82. Everybody’s Changing And I Don’t Feel The Same

11th October 2017

So little time,
Try to understand that I’m,
Trying to make a move just to stay in the game,
I try to stay awake and remember my name,
But everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same.

– “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane (2004)

It’s been all change in the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) amateur game since the 46th Walker Cup match finished a month ago.

Of course each Walker Cup seems to mark the end of a mini-era with both those players selected and those overlooked looking to move on with their golfing careers.

However, the number of players turning professional in recent weeks feels much higher than normal with elite amateur golf in GB&I decimated.

We have already lost 7 of the 10 members of our Walker Cup team to the professional ranks: –

David BOOTE (WAL)
Jack DAVIDSON (WAL)
Scott GREGORY (ENG)
Robert MACINTYRE (SCO)
Alfie PLANT (ENG)
Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG)
Connor SYME (SCO)

Of the remaining three players Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) and Harry ELLIS (ENG) have entered their Senior years at Wake Forest and Florida State respectively, whilst Matthew JORDAN (ENG) has resisted the temptation to jump to date. Could he have his sights set on a home Walker Cup appearance at Royal Liverpool in 2019 ? Wishful thinking on my part perhaps.

However, it is the number of other Internationals that have turned professional that makes the last few weeks so exceptional. Here’s a selection of names for you: –

Dan BROWN (ENG)
Joshua DAVIES (WAL)
Owen EDWARDS (WAL)
Colin FAIRWEATHER (IRE)
Tom GANDY (ENG)
Stuart GREHAN (IRE)
Evan GRIFFITH (WAL)
Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) 
Bradley MOORE (ENG)
Conor O’ROURKE (IRE)
Marco PENGE (ENG)                 
Craig ROSS (SCO)
Will WHITEOAK (ENG)
Jack YULE (ENG)

The exodus may not be over either.

Amateurs JR GALBRAITH (IRE)*, Josh HILLEARD (ENG) and Craig HOWIE (SCO) have all progressed to the Second Qualifying Stage of the European Tour’s Q-School series. Chris MACLEAN (SCO) is also this week out in Germany testing his game in the ProGolf Tour Q-School.

Whilst it’s sad to see all of these players move out of the amateur game I of course wish them all the best with their future careers. It will be interesting to see which ones survive and prosper in the coming years. Whatever happens I hope they can at least enjoy some of the journey.

Certainly playing in The Walker Cup is no guarantee of success in the professional golfing world. To date Paul DUNNE (who turned Pro in September 2015), Jordan SMITH (October 2014), Matthew FITZPATRICK (June 2014) and to a lesser degree Ashley CHESTERS (September 2015) and Callum SHINKWIN (September 2013) are the only players from the 2013 and 2015 Walker Cups to have made a notable transition. There is still time for some of the others to come through. A lot of very good elite amateurs have fallen by the way side, either unable to make the step up in play and / or get to grips with the demanding life of a touring pro.

Scotland’s Connor SYME leads the way for the 2017 crop at the moment with a tied 12th finish at the Portuguese Masters on debut and a tied 15th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last weekend. Earnings of €79,435 from two events has to be viewed as a dream start to his professional career.

One thing’s for sure, as day follows night, the next generation of young amateur golfers will soon appear. It will be interesting to see which players take the opportunity to step forward and fill the current void in 2018.

* In November 2017 JR GALBRAITH (IRE) also turned professional.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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81. Walker Cup Day 2 – USA Beats GB&I 19 – 7

10th September 2017 

The United States of America (USA) won the 46th Walker Cup match at Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) beating Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) 19 – 7.

The wining score of 19 points matched the most ever in Walker Cup history. USA had previously reached that total in 1993 when they won 19 – 5 at a rain affected Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota.

Here is the Individual Player Contributions chart from the match: –

Doug GHIM, Maverick MCNEALY and Collin MORIKAWA each went 4 – 0, the first time three players had accomplished this for one team in the same Walker Cup match. The previous record being two perfect 4 game records – USA in 1977 (John Fought and Lindy Miller), 1997 (John Harris and Brad Elder) and 2009 (Peter Uihlein and Rickie Fowler) and GB&I in 1999 (Luke Donald and Paul Casey).

Doug GHIM had also gone 4 – 0 in the Arnold Palmer Cup match earlier this summer. A memorable and unique double for him.

USA Celebrate Their Win At Los Angeles CC (Photo: GolfBible)

GB&I’s very slim hopes of staging a comeback on Day 2 depended on a strong morning Foursomes performance. Unfortunately they lost the series 3 – 1 to fall even further behind 11 – 5.

Scott GREGORY and Jack SINGH BRAR were GB&I’s only Foursomes winners. Gregory in particular played some great shots down the stretch, memorably holeing out from a bunker on 14 and delivering a long iron into the heart of the 18th green to close out the game 2Up.

The United States therefore went into the ten afternoon Singles matches needing just 2.5 points to win the Walker Cup.

Despite this Captain “Spider” MILLER took nothing for granted and later said he had challenged each player before the final series of matches started, telling them, “You have to win your match. Each one of you must win your match. We must win all ten matches. I was as direct as I can be. We had a good lead but there was going to be no letting up. I expected each one of them to win.”

Braden THORNBERRY certainly responded well to the instruction, the 2017 NCAA Division I Individual champion, thumping Paul MCBRIDE, 6 and 5 in game number 5 to get the ball rolling for USA.

Shortly afterwards Stewart HAGESTAD, avenging his Saturday defeat to Singh Brar, won 2 and 1 on the 17th green before Norman XIONG, at 18 the youngest player on either team, secured the final 0.5 point required to reach the all important 13.5 mark.

The Americans ended up winning seven of the 10 singles matches on Sunday afternoon.

The Day 2 Results (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

Scott GREGORY and Robert MACINTYRE provided some resistance for GB&I, halving their games. Gregory refused to accept defeat fighting back from 2 down against Norman XIONG with two to play to earn his half, sinking 30 foot and 8 foot par putts on the final two holes to do so. Similarly MacIntyre again demonstrated his match play credentials with an unbeaten Singles performance for GB&I. He beat long-hitting Cameron CHAMP easily yesterday before halving with him today.

The star man for GB&I on Sunday was David BOOTE who battled superbly to win his match against the reigning US Amateur champion Doc REDMAN. Surprisingly Redman ended up being the only US player not to contribute a point from the three games he participated in. Boote birdied the short 15th to go 2Up but the match was far from over given the three c.500 yard par 4 finishing holes still to be played. On 16 David got up and down from just short of the green before watching Redman trump him with a tap-in birdie. On 17, having called a penalty on himself for standing on his ball in the rough, he managed to get up and down from about 150 yards to secure an unlikely half in bogey. Finally on 18 Redman saw his accurate long iron approach run past the flag to the back of the green leaving himself a near impossible downhill putt. When he three putted for 5 the Welshman simply took two from 5 feet to secure a memorable win.

David Boote Celebrates His Singles Win With His Family And Caddie (Photo: GolfBible)

To view the USGA highlight packages of the final day’s play please take a look at my ‘Past Results’ page.

As one would expect GB&I Acting Captain Andrew INGRAM accepted the loss in good spirit. He said: “The Americans were amazing. I’ve got to take my hat off to them. They have been superb all week and good luck to them. We just couldn’t get going, we couldn’t get anything moving forward. The big advantage here has been the length of the course, our guys aren’t used to courses this long. We have worked hard. I asked the team when I came for 100 percent and they gave me 100 percent. I can’t ask for anything more.”

Asked how he thought GB&I could improve their away performances Ingram suggested: “I know it costs money but any chance of us getting our Squad out to America to let them see what it’s like, come to the venue, and play some golf so they can get a feel of it (would be beneficial). I think it’s quite a shock to the system when they come and play a course like this. Our guys aren’t used to playing courses this long.”

“Spider” MILLER was understandably delighted for his team: “We had a choice to be the 2017 Walker Cup team or the winning 2017 Walker Cup team. There’s certain things in their careers as golfers they will remember and playing and winning the Walker Cup is one of those defining moments they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

As always the GB&I team lacked the strength in depth of their opponents and in this match USA were able to bring this to bear, generally outplaying the visitors for the most part. Sometimes you just have to hold up your hands and accept the better team won – this was one of those occasions to my eyes.

____________________________________________

It was always going to be a big ask for GB&I to go to Los Angeles and be competitive let alone win. After all GB&I have only ever won twice in the USA and home teams have now won 11 of the last 13 matches.

I don’t believe a lengthy post-mortem is necessary but would add from what I saw myself – and in addition to the length point made by Andy Ingram – that the USA team also putted better on the quick and undulating greens and made better strategic decisions, particularly down the stretch.

Looking forward GB&I will next get the opportunity to regain the Walker Cup on 7th and 8th September 2019 when it will be staged at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.

Meanwhile GB&I players David BOOTE, Jack DAVIDSON, Scott GREGORY, Robert MACINTYRE, Alfie PLANT, Jack SINGH BRAR and Connor SYME are all expected to turn pro in the coming weeks. Good luck to all of them. Not the Amateur swan song they would have hoped for but nevertheless a trip and experience they will all remember for the rest of their lives.

ME.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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80. Walker Cup Day 1 – USA Leads GB&I 8 – 4

10th September 2017

USA lead GB&I 8 – 4 after Day 1 of the 2017 Walker Cup match being played at the superb Los Angeles CC.

The Day 1 Results (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

Day 1 Mornings Foursomes – USA 2 – 2 GB&I

I followed the match between Connor Syme / Paul McBride and Doc Redman / Will Zalatoris. The GB&I pair both played well once they had got over their initial nerves. The defining factors were the USA’s poor play on the par 3 holes (they bogeyed all three), McBride’s accurate approach play and most importantly Syme’s putting. The Scotsman holed 9 missable putts from within 10 feet which either halved or won holes. In the end they ran out comfortable winners.

Connor Syme and Paul McBride (Photo: GolfBible)

Scott Gregory and Jack Singh Brar beat Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ 3&2 to ensure the Day 1 Foursomes finished halved 2 – 2. In what was a tight match up until the turn the USA pair simply fell away on the back nine handing the game to GB&I with two bogeys and a double bogey on holes 14 – 16.

Scott Gregory and Jack Singh Brar ( Photo: GolfBible)

The other two matches represented humbling experiences for the GB&I pairs.

In Game 1 Collin Morikawa and Norman Xiong thrashed Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant 8&7. This was the biggest Foursomes win in 18 hole Walker Cup match history. The Americans birdied the first 4 holes winning them all and parred in to the 11th where hands were shaken. The GB&I pair were 5-over par at the conclusion. 18 year old Norman Xiong is starring in Los Angeles. He appears to have both the build and game to really make a name for himself in the future.

Maverick McNealy and Doug Ghim proved too strong for the Welsh pairing of David Boote and Jack Davidson in the final match of the series. USA birdied four of the first 6 holes to jump into a big lead which they defended comfortably with par golf. As GB&I sought to chase the game further errors allowed the USA to run out easy winners.

Day 1 Afternoon Singles – USA 6 – 2 GB&I

This session will probably prove to be the defining one of the 46th Walker Cup match. USA moved out in front and it is in all honesty hard to see how the GB&I team will be able to recover the position.

I was attracted to the match of Robert MacIntyre and Cameron Champ, having read that Bob didn’t have much family or friend support out here. Bob also has an excellent match play record so it was inevitable that he would give the big hitting American a good game. The fact he had been left out of the morning Foursomes was also likely to be a motivator for him. Whilst Champ was out of sorts, struggling for pars all the way round as well as with his short game, the Scotsman was simply outstanding. Gaining confidence as the match proceeded from his opponents difficulties Bob played a large number of great shots demonstrating an excellent all round game. By the time the match ended on the 14th green Champ was almost alone having lost his US gallery long before.

GB&I’s only other winner in the afternoon was Jack Singh Brar. He will take an unbeaten W2-L0-H0 record in to Day 2. Jack appears to have played very well looking at his hole scores. Five 3’s in his first 11 holes enabled him to take a 5Up lead on mid-amateur and LACC member Stewart Hagestad. Whilst he stumbled a little coming home he regrouped quickly to finish off a comfortable win.

Robert MacIntyre Enjoys His Singles Win (Photo: GolfBible)

Harry Ellis was 2Up in game 1 with with 5 holes to play. Unfortunately he bogeyed three of them – poor drives being largely to blame – and allowed Braden Thornberry, surprisingly left out of the morning Foursomes, to gain a flattering 2 holes win.

Connor Syme started well, leading Norman Xiong by 3Up after 6 holes. However, once Xiong settled he quickly came back and helped by three birdies won out impressively 2&1 against one of GB&I’s strongest players.

McBride appears to have played well but was simply unlucky to draw Collin Morikawa. The Californian was 3-under for the 16 holes played before winning 3&1. Against many of the other US players Paul may well have secured a win given his overall play.

Matthew Jordan also seems to have played well in his first match at this Walker Cup, coming out on the wrong side of a tight match. Will Zalatoris played the tough finishing holes a little better to eventually win by 2 holes on the 18th.

David Boote got off to a poor start bogeying three of the opening 4 holes and going 3 Down. Once he settled the Welshman played well, showing a great deal of fight. Doug Ghim certainly knew he had been in a game by the time he had seen out a 2&1 win on the 17th green.

In the final game Scott Gregory also played well. Leading 2Up after 11 holes he fell foul of the brutal finishing holes which to his credit Maverick McNeally negotiated very impressively. McNeally ended up winning 3&1 on the 17th green.

Day 2 – Morning Foursomes

At the end of play on Saturday the pairings / draws for Day 2 were announced.

GB&I go into Day 2 requiring an exceptional performance. A victory in the Sunday Foursomes series is essential if they are to stage a comeback and perhaps more likely add some respectability to the final score.

Unsurprisingly the GB&I pairing of Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant have been dropped with Matthew Jordan and Robert MacIntyre introduced in game 4.

The Day 2 Foursomes Draw (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

Day 2 – Afternoon Singles

Sunday sees 10 games and all 20 players out on the course contesting the Singles series.

The draw shows a number of repeat matches from Day 1 – Jack Singh Brar and Robert MacIntyre will again play Stewart Hagestad and Cameron Champ. Hopefully the results are the same on Day 2 !

Best of luck to GB&I. Let’s make USA work for every point today.

The Day 2 Singles Draw (Photo: USGA Walker Cup Website)

ME

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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79. 20 Quick Observations From The Official Practice Day

9th September 2017

I spent yesterday at the Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) looking at the course and watching all of the players practice.

This is some of what I heard, saw and experienced: –

1. The North Course is even better than I thought it would be – and I arrived with high expectations having read a lot about the recent Gil Hanse renovation.

2. The clue was in the location – Beverly Hills – but it is far more hilly and undulating than any of the photos I had seen suggested.

3. Holes 3 – 8 in particular are magnificent. The land in this most northerly part of the property is stunning with height changes, steep banking and barranca framing all of the holes.

4. The Par 3’s are all excellent. The 4th (230 yards) and 11th (289 yards) are very long but both severely downhill so hugely inviting when stood on the tee.

5. In passing Lionel Ritchie’s house (see photo below) beside the 4th green is one of the finest properties I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. As I was admiring it one of the LACC members volunteered that the owner, no names were obviously mentioned, also owned the two properties next door (to the left) in addition to the main house.

Lionel Ritchie’s Property Overlooking The 4th Green (Photo: GolfBible)

6. The course is very long, particularly the back nine which plays 3,875 yards. There are four Par 4’s which are 500+ yards, including the three closing holes.

7. The fairways are very wide on all of the holes so I expect players will be using driver off many of the tees.

8. The rough looks low, almost non existent, but it is thick and tangly. Balls can sit up in it but equally fall through and penalise players for inaccuracy.

9. The bunkering is exceptional. Superbly shaped, large and often deep. Most of the bunkers, particularly those greenside, have a very thick collar of rough around them. Players will be shouting for their misdirected shots to find the sand as balls that finish here will be almost ‘dead’.

10. The greens are generally very large and looked quick. Getting the speed early on will be critical as will being on the right side of some of the tougher hole locations. The two exceptions being the Par 4 6th and the front portion of the short 17th which are very narrow targets.

The 46th Walker Cup Programme (Photo: GolfBible)

11. Many of the larger greens have small promontories, surrounded by sand, which will enable the USGA to really tuck some flags away if they wish.

12. LACC looks like being a very good match play course with a number of sporty risk reward holes evident.

13. The GB&I players – who played in group’s of 5, (1) Ellis / Davidson / Boote / Syme / Singh Brar and (2) Gregory / McBride / MacIntyre / Plant / Jordan – seemed to have been given free reign during the final practice session.

14. GB&I Group 1 didn’t play the full 18. They played holes 1, 2 and 9 before playing the back nine and walking in early. They then practiced their putting and went to the range.

A Signed 46th Walker Cup Flag (Photo: GolfBible)

15. There didn’t seem to be any competitive play going on yesterday and there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of R&A Selector observation taking place. It was as if the Day 1 foursomes pairings / singles order had already been determined and Friday’s play was irrelevant in this regard.

16. I anticipate that some players are going to be exposed by the length and severity of the LACC test. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some very one sided matches.

17. Understandably there are very few GB&I supporters in Los Angeles outside of each player’s family and close friends. You have to be pretty committed to make a 5,400 mile journey for an amateur golf event. Therefore this is going to be an away match in the strictest sense with a large partisan home crowd.

18. Recent Walker Cup matches have tended to go to the home team and historically GB&I have always struggled over here. I certainly travelled more in hope than expectation and reluctantly have to accept it is hard to see anything other than a comfortable USA win. As is always the case a good start to quieten the home crowd and build a little momentum this morning will be imperative for GB&I. I obviously wish GB&I well and hope our players can do themselves justice when proceedings begin. It would be great to witness a big sporting upset live.

19. The Day 1 pairings were announced at the opening ceremony and as with the original team selection it is hard before a ball has been struck to overly question them. It’s now down to the players to deliver.

20. Finally, the LACC is a very special place and everyone on site is delighted they have the opportunity to showcase their club and course. All of the membership / volunteers I came into contact with were proactive, friendly and welcoming. With two courses and superb practice facilities it has the space to accommodate any match or tournament.

ME.

Copyright © 2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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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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73. Connor Syme Shines At The U.S. Amateur Championship

18th August 2017

The 117th U.S. Amateur Championship started last Monday at Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.

Within the field of 312 players from 29 different countries were nine players from Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I).Here is a list of how they have got on in order of success: –

1. Connor SYME 21 (SCO)
SP – 72 BA / 70 RV (+2) Tied 35th
MP – Lost Quarter Finals 2&1 to Doug Ghim (USA)

2. Robert MACINTYRE 21 (SCO)
SP – 68 BA / 74 RV (+2) Tied 35th
MP – Lost Round of 32 3&1 to Dawson Armstrong (USA)

3. Jack SINGH BRAR 20 (ENG)
SP – 69 RV / 69 BA (-2) Tied 8th
MP – Lost Round of 64 3&1 to Joey Vrzich (USA)

4. Harry ELLIS 21 (ENG) – 2017 Amateur Champion
SP – 73 BA / 71 RV (+4) Tied 57th
Missed out in 13-for-8 play-off for a final MP spot
MP- Did Not Qualify

5. Scott GREGORY 22 (ENG)
SP – 70 BA / 75 RV (+5) Tied 66th
MP – Did Not Qualify

6. David BOOTE 22 (WAL)
SP – 76 RV / 70 BA (+6) Tied 81st
MP – Did Not Qualify

7. Alfie PLANT 25 (ENG)
SP – 74 RV / 76 BA (+10) Tied 130th
MP – Did Not Qualify

8. Stuart GREHAN 24 (IRE)
SP – 75 BA / 76 RV (+11) Tied 156th
MP – Did Not Qualify

9. Daniel SUTTON 21 (ENG)
SP – 79 RV / 76 BA (+15) Tied 206th
MP – Did Not Qualify

Riviera Country Club (Photo: California GOLF)

From a Walker Cup perspective the U.S. Amateur Championship for me was about whether David BOOTE, Scott GREGORY or Stuart GREHAN could deliver a performance that could underpin their potential selection for the GB&I team. Boote and Gregory may both still make the final R&A team but given the competition for places I believe the decision will be finely balanced.

Good luck to Connor SYME (USA) in his Quarter Final match today against Doug GHIM (USA). What a psychological boost it would be for our Walker Cup Team if he could get to the Semi-Finals or dare I dream even further.

To view the full Stroke Play Qualifying and Match Play Stage please click here – U.S. Amateur Championship Live Scoring

For more information on the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship please click here to read my – GolfBible Preview and Daily Reports

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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62. Connor Syme Qualifies For The Open Championship

6th July 2017

There was good news from Gailes Links earlier this week when Scotland’s Connor SYME came through Final Qualifying to earn his place at this month’s 146th Open Championship.

Connor shot rounds of 71 and 67 in often wet and windy conditions to finish tied 1st on -4 alongside USA’s Julian Suri.

Connor Syme (Photo: Matthew Lewis)

Like Alfie Plant last weekend at the European Amateur, who is 25 today, Syme gave himself an early golfing birthday present with his performance. He is 22 on 11th July.

Connor’s likely Walker Cup teammates Matthew JORDAN (ENG) and Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) also did well in Ayrshire finishing 10th and tied 11th respectively.

Down in Nottinghamshire Stefano Mazzoli (ITA) and Rhys NEVIN-WHARTON (ENG) both recorded -7 results at Hollinwell but sadly missed out in a 1-from-3 play-off with Pro Laurie Canter.

It was also a close thing down at Royal Cinque Ports for some of our other leading amateurs too.

David BOOTE (WAL) made the 1-from-4 play-off after rounds of 71 and 70 (-1) but like at Walton Heath for the US Open Qualifier a few weeks ago just came up short in the final reckoning.

Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Harry HALL (ENG) both finished on Even par to miss out on the same Kent play-off. Josh HILLEARD (ENG) on +2 was also in the mix.

Finally, Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG), paired with home favourite Ian Poulter, did well at Woburn. His rounds of 72 and 68 (-4) on The Marquess’ Course saw him finish tied 8th.

So I make it a total of five amateurs competing this year at Royal Birkdale: –
Luca Cianchetti (ITA) – 2016 European Amateur Champion
Harry ELLIS (ENG) – 2017 Amateur Champion
Maverick McNealy (USA) – 2016 Mark McCormack Medal Winner
Alfie PLANT (ENG) – 2017 European Amateur Champion
Connor SYME (SCO) – via Final Qualifying at Gailes Links

Australia’s Curtis LUCK, the 2016 US Amateur Champion, also held an exemption for Royal Birkdale but gave this up when he chose to turn Professional after The Masters.

Good luck to them all but particularly Messrs. Ellis, Plant and Syme !

Here are the results from the five Final Qualifying events if you wish to investigate them further: –
Gailes Links
Hillside
Hollinwell
Royal Cinque Ports
Woburn

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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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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53. JSB Secures His Walker Cup Place At The Brabazon Trophy

30th May 2016

Kyle MCCLATCHIE (-10) won the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship last weekend at Woodhall Spa becoming the fifth South African to lift the famous Brabazon Trophy.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a good event for the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) players in the field, including many of the Walker Cup squad members.

The main plaudits this week go to Jamie STEWART (SCO), Jake BURNAGE (ENG) and Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) who all finished on -9 to tie for second place. Interestingly none of the three are in the current Walker Cup squad.

Jamie STEWART had a superb weekend shooting the two lowest scores in rounds 3 and 4; a 67 (-6) and a 68 (-5) respectively. Coming quickly on the heels of his tied 7th place at the Lytham Trophy, as well as a number of other good finishes this year, he is increasingly looking like a potential dark horse for the Walker Cup. A couple more top 10s and the selectors will certainly have to look more closely at his credentials.

Jake BURNAGE fits a similar mould to Stewart. He continued his rich vein of form at Woodhall. Having finished 3rd at the Lytham Trophy he put together a very consistent 71, 70, 70 and 72 at Woodhall Spa. I was particularly impressed with his three birdies in a row finish on the final day.

Barring a complete collapse in form over the coming weeks Lytham Trophy winner Jack SINGH BRAR‘s tied second place at the Brabazon with scores of 67 70 74 72 must surely have secured his spot in the GB&I Team. It certainly has in mine.


Jack Singh Brar (Photo: Leaderboard Photography)

Another non-Squad member Matthew JORDAN (ENG) has also started to show up well. He has now finished in the Top 10 at the Lytham Trophy (T7), Irish Amateur Open (T4) and the Brabazon Trophy (5th) in the last month. Coming from a little further back than some of his peers he still has work to do if he is to make our Walker Cup team but few others are demonstrating his consistency and 2017 form.

Dan BROWN (ENG) finished in 6th place, the best from the Walker Cup squad players, to get back on track after a relatively quiet spell.

David BOOTE (WAL) finished 7th and Connor SYME (SCO) tied 8th. As I  have stated previously Syme is a certain Walker Cup pick for me and Boote, if not yet quite at that level, is a very strong probable.

In an aside David Boote nearly made himself a Walker Cup certainty on Monday when he just missed out on a spot in the 2017 US Open Championship at Erin Hills. Whilst the Sectional Qualifier at Walton Heath, his home club, played to his strengths his new course record 62 (-10) on the New Course was hugely impressive. A slightly disappointing 73 on the Old Course in the afternoon saw him ultimately miss out in a -9 ‘7 for 4’ play-off unfortunately. US Open SQ Results

16 of the 21 GB&I Walker Cup Squad players competed at the Brabazon Trophy. Here are their scores and finishing positions: –

Dan BROWN                 72 – 68 – 75 – 72      -5      6th
David BOOTE               74 – 69 – 72 – 73      -4      7th
Connor SYME               78 – 70 – 70 – 71      -3      T8
Conor O’ROURKE        71 – 72 – 72 – 75      -2      T13
Craig ROSS                    70 – 67 – 79 – 76       E      T20
Alex GLEESON             76 – 71 – 75 – 72     +2      T25
Robert MACINTYRE   68 – 70 – 83 – 73     +2      T25
Craig HOWIE                74 – 74 – 71 – 75     +2      T25
Jack DAVIDSON           72 – 70 – 75 – 78      +3     T35
Alfie PLANT                  71 – 70 – 81 – 74     +4     T37
James WALKER            71 – 79 – 75 – 80    +13    T59

Robin DAWSON           68 – 83                               MC
Marco PENGE               79 – 73                               MC
Owen EDWARDS         74 – 78                                MC
Colm CAMPBELL         73 – 79                               MC
Bradley MOORE                                                      WD (+9 after 10 holes)

Sandy SCOTT (SCO) had entered but withdrew before play commenced having only just returned from Texas Tech in the US.

Barry HUME (SCO), Stuart GREHAN (IRE), Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) were the other four squad players that didn’t compete last weekend. Gregory of course has an interesting few weeks ahead of him with invitations to The Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour followed by the US Open Championship to enjoy.

Given his limited 2017 schedule I can only assume Barry Hume is working and therefore unable to compete as often as he would like.

Click this link to view the – Brabazon Trophy Final Results

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All Rights Reserved.

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50. Jack Singh Brar Wins The 2017 Lytham Trophy

7th May 2017

Jack SINGH BRAR today won the prestigious Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club. His rounds of 68, 73, 72 and 75 for a +8 total earned him a memorable wire-to-wire victory.

On the back of a good set of results in Australia and his recent Hampshire Salver win Jack is now clearly very well placed to secure a spot within the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

There are now only 125 days until the match starts and around 110 until the Teams are selected.

Jack is currently not in the GB&I Walker Cup squad. He also chose to step away from the formal England Golf coaching set up at the start of this season. However, following his big win on the Fylde Coast he has risen to 48th in the SPWAR and is now the fifth highest GB&I player (fourth if Sam Horsfield, who is expected to turn Pro in early June, is excluded). Sometimes it pays to trust yourself and ‘plough your own furrow’ in this life.

Jack Singh Brar With His Father Ami (Photo: @AMcGlue)

Two other English players finished 2nd and 3rd at Lytham.

The Walker Cup claims of Charlie STRICKLAND (+10), who only turns 18 later this month, will have grown a little bit louder this weekend too. Charlie won both the Duncan Putter and U18 Peter McEvoy Trophy in April but his 2nd place at Lytham is a step up on both. A man who’s confidence is growing and now has it all to play for.

Jake BURNAGE (+11) also followed up his Hampshire Hog win at North Hants GC a few weeks ago with a creditable third place here.

This was the first major amateur men’s competition of the 2017 GB&I season. As such most of our likely Walker Cup candidates were on display. Out of the current 21-man GB&I Squad only Paul MCBRIDE and Sandy SCOTT, both still competing for their US Colleges, and Barry HUME, who chose not to enter, were not present in Lancashire.

I think it is fair to say that the 2017 Lytham Trophy was generally not a confidence boosting week for our leading players and Walker Cup hopes.

Owen EDWARDS (+15 / 9th) was the highest finisher from the 18 GB&I Walker Cup squad players competing.

Here are the Lytham Trophy scores of the Walker Cup squad players: –

Owen EDWARDS          76 – 74 – 74 – 71  (+15)  9th
Jack DAVIDSON            79 – 70 – 72 – 75  (+16)  14th
Robert MACINTYRE    76 – 73 – 70 – 78  (+17)  21st
David BOOTE                76 – 76 – 77 – 71  (+20)  29th
Dan BROWN                  78 – 71 – 77 – 77  (+23)  34th

13 of the GB&I squad members missed the +12 36-hole cut as you can see below:-

Alfie PLANT                   80 – 73  (+13)  46th
Scott GREGORY             80 – 73  (+13)  47th
Craig HOWIE                 79 – 74  (+13)  48th
Stuart GREEHAN          79 – 74  (+13)  50th
Alex GLEESON              82 – 72  (+14)  56th
James WALKER             82 – 73  (+15)  74th
Bradley MOORE            79 – 76  (+15)  80th
Connor SYME                 80 – 76  (+16)  85th
Colm CAMPBELL          79 – 77  (+16)  86th
Conor O’ROURKE         79 – 78  (+17)  91st
Robin DAWSON            83 – 76  (+19)  104th
Craig ROSS                     82 – 78  (+20)  111th
Marco PENGE                94 – 74  (+28)  139th

Click here to view the – 2017 Lytham Trophy Results

Click here to read my report – GolfBible 2017 Lytham Trophy Preview & Results

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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44. Jack Davidson Wins The Individual European Nations Cup

2nd April 2017

WALES, represented by David BOOTE, Jack DAVIDSON, Joshua DAVIES and Owen EDWARDS, yesterday won the European Nations Cup in Spain.

The recently renovated RGC Sotogrande course, presented with super fast greens, proved to be a very stern test for all of the teams competing due to the windy conditions.

This was a great win for Wales. Their total of +13 was 11 shots better than second placed IRELAND (+24) and 21 shots better than fourth placed SCOTLAND (+34). ENGLAND (+61), never really got to grips with the conditions, and finished a disappointing 12th.

Wales – l-r Josh Davies, David Boote, Jack Davidson and Owen Edwards (Photo: GUW)

In the context of the Walker Cup it was Jack DAVIDSON who once again stole the headlines. Rounds of 70, 70, 70 and 73 (-5) gave him the Individual European Nations Cup title by 4-shots.

Whilst the overall field – consisting of 16 four man teams – wasn’t as a strong as the Spanish International Amateur Championship, which he won up the coast at El Saler last month, in many ways this was the more impressive win. No longer under the radar he certainly arrived at Sotogrande with more expectation on his shoulders. He then proceeded to complete a near wire-to-wire win holding off a select international field with a total of 20 birdies and 2 eagles.

The Newport man has certainly given himself a magnificent platform to build on with regard to his potential 2017 Walker Cup selection. For me he now has a spot on our Team and it’s his to lose.

Whilst there are nine or ten major amateur events still to be played over the next 4 months Jack has moved into the Top 10 in the Great British and Irish (GB&I) rankings, there is now less than 150 days until the team is announced and I ask myself how many of the candidates will have two major (overseas) wins to their name come the middle of August. I see no reason why he shouldn’t continue playing well and go from strength to strength. Of course, in many ways the pressure is also now off him.

Ireland’s Robin DAWSON (-1) finished second and was the only other player to complete the 72-holes under par. This was his third runner-up finish of the season.  Robin is clearly in form and building a persuasive 2017 playing record for his own inclusion in the GB&I Walker Cup team.

The fact that the Czech Republic’s Nicolas SCHELLONG (+6) was third shows the degree of separation that Davidson and Dawson achieved this week.

Scotland’s Robert MACINTYRE and Connor SYME (both +11) both battled hard to achieve a tied 7th finish. I have already said in previous articles that both of these players, along with Scott GREGORY (over in Augusta, ahead of The Masters) are certainties in my GB&I Team, so their continued solid play was good to see.

Davidson’s teammates Owen EDWARDS and David BOOTE (both +12) finished tied 10th. No one would be surprised to see Edwards continue in this vein given his closeness to Jack – he won’t want him having all the glory for long ! I am also pulling for Boote who has been one of GB&I’s leading players for a few years. Having graduated last year from Stanford his knowledge of the U.S. opposition, California and the Los Angeles Country Club course, which I imagine he has played, would probably be useful for the Team.

Irish pair Alex GLEESON and Stuart GREHAN (both +15) finished tied 16th. These results would have been much higher save for disappointing final days; Gleeson shooting 80 and Grehan 82 after both made poor starts on Sotogrande’s front nine. Both remain very much in the Walker Cup picture.

With Davidson and Dawson, neither of whom were selected for the initial GB&I Walker Cup squad but both presumably being added as I write, continuing to play well the GB&I selection story remains intriguing. What is clear is some of the ‘early favourites’ for inclusion need to find some form and results – and quickly. The Lytham Trophy early in May will be everyone’s next opportunity to shine.

Here are the full Men’s European Nations Cup results:-
Individual Results
Team Results

For more information on the European Nations Cup tournament please read my article – GolfBible ENC Preview

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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42. Jack Davidson Reigns In Spain

6th March 2017

Jack DAVIDSON won the Spanish International Amateur Championship yesterday at the challenging El Saler course near Valencia.

For the man from Newport, Wales this was by far the best result of his career. The Spanish Amateur is one of the world’s top 20 amateur events nowadays enjoying a strong entry from across Europe every year. First played in 1911 former winners include Philip Walton (1981), Jose Maria Olazábel (1983-84), Darren Clarke (1990), Sergio García (1998), Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño (2003), Joost Luiten (2005), Danny Willet (2008) and Romain Langasque (2016).

Jack Davidson (Photo: Adolfo Luna)

The 36-hole stroke play qualifier was played in strong winds which caused havoc with the scoring, particularly in Round 1. Chris MACLEAN (SCO) eventually achieved medalist honours with an impressive 143 (-1) total. He was the only player to record an under par score. Stuart GREHAN (IRE) 144 (E) was 2nd whilst Alfie PLANT (ENG) and Harry GODDARD (ENG), both 146 (+2), also qualified well finishing in tied 4th. Interestingly the eventual Champion shot rounds of 76 and 75 to secure the 32nd and final place in the match play stage with a 151 (+7) total.

Amongst those to miss out on the match play were Initial Walker Cup Squad members Barry HUME (+8), Bradley MOORE (+8), Conor O’ROURKE (+10), Robert MACINTYRE (+11), Colm CAMPBELL (+11), Alex GLEESON (+14) and Owen EDWARDS (+16). In addition in form Irish player Robin DAWSON (+8) also just missed out.

Davidson beat Maclean (2&1), Javier Sainz (1Up), David Puig (3&2) and Kevin LE BLANC (2&1) in the semis to set up a 36-hole final with Englishman Marco PENGE. Penge went into lunch with a 1-hole lead but Davidson came out strongly in the afternoon. The Welshman moved into the lead after a birdie on the fourth and didn’t relinquish it, eventually running out a 4&3 winner on the 15th green.

Marco Penge will be disappointed that the Spanish title evaded him particularly as this was the second match play final he has lost this year. He reached the final of the New South Wales Amateur in Australia a month ago before losing by 1-hole to compatriot Scott GREGORY. Gregory who lost last year’s Spanish Amateur final to Langasque was missing this year as he paces himself ahead of his Masters appearance next month. Nevertheless Penge can take solace in the fact he has moved a few steps closer to the Amateur World’s top 50 (he’s now 55th in the SPWAR) and has once again demonstrated competitive match play skills. Both should stand him in good stead as this Walker Cup year progresses. He won’t have long to dwell on the final as next week he starts his defence of the Sunningdale Foursomes, which he and girlfriend Sophie Lamb won last year.

There is no denying that Jack Davidson’s win was a surprise but upon closer inspection he does appear to be a player growing in confidence and ability. This season he has already finished 3rd in the South American Amateur (74 67 69 68 -10) and followed that up with a tied 7th place result at the Portuguese International Amateur (71 75 74 66 -2) last month.

Jack started 2017 ranked 580th in the SPWAR. He is now 131st and 18th in the GB&I list. The Spanish International Amateur is clearly a prestigious title and it will be interesting to see if he can build on this in the coming months and push himself further into the Walker Cup reckoning. With David BOOTE already well placed could we see at least two Welsh players in the final 2017 GB&I team ?

Whatever happens no one can take this title off him and 2017 will be a memorable year. Well done to Jack on a great win and good luck for the rest of the year.

Jack Davidson Holes The Winning Putt (Photo: Adolfo Luna)

Spanish International Amateur Results
– Stroke Play
– Match Play
Final Hole-By-Hole

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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40. Notes From A Big Island – Australia

7th February 2017

Now that our players have returned from Australia I wanted to reflect on what we had learnt in the context of the 2017 Walker Cup.

For those that don’t know a number of our leading English, Scottish and Welsh players have competed in the following elite tournaments and championships over the last four weeks: –

The Australian Master of the Amateurs (4-7 Jan)
The Australian Amateur Championship (17-22 Jan)
The Avondale Amateur (24-27 Jan)
The New South Wales Medal and Amateur Championship (30 Jan-3 Feb)

Nothing is certain in life but the selection of both Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) for the 2017 GB&I Walker Cup Team is increasingly looking so.

This is a big statement to make this early in the season but one that I believe is entirely justified. They both enjoy strong amateur rankings and most importantly have again demonstrated in Australia that they are unquestionably two of our leading match play exponents. Both of course were finalists in the 2016 Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl.

Scott Gregory (Photo: @ScottGregory5)

Corhampton’s Scott GREGORY saved his best golf for the last event – the New South Wales (NSW) Amateur. He qualified tied 9th in the 36-hole stroke play Medal before negotiating five rounds of match play to win the Championship, beating Marco PENGE (ENG) by 1-hole in the Final. Scott also played well in the Australian Amateur a few weeks before. He qualified tied 12th before losing his Round 3 match to medalist Kevin Yuan (AUS).

Robert MACINTYRE was on a shorter trip competing in the Australian Master of the Amateurs (AMOTA) and the Australian Amateur only. He withdrew from the AMOTA after Round 1 due to illness but fortunately recovered fully to make a great run at the Australian Amateur. Having qualified tied 20th he progressed serenely through to the semi-finals where Min Woo Lee, Australian’s reigning US Junior Amateur champion, just had too much for him on the day in a 3&1 defeat.

The other player who had a big tour was Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG). Jack has now stepped away from the England Golf coaching set up and presumably travelled out to Australia under his own steam. He didn’t play in the AMOTA but did very well in the three other events. He firstly snook into the Australian Amateur match play stage via a play off and got through to Round 3 before losing to Robbie Morrison (AUS). He was then 2nd in The Avondale Amateur with an impressive 72-hole score of -10. He finished the trip with a strong qualification in the NSW Medal (-3, tied 9th) and then progressed to the Quarter Finals where he lost by 1 hole to South Korea’s Dongmin Kim. He started the year in 270th place in the SPWAR. Today he is 85th and the 8th highest ranked GB&I player in this list. Whilst he wasn’t there a few weeks ago I am sure he must now have played his way into the selector’s minds with his string of results Down Under.

I am convinced that Marco PENGE (ENG) will have a successful Pro career simply because of his inconsistent play and positive mental attitude. When he is ‘on’ he is very good but when he is ‘off’ he can appear very average. The good thing is this appears to me to be exactly what is required in the pro game. When it’s your week you have to cash in big time and when it’s not you have to laugh it off and move on – Marco seems to do both. Penge was off the pace for much of the Tour, shooting big numbers and missing cuts. I am sure some observers were wondering what he was even doing out there. Then, almost out of nowhere he arrives at the NSW Amateur and plays beautifully. He qualified tied 3rd on -6 before battling his way through the match play stage and ultimately losing the close Final with Gregory.  So he arrives back in the UK ranked 75th in the SPWAR, up about 60 places, and 7th in the GB&I ranking – job done. I hope he can find some more consistency back in Europe as this will help to secure the selector’s trust and perhaps cement a team spot. If not then establishing which Marco is going to turn up in Los Angeles will be difficult for them and make his inclusion something of a gamble.

Before finishing off this article I wanted to mention Evan GRIFFITH (WAL). He once again found Australia to his liking. Having reached the semi-finals of the Australian Amateur last year he once again played very well; this year reaching the quarter-finals. Let’s hope that in 2017 he can follow up this latest performance down under with a few Top 10’s back in Europe.

Other GB&I Walker Cup squad players to compete in Australia included David BOOTE (WAL), Owen EDWARDS (WAL), Bradley MOORE (ENG) and Alfie PLANT (ENG). All had their moments without necessarily playing at their very best.

Irrespective of whether their Walker Cup selection is now as certain as I suggest I am sure we can all agree to congratulate Scott and Robert for maintaining their form and competitiveness through our early winter and for delivering some good results in Australia.

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

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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39. GB&I Walker Cup Squad Announced

23rd January 2017

The R&A have today announced an initial Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) squad for the 46th Walker Cup match which will take place on 9-10 September 2017 at the Los Angeles Country Club.

GB&I Captain Craig Watson said “We have identified a strong group of players who are all in contention for a place on the team and we will be monitoring their performance and results over the coming season. We will also pay close attention to the progress and form of players who have not been included in this current squad as they also have the opportunity to play their way into contention for the team selected to play the USA in September.”

The following 19 players were included in the initial squad: –

ENGLAND
Daniel BROWN (Masham, Yorkshire)
Scott GREGORY (Corthampton, Hampshire)
Bradley MOORE (Kedleston Park, Derbyshire)
Marco PENGE (Golf at Goodwood, Sussex)
Alfie PLANT (Sundridge Park, Kent)
James WALKER (Oaks, Yorkshire)

IRELAND
Colm CAMPBELL (Warrenpoint, County Down)
Alex GLEESON (Castle, Dublin)
Stuart GREHAN (Tullamore, County Offaly)
Paul MCBRIDE (The Island, Dublin)
Conor O’ROURKE (Naas, County Kildare)

SCOTLAND
Craig HOWIE (Peebles, Borders)
Barry HUME (Haggs Castle, Glasgow)
Robert MACINTYRE (Glencruitten, Argyll & Bute)
Craig ROSS (Kirkhill, Lanarkshire)
Sandy SCOTT (Nairn, Nairnshire)
Connor SYME (Drumoig, Fife)

WALES
David BOOTE (Walton Heath, Surrey)
Owen EDWARDS (Llanwern, Newport)

The current rankings of the selected players are shown in the table below: –

As the above rankings clearly show the GB&I Team would have been much stronger with Sam HORSFIELD in it. However, his exclusion makes clear he is intending to turn Pro shortly after the US College season ends and certainly before the match in September. It’s a shame he couldn’t hang on a little longer – his golfing CV will be all the poorer for having never played in the Walker Cup.

On 23rd January 2015 a 20-man squad was announced for the Royal Lytham match. This included Bradley NEIL (SCO), Ashley CHESTERS (ENG), Grant FORREST (SCO), Sam HORSFIELD (ENG), Nick MARSH (ENG), Gavin MOYNIHAN (IRE), Paul HOWARD (ENG), Ben STOW (ENG), Paul DUNNE (IRE), Jack HUME (IRE), Jamie SAVAGE (SCO), Gary HURLEY (IRE), Adam CHAPMAN (ENG), Jack MCDONALD (SCO), Cormac SHARVIN (IRE), Jimmy MULLEN (ENG), Tomasz ANDERSON (ENG), Daniel BROWN (ENG), Graeme ROBERTSON (SCO) and David BOOTE (WAL). As you can see from the names highlighted above only Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) was able to break into this group and that only came about when Sam Horsfield withdrew.

Whilst the rankings mean little in the heat of match play golf the task facing GB&I later this year is emphasised by the fact that the United States currently has 9 players in the Top 20 of both the SPWAR and WAGR.

I had been unsure as to whether a GB&I Walker Cup Squad would be announced for the 2017 match.  Whilst Past Captain Nigel Edwards had announced one ahead of the 2015 home match at Royal Lytham he had previously been dismissive of a Squad for the 2013 away match at the National Golf links of America.

Speaking in 2013 Edwards said: “We’re not picking a squad this year simply because it works well when the match is played here, but with the match being in America there is no point bringing guys together to play a golf course that would bear no resemblance to the real thing. As for traveling over there for a site visit with them, the schedule is so busy that it’s almost impossible to get the guys together, especially with some players in college golf. Besides, often we would pick a squad in the past, and some of the guys would turn professional and drop out. Others playing in college golf would not be named in the original squad, then would play well in the winter and would look conspicuous by their absence from the squad.”

GB&I squads, with team gatherings in the build up to the match, were first introduced in 1995 to try and arrest a series of losses. The improved team spirit and better prepared foursome pairings have contributed to an upturn in GB&I fortunes over the last 20 years.

With no team practice sessions announced by The R&A today one may question what new Captain Craig Watson has got out of showing his hand in this way. Of course it provides some match PR and enables us to see how our leading players react to their inclusion or exclusion. Despite this I am sure their will be some informal dinners ahead of the Lytham Trophy and / or Brabazon Trophy events to start the team building.

For away matches, like Nigel Edwards suggested, I think it may be better to leave any formal statements until the actual team announcement. Then gather a little earlier so that more preparation is done immediately before the match. With the US Amateur Championship being played literally down the road in Los Angeles a few weeks before the Walker Cup the golfing calendar would certainly have appeared to suit this approach in 2017.

Either way with a GB&I Squad now announced the match is very much on the horizon. I am certainly looking forward to following the twists and turns of selection over the next 7 months.

Today’s full R&A announcement can be read here – ‘R&A Announce GB&I Walker Cup Squad’

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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26. The 2016 World Amateur Team Championship

25th September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

T6. USA -15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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