With 278 days to go until the match starts Great Britain and Ireland’s (GB&I) selection options were further reduced last week with the news that both Mitch WAITE (ENG) and Nick POPPLETON (ENG) had decided to turn professional.
Both Waite and Poppleton played for GB&I in the St. Andrews Trophy match against Europe last July. At the time of the announcement Waite was also GB&I’s highest rated player in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking.
Of the nine man team and two reserves selected for the St. Andrews Trophy just four remain amateur heading into 2019; David HAGUE (ENG), John MURPHY (IRE), Conor PURCELL (IRE) and Euan WALKER (SCO).
The 2018 Men’s Home Internationals were played at Conwy Golf Club in Wales between 12th and 14th September.
ENGLAND won the tournament beating IRELAND 9 – 6 in the final day’s championship match. Ireland had won the event four years in a row but had to settle for second this year.
SCOTLAND finished third and WALES fourth.
The England Team With The Raymond Trophy (Photo: Wales Golf)
11-man teams play against each other in a round robin format. There are five foursomes and ten singles match play games contested in each match. The overall winner is the country with the highest number of match points. 1 point is awarded for a win, 0.5 for a half and 0 for a loss.
Here is a summary of the 2018 results: –
2018 Men’s Home Internationals (Photo: Wales Golf / Golfbox Scoring)
With the exception of some lads who had returned to their U.S. Colleges earlier in September we had the 11 best players from each of the home nations playing competitive foursomes and singles match play golf in Conwy.
Even a year before the next Walker Cup match, and accepting that some of the participants may turn pro in the coming months, this was clearly a good event for a prospective 2019 player to find and establish a foursomes partnership and to hopefully record a few singles wins. The GB&I selectors will certainly have been watching.
Here is an analysis of the English and Irish individual performances at Conwy: –
It was a great week for David HAGUE (ENG) and Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) who both finished the tournament with 100% records, winning all six of their games.
Tom PLUMB (ENG) was also unbeaten, winning four of his games and halving two of his foursomes.
Mitch WAITE (ENG) and Andrew WILSON (ENG) lost just once in their six games. Mark POWER (IRE), Conor PURCELL (IRE) and James SUGRUE (IRE) all recorded four wins too.
David HAGUE and Andrew WILSON (ENG) won all three of their foursomes games leading England out in all three matches, which normally means you are playing your opponents best pairing.
Tiarnan MCLARNON and Ronan MULLARNEY (IRE) also won all three of their foursomes matches albeit they were sent out in the fifth game on each day. Another Irish pairing, Conor PURCELL and Mark POWER, also impressed winning two games and halving the other.
The 2018 Men’s Home Internationals reaffirmed the view that our 2019 Walker Cup team is likely to be dominated by English and Irish players.
Looking at the Scottish and Welsh individual performances:-
Euan WALKER was outstanding for Scotland winning five of his six games. Likewise Ryan LUMSDEN did his prospects no harm with four wins.
Paddy MULLINS did well for Wales and will have been particularly pleased with his two singles wins.
It appears that the Scottish and Welsh contingent will need to up their games over the next 12 months if they are to have anything other than a modest 2019 Walker Cup representation.
The 2019 Men’s Home Internationals will be played at Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland. The England Golf website suggests that has been scheduled to be played on 11-13th September next year, the week after the Walker Cup match.
In 2017 the Home Internationals were brought forward to August so that they could in theory be used to assist with GB&I Walker Cup team selection. However, because the 16-18th August dates then clashed with the U.S. Amateur it proved to be largely pointless as a competition and as a final selection trial. Just three of the final 10 man GB&I team competed at Moortown in 2017 with most of our leading amateurs choosing to play in the U.S. Amateur.
It is disappointing that the four home nation golf unions can not come up with a date in early August next year so that the Men’s Home internationals can properly fulfil it’s potential role in our 2019 Walker Cup preparations.
The Continent of Europe (Photo: European Golf Association)
The R&A Selection Committee, including Non-Playing Captain Craig WATSON, announced GB&I’s nine man team for the match on 16th July. This was exactly the same team that I would have picked.
Todd CLEMENTS (21) – England Robin DAWSON (22) – Ireland David HAGUE (21) – England Matthew JORDAN (22) – England John MURPHY (20) – Ireland Gian-Marco PETROZZI (21) – England Nick POPPLETON (24) – England Conor PURCELL (21) – Ireland Mitch WAITE (23) – England
Following last September’s record breaking 19 – 7 defeat by the United States in the Walker Cup this heavy loss was another sobering experience for GB&I’s leading players.
The fact the European team was also weaker than may have been expected due to a number of their leading players competing at this week’s Porsche European Open on the European Tour or preferring to play in amateur events in the Unites States arguably makes the result even harder to take.
In The R&A’s match report GB&I Captain Craig WATSON said: “The team is obviously very disappointed but if you look at the scoring by the Continent of Europe you can see we were up against a very high standard of golf. This is the level that the players need to aspire to and achieve and when they look back on the performance there will be many learning points to take away. If you are to win a match like this you obviously need to make your fair share of putts when it matters. We just couldn’t match the Continent of Europe today. I don’t think we were complacent.”
In conclusion it would appear that the best GB&I team we could put out were simply outplayed by the Europeans, albeit only on the final day.
It should be noted that Matthew JORDAN (ENG) certainly left Finland with his reputation intact after winning three of his four matches.
The 2019 Walker Cup match at Royal Liverpool G.C. is now just over 400 days away and the GB&I group clearly need to see some improvement between now and then if that match is to be competitive.
It will be interesting to see how many of the nine players who played this week are still amateur in a year’s time and, if they are, whether they have maintained their form sufficiently to be selected for our Walker Cup team.
Earlier this week The R&A announced that the 2020 St. Andrews Trophy match will be played at Royal Porthcawl G.C. in South Wales on 23-24 July.
The R&A have today announced a 20 player Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) squad for the 2018 St Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe.
The match, played in alternate years to the Walker Cup, will take place at Linna Golf in Finland on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July 2018.
It was also confirmed that Scotland’s Craig Watson would return to the GB&I captaincy role after he was unfortunately unable to fulfil these duties at the 2017 Walker Cup due to a family bereavement.
Watson captained GB&I in the last St. Andrews Trophy match at Prince’s G.C., Kent in 2016. A 12.5 – 12.5 draw back then was good enough for GB&I to retain the trophy.
Captain Watson and Alfie Plant with the St. Andrews Trophy
(Photo: Darren Plant)
Watson said in the R&A announcement: “I’m delighted to resume the role and am excited about the potential of the new crop of players coming through and contending for a place in the team.”
As always the captain left the door open for other players to step forward in the coming months: “We know we will be in for a tough match in Finland and we will need a strong team if we are to win the trophy. I am sure the players we have identified, and others not currently in the squad, will be working hard to impress the selectors.”
The squad will meet up before the St Andrews Links Trophy event which starts on 8th June.
The final 9-man team will be announced after the European Men’s Team Championships, which conclude on 14th July.
Here is a list of the 20 players selected, along with their current Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (SPWAR) and GB&I SPWAR rank.
Todd Clements, England (21)
Robin Dawson, Ireland (22)
Alex Fitzpatrick, England (19)
Calum Fyfe, Scotland (20)
Alex Gleeson, Ireland (24)
David Hague, England (21)
Harry Hall, England (20)
Benjamin Jones, England (19)
Matthew Jordan, England (22)
Rowan Lester, Ireland (22)
Sam Locke, Scotland (19)
Ryan Lumsden, Scotland (21)
Billy McKenzie, England (23)
Gian-Marco Petrozzi, England (21)
Caolan Rafferty, Ireland (25)
Sandy Scott, Scotland (19)
Jamie Stewart, Scotland (18)
Euan Walker, Scotland (22)
Robin Williams, England (16)
Andrew Wilson, England (24)
No one would argue that any of the above aren’t worthy of consideration for the GB&I team.
There are 10 English players in the squad, 6 from Scotland and 4 from Ireland. Sadly no one from Wales made the initial grade.
Only Royal Liverpool’s Matthew Jordan remains in the above selection from the 2017 Walker Cup team. Seven of the 10-man team having turned professional since the heavy loss in Los Angeles.
As the SPWAR rankings suggest GB&I currently has two outstanding players, Jordan and compatriot Todd Clements. To my eyes both have already done enough this season to warrant selection. However, the other 7 team spots are still broadly up for grabs, albeit fellow Englishman Harry Hall and Gian-Marco Petrozzi must also be close.
Below is a list of those players who are also highly ranked in the SPWAR and whose omission is therefore worthy of further discussion.
Harry Ellis, England
Paul McBride, Ireland
Tom Plumb, England
Jake Burnage, England
Conor Purcell, Ireland
Daniel O’Loughlin, England
Mitch Waite, England
The two most obvious omissions for me are England’s Mitch Waite, who has won the Hampshire Salver this year and finished runner-up at the recent Lytham Trophy, and Conor Purcell, who has done well for Charlotte this year in the U.S., culminating in an invitation by the NCAA to play in this week’s Division I Regionals as an individual.
Finally, a quick word on the two other 2017 Walker Cup players who remain amateur and are listed in the second table above.
Harry Ellis withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Cup selection process in April signalling a clear intention to turn Pro after his forthcoming U.S. Open appearance in June. Hence his absence from the list is understandable.
Paul McBride is perhaps more of a surprise. He had intimated that he may stay amateur until the Autumn once he graduates from Wake Forest in the next few weeks. The World Amateur Team Championship (for the Eisenhower Trophy) is being held at Carton House, Ireland in September and this was supposedly a factor in his thinking. However, his omission from this squad is a clear indicator that he too will be turning pro very shortly.