close out the game 2Up.
The United States therefore went into the ten afternoon Singles matches needing just 2.5 points to win the Walker Cup.
Despite this Captain “Spider” MILLER took nothing for granted and later said he had challenged each player before the final series of matches started, telling them, “You have to win your match. Each one of you must win your match. We must win all ten matches. I was as direct as I can be. We had a good lead but there was going to be no letting up. I expected each one of them to win.”
Braden THORNBERRY certainly responded well to the instruction, the 2017 NCAA Division I Individual champion, thumping Paul MCBRIDE, 6 and 5 in game number 5 to get the ball rolling for USA.
Shortly afterwards Stewart HAGESTAD, avenging his Saturday defeat to Singh Brar, won 2 and 1 on the 17th green before Norman XIONG, at 18 the youngest player on either team, secured the final 0.5 point required to reach the all important 13.5 mark.
The Americans ended up winning seven of the 10 singles matches on Sunday afternoon.
The Day 2 Results (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)
Scott GREGORY and Robert MACINTYRE provided some resistance for GB&I, halving their games. Gregory refused to accept defeat fighting back from 2 down against Norman XIONG with two to play to earn his half, sinking 30 foot and 8 foot par putts on the final two holes to do so. Similarly MacIntyre again demonstrated his match play credentials with an unbeaten Singles performance for GB&I. He beat long-hitting Cameron CHAMP easily yesterday before halving with him today.
The star man for GB&I on Sunday was David BOOTE who battled superbly to win his match against the reigning US Amateur champion Doc REDMAN. Surprisingly Redman ended up being the only US player not to contribute a point from the three games he participated in. Boote birdied the short 15th to go 2Up but the match was far from over given the three c.500 yard par 4 finishing holes still to be played. On 16 David got up and down from just short of the green before watching Redman trump him with a tap-in birdie. On 17, having called a penalty on himself for standing on his ball in the rough, he managed to get up and down from about 150 yards to secure an unlikely half in bogey. Finally on 18 Redman saw his accurate long iron approach run past the flag to the back of the green leaving himself a near impossible downhill putt. When he three putted for 5 the Welshman simply took two from 5 feet to secure a memorable win.
David Boote Celebrates His Singles Win With His Family And Caddie (Photo: GolfBible)
To view the USGA highlight packages of the final day’s play please take a look at my ‘Past Results’ page.
As one would expect GB&I Acting Captain Andrew INGRAM accepted the loss in good spirit. He said: “The Americans were amazing. I’ve got to take my hat off to them. They have been superb all week and good luck to them. We just couldn’t get going, we couldn’t get anything moving forward. The big advantage here has been the length of the course, our guys aren’t used to courses this long. We have worked hard. I asked the team when I came for 100 percent and they gave me 100 percent. I can’t ask for anything more.”
Asked how he thought GB&I could improve their away performances Ingram suggested: “I know it costs money but any chance of us getting our Squad out to America to let them see what it’s like, come to the venue, and play some golf so they can get a feel of it (would be beneficial). I think it’s quite a shock to the system when they come and play a course like this. Our guys aren’t used to playing courses this long.”
“Spider” MILLER was understandably delighted for his team: “We had a choice to be the 2017 Walker Cup team or the winning 2017 Walker Cup team. There’s certain things in their careers as golfers they will remember and playing and winning the Walker Cup is one of those defining moments they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
As always the GB&I team lacked the strength in depth of their opponents and in this match USA were able to bring this to bear, generally outplaying the visitors for the most part. Sometimes you just have to hold up your hands and accept the better team won – this was one of those occasions to my eyes.
It was always going to be a big ask for GB&I to go to Los Angeles and be competitive let alone win. After all GB&I have only ever won twice in the USA and home teams have now won 11 of the last 13 matches.
I don’t believe a lengthy post-mortem is necessary but would add from what I saw myself – and in addition to the length point made by Andy Ingram – that the USA team also putted better on the quick and undulating greens and made better strategic decisions, particularly down the stretch.
Looking forward GB&I will next get the opportunity to regain the Walker Cup on 7th and 8th September 2019 when it will be staged at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.
Meanwhile GB&I players David BOOTE, Jack DAVIDSON, Scott GREGORY, Robert MACINTYRE, Alfie PLANT, Jack SINGH BRAR and Connor SYME are all expected to turn pro in the coming weeks. Good luck to all of them. Not the Amateur swan song they would have hoped for but nevertheless a trip and experience they will all remember for the rest of their lives.
USA lead GB&I 8 – 4 after Day 1 of the 2017 Walker Cup match being played at the superb Los Angeles CC.
The Day 1 Results (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)
Day 1 Mornings Foursomes – USA 2 – 2 GB&I
I followed the match between Connor Syme / Paul McBride and Doc Redman / Will Zalatoris. The GB&I pair both played well once they had got over their initial nerves. The defining factors were the USA’s poor play on the par 3 holes (they bogeyed all three), McBride’s accurate approach play and most importantly Syme’s putting. The Scotsman holed 9 missable putts from within 10 feet which either halved or won holes. In the end they ran out comfortable winners.
Connor Syme and Paul McBride (Photo: GolfBible)
Scott Gregory and Jack Singh Brar beat Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ 3&2 to ensure the Day 1 Foursomes finished halved 2 – 2. In what was a tight match up until the turn the USA pair simply fell away on the back nine handing the game to GB&I with two bogeys and a double bogey on holes 14 – 16.
Scott Gregory and Jack Singh Brar ( Photo: GolfBible)
The other two matches represented humbling experiences for the GB&I pairs.
In Game 1 Collin Morikawa and Norman Xiong thrashed Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant 8&7. This was the biggest Foursomes win in 18 hole Walker Cup match history. The Americans birdied the first 4 holes winning them all and parred in to the 11th where hands were shaken. The GB&I pair were 5-over par at the conclusion. 18 year old Norman Xiong is starring in Los Angeles. He appears to have both the build and game to really make a name for himself in the future.
Maverick McNealy and Doug Ghim proved too strong for the Welsh pairing of David Boote and Jack Davidson in the final match of the series. USA birdied four of the first 6 holes to jump into a big lead which they defended comfortably with par golf. As GB&I sought to chase the game further errors allowed the USA to run out easy winners.
Day 1 Afternoon Singles – USA 6 – 2 GB&I
This session will probably prove to be the defining one of the 46th Walker Cup match. USA moved out in front and it is in all honesty hard to see how the GB&I team will be able to recover the position.
I was attracted to the match of Robert MacIntyre and Cameron Champ, having read that Bob didn’t have much family or friend support out here. Bob also has an excellent match play record so it was inevitable that he would give the big hitting American a good game. The fact he had been left out of the morning Foursomes was also likely to be a motivator for him. Whilst Champ was out of sorts, struggling for pars all the way round as well as with his short game, the Scotsman was simply outstanding. Gaining confidence as the match proceeded from his opponents difficulties Bob played a large number of great shots demonstrating an excellent all round game. By the time the match ended on the 14th green Champ was almost alone having lost his US gallery long before.
GB&I’s only other winner in the afternoon was Jack Singh Brar. He will take an unbeaten W2-L0-H0 record in to Day 2. Jack appears to have played very well looking at his hole scores. Five 3’s in his first 11 holes enabled him to take a 5Up lead on mid-amateur and LACC member Stewart Hagestad. Whilst he stumbled a little coming home he regrouped quickly to finish off a comfortable win.
Robert MacIntyre Enjoys His Singles Win (Photo: GolfBible)
Harry Ellis was 2Up in game 1 with with 5 holes to play. Unfortunately he bogeyed three of them – poor drives being largely to blame – and allowed Braden Thornberry, surprisingly left out of the morning Foursomes, to gain a flattering 2 holes win.
Connor Syme started well, leading Norman Xiong by 3Up after 6 holes. However, once Xiong settled he quickly came back and helped by three birdies won out impressively 2&1 against one of GB&I’s strongest players.
McBride appears to have played well but was simply unlucky to draw Collin Morikawa. The Californian was 3-under for the 16 holes played before winning 3&1. Against many of the other US players Paul may well have secured a win given his overall play.
Matthew Jordan also seems to have played well in his first match at this Walker Cup, coming out on the wrong side of a tight match. Will Zalatoris played the tough finishing holes a little better to eventually win by 2 holes on the 18th.
David Boote got off to a poor start bogeying three of the opening 4 holes and going 3 Down. Once he settled the Welshman played well, showing a great deal of fight. Doug Ghim certainly knew he had been in a game by the time he had seen out a 2&1 win on the 17th green.
In the final game Scott Gregory also played well. Leading 2Up after 11 holes he fell foul of the brutal finishing holes which to his credit Maverick McNeally negotiated very impressively. McNeally ended up winning 3&1 on the 17th green.
Day 2 – Morning Foursomes
At the end of play on Saturday the pairings / draws for Day 2 were announced.
GB&I go into Day 2 requiring an exceptional performance. A victory in the Sunday Foursomes series is essential if they are to stage a comeback and perhaps more likely add some respectability to the final score.
Unsurprisingly the GB&I pairing of Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant have been dropped with Matthew Jordan and Robert MacIntyre introduced in game 4.
The Day 2 Foursomes Draw (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)
Day 2 – Afternoon Singles
Sunday sees 10 games and all 20 players out on the course contesting the Singles series.
The draw shows a number of repeat matches from Day 1 – Jack Singh Brar and Robert MacIntyre will again play Stewart Hagestad and Cameron Champ. Hopefully the results are the same on Day 2 !
Best of luck to GB&I. Let’s make USA work for every point today.
The Day 2 Singles Draw (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)
I spent yesterday at the Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) looking at the course and watching all of the players practice.
This is some of what I heard, saw and experienced: –
1. The North Course is even better than I thought it would be – and I arrived with high expectations having read a lot about the recent Gil Hanse renovation.
2. The clue was in the location – Beverly Hills – but it is far more hilly and undulating than any of the photos I had seen suggested.
3. Holes 3 – 8 in particular are magnificent. The land in this most northerly part of the property is stunning with height changes, steep banking and barranca framing all of the holes.
4. The Par 3’s are all excellent. The 4th (230 yards) and 11th (289 yards) are very long but both severely downhill so hugely inviting when stood on the tee.
5. In passing Lionel Ritchie’s house (see photo below) beside the 4th green is one of the finest properties I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. As I was admiring it one of the LACC members volunteered that the owner, no names were obviously mentioned, also owned the two properties next door (to the left) in addition to the main house.
Lionel Ritchie’s Property Overlooking The 4th Green (Photo: GolfBible)
6. The course is very long, particularly the back nine which plays 3,875 yards. There are four Par 4’s which are 500+ yards, including the three closing holes.
7. The fairways are very wide on all of the holes so I expect players will be using driver off many of the tees.
8. The rough looks low, almost non existent, but it is thick and tangly. Balls can sit up in it but equally fall through and penalise players for inaccuracy.
9. The bunkering is exceptional. Superbly shaped, large and often deep. Most of the bunkers, particularly those greenside, have a very thick collar of rough around them. Players will be shouting for their misdirected shots to find the sand as balls that finish here will be almost ‘dead’.
10. The greens are generally very large and looked quick. Getting the speed early on will be critical as will being on the right side of some of the tougher hole locations. The two exceptions being the Par 4 6th and the front portion of the short 17th which are very narrow targets.
The 46th Walker Cup Programme (Photo: GolfBible)
11. Many of the larger greens have small promontories, surrounded by sand, which will enable the USGA to really tuck some flags away if they wish.
12. LACC looks like being a very good match play course with a number of sporty risk reward holes evident.
13. The GB&I players – who played in group’s of 5, (1) Ellis / Davidson / Boote / Syme / Singh Brar and (2) Gregory / McBride / MacIntyre / Plant / Jordan – seemed to have been given free reign during the final practice session.
14. GB&I Group 1 didn’t play the full 18. They played holes 1, 2 and 9 before playing the back nine and walking in early. They then practiced their putting and went to the range.
A Signed 46th Walker Cup Flag (Photo: GolfBible)
15. There didn’t seem to be any competitive play going on yesterday and there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of R&A Selector observation taking place. It was as if the Day 1 foursomes pairings / singles order had already been determined and Friday’s play was irrelevant in this regard.
16. I anticipate that some players are going to be exposed by the length and severity of the LACC test. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some very one sided matches.
17. Understandably there are very few GB&I supporters in Los Angeles outside of each player’s family and close friends. You have to be pretty committed to make a 5,400 mile journey for an amateur golf event. Therefore this is going to be an away match in the strictest sense with a large partisan home crowd.
18. Recent Walker Cup matches have tended to go to the home team and historically GB&I have always struggled over here. I certainly travelled more in hope than expectation and reluctantly have to accept it is hard to see anything other than a comfortable USA win. As is always the case a good start to quieten the home crowd and build a little momentum this morning will be imperative for GB&I. I obviously wish GB&I well and hope our players can do themselves justice when proceedings begin. It would be great to witness a big sporting upset live.
19. The Day 1 pairings were announced at the opening ceremony and as with the original team selection it is hard before a ball has been struck to overly question them. It’s now down to the players to deliver.
20. Finally, the LACC is a very special place and everyone on site is delighted they have the opportunity to showcase their club and course. All of the membership / volunteers I came into contact with were proactive, friendly and welcoming. With two courses and superb practice facilities it has the space to accommodate any match or tournament.
Here is my Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team for the Walker Cup match to be played on 9th and 10th September against USA at the Los Angeles Country Club.
My selection has primarily been driven by a wish to pick players with consistent and winning records in 2017. However, I have also had to temper this with the fact this is an away match likely to be played in sunny, near perfect conditions.
In previous years stronger foursomes partnerships have been established in prior international matches. For various reasons I do not believe this is the case in 2017 and as such have largely ignored pairings, although I am confident that sound partnerships can be formed from the players I have selected.
2017 – US Amateur MP – Quarters
2017 – European Amateur Team A MP – W3/H0/L1
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T8
2017 – British Open Final Qualifying – Co-Medalist
2017 – European Amateur – T17
2017 – British Amateur – T67
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – 5th
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T8
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T7 2017 – Battle Trophy (SCO) – Champion
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T7
2017 – African Amateur – 2nd
Connor is an experienced player who has performed consistently well on the international stage for some time now. Not quite at his very best this year but he pleasingly seems to be finding some form as the match approaches. His performance this week at the U.S. Amateur clearly demonstrates his pedigree.
2. MATTHEW JORDAN (England)
2017 – US Amateur Qualifying – 1st Alt
2017 – European Amateur Team A MP – W3/H0/L3
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T2
2017 – European Amateur – 6th
2017 – British Amateur – 64’s 2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – Champion
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – 2nd
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – 5th
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T4
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T7
2017 – Hampshire Salver (ENG) – 8th
2017 – Quadrandular (ENG, ESP, ITA, GER) MP – W4/H1/L1
Matthew has probably enjoyed the best overall year of any GB&I amateur golfer. His superb run of results in the heart of our season, culminating in a win at the St Andrews Links Trophy, saw him move swiftly through the ranks and in to a fully deserved place on our team.
3. ALFIE PLANT (England)
2017 – British Open – T62
2017 – European Amateur Team A MP – W5/H0/L1
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T2 2017 – European Amateur – Champion
2017 – British Amateur – T78
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T34
2017 – Spanish International Amateur MP – 16’s
2017 – Spanish International Amateur Medal – T4
2017 – New South Wales Amateur (AUS) MP – 32’s
2017 – New South Wales Amateur Medal – T9
2017 – Australia Amateur MP – 32’s
2017 – Master of the Amateurs (AUS) – T14
A man for the big occasion Alfie was always going to find a way into our Walker Cup Team. Having said that for much of the year it looked unlikely for the 2016 Lytham Trophy winner. His memorable victory at the European Amateur changed his 2017 story completely and when he backed it up with a strong showing in the European Amateur Team and a silver medal winning performance at The Open he was assured of his place.
4. JACK SINGH BRAR (England)
2017 – US Amateur MP – 64’s
2017 – US Amateur Medal – T8
2017 – English Amateur Medal – T6
2017 – US Amateur Qualifying – Medalist
2017 – European Amateur – T7
2017 – British Amateur MP – 16’s
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – T18
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T2 2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – Champion
2017 – Hampshire Salver (ENG) – Champion
2017 – Spanish International Amateur MP – 32’s
2017 – Spanish International Amateur Medal – T9
2017 – New South Wales Amateur (AUS) MP – Quarters
2017 – New South Wales Amateur Medal – T9
2017 – Avondale Amateur Medal (AUS) – 2nd
2017 – Australian Amateur MP – 16’s
Jack has enjoyed an excellent season with consistently good results throughout. He secured his spot relatively early with wins at the Hampshire Salver and Lytham Trophy, followed by a 2nd at the Brabazon. A couple of surprising match play losses in recent weeks are a slight concern but are more than offset by his international experience and continued improvement.
The Walker Cup
5. JACK DAVIDSON (Wales)
2017 – Home Internationals (GB&I) – W4/H1/L1 2017 – Welsh Amateur (Closed) MP – Champion
2017 – Welsh Amateur Medal – T4
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T12
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – 9th
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T35
2017 – Welsh Open Amateur – 3rd
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T13 2017 – European Nations (ESP) – Champion 2017 – Spanish International Amateur MP – Champion
2017 – Portuguese International Amateur – T7
2017 – South American Amateur – 3rd
Jack is the only GB&I amateur to win three times this year – the Spanish International Amateur, European Nations and the Welsh Amateur – with two of these wins coming in match play events. When you add this to his other high finishes this season and impressive Home Internationals results this week he has become a strong pick for us.
6. HARRY ELLIS (England)
2017 – US Amateur Medal – T65
2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W4/H0/L2
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T8 2017 – British Amateur MP – Champion
2017 – British Amateur Medal – 3rd
2017 – NCAA D1 Washington Regional (USA) – T5
2017 – USA Collegiate D1 Rank (all year, pre-Regionals) – 73
Harry’s superb comeback win in the Amateur Championship in June deservedly sealed his place in the team. It came on the back of a good US College season where he produced a number of impressive results for Florida State. He also delivered for England in the European Amateur Teams where his foursomes partnership with Alfie Plant was unbeaten.
7. PAUL MCBRIDE (Ireland)
2017 – Home Internationals (GB&I) – W4/H1/L0
2017 – European Open (European Tour) – T47
2017 – European Am Team Medal – T2
2017 – European Amateur – T13
2017 – British Amateur – Quarters
2017 – USA Collegiate D1 Rank (all year, pre-Regionals) – 53
I have been really impressed with Paul’s play this summer since he returned home from Wake Forest where he had also played well during the regular US College season. With his experience in the US and good current form, including an unbeaten Home Internationals this week, I expect him to play a leading role in Los Angeles.
8. SCOTT GREGORY (England)
2017 – US Amateur Medal – T70
2017 – English Amateur (Closed) MP – Quarters
2017 – English Amateur Medal – T10
2017 – Cobra Puma (PGA EuroPro Tour) – T4
2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W3/H1/L1
2017 – European Amateur – T32
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T26 2017 – New South Wales Amateur (AUS) – Champion
2017 – New South Wales Amateur Medal – T3
2017 – Avondale Amateur Medal (AUS) – 21st
2017 – Australian Amateur MP – 16’s
2017 – Australian Amateur Medal – T12
Scott has played a mixed Pro / Am schedule this year, enjoying the fruits of his 2016 Amateur Championship win but making it hard for us to properly assess his standing. He has had a steady year on the amateur circuit, the highlight being an early season win in Australia, and has played relatively well in the last few weeks. His international experience and impressive match play record also underpin his selection. Finally, with fellow Hampshire men Singh Brar and Ellis already in my team his inclusion may bring useful foursomes flexibility too.
9. ROBERT MACINTYRE (Scotland)
2017 – US Amateur Medal and MP – 32’s 2017 – Vierumaki Finnish (Challenge Tour) – T53 2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W3/H0/L1 2017 – European Amateur – T4 2017 – British Amateur Medal and MP – 16’s 2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T24 2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T25 2017 – Match Play 9 (Challenge Tour) – T33 2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T16 2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T7 2017 – Australian Amateur MP – Semi’s
Robert has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in 2017 without delivering either the consistency or the win I would like to have seen. Again his international experience and strong match play record, including a good performance at this week’s US Amateur, mean he is well worth his place.
10. DAVID BOOTE (Wales)
2017 – US Amateur Medal – T85
2017 – Western Amateur (USA) – T52
2017 – European Amateur Team B Match – W2/H0/L1
2017 – European Amateur Team Medal – T16
2017 – British Open Final Qualifying (3 spots) – T4
2017 – European Amateur – T26
2017 – British Amateur – 64’s
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T4
2017 – US Open Sectionals (15 spots) – 18th
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – 7th
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T26
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T29
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T10
2017 – Portuguese International Amateur – T4
2017 – Australian Amateur MP – 32’s
I have wanted to select David from the start, albeit he has (or perhaps other players have) made it harder than I would have liked. A 2016 graduate of Stanford University he offers California / USA experience and has an excellent track record in international team competitions. His 2017 results offer good consistency in premier events, albeit there are few top 10s and no wins. A potential foursomes pairing with fellow Welshman Jack Davidson helps his selection. I hope his decision to play the Western Amateur rather than the South of England and Welsh Amateur doesn’t come back to haunt him when the selection that matters is made.
Scotsmen LIAM JOHNSTON and CRAIG HOWIE have every right to expect to be selected for this year’s GB&I team. Indeed they still maybe !
Look at their 2017 playing records below and then compare them with those of Scott Gregory, Robert MacIntyre and David Boote. Johnston has won two big events this year – how can he not be in the team you may ask ?
If this match was taking place on a links course at home then I would probably have both of them in my team. Unfortunately for them it is not and that has influenced me.
However, our Captain, Craig Watson, is Scottish and I certainly would not question him if he pushed his fellow Selection Committee members for one or both of their inclusions.
The best I can offer is the opportunity to be my Reserves.
11. Liam JOHNSTON (Scotland)
2017 – Western Amateur (USA) – T18
2017 – European Amateur – T17
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – 7th 2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – Champion
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T10
2017 – Lytham Trophy (ENG) – T13
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T24 2017 – African Amateur – Champion
2017 – South African Amateur – Quarters
2017 – Cape Province Open Am (RSA) – 26th
2017 – South African Stroke Amateur – T5
Liam started 2017 very well with a number of excellent performances in South Africa, including victory in the prestigious African Amateur. He has played well back home over the summer too culminating in a second win at the Scottish Open Amateur. His performance in the Western Amateur a few weeks ago was encouraging but a W0/H3/L3 performance at the Home Internationals was badly timed.
12. Craig HOWIE (Scotland)
2017 – Home Internationals (GB&I) – W2/D2/L2
2017 – Scottish Amateur (Closed) MP – 32’s
2017 – European Amateur Team A Match – W2/H0/L2
2017 – European Amateur – T32
2017 – British Amateur MP – 32’s
2017 – British Amateur Medal – T11
2017 – St Andrews Links Trophy (SCO) – T10
2017 – Scottish Open Amateur – T3
2017 – Brabazon Trophy (Eng Open Am) – T25
2017 – Irish Amateur Open – T7 2017 – Craigmillar Park Open Am (SCO) – Champion
2017 – European Nations (ESP) – T19
2017 – African Amateur – 5th
2017 – South African Amateur Medal – T11
2017 – Cape Province Open Am (RSA) – T9
2017 – South African Stroke Amateur – T7
Craig has enjoyed a consistently good year with nine top 11 finishes recorded. He perhaps needed to convert one of them into a big win to really push himself into the selection picture for this away match. His match play results seem reasonably robust also.
The 117th U.S. Amateur Championship started last Monday at Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
Within the field of 312 players from 29 different countries were nine players from Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I).Here is a list of how they have got on in order of success: –
1. Connor SYME 21 (SCO)
SP – 72 BA / 70 RV (+2) Tied 35th
MP – Lost Quarter Finals 2&1 to Doug Ghim (USA)
2. Robert MACINTYRE 21 (SCO)
SP – 68 BA / 74 RV (+2) Tied 35th
MP – Lost Round of 32 3&1 to Dawson Armstrong (USA)
3. Jack SINGH BRAR 20 (ENG)
SP – 69 RV / 69 BA (-2) Tied 8th
MP – Lost Round of 64 3&1 to Joey Vrzich (USA)
4. Harry ELLIS 21 (ENG) – 2017 Amateur Champion
SP – 73 BA / 71 RV (+4) Tied 57th
Missed out in 13-for-8 play-off for a final MP spot
MP- Did Not Qualify
5. Scott GREGORY 22 (ENG)
SP – 70 BA / 75 RV (+5) Tied 66th
MP – Did Not Qualify
6. David BOOTE 22 (WAL)
SP – 76 RV / 70 BA (+6) Tied 81st
MP – Did Not Qualify
7. Alfie PLANT 25 (ENG)
SP – 74 RV / 76 BA (+10) Tied 130th
MP – Did Not Qualify
8. Stuart GREHAN 24 (IRE)
SP – 75 BA / 76 RV (+11) Tied 156th
MP – Did Not Qualify
9. Daniel SUTTON 21 (ENG)
SP – 79 RV / 76 BA (+15) Tied 206th
MP – Did Not Qualify
Riviera Country Club (Photo: California GOLF)
From a Walker Cup perspective the U.S. Amateur Championship for me was about whether David BOOTE, Scott GREGORY or Stuart GREHAN could deliver a performance that could underpin their potential selection for the GB&I team. Boote and Gregory may both still make the final R&A team but given the competition for places I believe the decision will be finely balanced.
Good luck to Connor SYME (USA) in his Quarter Final match today against Doug GHIM (USA). What a psychological boost it would be for our Walker Cup Team if he could get to the Semi-Finals or dare I dream even further.
His Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team is (in alphabetical order): –
David BOOTE (Wales) Jack DAVIDSON (Wales) Harry ELLIS (England) Scott GREGORY (England) Matthew JORDAN (England) Paul MCBRIDE (Ireland) Robert MCINTYRE (Scotland) Alfie PLANT (England) Jack SINGH BRAR (England) Connor SYME (Scotland)
Alistair’s GB&I team contains five players from England, two from Scotland, two from Wales and one from Ireland.
In his article Alistair suggests that performances and rankings are not the only selection considerations: “GB&I Walker Cup teams aren’t always the strongest teams assembled due to the inner politics of British amateur golf. The team always has to be at least slightly representative of the other nations, even if that means taking a slightly weaker side. On this occasion, there is good strength from Scotland, Ireland and Wales to complement the normally strong English contingent.”
The 2017 match at the Los Angeles Country Club is fast approaching with play scheduled for the weekend of 9th and 10th September.
Take a look at the full GolfWeek article by clicking on the link in the opening paragraph.
I will of course be announcing my own team this coming weekend so stay tuned.
Englishman Alfie PLANT (25) yesterday collected the Silver Medal at the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
The Silver Medal is awarded to the lowest amateur competitor who makes the cut at The Championship. It was first awarded in 1949 and previous recipients include José Mariá Olazábel (1985), Tiger Woods (1996), Justin Rose (1998) and Rory McIlroy (2007).
The 2017 Open will of course be remembered for Jordan Spieth’s fine win – amazing to think he is 1 year and 21 days younger than Alfie – and Brandon Grace’s record breaking 62 in Round 3; the lowest Major score in 157 years and 442 Championships.
Alfie shot rounds of 71 73 69 and 73 for a 286 (+6) total. He finished tied 62nd ahead of both Andy Sullivan (-7) and Danny Willet (+9).
This prestigious prize was secured on Friday when he was the only amateur to make the cut with a 144 (+4) 36-hole score.
Alfie Plant With The Silver Medal (Photo: Golf Monthly)
The other competing amateurs, Connor SYME (73 76 +9), Luca Cianchetti (75 76 +11), Maverick McNealy (78 74 +12), Harry ELLIS (77 75 +12), all missed the +5 cut.
I am sure Captain Craig Watson will have been pleased to see Alfie, already a certainty for our Walker Cup team after his performances in recent weeks, once again deliver at the highest level and under the most extreme pressure.
Scott GREGORY also showed that he can mix it with the Pros last week. He finished tied 4th at the COBRA PUMA GOLF Championship on the PGA EuroPro Tour. Scott shot rounds of 65, 74 and 73 (-4) at Machynys Peninsula GC. He is pushing hard for inclusion in our Walker Cup Team.
The above reports are certainly encouraging from the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) perspective. However, need to be tempered by some of the results our amateur friends in the USA are delivering with the ‘big boys’.
Sam Burns was the latest to impress in USA. He shot rounds of 68 66 66 and 66 (-18) to finish tied 6th in the Barbasol Championship on the US PGA Tour last weekend.
Other US amateurs to deliver on the PGA Tour this year include: –
Braden Thornberry – T4 FedEx St Jude Classic
Scottie Scheffler – T27 US Open
Cameron Champ – T32 US Open
Stewart Hagestad – T36 The Masters
Maverick McNealy – T44 John Deere Classic
Sahith Theegala – T49 Genesis Open, Los Angeles
Nick Hardy – T55 John Deere Classic
I think it’s hard picking a GB&I Walker Cup Team but it doesn’t compare to the job facing the USA selectors.
I noticed today that Maverick McNealy, the golden boy of US college and amateur golf, is only the 15th highest ranked US player in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking. He is rated 18th in the World. Could he miss out given that Mid-Amateurs Stewart Hagestad (63rd) and Scott Harvey (85th) are relative outliers meaning there may only be 8 spots available for US college players ?
The European Men’s Amateur Team Championship concluded yesterday at the Diamond CC in Austria. Spain were victorious beating England 4-3 in the Final.
ENGLAND came 2nd, SCOTLAND 5th, IRELAND 7th and WALES 16th.
So what does this mean from a Walker Cup perspective ?
Here’s my assessment of the individual performances of the 24 Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) players who were competing. I have tried to take into account stroke play qualifying scores, match play results, singles or foursomes games played and the quality of the opposition faced.
There are now just 36 days until the GB&I team is announced, assuming this will take place on 21st August, the day after the US Amateur finishes.
In conclusion events in Austria largely confirmed my initial thoughts on our team selection with most of the players previously listed doing well.
Unfortunately those on the periphery, save for Scott GREGORY, largely failed to take advantage of the opportunity this Championship gave them to state their cases more forcibly. England’s Gian-Marco PETROZZI also showed that his Walker Cup race may not yet be run with two singles wins.
Jack SINGH BRAR chose to make himself unavailable for England last week, preferring to travel to New York to try and qualify for the US Amateur. A potentially high risk strategy but one that in the end paid off. He won the qualifier at Paramount CC by 4 shots with two rounds of 66. Results
So if I had to pick the GB&I Walker Cup team today this is who I would go for (in order): –
1. Matthew JORDAN (ENG)
2. Connor SYME (SCO)
3. Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG)
4. Liam JOHNSTON (SCO)
5. Craig HOWIE (SCO)
6. Robert MACINTYRE (SCO)
7. Alfie PLANT (ENG)
8. Harry ELLIS (ENG) *
9. David BOOTE (WAL)
10. Paul MCBRIDE (IRE)
* Selection supposedly confirmed following Amateur Championship win.
I think the first eight, probably nine, in the above list are increasingly secure based on 2017 results and current form. With there being four each from both England and Scotland one would hope foursomes pairings could be found fairly easily amongst them too.
David BOOTE continues to be a consistent performer with a number of solid results this season. When you add in his four years experience of playing in the US at Stanford – let’s not forget the 2017 match is an AWAY one – you have to say his exclusion from our 2017 team would be a big surprise. With Jack DAVIDSON having lost a bit of form in recent weeks the potential all Welsh foursomes partnership appears to be drifting away from his case though. Nevertheless I am sure there will be a list of team mates delighted to have him as their partner in Los Angeles.
Paul MCBRIDE qualified well in Austria (-3 / Tied 2nd) but will have been disappointed to lose all three of his singles games, albeit these were all tight affairs – two were by 1 hole and the other on the 19th. McBride has played very well since returning home from the US and what gives him the edge for me at the moment is his three years of US College experience. McBride will be a Senior at Wake Forest next Autumn. Interestingly one of his teammates, Will Zalatoris, has a good chances of making the US team too. It was also interesting to read this morning that McBride has been granted a place in the European Tour’s Porsche European Open in Hamburg in two week’s time. If he can make the cut there then that would certainly be a huge boost to his chances.
Whilst by no means the primary concern, which is of course selecting the best team to win, BOOTE and McBRIDE also enable a full house to be delivered, i.e. a representative from all four of the GB&I nations to be included. This hasn’t happened that often in recent years but would no doubt be beneficial for the profile of the match on our side of the Atlantic.
After this week it is probably Scott GREGORY now, rather than Jack DAVIDSON, Robin DAWSON or John Ross GALBRAITH, who is pushing hardest for inclusion. Whilst he was only the tied 10th best GB&I stroke play qualifier Scott once again showed what a tough match player he is in the later stages.
So what events are left that can move the GB&I Walker Cup dial over the next four weeks ?
First up are the closed English, Scottish and Welsh Amateur Championships which are all being played at the start of August. The Irish Amateur continues to be played in late August, starting this year on 22nd. In a Walker Cup year this is a huge scheduling error and one that could prove costly in a tight selection race, particularly as things stand for Paul MCBRIDE. *
*The South of Ireland Championship starts on 26th July and whilst not as prestigious as the Irish Amateur in fact may be more important this year.
The US Amateur (14-20 August) is of course the big one but I anticipate that will have a relatively limited GB&I field with no more than 8 of our players competing.
The Men’s Home Internationals (16-18 August) will also be an important event but as it is scheduled against the US Amateur some of it’s value to the selectors will inevitably be lost.
The table below summarises the ranking positions of the Top 30 GB&I amateur golfers as at the end of June 2017.
The Golf Bible Combined Amateur Ranking (GBCAR), shown in the blue columns on the right, uses the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WGAR – yellow) and the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR – green) to produce a composite ranking based on the average of the two main rankings.
As I have stated before my preference is for the SPWAR, which I consider to be far more accurate and therefore useful for team selections.
The table below looks at the Top 30 GB&I players currently listed in the SPWAR and reviews their ranking movement in the year to date.
This latest rankings analysis only confirms how fluid the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup selection picture remains when viewed in these purely objective terms.
Five players have fallen out of the SPWAR’s Top 10 since my last update at the end of March 2017. These being Sam HORSFIELD (ENG), who has turned Pro, Jack DAVIDSON (WAL), Robin DAWSON (IRE), Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Stuart GREHAN (IRE).
Back in early April I thought Davidson, after his two superb wins in Spain, and Gregory, after his win in Australia, were near certainties for the GB&I team. However, other players have taken their opportunities and with the momentum elsewhere both now appear to me to need a result or notable performance(s) urgently to regain their places.
In Quarter 2 Harry ELLIS (ENG), Liam JOHNSTON (SCO), Matthew JORDAN (ENG), Alfie PLANT (ENG) and Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) have all stepped up in to the SPWAR Top 10 following consistent performances and prestigious wins.
One of the things I am looking forward to in August is comparing our selected team to the two ranking lists.
Whilst I understand that foursomes pairings and team dynamics must also come in to the selectors’ thinking the ranking lists, and in particular, the SPWAR surely won’t be far from the table.
Talking of foursomes pairings I am not sure there is anything in 2017 as strong and proven as the Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen one that undoubtedly helped the latter gain selection in 2015 over more highly ranked players at the time.
There was good news from Gailes Links earlier this week when Scotland’s Connor SYME came through Final Qualifying to earn his place at this month’s 146th Open Championship.
Connor shot rounds of 71 and 67 in often wet and windy conditions to finish tied 1st on -4 alongside USA’s Julian Suri.
Connor Syme (Photo: Matthew Lewis)
Like Alfie Plant last weekend at the European Amateur, who is 25 today, Syme gave himself an early golfing birthday present with his performance. He is 22 on 11th July.
Connor’s likely Walker Cup teammates Matthew JORDAN (ENG) and Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) also did well in Ayrshire finishing 10th and tied 11th respectively.
Down in Nottinghamshire Stefano Mazzoli (ITA) and Rhys NEVIN-WHARTON (ENG) both recorded -7 results at Hollinwell but sadly missed out in a 1-from-3 play-off with Pro Laurie Canter.
It was also a close thing down at Royal Cinque Ports for some of our other leading amateurs too.
David BOOTE (WAL) made the 1-from-4 play-off after rounds of 71 and 70 (-1) but like at Walton Heath for the US Open Qualifier a few weeks ago just came up short in the final reckoning.
Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Harry HALL (ENG) both finished on Even par to miss out on the same Kent play-off. Josh HILLEARD (ENG) on +2 was also in the mix.
Finally, Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG), paired with home favourite Ian Poulter, did well at Woburn. His rounds of 72 and 68 (-4) on The Marquess’ Course saw him finish tied 8th.
So I make it a total of five amateurs competing this year at Royal Birkdale: –
Luca Cianchetti (ITA) – 2016 European Amateur Champion Harry ELLIS (ENG) – 2017 Amateur Champion
Maverick McNealy (USA) – 2016 Mark McCormack Medal Winner Alfie PLANT (ENG) – 2017 European Amateur Champion Connor SYME (SCO) – via Final Qualifying at Gailes Links
Australia’s Curtis LUCK, the 2016 US Amateur Champion, also held an exemption for Royal Birkdale but gave this up when he chose to turn Professional after The Masters.
Good luck to them all but particularly Messrs. Ellis, Plant and Syme !
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: –
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.
England’s Harry ELLIS yesterday won the Amateur Championship on the 38th hole at Royal St. George’s G.C.
Ellis, who was 4 down with 5 holes to play, showed remarkable courage and nerve to overcome Australian Dylan Perry’s apparently unassailable lead.
In doing so the 21 year old from Southampton also guaranteed himself a spot in Great Britain & Ireland’s 2017 Walker Cup team. The selectors have been clear in recent years that a home winner of the Amateur Championship, in a Walker Cup year, would rightly have to be included in our team.
Harry Ellis (Photo: @RandA)
Harry will also receive exemptions into the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale GC. and the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills GC., as well as an invitation to the 2018 Masters at Augusta National GC. In addition there will also be other European Tour and PGA Tour invitations available to him if he wishes to pursue them.
In what is becoming a recurring theme this year Harry is another player performing well and winning who was not included in the initial 19-man Walker Cup squad. However, to be fair to the R&A selectors I don’t think many people would have included him back in January 2017.
This is Ellis’ second major amateur victory. In 2012, aged just 16, he became the youngest player to win the English Amateur Championship. This led to both Boys and Men’s representative honours for England in 2012 and 2013.
He moved to Florida State University in January 2014, his start date deferred due to the tragic death of his mum Tracy in 2013 from cancer aged just 50.
Understandably he found his Freshman year difficult and his golf suffered. With Florida State having a strong line up Ellis decided to take a red jacket Sophomore year, playing no competitive College golf. In 2015/16 he returned to the golf squad but found it hard to get any game time. In his four tournaments he had an average score of 75.58. His patience and hard work were finally rewarded in 2016/17, his Junior season, where he was required to play a leading role for the Seminoles. He played 39 rounds, the joint highest in the Florida state line up, and delivered a 71.62 stroke average (the second best) which strongly contributed to the team reaching the NCAA Division 1 National Championships. He finished the season ranked 53rd in the Golfstat US College rankings and as a result was selected for Europe’s Arnold Palmer Cup team.
Despite his strong season in the United States it still appeared at the start of last week that Harry would come up short in the Walker Cup selection debate.
He needed to deliver a knock out blow in the coming weeks to force his way in to the Walker Cup picture. It’s one thing needing it, it’s another delivering it.
How quickly things can change. Despite only flying back into the country 10 days ago and without the links practice that many of his fellow GB&I players will have enjoyed over the last 6 weeks he managed to deliver that knockout blow in some style. Harry Ellis – 2017 Amateur Champion.
As a quick Walker Cup aside we should of course note that one man’s success is another man’s failure. Ellis wasn’t in the now 21-man Squad and whilst nearby wasn’t a probable pick before his stunning Amateur Championship victory. Harry Ellis has therefore just cost some one else there place in the 2017 GB&I Team.
When you look at Harry’s recent story – from personal tragedy to the ups and downs of (College) golf – you can quickly see how mentally strong he must be. Few players in the world would have been able to battle to the very end yesterday – after 10 rounds in six days – and win. He is now fully deserving of his Walker Cup spot and the spoils of victory that will come his way.
Well done Harry.
Appendix – Other GB&I Amateur Championship Performances
Two other US college golfers did very well at The Amateur. Ireland’s Paul MCBRIDE (Wake Forest) reached the Quarter Finals whilst Ryan LUMSDEN (Northwestern) fell in Round 4. McBride now has a very good chance of making our 2017 Walker Cup team
Robert MACINTYRE and Jack SINGH BRAR also reached Round 4 further strengthening their Los Angeles 2017 claims.
Here’s a look at how all of the leading GB&I players got on: –
Match Play Stage
Harry ELLIS (ENG) – Champion / Won 38th hole v. Dylan Perry AUS)
Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) – Lost 2 holes to Harry Ellis (ENG)
Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) – Lost 2 holes to Jarle Kaldestad Volden (NOR) Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) – Lost 1 hole to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Paul McBride (IRE) Charlie STRICKLAND (ENG) – Lost 4&3 to Alejandro Tosti (ARG)
George BAYLIS (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Robert MacIntyre (SCO) Stuart GREHAN (IRE) – Lost 1 hole to Ryan Lumsden (SCO) Craig HOWIE (SCO) – Lost 20th hole to Kristoffer Ventura (NOR) David LANGLEY (ENG) – Lost 4&3 to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Daniel O’LOUGHLIN (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Zach Murray (AUS) Caolan RAFFERTY* (IRE) – Lost 25th hole to Alejandro Tosti (ARG) Tom SLOMAN (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Matias Honkala (FIN) Jordan SUNDBORG (ENG) – Lost 6&5 to Stefano Mazzoli (ITA)
David BOOTE (WAL) – Lost 3&2 to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Ben CHAMBERLAIN (WAL) – Lost 2&1 to Hurly LONG (GER) Robin DAWSON (IRE) – Lost 5&3 to Ryan Lumsden (SCO) Sean FLANAGAN (IRE) – Lost 2&1 to Jack Singh Brar (ENG) Evan GRIFFITH (WAL) – Lost 4&2 to Hayden Springer (USA) Matthew JORDAN (ENG) – Lost 2&1 to Jordan Seiple (USA) Chris MACLEAN (SCO) – Lost 1 hole to Tom Sloman (ENG) Llewellyn MATTHEWS (WAL) – Lost 3&1 to Luca Cianchette (ITA) Conor O’ROURKE (IRE) – Lost 3&2 to Min Woo Lee (AUS) Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) – Lost 3&1 to Alejandro Tosti (ARG) Craig ROSS (SCO) – Lost 1 hole to Danile O’Loughlin (ENG) Sandy SCOTT (SCO) – Lost 2&1 to Charlie Strickland (ENG) Euan WALKER (SCO) – Lost 3&2 to Jordan Sundborg (ENG)
JR GALBRAITH (IRE) – Lost 3&2 to Casper Simberg (FIN) Tim HARRY (WAL) – Lost 19th hole to Kim Koivu (FIN) Josh HILLEARD (ENG) – Lost 5&4 to George Baylis (ENG) Conor PURCELL (IRE) – Lost 3&1 to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Connor SYME (SCO0 – Lost 1 hole to David Langley (ENG) William WHITEOAK (ENG) – Lost 2 holes to Tom Sloman (ENG)
Stroke Play Stage
*Caolan Rafferty achieved medalist honours in the Stroke Play Qualifying Competition. He shot 70 at Royal St. George’s GC on Day 1 and a new course record 62 at Prince’s on Day 2 for a 132 (-10) total.
The Match Play qualifying cut fell at 141 (-1).
Notable players, mainly in the context of the Walker Cup, to miss this cut included: –
Bradley MOORE (ENG) Ev Alfie PLANT (ENG) Ev Jamie STEWART (SCO) Ev Jack DAVIDSON (WAL) +1 Jake BURNAGE (ENG) +2 Colm CAMPBELL (IRE) +3) Dan BROWN (ENG) +5 Peter O’KEEFFE (IRE) +5 Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) +6 James WALKER (ENG) +6 Marco PENGE (ENG) +7 Alex GLEESON (IRE) +7 Harry HALL (ENG) +8 Owen EDWARDS (WAL) +12 Barry HUME (SCO) +12.
USA beat Europe 19.5 – 10.5 to win the Arnold Palmer Cup (APC) at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
Team USA (Photo: @GolfChannel)
The APC is a team golf competition played annually between American and European college golfers. USA now lead the all-time match series W11 – L9 – H1.
The 2017 match was clearly lost by Europe on Day 2 when USA managed to win the Singles 9.5 – 0.5. The Day 1 Foursomes / Fourballs and Day 3 Singles were both halved 5.0 – 5.0
In a Walker Cup year the APC represents an interesting ‘warm up’ for the main event.
Whilst I believe the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team will be very different to Europe’s in September the USA team should prove to be fairly representative. I expect at least six of the USA’s APC team to be in their Walker Cup team.
The European APC team contained 6 GB&I players – Harry ELLIS (ENG), Rory FRANSSEN (SCO), Stuart GREHAN (IRE), Harry HALL (ENG), Richard MANSELL (ENG) and David WICKS (ENG).
2) Stating the obvious USA will be formidable opponents in Los Angeles, playing at home on a parkland course. Their Walker cup team, even allowing for the inclusion of one or two mid-amateurs, should also be stronger than their Arnold Palmer Cup one. For example Braden Thornberry, the NCAA Division I Champion, didn’t play; he was busy finishing tied 4th at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic on the PGA Tour.
Here is the full individual performance analysis that I produced for the 2017 APC match: –
As can be seen from the above table Richard MANSELL did the best out of the GB&I group, halving a fourball on Day 1 and winning his second Singles game.
Daniel SUTTON – GS 225th (72.78) / SPWAR 305th (38th)
In Division II GB&I had two players in the top 25 of the GolfStat standings: –
Richard MANSELL – GS 4th (71.01) / SPWAR 371 (40th)
Sam BROADHURST – GS 21st (72.08) / SPWAR 1361 (154th)
Harry Hall (Photo: UNLV Men’s Golf)
If one looks at the GB&I SPWAR positions alone, which fully reflect US College performances, then clearly Paul MCBRIDE and Harry HALL are right in the mix with David WICKS, and to a lesser degree Ryan LUMSDEN and Harry ELLIS, also knocking on the door.
The reality is I am not sure any of our US College players would make the team if I had to be pick it today. Perhaps Harry HALL would just sneak in but it would be close.
Certainly to my eyes all five of the above players could do with another ‘result’ or two in the coming weeks to draw the selectors towards them.
However, a possible twist to this story comes next week in the form of the Arnold Palmer Cup. This match between College players from the United States and Europe is being played at the Atlantic Athletic Club.
As a result of their performances this year Harry ELLIS, Rory FRANSSEN, Harry HALL, Richard MANSELL and David WICKS have all been selected for the European team. Stuart GREHAN, who is studying at Maynooth University in Ireland, is also playing for Europe.
The United States Arnold Palmer Cup team probably contains 6 or possibly 7 of their likely Walker Cup team so if one or more of the GB&I players in Europe’s team can deliver a standout performance it will undoubtedly raise their profiles.
There can be no better way to show you belong in the GB&I Walker Cup team than by delivering in what will effectively be a dress rehearsal for it.
What ever happens with the Walker Cup team in the coming months all of these lads have enjoyed good seasons over in America and have clearly shown they can compete at the highest level.
Appendix 1 – Additional Leading Division I Player Notes
Harry HALL (UNLV, Sophomore)
– 2016/17 stats: 14 events, 43 rounds (low 65), T2nd best finish, 71.63 average score.
– Harry led the way for GB&I in the 2016/17 Division I College season.
– His UNLV team reached the Nationals having finished first in the Indiana Regional where Harry secured 6th in the Individual.
– At Rich Harvest Farms he finished tied 39th in the Individual Stroke Play. Seeded 16th UNLV did well to qualify for the Top 8 Team Match Play but lost their Quarter Final to Vanderbilt 3-2. Harry lost his match with Patrick Martin (SPWAR 12) by 1 hole.
Harry ELLIS (Florida State, RJ Junior)
– 2016/17 stats: 13 events, 39 rounds (low 65), 2nd best finish, 71.62 average score.
– Harry had a very good season leading his Florida State team through to the Nationals with a tied 5th result in their Washington Regional.
– He finished T43 in the Individual Stroke Play at the Nationals, his team failing to make the Match Play Stage.
David WICKS (Jacksonville, Senior)
– 2016/17 stats: 12 events, 34 rounds (low 66), 1st best finish, 71.00 average score.
– David did very well for Jacksonville all year. He delivered in the Louisiana Regional with a tied 7th place and then helped his Team to a play off win over a Northwestern team containing Ryan LUMSDEN, who finished 16th in the Individual.
– At the Nationals he narrowly missed the Individual 54 hole cut.
Paul MCBRIDE (Wake Forest, Junior)
– 2016/17 stats: 11 events, 32 rounds (65 low), T2nd best finish, 71.69 average score.
– Paul played reasonably well during the season but will be disappointed with his finish to the year.
– His +12 tied 57th finish at the Texas Regional, where two of his three rounds were discounted, clearly played it’s part in Wake Forest’s surprise failure to qualify for the Nationals.