The R&A has announced that Sandy SCOTT has been forced to withdraw from the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team due to a wrist ligament injury.
Scott first picked up the injury in October 2020 and subsequently underwent minor surgery in January. He had originally been expected to return to competitive action for Texas Tech University in mid-March. However, having missed a number of recent college events it had become clear that his recovery was not going as planned.
The R&A had been obligated to select Scott at the end of March, despite his lack of recent play, due to him being one of the two highest ranked GB&I players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He was 8th in WAGR and GB&I’s highest ranked player when the Selection Committee met.
Jack DYER will now step up from first reserve to take his place in the GB&I side that will play USA in 24 days time at Seminole Golf Club on 8th-9th May. Dyer enjoyed an excellent tour of South Africa earlier this year and should arrive match fit and with confidence.
Jack Dyer – South African Amateur Medalist (Photo: Ernest Blignault / Golf RSA)
Following this change the GB&I team will now consist of 8 English players and 2 Irish with no Scottish or Welsh representation.
Jake BOLTON moves up to first reserve.
Florida-based Englishman Joe PAGDIN (19) has been added to the squad as second reserve. The University of Florida freshman has plenty of experience and has previously successfully represented GB&I in the Jacques Leglise Trophy and England in the R&A Boys’ Home Internationals and the European Boys Amateur Team Championship.
With 50 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts at Seminole G.C. here are the 10 players I would currently select for the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team.
In the spirit of fairness I have tried to find a balance between players who have been performing well overseas and those that have been unable to play due to the COVID-19 pandemic but were previously trending towards selection.
My selection is primarily an objective one based on playing results, preferably recent as I would prefer a ‘match fit’ team. I do not know the players well enough to take into account personalities and team dynamics which I accept would be a part of a wider selection decision.
This is not a prediction of what The R&A Selection Committee will do. Indeed if it were a few names would be different, particularly as the Chairman Pádraig Hogan has publically stated they will automatically be including the two highest ranked WAGR players at the end of March.
I have included extracts from each player’s SPWAR and WAGR playing records so you can view their form and results for yourself. Unfortunately due to some recent IT issues the SPWAR is still catching up on some events in March. I consider the SPWAR to be far more accurate so always favour it’s ranking over that of WAGR.
Here are my leading 10 players: –
1. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) ⇑18 SPWAR #24 / WAGR #24
I didn’t pick Alex for my 2019 team (which he made) and back in October I had him in 19th place in my 2021 team list. All I’ve ever wanted was results to back up his longstanding reputation as a great prospect. I have been pleased to see that he’s consistently delivered them over the last 6 months. With two wins, including this week’s Valspar Collegiate (not yet shown in the tables below), the in form Wake Forest man has separated himself from the pack.
Alex Fitzpatrick – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Alex Fitzpatrick – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
2. Mark POWER (IRL) ⇑1 SPWAR #44 / WAGR #28
Mark enjoyed a strong summer back home playing very well in the Amateur Championship and Brabazon Trophy. He has continued to play well for Wake Forest on the US College circuit in his sophomore year and finished T16 in the Valspar Collegiate this week (not shown below). He has plenty of match play experience representing Ireland and GB&I in boys and men’s tournaments.
Mark Power – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Mark Power – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
3. Jack DYER (ENG) ⇑11 SPWAR #31 / WAGR #238
Jack has backed up his good summer on the British amateur circuit by performing very well in South Africa in recent months. To feature prominently in five big events over there, including medalist and runner-up honours in the South African Amateur Championship, gives me a lot of confidence. I have a much higher regard for South African golf and golfers than the WAGR does. He offers what few other GB&I potential players can at the moment – U.S. experience from his college days (the first two years of which were in Fort Lauderdale, Florida), recent match play results and competitive form.
Jack Dyer – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Jack Dyer – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
4. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) ⇑6 SPWAR #63 / WAGR #31
Ben secured his place in my team with his T11 result at the Jones Cup in February which showed he had lost none of his ability or competitive spirit during the COVID-19 lock down. He has been one of our better players since 2019 and deserves his chance on the biggest stage in May.
Ben Schmidt – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Ben Schmidt – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
5. Joe LONG (ENG) ⇓4 SPWAR #18 / WAGR #47
Joe returned to South Africa again during the winter. After a couple of disappointing European Tour pro events in late 2020 he only played in one of the South African amateur events where he was disqualified. As the reigning Amateur champion and on the back of an impressive couple of seasons he must be selected for the GB&I team but his lack of recent outings are a concern. We will see where his game is when he takes up his Masters invitation at Augusta in a few weeks time.
Joe Long – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Joe Long – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
6. Matty LAMB (ENG) ⇓4 SPWAR #90 / WAGR #86
Matty proved to be one of our better players in 2020 when play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur. It was encouraging to see him also perform well against a strong field at the Jones Cup in February. With a 2021 EuroPro Tour card already earned he deserves his Walker Cup amateur send off.
Matty Lamb – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Matty Lamb – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
7. John MURPHY (IRL) ⇑13 SPWAR #76 / WAGR #117
John has played his way on to my team on the back of his T6 at the Jones Cup and continued solid play for Louisville University. Not shown below he also finished 2nd at the V1 Sports General Hackler Invitational in South Carolina this week. If he can follow that up with another solid outing at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational in Florida on 28-29 March the experienced Irishman must be worth a go.
John Murphy – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
John Murphy – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
8. Jake BOLTON (ENG) ⇓2 SPWAR #58 / WAGR #59
Limited competitive action in 2021 has seen Jake slide a little but for me it would be unfair for him to miss out on the Walker Cup team due to the pandemic. Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has played consistently well. He reached the semi-finals of the Amateur and South African Amateur Championships last year and also has two top 5’s finishes to his name in Florida in recent years which bode well for him.
Jake Bolton – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Jake Bolton – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
9. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) ⇓5 SPWAR #95 / WAGR #41
Angus performed very well in the Western Amateur last summer – 72 hole medalist honours there shows his class – and has a number of recent wins in Minnesota where he continues to study. He now has lots of experience in big events but would help his case further with the men that matter if he could produce a top 10 for the Gophers in The Goodwin event in California next week.
Angus Flanagan – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Angus Flanagan – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
10. Barclay BROWN (ENG) ⇓3 SPWAR #70 / WAGR #133
Barclay produced a string of fine results in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur last summer. Whilst he hasn’t quite made his mark at Stanford yet, not always making their starting line up, he is playing regularly in the U.S. and hopefully his T5 at Bandon Dunes in early March will boost his confidence. He may still need a high finish in the Cardinal’s home event, The Goodwin, on 25-27 March to seal the deal.
Barclay Brown – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Barclay Brown – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
Looking at the rest of the players I originally selected in my 20 man squad: –
11. Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL) ⇑2 SPWAR #118 / WAGR #108
A well known name and reputation but are the recent results really there to justify his selection after a positive Winter 2020 touring Australia and South Africa ? Whether relevant or not I was also disappointed to read in a Golf channel article in December that he had chosen not to complete his school exams and in the process had chosen to forego his 2021 scholarship to the University of Florida. Tom’s playing in the Azalea Invitational this week in South Carolina and hopefully can get that good 2021 finish under his belt.
Tom McKibbin – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Tom McKibbin – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
12. Sandy SCOTT (SCO) ⇓4 SPWAR #216 / WAGR #6
Sandy was GB&I’s star player in the 2019 match at Hoylake and has huge amounts of experience. However, accepting he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech, his results haven’t been good enough to make my 2021 line up. Worse still he hasn’t played competitively since 18th October having injured his wrist during Round 1 of the Maridoe Collegiate invitational. He is due to make his comeback around now following minor surgery. Texas Tech are scheduled to play in the Old Waverley Collegiate in Mississipi on 26-28 March. It won’t be easy for him to make his university team, who have been doing well in his absence, but let’s hope he’s fit enough to give it a go. He may be our highest ranked player in the WAGR but sadly that says more about its accuracy than it does about his current standing.
Sandy Scott – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Sandy Scott – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
13. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG) ⇓8 SPWAR #79 / WAGR #111
I thought Haider was very unlucky not to be included in the formal R&A Squad given his 2020 results which were arguably as good collectively as anyone else’s. Unfortunately he hasn’t appeared since the European Amateur last September so has fallen down the pecking order.
Haider Hussain – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Haider Hussain – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
14. Ben JONES (ENG) ⇓5 SPWAR #52 / WAGR #42
In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 but his case for inclusion this time is weaker. I had him 9th in October but his late withdrawal from the Jones Cup and his lack of action in recent months means I reluctantly can’t find a place for him.
Ben Jones – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Ben Jones – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
15. Olly HUGGINS (ENG) ⇓4 SPWAR #105 / WAGR #134
Olly enjoyed a good 2020 season and must have been close to inclusion in the official R&A squad. However, the pandemic has snookered him in 2021 and by not finding any competitive action has now missed the chance to play at Seminole.
Arron is another very good English player who has performed consistently well for a few years now. He has recently played in the Spanish International Amateur and in a few events on the Evolve Pro Tour but sadly another one who has been deprived of the chance to make a run at the team in 2021.
Arron Edwards-Hill – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Arron Edwards-Hill – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
17. Joe PAGDIN (ENG) ⇑1 SPWAR #169 / WAGR #91
I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. Joe has an excellent match play record and massive potential but unfortunately hasn’t been able to make a big enough impression in his freshman year at the University of Florida. Sadly the Gators had to withdrawal from this week’s Tiger Invitational due to a positive COVID-19 test within their golf program thus depriving him of a timely playing opportunity.
Joe Pagdin – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Joe Pagdin – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
18. Callan BARROW (ENG) ⇓1 SPWAR #169 / WAGR #427
Callan had a good 2020 but has been unable to play any events in 2021 so like a few others has slipped out of the picture.
Callan Barrrow – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Callan Barrrow – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
19. Jack COPE (ENG) ⇓3 SPWAR #197 / WAGR #613
After a long spell on the sidelines Jack came back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy. No events since last September means he has sadly not had the opportunity before this year’s match to build on his comeback season.
Jack Cope – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Jack Cope – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
20. Callum FARR (ENG) ⇓3 SPWAR #185 / WAGR #129
English International Callum is a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events over the years but hasn’t done enough to make the GB&I 2021 team. Sadly failed to make an impression in the Jones Cup his only event in the last 6 months.
Callum Farr – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Callum Farr – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
Caolan Rafferty wasn’t in my 20 man squad in October but his high WAGR means he is worthy of further comment in this article.
Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) N/a SPWAR #109 / WAGR #22
Caolan suffered a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major British events last summer. He played in the rescheduled Arnold Palmer Cup at Bay Hill in December having originally been selected for the International Team in March 2020. I like Caolan and he was my 2nd pick for the 2019 match at Hoylake but his lack of action must go against him this year.
Caolan Rafferty – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Caolan Rafferty – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
It would be wrong of me not to mention in passing Dan BRADBURY (ENG) SPWAR #152 / WAGR #99 and Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG) SPWAR #131 / WAGR 361 who have both been playing well on the US College circuit in 2020/21. Enrique’s Florida Athletic University is about 60 miles south of Seminole G.C.
Appendix 1 – World Amateur Rankings – Top 20 GB&I Players on 18th March 2021
The Walker Cup match is being played on 8-9th May at Seminole GC in Florida.
The actual GB&I squad is being selected in the week commencing 29th March with an announcement expected in early April. In such a difficult year it will be interesting to see who the Selection Committee opt for.
Benjamin SCHMIDT (18) – England – SPWAR #40 / WAGR #34
Sandy SCOTT (22) – Scotland – SPWAR #97 / WAGR #8
As expected the squad is dominated by English players of whom there are ten. Ireland have contributed four, Scotland one and Wales none.
Alex Fitzpatrick, Caolan Rafferty and Sandy Scott were all members of the losing GB&I team at Royal Liverpool in 2019.
Whilst all of these players have justified their selection the Committee do appear to have given the benefit of any doubt to those with US playing experience, which makes sense for an away match, and higher WAGR rankings.
In my opinion English trio Haider Hussain SPWAR #46 (7th) / WAGR #143, Olly Huggins SPWAR #51 (9th) / WAGR #162 and Arron Edwards-Hill SPWAR #75 (14th) / WAGR #157 can consider themselves unfortunate to be overlooked for the squad.
Eight of the squad, if you include Tom McKibbin, are US-based and given the additional complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic it seems unlikely a practice / team building session will be held before the team gather in Florida. GB&I captain Stuart Wilson said “We have selected a talented group of players to work with in preparation for the match against the United States of America next year. We will be closely monitoring their form and results in a number of important events over the coming months while other players still have time to play their way into contention before we finalise the team which will travel to Florida. We will go to Seminole with belief in ourselves and will give it our best shot to win back the trophy.”
Given the small number of events scheduled to be played between now and when the final team will be announced in April, let alone the complications of travelling abroad to compete in many of them, it is going to take something exceptional for a player outside this initial group to break into the GB&I team.
The 48th Walker Cup match will be played at Seminole Golf Club in Florida on 8th and 9th May 2021.
There are 200 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts on 8th May at Seminole GC in Florida.
So how is the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team shaping up and what opportunities to impress remain for the players before an announcement has to be made by The R&A presumably in early April ?
This was always going to be a challenging Walker Cup for the GB&I selectors given the early May start date. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse for them.
With the 2020 European amateur golf season effectively over the evidence to make an initial selection is now largely to hand so I thought I’d give the powers that be a helping hand.
Here are the ten GB&I players I would select, in order, if I had to choose the team today: –
N.B. Each player’s current SPWAR record shows only their counting performances of note.
1. Joe LONG (ENG)
Joe guaranteed himself a place in the GB&I team with his Amateur Championship win at Royal Birkdale. He has been impressive throughout the last two years and would have been a certainty for me even without his standout victory.
2. Matty LAMB (ENG)
Matty has been superb since play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur both of which enjoyed much stronger fields than normal in 2020.
3. Mark POWER (IRL)
Mark has enjoyed a great last 12 months. He transitioned to Wake Forest University and US College golf seamlessly in his freshman season. His decision to return home and travel to England for this year’s majors paid dividends enabling him to demonstrate beyond any doubt that he clearly belongs at the top table.
4. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG)
Angus stayed in the USA over the summer but whilst out of sight he certainly hasn’t been out of my mind. He seems to be loving life in Minnesota smashing it locally but also performing well in the biggest amateur events in the world.
5. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG)
Haider has arguably had as strong a set of results, admittedly without securing a win, as any GB&I amateur in 2020. His effort in travelling to Switzerland for the European Amateur was rewarded with a notable 3rd place finish.
6. Jake BOLTON (ENG)
Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has cemented his place in the upper echelons of GB&I amateurs. He performed well in the big summer events this year and his 4th place finish at the South Beach International Amateur in Miami last December is encouraging given the match will take place just up the coast.
7. Barclay BROWN (ENG)
Barclay didn’t make that big an impression on me during his freshman season at Stanford University. However, he delivered back home this summer forcing his way into my Walker Cup team with his play in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur.
8. Sandy SCOTT (SCO)
His results don’t jump out at you but Sandy was a rock in the 2019 match for GB&I at Hoylake and he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech. He also competed in the 2020 U.S. Open. With his experience he has to be in the team particularly as he also brings some welcome Scottish representation to the party.
9. Ben JONES (ENG)
In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 and played well around the subsequent year end. Whilst his results post lockdown in 2020 haven’t been as persuasive as I would have ideally liked I am staying loyal to him given his experience and overall track record.
10. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG)
Ben had an unbelievable 2019 albeit mainly in junior golf and started this year very well in Australia. This highly promising Yorkshireman has done more than enough to be included.
The other players knocking on the door and who would be included in my 20 man Squad are: –
11) Olly HUGGINS (ENG)
Olly has enjoyed a good season but needs to find a few more results to force his way into the ten man team.
12) Arron EDWARDS-HILL (ENG)
Arron is another very good player who has performed consistently well for a few years now.
13) Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL)
This Walker cup may come a bit too soon for Tom but he’s playing a lot (which I like) and as he is clearly capable of winning any tournament on his day could still easily force his way into the team.
14. Jack DYER (ENG)
Jack enjoyed an excellent summer on the British amateur circuit featuring well in nearly all of the majors as well as winning the South East of England Links.
15. Callan BARROW (ENG)
Like Jack Dyer above Callan deserves to be in the Squad in my opinion due to his current form which has elevated his status on the national stage in recent months.
16. Jack COPE (ENG)
After a long spell on the sidelines Jack has come back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy.
17. Callum FARR (ENG)
Always the bridesmaid never the bride English International Callum continues to be a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events to his name in recent years.
18. Joe PAGDIN (ENG)
I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. An excellent match play record and massive potential but needs to find his feet quickly at the University of Florida if he is to move up this list. I am sure his time will come if not this year.
19. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)
Alex was selected in 2019 but his results since the last match haven’t yet been sufficiently persuasive for me to include him in 2021. I wish he’d followed his Wake Forest teammate Mark Power home this summer and sought to earn his place out on the course.
20. John MURPHY (IRL)
Good US experience and continues to perform well for Louisville University but needs to deliver in higher class events to prove he is worthy of a place in my top 10.
Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) and James SUGRUE (IRL), who both played in 2019, are obvious absentees from the above list. I have assumed James will be turning pro once he has played in The Masters next month whilst Caolan has suffered with a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major events.
Other players to impress me this year include Sam BAIRSTOW (ENG), Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG), Mark BOUCHER (IRL) and Connor MCKINNEY (SCO) who have all stood out but don’t quite make my top 20.
Looking ahead the big unknown remains the future impact of COVID-19. Unfortunately the pandemic raises more questions than answers.
Will the match even take place and if it does, will it be behind closed doors ? Could it be postponed like the 2020 Curtis Cup match was ?
Restrictions are again tightening in many jurisdictions as we head into the higher risk winter period so how much golf will actually be played between now and the match ?
Will our leading players be able to travel to the USA for the South Beach International Amateur in Miami (December) or Jones Cup in Georgia (February) ?
Will golf union funds be available and will players be able to travel on tour to Australia and South Africa early next year as has become the norm in recent years ?
Those players attached to US Colleges will have a few events in the Fall and Spring seasons to help them make their cases with those based at home hoping the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs are staged.
There is an opportunity for some clubs to bring forward their 2021 competitions to March / early April to support the Walker Cup selection process. Perhaps The R&A needs to create a new tournament or even consider staging formal squad trials as used to happen.
I look forward to The R&A announcing their Squad in due course and to seeing how the amateur golf world pans out over the next six months.
School’s out for summer and it’s two English school boys that have been making most of the noise since my last report.
But have either of them done enough to make the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team…..
Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) won the English Boys’ U18 Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship for the Carris Trophy at Moor Park G.C. on 26th July.
Ben Schmidt (Photo: Schmidt Family)
Having won the Brabazon Trophy earlier this summer he became just the fourth player to win both the boys’ and men’s English Open Amateur Stroke Play titles in the same year. A remarkable achievement.
Ben’s rise to No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), which makes him GB&I’s highest ranked player, has had a number of observers understandably calling for his inclusion in our 2019 Walker Cup team.
I am still to be convinced.
I agree with his supporters that Ben has enjoyed a great season and is clearly one of Europe’s best U18 prospects. I am just not sure he is ready for the 2019 Walker Cup match or that his inclusion would necessarily be good for his development.
He justifiably should be under consideration by the selectors but I have a question mark over his lack of experience of both men’s amateur golf and elite match play games.
I also think he may have hampered his chances with his playing schedule over the critical final weeks. Indeed I wonder if his high WAGR will actually end up being his undoing.
Ben’s top 50 WAGR ranking on 26th June gained him an exemption in to the U.S. Amateur Championship which he is taking up. Play starts at Pinehurst in North Carolina on Monday 12th August.
The U.S. Amateur clashes with The R&A’s Boys’ Amateur Championship which is being played at Saunton. Ben would clearly have been one of the favourites for this title.
Ahead of this, for whatever reason, he chose not to enter last week’s English Men’s Amateur (30th July – 4th August) or take up his place in England’s team at The R&A Boys’ Home Internationals which start tomorrow in South Wales and finishes on Thursday 8th August.
Good performances at one or even both of these events – along with the Boys’ Amateur instead of the U.S. Amateur – could have easily pushed him over the line.
As it is all of his eggs are now in the U.S. Amateur Championship basket. Only time will tell if this strategy proves to be a successful one. If he makes the match play stage and can win a few games he will deserve his place in our team.
If Ben is selected he will probably become the first player to receive the honour without ever having played in any R&A Championship or selected GB&I team beforehand. His rise has been that meteoric.
In many ways Conor GOUGH was last year’s Ben SCHMIDT. A string of wins albeit exclusively at the boys’ level. The main one of course being the prestigious Boys’ Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.
Conor was selected for the original GB&I Walker Cup squad but due to focussing on his exams played none of the major amateur events during May and June. As a result it was no surprise to see him left out of the reduced 16-man squad a few weeks ago.
Like Schmidt Conor also received a WAGR generated exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship on 26th June. However, and I accept their circumstances were different, Conor chose to play the English Men’s Amateur and will be participating in the Boys’ Home Internationals before travelling to the United States.
In a stunning performance Gough won the English Men’s Amateur beating Callum Farr 3&2 in the Final at Hankley Common. On the way to the final he beat Jamie Li, Joshua McMahon, Curtis Knipes and Jake Burnage, once again highlighting his match play pedigree.
Conor Gough (Photo: Leaderboard Photography)
This win inevitably brings Conor back to the table for GB&I Walker Cup selection.
Another major match play victory by the Englishman within two weeks of the 2019 selection date is hugely persuasive.
However, as you will see below I am not yet ready to add him into my team. As Aristotle said ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ and I need to see more. However, if he does well this week at Ashburnham and shows up at the U.S. Amateur Championship he could very easily force his way in to the final line up.
Conor Gough was clearly the star of the show at the English Men’s Amateur but in the context of the Walker Cup perhaps the real winner was fellow Englishman Jake BURNAGE.
Eight of the ten English members of the 16-man Walker Cup squad competed in what was, at least for me, an unofficial Walker Cup eliminator. It is after all a large group of English players that are in effect competing for the five remaining places.
Burnage ended up being the leading player out of the eight. Playing under some pressure he reached the Semi-Finals, winning four match play games, having also qualified well in 9th on 138 (-3). It was just the result the Devonian needed having already placed the St. Andrews Links Trophy on his C.V. in June.
The other squad players, some of whom really needed to move the dial to make the team, to differing degrees simply didn’t get it done – Tom SLOMAN (SP 37th / MP Rd4), Joshua MCMAHON (SP 45th / MP Rd4) Alex FITZPATRICK (SP 5th / MP Rd3), Matty LAMB (SP 24th / MP Rd3), Tom PLUMB (SP 7th / MP Rd2), Bailey GILL (SP 69th / MP Rd2) and David LANGLEY (SP MC).
Of the two missing players Harry HALL withdrew a week before to return to Las Vegas and I believe will not be playing again before the team is selected. Ben JONES chose to play in the Western Amateur Championship and will stay in the States before playing in the U.S. Amateur.
Archie DAVIES, an original GB&I Walker Cup squad member, won the Welsh Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) last week at Tenby G.C.
Unfortunately in the context of this year’s Walker Cup selection this win is unlikely to bring Archie back into the discussion. He is another good young player who has every chance of making future teams though.
Runner Up Connor Jones (l) and Champion Archie Davies (r) Photo: Steve Jones)
The Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) was also played last week and the Irish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) started yesterday at Ballybunion.
Unfortunately none of the remaining Scottish or Irish Walker Cup panelists – Sandy SCOTT, Euan WALKER, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL, Caolan RAFFERTY and James SUGRUE – entered so it is hard to see how these Championships will impact the Walker Cup selection.
George BURNS beat Lewis IRVINE in the final of the Scottish Amateur on their 19th hole at Crail Golfing Society.
With the exception of Power, the other three Irish lads are playing in the U.S. Amateur next week and therefore were unable to enter due to the clashing dates.
7th August Update Ronan MULLARNEY, who also won the stroke play qualifying by 6-shots, beat Rob BRAZILL in the final of the Irish Amateur by 1 hole at Ballybunion G.C.
The previous week also saw the playing of the South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch G.C. (on the 24th-28th July).
Five Irish Walker Cup panelists, four of whom attended the practice session at Hoylake which clashed with the Stroke Play Qualifying, were given byes into the Match Play competition.
Unfortunately all of them struggled to make much of an impression. John MURPHY reached the Quarter Finals but James SUGRUE, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL and Caolan RAFFERTY all lost their Round 2 matches.
Two weeks today, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship has concluded, I believe the GB&I Walker Cup squad will be announced.
Here are my current thoughts on the team and likely foursomes pairings as at 5th August: –
Euan WALKER (24) – Scotland Sandy SCOTT (20) – Scotland
Yesterday saw the conclusion of the Men’s and Boys’ European Team Championships played respectively in Sweden and France.
Both Championships combined 36 holes of stroke play qualifying with three rounds of match play, including foursomes and singles.
ENGLAND finished 2nd, disappointingly losing in the Final for the third year running, this time to host’s Sweden. In what proved to be a good Championship for the home nations SCOTLAND finished 3rd, IRELAND 5th and WALES a very creditable 6th.
Here’s my assessment of the individual GB&I men’s team performances. You will appreciate this is an art not a science but I am confident the list is broadly correct.
Euan WALKER (SCO) continued to enjoy his rich vein of form, winning the stroke play qualifying easily and playing relatively well in the match play stage. If he had won all of his match play games he may well have risen to No. 1 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking; as it is he has stayed in 4th but the gap has been closed.
I have been bullish about Sandy SCOTT (SCO) for the Walker Cup for some time on the back of his strong play for Texas Tech in the U.S. this season. Sandy performed very well in Sweden fully justifying my faith in him. It’s a shame that Scotland’s needs meant he and Euan Walker couldn’t be paired together in the foursomes this week.
Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Tom PLUMB (ENG) both qualified well and won all three of their foursomes games together. Their selection and pairing looks a certainty to me now.
From an Irish perspective Conor PURCELL presented a welcome return to form right on cue and Caolan RAFFERTY ticked along nicely, albeit his match play results were disappointing. However, Mark POWER (IRE) is the player that really grasped the opportunity presented by this event. A solid qualification was followed by singles wins (playing at No. 2) over John Axelsen DEN (4&3), Maximillian Hermann GER (20th) and Jacob Davies WAL (19th).
Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO), Gaelen TREW (WAL) and Harry HALL (ENG) also won all three of their singles in Sweden. Interestingly they all qualified poorly over the opening two days but clearly found something as the week progressed. In the context of the Walker Cup the wins were particularly useful for Hall.
For the record Trew, playing No. 1 for Wales, impressively beat Ben Jones ENG (1 Hole), Alejandro Del Ray ESP (1 Hole) and Conor Purcell IRE (4&3).
Ben JONES ENG, who had played so well at the Amateur Championship a few weeks ago, qualified strongly but lost his way in the match play stage losing all three of his games.
From a Walker Cup perspective it would have been good to see Hall and Jones given a foursomes run out at some point as they are both strong candidates for selection and this is therefore a possible pairing.
Alex FITZPATRICK ENG followed a similar path to Jones, qualifying well before losing all three of his singles, albeit each by the slender margin of 1 Hole.
In addition to Trew Ben CHAMBERLAIN was the standout for Wales, qualifying in 10th and enjoying a good win over Ronan Mullarney on the final day.
Only IRELAND and ENGLAND played in the European Boys Team Championship in Chantilly, France. Ireland finished 4th and England 5th as France took the title.
SCOTLAND and WALES played in the Division 2 Championship in Poland.
Here’s my assessment of the individual GB&I boys’ Division 1 team performances.
Joe PAGDIN (ENG), Max HOPKINS (ENG), Tom MCKIBBIN (IRE) and Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) were the standout performers for me in the Boys’ Team Championship.
Pagdin, who won all four of his games in last week’s AJGA Wyndham Cup in North Carolina, continues to show encouraging match play form. If he had held on to his lead over the final holes of his Round 2 match against Tom Sloman in The Amateur I may be talking him up even more now.
Pagdin and McKibbin both fly to the USA today for this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur. They will need to go deep, as will Ben Schmidt in the U.S. Amateur in August, to have a chance of making the GB&I Walker Cup team.
Pagdin and McKibbin also have the opportunity to make a late Walker Cup case in the Boys’ Amateur Championship being played at Saunton G.C. in August. Both played well in this event last year at Royal Portrush G.C.
The Boys’ event clashes with the U.S. Amateur which is why Schmidt won’t be in Devon. Indeed it is possible that Pagdin may also be a late qualifier for the U.S. Amateur having now moved into the World Amateur Golf Ranking Top 50.
All three are of an age and have the potential to play multiple Walker Cup’s for GB&I but the 2019 match now looks like coming too soon for them.
The GB&I selectors will be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad this weekend with an announcement expected tomorrow.
The next squad training gathering is being held at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 23-24 July.
If the decision was mine I would select 16 players giving me 8 foursomes pairings to work with at Hoylake.
Here are my current thoughts on the team / squad and pairings (all in selection order): –
Team (as at 14th July) Euan WALKER – Scotland Sandy SCOTT – Scotland
Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland Conor PURCELL – Ireland
Tom SLOMAN – England Thomas PLUMB – England
Harry HALL – England Ben JONES – England
James SUGRUE – Ireland [Amateur Champion – Automatic Selection] Jake BURNAGE – England
Other Squad Players David LANGLEY – England NEW Josh MCMAHON – England NEW Mark POWER – Ireland Bailey GILL – England Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW [Training session clashes with U18 Carris Trophy]
Since my last squad selection I have taken out Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick and added Mark Power to the second group solely based on their performances at the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship.
Dropped From Original Squad Alex FITZPATRICK – England [Training Session replacement for Schmidt ?] Joseph PAGDIN – England Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland David HAGUE – England Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales Jake HAPGOOD – Wales Tom THURLOWAY – England Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland Robin WILLIAMS – England John MURPHY – Ireland Jamie STEWART – Scotland Archie DAVIES – Wales Conor GOUGH – England
The final group of players, for a variety of reasons, simply haven’t done enough to stay in my Walker Cup squad.
The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, The Open Championship, The English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh (Closed) Amateur Championships, The Boys’ Amateur Championship and The U.S. Amateur are now the only events left that can influence the GB&I team selection which is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August.
James SUGRUE (22) won the 124th Amateur Championship at Portmarnock G.C. last Saturday, becoming the 8th Irish winner in the process.
He beat Scotland’s Euan WALKER (23) by 2 Holes in a Final which went the full 36 holes.
Sugrue (22) made a dream start leading by 5Up after the opening nine holes. Walker then settled into the match and set about whittling down the lead he had partially gifted his opponent. He had reduced the deficit to 3Down by lunch and finally achieved parity on the 34th hole of the match. Inexplicably he then played two poor holes allowing the steadier Irishman to collect the Championship trophy in front of a large group of delighted home supporters.
Speaking to The R&A afterwards Sugrue said “It is hard to believe really. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Just to think about this win is unbelievable. Everything that comes with the win and all the crowds that were out there, it’s incredible.”
On his run to the final James also beat Harry Hall (2 Holes), Christopher Palsson (1 Hole), Sergio Parriego Cornejo (5&3), Koen Kouwenaar (19th) and David Micheluzzi (3&1).
James Sugrue (Photo: The R&A / Sam Barnes / Getty Images)
The big hitting Corkman who plays his golf at Mallow now becomes exempt for The Open Championship, U.S. Amateur, The Masters and U.S. Open over the next 12 months.
He is now also assured of a place in the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team which will face USA at Royal Liverpool G.C. in September.
This win lifted him to 43rd in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and 68th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Sugrue was already a member of the 2019 GB&I Walker Cup initial squad and was enjoying a steady season posting a number of top 20 finishes. His previous biggest win was the 2017 South of Ireland Amateur played at Lahinch G.C. James should be a good addition to the team as he is strong links player and has a good match play record.
In addition to the finalists, Sugrue and Walker, a number of other players did well at Portmarnock.
Tom PLUMB ENG (-4) was medalist in The Amateur’s Stroke Play Qualifying competition. Sandy SCOTT SCO (-3) finished 3rd, Harry HALL ENG (-2) tied 4th, Caolan RAFFERTY IRE, David LANGLEY ENG and Jake BOLTON ENG (all -1) T6 and Eanna GRIFFIN IRE and Joe PAGDIN ENG (both Ev) tied 11th.
In the Match Play stage Ben JONES ENG reached the Semi-Finals, Sandy SCOTT SCO and Ronan MULLARNEY IRE the Quarter Finals and Matty LAMB ENG and Bailey GILL ENG the Last 16.
Recent Brabazon Trophy winner Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) continued his good form by picking up the Boys’ Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters title at Nizels G.&C.C.
Ben posted rounds of 66, 71, 71 and 70 for a 278 (-10) total and a 5-shot victory over fellow English prospect Max HOPKINS.
Regional Qualifying for the 148th Open Championship took place on Monday 24th June at 13 venues across GB&I.
9 of the 13 competitions were won by amateur players with a total of 50 amateurs progressing to Final Qualifying on the day. More earned Reserve status and will follow as the four fields are finalised in the coming days.
Here are a list of some of the more notable qualifiers in the context of the Walker Cup: –
Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) – 1st 68 -3 at Alwoodley Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) – T3 70 -1 at Alwoodley Kieran CANTLEY (SCO) – 1st 65 -7 at Berwick-upon-Tweed Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) – T1 65 -7 at Burhill Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) – 4th 67 -5 at Burhill Tom MCKIBBIN (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth Tom PLUMB (ENG) – T8 70 -2 at Frilford Heath Jake BURNAGE (ENG) – 1st 65 -7 at Minchinhampton
Other amateurs have exemptions into Final Qualifying so I anticipate there being well over 60 players to follow next Tuesday.
The GB&I selectors will shortly be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad for the next training gathering at Royal Liverpool G.C.
Here is my assessment of how the original 26 and other players who have emerged over the last two months will fare when the announcement is presumably made next week. In my defence I don’t have the results of the European Amateur Championship which finishes on Saturday to help me.
I have listed the players as I see their current form and my selection order: –
Current Team (if picked today) Euan WALKER – Scotland Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland Harry HALL – England James SUGRUE – Ireland Sandy SCOTT – Scotland Conor PURCELL – Ireland Thomas PLUMB – England Ben JONES – England Jake BURNAGE – England Tom SLOMAN – England
July Squad Member Bailey GILL – England Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW Matty LAMB – England NEW Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW David LANGLEY – England NEW Ronan MULLARNEY – Ireland NEW Alex FITZPATRICK – England
Dropped From Squad Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland Robin WILLIAMS – England David HAGUE – England Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland Joseph PAGDIN – England John MURPHY – Ireland Mark POWER – Ireland Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland Jamie STEWART – Scotland Jake HAPGOOD – Wales Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales Tom THURLOWAY – England Conor GOUGH – England Archie DAVIES – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY, England (21) – SPWAR 284 / WAGR 354
Euan WALKER, Scotland (23) – SPWAR 41 / WAGR 98
Robin WILLIAMS, England (17) – SPWAR T354 / WAGR 115
The initial squad includes 12 players from England, 6 from Scotland, 5 from Ireland and 3 from Wales.
Of those named above I am on record as already saying Tom Plumb, Conor Purcell, Caolan Rafferty, Tom Sloman and Euan Walker are already ‘probables’ based on their 2019 wins and high rankings.
I also believe Alex Fitzpatrick and Sandy Scott are moving in that direction given their strong recent form on the U.S. College circuit.
The timetable from here is now clear: –
A second practice session has been scheduled for July at the host venue which a reduced number of players will be invited to attend.
The final ten-man GB&I team is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship finishes.
The match against United States of America will then take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September at Royal Liverpool G.C.
In the official R&A Announcement Craig Watson, GB&I captain, said, “We have selected a talented group of players who are all in contention for a place in the team to play the United States of America and will be continuing to monitor the form and results of these players over the course of the season. We will also be looking closely at the performances of other players who have not been included in the squad and there is still time for them to play their way into our plans ahead of the final team selection later text his year.”
Whilst there are no major surprises in the selection it is perhaps worth looking in more detail at those players who have missed out and now have to fight their way back into the group.
Here are ten players, in alphabetical order, who are ranked highly but have missed out on the initial squad selection: –
Oliver FARRELL, England (SPWAR 158 / WAGR 393)
Alex GLEESON, Ireland (SPWAR 292 / WAGR 114)
Ben HUTCHINSON, England (SPWAR 235 / WAGR 204)
David LANGLEY, England (SPWAR 114 / WAGR 278)
Rowan LESTER, Ireland (SPWAR 212 / WAGR 100)
Jamie LI, England (SPWAR 234 / WAGR 119)
Joe LONG, England (SPWAR 169 / WAGR 157)
Ronan MULLARNEY, Ireland (SPWAR 139 / WAGR 205)
Daniel O’LOUGHLIN, England (SPWAR 191 / WAGR 294)
Rory FRANSSEN, Scotland (SPWAR 210 / WAGR 283)
It will be interesting to see who makes the final 10-man team in August and how many of them were in the initial squad.