75. My 2017 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team

19th August 2017

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.

Each player is listed below in the order I would select them with a summary of their notable performances in 2017 (courtesy of the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking): –

1. CONNOR SYME (Scotland)

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.

__________________________________________________

Appendix 1 – An Apology To My Reserves

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.

Appendix 2 – Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking – GB&I Only (as at 18/08/17)


Appendix 3 – World Amateur Golf Ranking – GB&I Only (as at 13/08/17 / released 16/08/17)


ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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70. Sam Locke Wins The Scottish Men’s Amateur

6th August 2017

Sam LOCKE yesterday won the 90th Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship at Prestwick Golf Club, beating Ryan LUMSDEN 9&8 in the 36-hole Final.

The win, and certainly the size of it, was something of a surprise as LUMSDEN, who plays US college golf at Northwestern, entered the final as the favourite being the more experienced and highly ranked player.

Relatively unknown outside Scotland up until this week 18 year old Sam LOCKE is from the Banchory Golf Club in Aberdeenshire. He has been supported by the Paul Laurie Foundation since he was 14 and is coached by his father Andrew.

From a starting field of 264 players Sam finished tied 5th in the Stroke Play Qualifier after rounds of 67 (PSC) and 73 (PGC).

He then beat Duncan MCNEILL (19th hole), Michael SMYTH (1 hole), James WILSON (4&3), Sandy SCOTT (3&2) and Alasdair MCDOUGALL (3&2) before his memorable victory over LUMSDEN.

Sam led 5 Up after nine, helped by Ryan bogeying five of the opening holes. A relaxed Locke then birdied 5 of the holes on the morning back nine to take full control of the Final and a 10 Up lead into lunch. He then saw the match out comfortably in the afternoon.

For more information on the Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship please click – Stroke Play Results and Match Play Results.

After the Final Sam said in an interview with Scottish Golf “It’s nice to get a big win under my belt and hopefully I can kick on from here and enjoy more success. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and practice hard.”

Sam will now be allocated one of the two remaining places in the Scottish Men’s Home Internationals Team for the competition at Moortown Golf Club in two weeks time.

Whilst it is too late for Sam to make his way into the 2017 Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup selection picture I look forward to following his progress in the coming years, starting in Leeds very shortly.

Sam Locke with his father Andrew Locke (Photo: Andrew Locke)

So getting back down to Walker Cup business let’s look at how the leading Scottish players, those that are closer to the selection discussion than Sam, got on. Here is a quick summary:-

Craig HOWIE – SP 73 72 (+3) T29 / MP Rd 3 to Sandy Scott 1 hole
Sandy SCOTT – SP 66 68 (-8) T1 / MP QF to Sam Locke 3&2
Ryan LUMSDEN – SP 75 64 (-3) T3 / MP Runner Up
Jamie STEWART – SP 82 71 (+11) T112 / MP DNQ
Calum FYFE – SP 67 67 (-8) T1 / MP Rd 4 to Chris Maclean 1 hole
Chris MACLEAN – SP 68 74 (Ev) T14 / MP SF to Ryan Lumsden
Craig ROSS – SP 72 70 (Ev) T14 / MP Rd 4 to Ryan Lumsden 20th hole
Rory FRANSSEN – SP 71 69 (-2) T5 / MP Rd 2 to Darren Howie 3&2
Euan MCINTOSH – SP 69 76 (+3) T29 / MP Rd 2 to NHM Beattie 4&3

Craig HOWIE was the leading Scottish Walker Cup candidate (of those competing) going in to the event and it’s fair to say he could have done with a stronger performance to cement his position in our 10 man team given the increasing competition for places.

Sandy SCOTT has enjoyed a good summer back home from Texas Tech. but needed to win at Prestwick in my opinion to have any chance of forcing himself into the 2017 GB&I Walker Cup selection picture. His time will come.

Ryan LUMSDEN, whilst disappointing in the Final, should be pleased with his overall performance. He continues to impress and like SCOTT should prove to be a strong GB&I Walker Cup candidate in 2019.

Scotland’s three leading players chose not to play in their national Amateur Championship.

Liam JOHNSTON and Connor SYME joined Wales’ David BOOTE in playing in the Western Amateur at Skokie CC in Illinois. After the United States Amateur and the Amateur Championship the Western Amateur nowadays has the third strongest field in amateur golf. Therefore securing a positive result here is not easy.

Liam JOHNSTON did so, enhancing his standing by shooting rounds of 72, 66, 68 and 71 at the Western for a -7 total. Unfortunately his tied 18th finish meant he missed out on a ‘Sweet 16’ Match Play place by 1 shot.

Connor SYME started well with a 68 but a disappointing 75 in Round 2 saw him miss the 36 hole cut in the 72 hole Stroke Play Qualifying stage.

For more information on the Western Amateur Championship please click these links: Stroke Play Qualifying Results and Match Play Results.

Robert MACINTYRE took advantage of a Scottish Golf / Bounce Golf invite to compete on the European Challenge Tour in the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge.

The event was reduced to 54 holes today after heavy rain which was disappointing for Robert as his final -5, tied 53rd, finish didn’t really reflect how well he played. His 8, 6, 5 scores (+6) on the 12th, 13th and 14th holes of his third round ruined what looked like being a top 20 finish at worse. He was also -3 after 10 holes of his final round this morning when play was abandoned.

Nevertheless making the cut on the Challenge Tour is no mean feat for an amateur so in my eyes this is another encouraging week for the man from Oban on the west coast of Scotland.

For more information on the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge please click this link: European Challenge Tour Finnish Challenge Results

So in summary, as far as Scottish hopes for the Walker Cup go, good weeks for Liam JOHNSTON and Robert MACINTYRE but not so good for Craig HOWIE and Connor SYME.

The battle for places continues with just the US Amateur Championship and the Men’s Home Internationals to be played.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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65. England Win Silver At The European Men’s Amateur Team Championship

16th July 2017

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.

For more information on this event please take a look at my GolfBible article – European Men’s Amateur Team Championship – 2017 Preview, Results & Reports (15/07/17)

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.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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63. GB&I Amateur Golf Rankings – 30th June 2017

7th July 2017

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.

For more information on the Amateur Golf Rankings please click here – Golf Bible’s Rankings Page.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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61. Alfie Plant Wins The European Amateur

2nd July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Alfie Plant (Photo: GolfBible)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just for those who have read this far….

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

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

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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58. Matthew Jordan Wins The St. Andrews Links Trophy

13th June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the picture has changed.

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

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

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

Matthew Jordan (Photo: Kenny Smith)

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

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

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

5th – Brabazon Trophy (25-28 May)

T4  – Irish Open Amateur (11-14 May)

T7  – Lytham Trophy (5-7 May)

8th – Hampshire Salver (15-16 April)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ME.

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

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55. Liam Johnston Stakes His Claim At The Scottish Amateur Open

6th June 2017

Liam JOHNSTON won the Carrick Neill Scottish Men’s Open Stroke Play Championship at Western Gailes last weekend.

Rounds of 69, 66, 69 and 71 for a -9 72 hole aggregate score proved good enough for a two shot victory. He was the first Scotsman to win the title since Wallace Booth in 2008.

Following on from his African Amateur win earlier this year I am now confident he will be selected for the 2017 GB&I Walker Cup team. How can you deny a place to a man with two major national titles to their name in the year of the match?

In recent weeks Liam has also finished tied 13th at the Lytham Trophy and tied 10th at the Irish Amateur Open so his overall form is good too.

Liam is another player who sits outside the Walker Cup squad but who has risen to the challenge of forcing his way in to the selection picture.

Liam Johnston (Photo: Kenny Smith / Scottish Golf)

Coming in the middle of a long run of prestigious events many of our leading players chose to sit this one out. Having said that the field was strengthened by the arrival of most of the Australian and South African summer touring parties.

Just five members of the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup Squad competed in Ayrshire. These were Colm CAMPBELLCraig HOWIEConor O’ROURKESandy SCOTT and Connor SYME.

Two of them Craig HOWIE and Connor SYME performed very well. Craig finished tied third on -5 and Connor fifth on -4.

I have been bullish about the prospects for Scottish players in 2017 for some time. When these two are added to Johnston and Robert MACINTYRE it is easy to see why the Scots are likely to form the bedrock of this year’s GB&I Team.

Unfortunately another Scotsman, Jamie STEWART, who did so well at the Brabazon Trophy last week and had moved in to the fringes of the selection story, was unable to back it up here missing the 36 hole cut by some distance (79 75 +12).

The other main story to come out of the Scottish Amateur Open concerns England’s Matthew JORDAN. I mentioned in news article 53. on the Brabazon Trophy that he was putting together a very good run of results but needed to keep going.

Well he certainly did – this week he finished second on -7. Matthew has now recorded successive Top 10’s in the Lytham Trophy (T7), Irish Amateur Open (T4), Brabazon Trophy (5th) and Scottish Amateur Open (2nd). As such he is currently GB&I’s most in form player. This is reflected in his improved SPWAR of 65th which makes him the 8th highest GB&I player in the list.

Click here to view the – Scottish Open SP Results

Click here to view the – Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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51. Peter O’Keeffe Wins The Irish Amateur Open

15th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are their scores and finishing places in detail : –

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

Click here to view the full – Irish Amateur Open Results

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

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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45. GB&I Amateur Golf Rankings – 31st March 2017

7th April 2017

The table below summarises the ranking positions of the Top 30 GB&I amateur golfers as at the end of March 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 listed in the SPWAR and reviews their ranking trend for the last 12 months.

I have expressed the opinion in previous articles that Connor SYME, Robert MACINTYRE and Scott GREGORY are already as good as selected for the GB&I Team for me.

In Quarter 1 Robin DAWSON, Liam JOHNSTON and Jack DAVIDSON have stepped forward most impressively.

Other players trending well in the SPWAR Top 20 include Craig HOWIE, Stuart GREHAN, Marco PENGEAlex GLEESON, Jack SINGH BRAR, Daniel BROWN and David WICKS.

Whilst many factors go into selecting the 10 man GB&I Walker Cup team there is no question that the two world ranking lists provide an important foundation for the future discussions that will take place around the Committee table.

For more information on the Amateur Golf Rankings please click here – Golf Bible’s Rankings Page.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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41. Notes From A Big Country – South Africa

4th March 2017

Over the last month touring English, Irish and Scottish players have all competed in a series of major events in South Africa.

South African Stroke Play Championship (7-10 Feb)
Cape Province Open Championship (14-16 Feb)
South African Amateur Championship (21-24 Feb)
African Amateur Stroke Play Championship (1-4 Mar)

Before these Championships Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) and Robin DAWSON (IRE) were on the periphery of the Walker Cup picture. Indeed neither was included in the initial Walker Cup Squad announced on 23rd January 2017. I think we can safely say that both are now firmly in the selector’s thoughts.

Liam JOHNSTON had a superb tour. Demonstrating good consistency he finished tied 5th (-6) in the South African Stroke Play at Kingswood, 26th (-1) at the Cape Province Open, reached the quarter finals of the South African Amateur at Homewood before winning the African Amateur Stroke Play (-8) at the stunning Leopard Creek CC. As a result of these performances he deservedly moved from 135th in the SPWAR at the start of February to 35th. He is the 6th highest ranked GB&I player at the time of writing.

Liam Johnston (Photo: Scottish Golf)

The Irish party had a shorter itinerary playing in just the South African Stroke Play and the Cape Province Open (CPO). This didn’t stop Robin DAWSON from excelling, finishing 2nd in both of these events. He shot -9 in the former and -10 in the latter, clearly taking a liking to the courses at Kingswood GE and George GC. Robin started the tour in 182nd place in the SPWAR but today sits in an impressive 55th (he was 47th immediately after the CPO). He is 8th in the GB&I list which continues to be led by Sam HORSFIELD (ENG), who will be turning Pro before the Walker Cup.

In the light of Dawson’s heroics it is easy to overlook how well Alex GLEESON (IRE) also played in South Africa. He finished tied 11th (-2) in the South African Stroke Play and tied 4th (-9) in the Cape Province Open. He now sits 95th in the SPWAR (13th in the GB&I list) and looks good value for his inclusion in the Initial Walker Cup Squad.

Connor SYME (SCO) played in his first events of 2017 in South Africa. He firstly missed the cut by 1-shot at the Joburg Open on the European Tour but no doubt took heart from solid rounds of 71 and 69 (-3). He then played very well this week in the African Amateur, ultimately having to settle for 2nd place behind his compatriot Johnston on -7. I think we can safely say it is going to take a dramatic downturn in form over the next 6 months for Connor not to be a part of GB&I’s 2017 Walker Cup team.

In what was generally a disappointing trip for the official three man England team Dan BROWN (ENG), who was selected for the Initial Walker Cup Squad, shone brightest. He finished tied 3rd on -8 at the South African Stroke Play and tied 1st in the South African Amateur Qualifying. It took four play-off holes for home player Chris Woollam to wrestle the Proudfoot Trophy from him. Unfortunately Brown could progress no further than Round 2 in the match play stage.

Gloucestershire’s Joe LONG (ENG), who had made his own way out to South Africa, deserves a mention in despatches too. After a slow start he really found his feet in the last two events. At the South African Amateur he reached the match play quarter finals losing 1 Down to Andre Van Heerden Jr (RSA). Alongside star man Johnston this was the best performance by any GB&I player in the Championship. He then finished 14th (+2) in the African Amateur Stroke Play yesterday. However, that doesn’t tell the full story as Joe, having played the front nine in level par, was right in the mix on -6 with just 7 holes to go. Unfortunately he played them in +8 despite birdies on 14 and 18. I guess you don’t always get what you deserve in golf but hopefully he will learn from this experience and continue to feature back home this summer.

Scottish Golf always travel in numbers for the South African events helped by good sponsorship and in particular the support of billionaire businessman Johann Rupert. This gives their players the opportunity to lay down some early season markers. This year they have certainly taken their chances with Connor SYME, Liam JOHNSTON, Craig HOWIE and Craig ROSS all doing well and now strongly placed for a Walker Cup push. When you add Robert MACINTYRE, Sandy SCOTT, Calum FYFE, Ryan LUMSDENJamie STEWART and Barry HUME to the mix it’s not difficult to see which country is likely to take the majority of places in our 2017 Walker Cup team.

For more information on the results of these South African amateur events click here – Golf Bible Website Results

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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