111. My 2019 GB&I Walker Cup Team

18th August 2019

Here are the ten players I would select for the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) 2019 Walker Cup team.

This is not a prediction of who will be selected. It would probably be different if it was. This is simply the team I’d go for based on my observations and selection criteria.

I am conscious I have a) not attended any of the three practice sessions at Hoylake to see who has taken to the course and b) am not overly familiar with the players so don’t know too much about their personalities and potential impact in the team room. I am sure these are both factors that will influence the formal selection.

The GB&I team is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August by The R&A.

I have included three Appendices below which show my selection criteria, the performance records over the last 12 months of all of the players mentioned and finally the latest amateur rankings available to us. You may want to refer to these in reaching your own selection decisions.

Here is my GB&I team in the order I have selected them, along with five honourable mentions, as our friends in the U.S.A. like to say, to describe those who have just missed out: –

SPWAR as at 18/08/19 / WAGR as at 14/08/19

1) Euan WALKER (23) – Kilmarnock (Barassie), Scotland
SPWAR #4 / WAGR #14
Euan won the African Amateur Championship early in the year and has enjoyed a very consistent season thereafter. His runner-up spots at the Amateur Championship and European Amateur have taken him to the top of the GB&I rankings and made him my No. 1 selection.

Euan Walker (Photo: European Golf Association)

2) Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Dundalk, Ireland
SPWAR #13 / WAGR #23
Caolan has risen out of the pack in 2019 with a number of excellent results. The West of Ireland was his only win but look at the number of top 10s. He has a good links pedigree and has performed well in various match play events too.

Caolan Rafferty (Photo: Maynooth University) 

3) Tom SLOMAN (22) – Taunton & Pickeridge, England
SPWAR #27 / WAGR #35
The European Nations win at Sotogrande was the highlight of Tom’s season. He has a sound match play record and a well established foursomes partnership with Tom Plumb (see below). Current form looks good too with a strong qualification at last week’s U.S. Amateur.

Tom Sloman (Photo: England Golf / Leaderboard Photography)

4) Ben JONES (19) – Northamptonshire County, England
SPWAR #19 / WAGR #39
Ben secured his place with excellent results at The Amateur and European Amateur Championships. He is a competitive player with a good match play record. He has also won at Royal Liverpool before so should have positive memories of the host course.

Ben Jones (Photo: European Golf Association)

5) Sandy SCOTT (20) – Nairn, Scotland
SPWAR #19 / WAGR #51
Sandy took his positive finish to his U.S. college season with Texas Tech. into the summer events back in Europe. He played well in the Arnold Palmer Cup, The Amateur and the European Amateur Team Championships. An experienced international I assume he will pair up with compatriot Euan Walker in the foursomes.

Sandy Scott (Photo: texastech.com)

6) Tom PLUMB (20) – Yeovil, England
SPWAR #38 / WAGR #138
Tom won the Cape Province Open in South Africa and has enjoyed a very consistent season. He has played well in all of this summer’s links-based events too. An experienced match player his selection is supported by his long standing foursomes partnership with close friend Tom Sloman.

Tom Plumb (Photo: Pieter Els)

7) Harry HALL (21) – West Cornwall, England
SPWAR #26 / WAGR #76
Harry graduated from UNLV this year and is one of our most experienced players. He impressed in the events he came back to play in this summer with a number of high finishes. I think he deserves his amateur swan song at Hoylake although his late withdrawal from the English Amateur may come back to haunt him if his selection is tighter than I perceive.

Harry Hall (Photo: Las Vegas Review Journal)

8) James SUGRUE (22) – Mallow, Ireland
SPWAR #59 / WAGR #62
The Amateur champion enjoyed the best week of his golfing life just when it mattered most as far as 2019 Walker Cup selection is concerned. Anyone who wins The Amateur has earned their place and James brings a good links record and a solid match play record over a long period to the team.

James Sugrue (Photo: The R&A / Sam Barnes / Getty Images)

9) Jake BURNAGE (23) – Saunton, England
SPWAR #28 / WAGR #47
Jake’s win at the St. Andrews Links Trophy confirmed his credentials as one of GB&I’s best links players. Question marks over his match play record appear to have been partially answered with a recent run to the semi-finals of the English Amateur. He has been a little inconsistent this year but on his day is as good as anyone we can select. However, his non-selection for the 6-man England team at the European Team Championships suggests that one of The R&A selectors may not share my enthusiasm for him.

Jake Burnage (Photo: Burnage Family)

10) Ronan MULLARNEY (23) – Galway, Ireland
SPWAR #57 / WAGR #67
The more I have looked at Ronan’s record this summer, particularly in the major links events, the more I think he has every right to be included. He has an excellent match play record and won the Irish Close at Ballybunion just a few weeks ago so has form.

Ronan Mullarney (Photo: Pat Cashman Photography)

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The following players were close to being included in my team: –

11) Conor PURCELL (21) – Portmarnock, Ireland
SPWAR #21 / WAGR #16
I thought Conor was an absolute lock for the team when he won the Australian Amateur early in the season. Whilst there have been some good results, notably at the West of Ireland, the Irish Amateur Open and the European Amateur Team, the missed cuts at Lytham, the St. Andrews Links and the Amateur (played at his home club but admittedly whilst he was injured), concern me. Sadly there was no suggestion of an upturn in form at the U.S. Amateur this week either.

12) Conor GOUGH (16) – Stoke Park, England
SPWAR #240 / WAGR #2
Conor chose to concentrate on his exams this year and has therefore played a very restricted schedule. The 2018 Boys’ Amateur champion reminded us of his undoubted potential and tenacious match play skills though with his win at the English Amateur earlier this month. Worthy of consideration but lack of recent links golf and competition against GB&I peers make it hard for me to include him this time. He is our highest ranked player in the WAGR which may politically make it hard for The R&A selectors to leave him out.

13) Alex FITZPATRICK (20) – Hallamshire, England
SPWAR #55 / WAGR #41
Once Alex gained a place in the Wake Forest team he quickly found his feet, producing some notable finishes in the U.S. in 2019. I thought he would impose himself on the selectors when he returned to the U.K. this summer but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. He showed no liking for links golf missing the cut at both the St. Andrews Links and the Amateur Championship. If the match was in the U.S. one might give him the benefit of the doubt after his U.S. Amateur performances in 2018 and 2019 but unfortunately this year it isn’t.

14) Ben SCHMIDT (16) – Rotherham, England
SPWAR #113 / WAGR #8
Another excellent prospect whose win at the Brabazon Trophy was one of the highlights of the amateur year. Limited experience of men’s golf, match play and links courses stops me from throwing him in now. His time will come.

15) Josh MCMAHON (ENG) – Wallasey, England
SPWAR #125 / WAGR #149
Josh’s win at the Lytham Trophy in early May brought him in to the Walker Cup picture. Whilst it would have been nice to have local representation at Hoylake he simply hasn’t done as much over the season as the others listed above to warrant selection.

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Appendix 1

I have selected players who have demonstrated as many of the following characteristics to me as possible: –

1) Current form.
2) Championship wins in the last 12 months.
3) Links experience / results.
4) Match play experience / results.
5) Potential foursomes pairings.

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Appendix 2

Here is a summary of the results of all of the players I have considered for selection above as tabulated by both the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) and the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR):-

1) Euan WALKER (23) – Kilmarnock (Barassie), Scotland

2) Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Dundalk, Ireland

3) Tom SLOMAN (22) – Taunton & Pickeridge, England

4) Ben JONES (19) – Northamptonshire County, England

5) Sandy SCOTT (20) – Nairn, Scotland

6) Tom PLUMB (20) – Yeovil, England

7) Harry HALL (21) – West Cornwall, England

8) James SUGRUE (22) – Mallow, Ireland

9) Jake BURNAGE (23) – Saunton, England

10) Ronan MULLARNEY (23) – Galway, Ireland

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11) Conor PURCELL (21) – Portmarnock, Ireland

12) Conor GOUGH (16) – Stoke Park, England

13) Alex FITZPATRICK (20) – Hallamshire, England

14) Ben SCHMIDT (16) – Rotherham, England

15) Josh MCMAHON (ENG) – Wallasey, England

Appendix 3

Here are the latest amateur rankings that are available to us: –

Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (as at 18/08/19)

Click here to view the – Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking

World Amateur Golf Ranking (as at 14/08/19)

#2 Conor GOUGH (ENG)
#8 Ben SCHMIDT (ENG)
#14 Euan WALKER (SCO)
#16 Conor PURCELL (IRL)
#23 Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL)
#30 Joseph PAGDIN (ENG)
#35 Tom SLOMAN (ENG)
#39 Ben JONES (ENG)
#41 Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)
#47 Jake BURNAGE (ENG)
#51 Sandy SCOTT (SCO)
#62 James SUGRUE (IRL)
#67 Ronan MULLARNEY (IRL)
#73 Alex GLEESON (IRL)
#76 Harry HALL (ENG)
#85 Robin WILLIAMS (ENG)
#87 Mark POWER (IRL)
#88 David HAGUE (ENG)
#90 Bailey GILL (ENG)
#94 Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG)
#98 Jamie LI (ENG)
#107 Joe LONG (ENG)
#110 Charlie STRICKLAND (ENG)
#132 Billy MCKENZIE (ENG)
#136 Jake BOLTON (ENG)
#138 Tom PLUMB (ENG)

Click here to view the – World Amateur Golf Ranking

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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110. Gough And Schmidt Make Their GB&I Walker Cup Cases

5th August 2019

School’s out for summer and it’s two English school boys that have been making most of the noise since my last report.

But have either of them done enough to make the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team…..

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Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) won the English Boys’ U18 Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship for the Carris Trophy at Moor Park G.C. on 26th July.

Ben Schmidt (Photo: Schmidt Family)

Having won the Brabazon Trophy earlier this summer he became just the fourth player to win both the boys’ and men’s English Open Amateur Stroke Play titles in the same year. A remarkable achievement.

Ben’s rise to No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), which makes him GB&I’s highest ranked player, has had a number of observers understandably calling for his inclusion in our 2019 Walker Cup team.

I am still to be convinced.

I agree with his supporters that Ben has enjoyed a great season and is clearly one of Europe’s best U18 prospects. I am just not sure he is ready for the 2019 Walker Cup match or that his inclusion would necessarily be good for his development.

He justifiably should be under consideration by the selectors but I have a question mark over his lack of experience of both men’s amateur golf and elite match play games.

I also think he may have hampered his chances with his playing schedule over the critical final weeks. Indeed I wonder if his high WAGR will actually end up being his undoing.

Ben’s top 50 WAGR ranking on 26th June gained him an exemption in to the U.S. Amateur Championship which he is taking up. Play starts at Pinehurst in North Carolina on Monday 12th August.

The U.S. Amateur clashes with The R&A’s Boys’ Amateur Championship which is being played at Saunton. Ben would clearly have been one of the favourites for this title.

Ahead of this, for whatever reason, he chose not to enter last week’s English Men’s Amateur (30th July – 4th August) or take up his place in England’s team at The R&A Boys’ Home Internationals which start tomorrow in South Wales and finishes on Thursday 8th August.

Good performances at one or even both of these events – along with the Boys’ Amateur instead of the U.S. Amateur – could have easily pushed him over the line.

As it is all of his eggs are now in the U.S. Amateur Championship basket. Only time will tell if this strategy proves to be a successful one. If he makes the match play stage and can win a few games he will deserve his place in our team.

If Ben is selected he will probably become the first player to receive the honour without ever having played in any R&A Championship or selected GB&I team beforehand. His rise has been that meteoric.

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In many ways Conor GOUGH was last year’s Ben SCHMIDT. A string of wins albeit exclusively at the boys’ level. The main one of course being the prestigious Boys’ Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

Conor was selected for the original GB&I Walker Cup squad but due to focussing on his exams played none of the major amateur events during May and June. As a result it was no surprise to see him left out of the reduced 16-man squad a few weeks ago.

Like Schmidt Conor also received a WAGR generated exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship on 26th June. However, and I accept their circumstances were different, Conor chose to play the English Men’s Amateur and will be participating in the Boys’ Home Internationals before travelling to the United States.

In a stunning performance Gough won the English Men’s Amateur beating Callum Farr 3&2 in the Final at Hankley Common. On the way to the final he beat Jamie Li, Joshua McMahon, Curtis Knipes and Jake Burnage, once again highlighting his match play pedigree.

Conor Gough (Photo: Leaderboard Photography) 

This win inevitably brings Conor back to the table for GB&I Walker Cup selection.

Another major match play victory by the Englishman within two weeks of the 2019 selection date is hugely persuasive.

However, as you will see below I am not yet ready to add him into my team. As Aristotle said ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ and I need to see more.  However, if he does well this week at Ashburnham and shows up at the U.S. Amateur Championship he could very easily force his way in to the final line up.

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Conor Gough was clearly the star of the show at the English Men’s Amateur but in the context of the Walker Cup perhaps the real winner was fellow Englishman Jake BURNAGE.

Eight of the ten English members of the 16-man Walker Cup squad competed in what was, at least for me, an unofficial Walker Cup eliminator. It is after all a large group of English players that are in effect competing for the five remaining places.

Burnage ended up being the leading player out of the eight. Playing under some pressure he reached the Semi-Finals, winning four match play games, having also qualified well in 9th on 138 (-3). It was just the result the Devonian needed having already placed the St. Andrews Links Trophy on his C.V. in June.

The other squad players, some of whom really needed to move the dial to make the team, to differing degrees simply didn’t get it done – Tom SLOMAN (SP 37th / MP Rd4), Joshua MCMAHON (SP 45th / MP Rd4) Alex FITZPATRICK (SP 5th / MP Rd3), Matty LAMB (SP 24th / MP Rd3), Tom PLUMB (SP 7th / MP Rd2), Bailey GILL (SP 69th / MP Rd2) and David LANGLEY (SP MC).

Of the two missing players Harry HALL withdrew a week before to return to Las Vegas and I believe will not be playing again before the team is selected. Ben JONES chose to play in the Western Amateur Championship and will stay in the States before playing in the U.S. Amateur.

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Archie DAVIES, an original GB&I Walker Cup squad member, won the Welsh Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) last week at Tenby G.C.

Unfortunately in the context of this year’s Walker Cup selection this win is unlikely to bring Archie back into the discussion. He is another good young player who has every chance of making future teams though.


Runner Up Connor Jones (l) and Champion Archie Davies (r) Photo: Steve Jones)

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The Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) was also played last week and the Irish Men’s Amateur Championship (Close) started yesterday at Ballybunion.

Unfortunately none of the remaining Scottish or Irish Walker Cup panelists – Sandy SCOTT,  Euan WALKER, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL, Caolan RAFFERTY and James SUGRUE – entered so it is hard to see how these Championships will impact the Walker Cup selection.

George BURNS beat Lewis IRVINE in the final of the Scottish Amateur on their 19th hole at Crail Golfing Society.

With the exception of Power, the other three Irish lads are playing in the U.S. Amateur next week and therefore were unable to enter due to the clashing dates.

7th August Update
Ronan MULLARNEY, who also won the stroke play qualifying by 6-shots, beat Rob BRAZILL in the final of the Irish Amateur by 1 hole at Ballybunion G.C.

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The previous week also saw the playing of the South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch G.C. (on the 24th-28th July).

Five Irish Walker Cup panelists, four of whom attended the practice session at Hoylake which clashed with the Stroke Play Qualifying, were given byes into the Match Play competition.

Unfortunately all of them struggled to make much of an impression. John MURPHY reached the Quarter Finals but James SUGRUE, Mark POWER, Conor PURCELL and Caolan RAFFERTY all lost their Round 2 matches.

___________________________________________

Two weeks today, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship has concluded, I believe the GB&I Walker Cup squad will be announced.

Here are my current thoughts on the team and likely foursomes pairings as at 5th August: –

Euan WALKER (24) – Scotland
Sandy SCOTT (20) – Scotland

Caolan RAFFERTY (26) – Ireland
Conor PURCELL (21) – Ireland
James SUGRUE (22) – Ireland [Amateur Champion – Automatic Selection]

Tom SLOMAN (22) – England
Thomas PLUMB (20) – England

Harry HALL (21) – England
Ben JONES (19) – England
Jake BURNAGE (24) – England

In summary I am sticking with the ten players I selected on 14th July in my article ‘107. Learnings From The European Team Championships’.

SCHMIDT and GOUGH in particular are knocking on the door after their recent wins but I am struggling to see who I would take out to accommodate them at the moment.

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It is of course never over till it’s over……

A handful of major events are still available to the players to impress the selectors over the next two weeks. Here is a list off the four I will be focussing on:-

Boys’ Home Internationals (6-8 August)
Conor GOUGH, Joe PAGDIN

Boys’ Amateur Championship (13-18 August)
Joe PAGDIN

U.S. Amateur Championship (12-18 August)
Alex FITZPATRICK, Conor GOUGH, Ben JONES, Conor PURCELL, Caolan RAFFERTY, Ben SCHMIDT, Sandy SCOTT, Tom SLOMAN, James SUGRUE, Euan WALKER.

Welsh Amateur Open Stroke Play Championship (16-18 August)
Bailey GILL, Matty LAMB, David LANGLEY, Josh MCMAHON

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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108. GB&I Squad Reduced To 16 For Latest Practice Session

23rd July 2019

The R&A today formally announced a revised GB&I squad of 16 players for September’s Walker Cup match against USA.

The players selected are:-
Jake BURNAGE, Saunton, 23
Alex FITZPATRICK, Hallamshire, 20
Bailey GILL, Lindrick, 21
Harry HALL, West Cornwall, 21
Benjamin JONES, Northamptonshire County, 19
Matty LAMB, Hexham, 21
David LANGLEY, Castle Royle, 25
Joshua MCMAHON, Wallasey, 23
Thomas PLUMB, Yeovil, 20
Mark POWER, Kilkenny, 18
Conor PURCELL, Portmarnock, 21
Caolan RAFFERTY, Dundalk, 26
Sandy SCOTT, Nairn, 20
Tom SLOMAN, Taunton & Pickeridge, 22
James SUGRUE, Mallow, 22
Euan WALKER, Kilmarnock (Barassie), 24

The players were invited to attend a practice session taking place today and tomorrow on Monday 15th July following a selection meeting immediately following the European Men’s and Boys’ Team Championships.

The Squad Practicing Today At Hoylake (Photo: Royal Liverpool G.C.)

There are 10 players from England, 4 from Ireland, 2 from Scotland and 0 from Wales.

This new squad includes three players not included in the initial panel of 26 selected in April; namely Matty LAMB, David LANGLEY and Joshua MCMAHON.

GB&I captain Craig Watson said “We have monitored results of the players originally selected since we last got together as a squad, while also keeping an eye on the performances of other players not included. We have brought in three new players who have had encouraging results in recent events and we look forward to working with them and the other players when we meet up at Royal Liverpool this week.”

The following 13 players have in effect been dropped from the squad –
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Archie DAVIES – Wales
Conor GOUGH – England
David HAGUE – England
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
John MURPHY – Ireland
Joseph PAGDIN – England
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Robin WILLIAMS – England

It is hard to argue with this new squad selection particularly as it was made before Joe PAGDIN‘s run to the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship semi-finals last week.

No one can be written off yet but the probability is the final 10-man GB&I team will come from these newly selected 16 players.

When I picked my latest squad on 14th July (107. Learnings From The European Team Championships ) I also reduced it to 16 players and included all of the above players except for Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick. I chose Ben HUTCHINSON and Ben SCHMIDT instead, although I did acknowledge Schmidt had entered the Carris Trophy at Moor Park and therefore would probably be replaced by Fitzpatrick.

The only sour note is the timing of this latest practice session even accepting the packed amateur golf calendar at this time of year. The South of Ireland Amateur Championship has had to issue byes to the match play stage for the Irish players who are competing at Lahinch this week and the Walton Heath Trophy has had to accept the late withdrawals of Messrs. Langley, Plumb and Sloman from its field.

I think we have the makings of a very competitive Walker Cup team and am increasingly looking forward to this being tested in 6 weeks time.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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107. Learnings From The European Team Championships

14th July 2019

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the Men’s and Boys’ European Team Championships played respectively in Sweden and France.

Both Championships combined 36 holes of stroke play qualifying with three rounds of match play, including foursomes and singles.

Men’s

ENGLAND finished 2nd, disappointingly losing in the Final for the third year running, this time to host’s Sweden. In what proved to be a good Championship for the home nations SCOTLAND finished 3rd, IRELAND 5th and WALES a very creditable 6th.

Here’s my assessment of the individual GB&I men’s team performances. You will appreciate this is an art not a science but I am confident the list is broadly correct.

Euan WALKER (SCO) continued to enjoy his rich vein of form, winning the stroke play qualifying easily and playing relatively well in the match play stage. If he had won all of his match play games he may well have risen to No. 1 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking; as it is he has stayed in 4th but the gap has been closed.

I have been bullish about Sandy SCOTT (SCO) for the Walker Cup for some time on the back of his strong play for Texas Tech in the U.S. this season. Sandy performed very well in Sweden fully justifying my faith in him. It’s a shame that Scotland’s needs meant he and Euan Walker couldn’t be paired together in the foursomes this week.

Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Tom PLUMB (ENG) both qualified well and won all three of their foursomes games together. Their selection and pairing looks a certainty to me now.

From an Irish perspective Conor PURCELL presented a welcome return to form right on cue and Caolan RAFFERTY ticked along nicely, albeit his match play results were disappointing. However, Mark POWER (IRE) is the player that really grasped the opportunity presented by this event. A solid qualification was followed by singles wins (playing at No. 2) over John Axelsen DEN (4&3), Maximillian Hermann GER (20th) and Jacob Davies WAL (19th).

Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO), Gaelen TREW (WAL) and Harry HALL (ENG) also won all three of their singles in Sweden. Interestingly they all qualified poorly over the opening two days but clearly found something as the week progressed. In the context of the Walker Cup the wins were particularly useful for Hall.

For the record Trew, playing No. 1 for Wales, impressively beat Ben Jones ENG (1 Hole), Alejandro Del Ray ESP (1 Hole) and Conor Purcell IRE (4&3).

Ben JONES ENG, who had played so well at the Amateur Championship a few weeks ago, qualified strongly but lost his way in the match play stage losing all three of his games.

From a Walker Cup perspective it would have been good to see Hall and Jones given a foursomes run out at some point as they are both strong candidates for selection and this is therefore a possible pairing.

Alex FITZPATRICK ENG followed a similar path to Jones, qualifying well before losing all three of his singles, albeit each by the slender margin of 1 Hole.

In addition to Trew Ben CHAMBERLAIN was the standout for Wales, qualifying in 10th and enjoying a good win over Ronan Mullarney on the final day.

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The European Men’s Amateur Team Championship – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results

Boys’

Only IRELAND and ENGLAND played in the European Boys Team Championship in Chantilly, France. Ireland finished 4th and England 5th as France took the title.

SCOTLAND and WALES played in the Division 2 Championship in Poland.

Here’s my assessment of the individual GB&I boys’ Division 1 team performances.

Joe PAGDIN (ENG), Max HOPKINS (ENG), Tom MCKIBBIN (IRE) and Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) were the standout performers for me in the Boys’ Team Championship.

Pagdin, who won all four of his games in last week’s AJGA Wyndham Cup in North Carolina, continues to show encouraging match play form. If he had held on to his lead over the final holes of his Round 2 match against Tom Sloman in The Amateur I may be talking him up even more now.

Pagdin and McKibbin both fly to the USA today for this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur. They will need to go deep, as will Ben Schmidt in the U.S. Amateur in August, to have a chance of making the GB&I Walker Cup team.

Pagdin and McKibbin also have the opportunity to make a late Walker Cup case in the Boys’ Amateur Championship being played at Saunton G.C. in August. Both played well in this event last year at Royal Portrush G.C.

The Boys’ event clashes with the U.S. Amateur which is why Schmidt won’t be in Devon. Indeed it is possible that Pagdin may also be a late qualifier for the U.S. Amateur having now moved into the World Amateur Golf Ranking Top 50.

All three are of an age and have the potential to play multiple Walker Cup’s for GB&I but the 2019 match now looks like coming too soon for them.

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The GB&I selectors will be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad this weekend with an announcement expected tomorrow.

The next squad training gathering is being held at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 23-24 July.

If the decision was mine I would select 16 players giving me 8 foursomes pairings to work with at Hoylake.

Here are my current thoughts on the team / squad and pairings (all in selection order): –

Team (as at 14th July)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland

Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Conor PURCELL – Ireland

Tom SLOMAN – England
Thomas PLUMB – England

Harry HALL – England
Ben JONES – England

James SUGRUE – Ireland [Amateur Champion – Automatic Selection]
Jake BURNAGE – England

Other Squad Players
David LANGLEY – England NEW
Josh MCMAHON – England NEW
Mark POWER – Ireland
Bailey GILL – England
Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW
Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW [Training session clashes with U18 Carris Trophy]

Since my last squad selection I have taken out Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick and added Mark Power to the second group solely based on their performances at the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship.

Dropped From Original Squad
Alex FITZPATRICK – England [Training Session replacement for Schmidt ?]
Joseph PAGDIN – England
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
David HAGUE – England
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Robin WILLIAMS – England
John MURPHY – Ireland
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Archie DAVIES – Wales
Conor GOUGH – England

The final group of players, for a variety of reasons, simply haven’t done enough to stay in my Walker Cup squad.

The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, The Open Championship, The English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh (Closed) Amateur Championships, The Boys’ Amateur Championship and The U.S. Amateur are now the only events left that can influence the GB&I team selection which is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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106. Europe – The Final Walker Cup Countdown

29th June 2019

This week has seen the European Amateur Championship played in Austria and also confirmation of the team selections for the European Men’s Amateur Team Championships which will be played in Sweden next month.

Below are my observations on both of these important matters with regard to the Walker Cup and my latest views on how the Walker Cup squad is shaping up.

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Matthias SCHMID (GER) won the European Amateur Championship at Diamond C.C. in Austria today. Rounds of 67, 73, a best of the week 63 and 70 took him to a 273 (-15) total and a comfortable 3 shot victory. The win brings with it an exemption into the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush G.C.

Matthias Schmid (Photo: European Golf Association)

Euan WALKER (SCO), bouncing back from his disappointment at The Amateur and confirming his status as Great Britain & Ireland’s (GB&I) No. 1 player, finished 2nd on -12. A final round 66 (-6) being the highlight of his week’s work.

Ben JONES (ENG) 68 and Joe LONG (ENG) 74 finished the Championship on -9 tied for 3rd place. Jones has come through strongly in recent weeks.

It was also another good week for Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) 69 who finished tied 6th on -8. Caolan seems to have played well all year.

Lytham Trophy winner Josh MCMAHON (ENG) -5 finished tied 13th which may be just what was required to help push him in to the next GB&I Walker Cup squad.

Harry HALL (ENG) will be disappointed with his tied 16th finish on -4. After a superb front nine of 31 (-5) today he looked like pushing Schmid all the way home but sadly a returning 43 (+7) destroyed much of his excellent work over the preceding three and half days. Hall has played very well since returning from Las Vegas in May.

The ever consistent David LANGLEY (ENG) was seventh and the last GB&I player to finish in the top 20 in Austria.

Here are the final results.

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European Amateur Championship Leading Results (Photo: EGA / Golfbox)

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The European Amateur Championship – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results

Here are the top 30 GB&I players in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR), updated today with the European Amateur Championship results: –

 ____________________________________________

Prior to the European Amateur Championship starting on Wednesday the home nations all had to confirm their teams for the 2019 European Men’s Amateur Team Championship.

This event will be played at Ljunghusen G.C. in Sweden on Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 July.

Ljunghusen is a heathland links course located on the Falsterbo Peninsula, south of Malmö.

16 teams, each consisting of 6 players, will be participating.

The first two days involve a stroke play qualifying competition with each team’s best five scores counting. Once completed the leading 8 teams contest the Championship match play whilst the bottom 8 play a separate second match play flight.

Ljunghusen G.C. (Photo: GEO Foundation / sustainable.golf)

In a Walker Cup year the home nation teams for this event are an important indicator as to where selectors mind’s are.

At the end of the day if you can’t make you own country’s 6-man team 6 weeks before the Walker Cup team selection then the message is fairly clear – you still have work to do to have a chance of playing for GB&I.

Team inclusion also provides the players with a unique opportunity to play foursomes and singles match play golf against the best players in Europe and potentially against their direct cometition for Walker Cup places.

Here are the home nation teams all of which had to be submitted by Wednesday 26th June and were therefore selected before the start of the European Amateur which finished today in Austria: –

Each player’s SPWAR as at 26th June 2019 – before the European Amateur – is in brackets after their name

ENGLAND
Alex FITZPATRICK (#65)
Harry HALL (#26)
Ben JONES (#28)
Matty LAMB (#69)
Tom PLUMB (#30)
Tom SLOMAN (#31)

At the time of selection England had 11 players in the top 100 of the SPWAR so picking a team was never going to be easy.

[There are now 13 English players in the updated top 100 – see SPWAR table above]

Jake Burnage (#29), winner of the St. Andrews Links Trophy, David Langley (#39), Bailey Gill (#45), a member of the winning England team at the European Nations in April, Ben Hutchinson (#55), Ben Schmidt (#92), winner of the Brabazon Trophy and selected for the Boys’ event which is played concurrently, Angus Flanagan (#127) and Josh McMahon (#133), winner of the Lytham Trophy could all make a case for being unlucky here based on either recent wins or form.

Looking at the SPWAR, and I accept rankings are not everything, Matty Lamb and Alex Fitzpatrick appear to be the two debatable names in the England team. To be fair to Lamb he has enjoyed a good June, just missing out on the St. Andrews Links title and progressing to the Last 16 of The Amateur. Unfortunately at this moment in time a selection on form can’t really be used to support Fitzpatrick, a player of great promise but one whose results haven’t really matched this recently. After a good finish to his U.S. college season with Wake Forest he chose not to play in the Brabazon Trophy (accepting the very tight scheduling), missed the cut at St. Andrews and then The Amateur and then withdrew (for reasons admittedly I don’t know) from the European Amateur.

IRELAND
Tiarnan MCLARNAN (#101)
Ronan MULLARNEY (#49)
Mark POWER (#204)
Conor PURCELL (#14)
Caolan RAFFERTY (#12)
James SUGRUE (#42)

John Murphy (#140) and Rowan Lester (#166) are ranked higher than Mark Power, who has been in exam mode for the last month, but neither have done enough to make a persuasive case since returning from their U.S. colleges in May. Tom McKibbin (#211) may have been a consideration but like Schmidt for England he has been selected for the Boys Team Championship.

SCOTLAND
Ryan LUMSDEN (#171)
Euan MCINTOSH (#169)
Sandy SCOTT (#36)
Jamie STEWART (#265)
Euan WALKER (#7)
James WILSON (#105)

Connor Mckinney (#191) is also highly ranked and I assume is being sent to the Boys’ event for which I think he still qualifies.

WALES
Ben CHAMBERLAIN (#402)
Archie DAVIES (#1,393)
Jacob DAVIES (#559)
Jake HAPGOOD (#266)
Matt ROBERTS (#947)
Gaelen TREW (#401)

Tom Froom (#1,032), Lewis Sanges (#1,149), Tom Williams (#1,195), Paddy Mullins (#1,257), Kieron Harmon (#1,351) and Oly Brown (#1,381) would have been discussed but the Welsh team is as most would have expected.

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The GB&I selectors will be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad after the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship for a training gathering to be held at Royal Liverpool G.C. on 23-24 July.

Here is my slightly revised assessment of how the original 26, and other players who have emerged over the last two months, currently fare with regard to this next selection. I now have the European Amateur Championship results and European Team Championship selections to hand which are obviously helpful.

I have listed all of the players in order of how I see their current form / Squad selection: –

Current Team (if picked on 29th June)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Harry HALL – England
James SUGRUE – Ireland
Ben JONES – England
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland
Thomas PLUMB – England
Tom SLOMAN – England
Conor PURCELL – Ireland
Jake BURNAGE – England

England Golf’s decision to leave Jake Burnage out of their team is obviously not a vote of confidence from Mr. Edwards – who certainly knows what he is doing and is perhaps rightly focussing on match play records – but for me his win at St. Andrews and links pedigree keep him in my team. Conor Purcell‘s form is also a bit of a concern and he ideally needs to regain it quickly if my early confidence in his selection is to be borne out.

A few players below are pushing hard for consideration.

July Squad Member
David LANGLEY – England NEW
Josh MCMAHON – England NEW
Bailey GILL – England
Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW
Matty LAMB – England NEW
Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW
Ronan MULLARNEY – Ireland NEW
Alex FITZPATRICK – England

I have pushed the experienced David Langley for some time now impressed by his consistent displays almost every week. Josh McMahon was unlucky not to be included in my July Squad earlier this week given his outstanding Lytham Trophy win. Today’s top 15 result at the European Amateur provides additional weight to his inclusion so I have added him.

My July squad is going to be England heavy but I believe this reflects recent results and form. The time for token selection gestures is over and we are now down to the serious business of finalising a team.

Dropped From Squad
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
Robin WILLIAMS – England
David HAGUE – England
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Joseph PAGDIN – England
John MURPHY – Ireland
Mark POWER – Ireland
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Conor GOUGH – England
Archie DAVIES – Wales

The final group of players, for a variety of reasons, simply haven’t done enough to stay in my Walker Cup squad assuming it is reduced to manageable numbers, which I have chosen to be 18.

The good or bad news for everyone, depending on where they sit, is I am not a selector and am simply expressing my own personal views.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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105. James Sugrue Wins The Amateur Championship

27th June 2019

James SUGRUE (22) won the 124th Amateur Championship at Portmarnock G.C. last Saturday, becoming the 8th Irish winner in the process.

He beat Scotland’s Euan WALKER (23) by 2 Holes in a Final which went the full 36 holes.

Sugrue (22) made a dream start leading by 5Up after the opening nine holes. Walker then settled into the match and set about whittling down the lead he had partially gifted his opponent. He had reduced the deficit to 3Down by lunch and finally achieved parity on the 34th hole of the match. Inexplicably he then played two poor holes allowing the steadier Irishman to collect the Championship trophy in front of a large group of delighted home supporters.

Speaking to The R&A afterwards Sugrue said “It is hard to believe really. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Just to think about this win is unbelievable. Everything that comes with the win and all the crowds that were out there, it’s incredible.”

On his run to the final James also beat Harry Hall (2 Holes), Christopher Palsson (1 Hole), Sergio Parriego Cornejo (5&3), Koen Kouwenaar (19th) and David Micheluzzi (3&1).

James Sugrue (Photo: The R&A / Sam Barnes /  Getty Images)

The big hitting Corkman who plays his golf at Mallow now becomes exempt for The Open Championship, U.S. Amateur, The Masters and U.S. Open over the next 12 months.

He is now also assured of a place in the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team which will face USA at Royal Liverpool G.C. in September.

This win lifted him to 43rd in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and 68th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Sugrue was already a member of the 2019 GB&I Walker Cup initial squad and was enjoying a steady season posting a number of top 20 finishes. His previous biggest win was the 2017 South of Ireland Amateur played at Lahinch G.C. James should be a good addition to the team as he is strong links player and has a good match play record.

In addition to the finalists, Sugrue and Walker, a number of other players did well at Portmarnock.

Tom PLUMB ENG (-4) was medalist in The Amateur’s Stroke Play Qualifying competition. Sandy SCOTT SCO (-3) finished 3rd, Harry HALL ENG (-2) tied 4th, Caolan RAFFERTY IRE, David LANGLEY ENG and Jake BOLTON ENG (all -1) T6 and Eanna GRIFFIN IRE and Joe PAGDIN ENG (both Ev) tied 11th.

In the Match Play stage Ben JONES ENG reached the Semi-Finals, Sandy SCOTT SCO and Ronan MULLARNEY IRE the Quarter Finals and Matty LAMB ENG and Bailey GILL ENG the Last 16.

To read more about this Championship please read my Golf Bible article – The Amateur Championship – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results

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Recent Brabazon Trophy winner Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) continued his good form by picking up the Boys’ Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters title at Nizels G.&C.C.

Ben posted rounds of 66, 71, 71 and 70 for a 278 (-10) total and a 5-shot victory over fellow English prospect Max HOPKINS.

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Regional Qualifying for the 148th Open Championship took place on Monday 24th June at 13 venues across GB&I.

9 of the 13 competitions were won by amateur players with a total of 50 amateurs progressing to Final Qualifying on the day. More earned Reserve status and will follow as the four fields are finalised in the coming days.

Here are a list of some of the more notable qualifiers in the context of the Walker Cup: –

Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) – 1st 68 -3 at Alwoodley
Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) – T3 70 -1 at Alwoodley
Kieran CANTLEY (SCO) – 1st 65 -7 at Berwick-upon-Tweed
Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) – T1 65 -7 at Burhill
Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) – 4th 67 -5 at Burhill
Tom MCKIBBIN (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth
Tiarnan MCLARNON (IRE) – T4 68 -4 at County Louth
Tom PLUMB (ENG) – T8 70 -2 at Frilford Heath
Jake BURNAGE (ENG) – 1st 65 -7 at Minchinhampton

Other amateurs have exemptions into Final Qualifying so I anticipate there being well over 60 players to follow next Tuesday.

There is more information on the amateurs at Regional and Final Qualifying on my Golf Bible website.

_________________________________________

The GB&I selectors will shortly be finalising their reduced Walker Cup squad for the next training gathering at Royal Liverpool G.C.

Here is my assessment of how the original 26 and other players who have emerged over the last two months will fare when the announcement is presumably made next week. In my defence I don’t have the results of the European Amateur Championship which finishes on Saturday to help me.

I have listed the players as I see their current form and my selection order: –

Current Team (if picked today)
Euan WALKER – Scotland
Caolan RAFFERTY – Ireland
Harry HALL – England
James SUGRUE – Ireland
Sandy SCOTT – Scotland
Conor PURCELL – Ireland
Thomas PLUMB – England
Ben JONES – England
Jake BURNAGE – England
Tom SLOMAN – England

July Squad Member
Bailey GILL – England
Ben HUTCHINSON – England NEW
Matty LAMB – England NEW
Ben SCHMIDT – England NEW
David LANGLEY – England NEW
Ronan MULLARNEY – Ireland NEW
Alex FITZPATRICK – England

Dropped From Squad
Euan MCINTOSH – Scotland
Robin WILLIAMS – England
David HAGUE – England
Kieran CANTLEY – Scotland
Joseph PAGDIN – England
John MURPHY – Ireland
Mark POWER – Ireland
Ryan LUMSDEN – Scotland
Jamie STEWART – Scotland
Jake HAPGOOD – Wales
Ben CHAMBERLAIN – Wales
Tom THURLOWAY – England
Conor GOUGH – England
Archie DAVIES – Wales

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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102. Ben Schmidt Wins The Brabazon Trophy

5th June 2019

Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) won the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship, played for the Brabazon Trophy, last weekend at Alwoodley G.C.

IMG_0881

The Schmidt Family (© Yorkshire Golf / Jonathan Plaxton)

The 16 year old from Rotherham G.C. played some great golf to post four under par rounds of 69, 64, 69 and 69 for a 271 (-13) winning total.

Having taken the lead after Round 2 he impressively showed the composure to hold off far more experienced players over the weekend and ultimately deliver a 5 shot victory. He became the youngest ever winner of this prestigious title, overtaking Sandy Lyle who was 17 when he won it in 1977.

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Ben Schmidt’s Scorecard (© England Golf / GolfBox)

Harry HALL (ENG) will have been disappointed with his final round but a course record 63 on Saturday and a 2nd place finish, having only returned from college in the United States a few days earlier, represented an excellent week’s work for the Cornishman.

Euan WALKER (SCO) finished 3rd, David LANGLEY (ENG) tied 5th, Ben JONES tied 7th, Tom SLOMAN (ENG) & Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) both tied 10th, Ben CHAMBERLAIN (WAL), Conor PURCELL (IRE) & Jake HAPGOOD (WAL) all tied 13th and Jake BURNAGE (ENG), Robin WILLIAMS (ENG) & James SUGRUE (IRE) all tied 18th at Alwoodley. All of them further advanced their Walker Cup chances with top 20 finishes as we move into the key selection month of June.

So what about Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) for the Walker Cup – after all he’s just won a ‘Major’ and in the process moved to the top of the England Golf Men’s Order of Merit ?

Ben rose 337 places in the SPWAR on Sunday to 109th (he’s 106th now after a few leading players subsequently turned Pro) and 1,416 places to 142nd in today’s WAGR release.

A victory in the Brabazon Trophy and such high rankings would normally put a player well in the picture for Walker Cup selection.

However, with important school exams on the immediate horizon and given his previously low WAGR ranking Ben is now going to be sitting out both this week’s St. Andrews Links Trophy and the following week’s Amateur Championship. He is also not playing in the European Amateur Championship which starts on 26th June.

Like James NEWTON (ENG), winner of the Irish Amateur Open a few weeks ago, this in my opinion is likely to greatly reduce his chances of gaining selection for the forthcoming Walker Cup match.

It will be interesting to see if England Golf select him for their Men’s European Team Championship team later this month or whether he will stay with the Boys Team. The former would give him another opportunity to impress.

Time is of course on Ben’s side but in my view circumstances look like conspiring against him with regard to the 2019 match.

For more information on this event, including a link to the full Results, please take a look at my Golf Bible article: Brabazon Trophy – 2019 Preview, Reports & Results 

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With around 75 days to go until the GB&I Walker Cup team is selected how’s our team shaping up ?

Conor PURCELL (IRE), Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE), Tom SLOMAN (ENG) and Euan WALKER (SCO) look certainties today. All have 2019 wins to their names and consistent form to support their selections already.

Harry HALL‘s (ENG) result at the Brabazon Trophy was just what was required from him. His experience could be invaluable to the team too. He’s now a probable for me.

Ben JONES (ENG) is playing well and building up a consistent body of 2019 results. His sound match play record and win in the Duke of York Champions event at Royal Liverpool a few years ago also bode well for him.

Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) has played well for Wake Forest University since the turn of the year and if he can show up well against his GB&I peers – he hasn’t directly played against too many of them over the last year – in the big events coming up he will in my opinion be a strong candidate for selection.

The remaining three places are still open for me. I could currently make a case for Bailey GILL (ENG), David LANGLEY (ENG), Josh MCMAHON (ENG), Tom PLUMB (ENG), Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) and Sandy SCOTT (SCO).

In a year of surprise winners the results of the St. Andrews Links Trophy and Amateur Championship, and to a lesser degree the European Amateur, may not help but they will certainly provide us with more clarity. Will the above players confirm their status as Walker Cup favourites or will new players have come to the fore by the team we reach the end of June ?

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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99. GB&I Initial Walker Cup Squad Announced

24th April 2019

The R&A has today announced an initial squad of 26 players for the 2019 Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

Those players that are available will meet at Royal Liverpool G.C. for a meal on the evening of Tuesday 30th April before playing the course on Wednesday 1st May.

The players, with their nationalities, ages and current SPWAR / WAGR, selected for the GB&I squad are: –

Jake BURNAGE, England (23) – SPWAR 108 / WAGR 78

Kieran CANTLEY, Scotland (21) – SPWAR 417 / WAGR 536

Ben CHAMBERLAIN, Wales (21) – SPWAR 825/ WAGR 455

Archie DAVIES, Wales (17) – SPWAR 1,127 / WAGR 304

Alex FITZPATRICK, England (20) – SPWAR 61 / WAGR 51

Bailey GILL, England (21) – SPWAR 148 / WAGR 159

Conor GOUGH, England (16) – SPWAR 381 / WAGR 29

David HAGUE, England (22) – SPWAR 195 / WAGR 94

Harry HALL, England (21) – SPWAR 71 / WAGR 104

Jake HAPGOOD, Wales (22) – SPWAR T354 / WAGR 491

Benjamin JONES, England (19) – SPWAR 136 / WAGR 80

Ryan LUMSDEN, Scotland (22) – SPWAR 117 / WAGR 92

Euan MCINTOSH, Scotland (50) – SPWAR 284 / WAGR 290 

John MURPHY, Ireland (20) – SPWAR 110 / WAGR 229

Joseph PAGDIN, England (17) – SPWAR 357 / WAGR 67

Thomas PLUMB, England (20) – SPWAR 86 / WAGR 279

Mark POWER, Ireland (18) – SPWAR 181 / WAGR 124

Conor PURCELL, Ireland (21) – SPWAR 20 / WAGR 25

Caolan RAFFERTY, Ireland (26) – SPWAR 35 / WAGR 38

Sandy SCOTT, Scotland (20) – SPWAR 74 / WAGR 81

Tom SLOMAN, England (22) – SPWAR 47 / WAGR 31

Jamie STEWART, Scotland (19) – SPWAR 184 / WAGR 142

James SUGRUE, Ireland (22) – SPWAR 273 / WAGR 415

Tom THURLOWAY, England (21) – SPWAR 284 / WAGR 354

Euan WALKER, Scotland (23) – SPWAR 41 / WAGR 98

Robin WILLIAMS, England (17) – SPWAR T354 / WAGR 115

The initial squad includes 12 players from England, 6 from Scotland, 5 from Ireland and 3 from Wales.

Of those named above I am on record as already saying Tom Plumb, Conor Purcell, Caolan Rafferty, Tom Sloman and Euan Walker are already ‘probables’ based on their 2019 wins and high rankings.

I also believe Alex Fitzpatrick and Sandy Scott are moving in that direction given their strong recent form on the U.S. College circuit.    

The timetable from here is now clear: –

A second practice session has been scheduled for July at the host venue which a reduced number of players will be invited to attend.

The final ten-man GB&I team is expected to be announced on Monday 19th August, the day after the U.S. Amateur Championship finishes.

The match against United States of America will then take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September at Royal Liverpool G.C.

In the official R&A Announcement Craig Watson, GB&I captain, said, “We have selected a talented group of players who are all in contention for a place in the team to play the United States of America and will be continuing to monitor the form and results of these players over the course of the season. We will also be looking closely at the performances of other players who have not been included in the squad and there is still time for them to play their way into our plans ahead of the final team selection later text his year.”

Whilst there are no major surprises in the selection it is perhaps worth looking in more detail at those players who have missed out and now have to fight their way back into the group.

Here are ten players, in alphabetical order, who are ranked highly but have missed out on the initial squad selection: – 

Oliver FARRELL, England (SPWAR 158 / WAGR 393)

Alex GLEESON, Ireland (SPWAR 292 / WAGR 114)

Ben HUTCHINSON, England (SPWAR 235 / WAGR 204)

David LANGLEY, England (SPWAR 114 / WAGR 278)

Rowan LESTER, Ireland (SPWAR 212 / WAGR 100) 

Jamie LI, England (SPWAR 234 / WAGR 119)

Joe LONG, England (SPWAR 169 / WAGR 157)

Ronan MULLARNEY, Ireland (SPWAR 139 / WAGR 205)

Daniel O’LOUGHLIN, England (SPWAR 191 / WAGR 294) 

Rory FRANSSEN, Scotland (SPWAR 210 / WAGR 283)

It will be interesting to see who makes the final 10-man team in August and how many of them were in the initial squad.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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98. Euan Walker And Tom Plumb Win In South Africa

7th March 2019

With all of the Australian and South African amateur events completed and both the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs played I thought it was time to recognise a few GB&I players who have made a strong start to the season.

Scotland’s Euan WALKER has enjoyed an excellent start to 2019; his consistency and high finishes, including a win, making him an obvious standout.

Here is a summary of his recent results: –

African Amateur Stroke Play – WON (72 67 67 71)

South African Amateur – SPQ 4th (71 65) / MP Rd 2

South African Stroke Play – Tied 7th (66 71 69 72)

Euan Walker (© Ian Rae)

At the time of writing Euan has risen to 34th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR), second in the GB&I-only list behind Conor PURCELL (IRE) who is 20th.

Conor has continued his good form in recent weeks producing more strong performances in South Africa. As he’s already in ‘my Team’ I’ve chosen to write about others on this occasion (See Article 97).

It is a little early to say Euan will make the GB&I Walker Cup team but he has certainly put himself in a very nice position. Compatriot Liam Johnston also won the African Amateur at Leopard Creek in 2017 and subsequently the Scottish Open Amateur but still managed to miss out on a trip to Los Angeles that September so he will know nothing can be taken for granted.

_______________________________________________

Thomas PLUMB (ENG) showed some class in winning the Cape Province Open Championship in South Africa earlier this week with scores of 70 66 69 and 65 (-18).

Coming on the back of a tied 3rd place finish in the South American Amateur Championship in January he appears to also be trending positively towards Walker Cup selection. His reward for his win in George – a 38 place jump to 67th in the SPWAR.

Tom Plumb (© Pieter Els)

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Ben JONES (ENG) was relatively quiet last year as he transitioned from the junior to men’s ranks but seems to be nicely back on track now. He’s currently 98th in the SPWAR. Good match play results are obviously beneficial too: –

New South Wales Amateur – SPQ Tied 7th (69 72) / MP Semi-Finals

Spanish International Amateur – Medalist (71 66 -5) / MP Rd of 16

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Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) is a player I like a lot. He’s one of the few GB&I amateurs that seem to be able to go very low. The Dundalk man, now 47th in the SPWAR, did well on the Irish team trip to South Africa and looks set to remain within the GB&I Walker Cup picture throughout the coming months: –

South African Amateur – SPQ Tied 2nd (69 66) / MP Semi-Finals

South African Stroke Play – Tied 11th (75 67 68 71)

_______________________________________________

Bailey GILL (ENG) is also coming on to my radar with a solid string of overseas results added to his résumé with some match play victories thrown in too. Currently 121st in the SPWAR I think he could be a player to watch closely this year.

Australian Amateur – MP Rd of 32

New South Wales Amateur – MP Rd of 16

Avondale Amateur – Tied 19th

Portuguese International Amateur – Tied 5th (71 70 67 72)

Spanish International Amateur – SP Tied 7th (70 72) / MP Rd of 16

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Many others have shown flashes of what they can do but will be looking for more consistency as the year continues. Callum FARR (ENG) SPWAR 334th, Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) 185th, David LANGLEY (ENG) 94th, Joe LONG (ENG) 151st, Ronan MULLARNEY (IRE) 171st, Laurie OWEN (ENG) 663rd and Mark POWER (IRE) 141st immediately spring to mind here.

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Over on the United States College circuit Sandy SCOTT (SCO), who was yesterday picked for the Arnold Palmer Cup International Team, also continues to gain confidence and impress. He’s 109th in the SPWAR.

_______________________________________________

As the amateur calendar moves back home it will be interesting to see who can maintain their momentum and which other players start to come through.

By my calculation there is around 170 days left before the GB&I selectors have to make their final decisions. There is plenty of time for everyone to make their mark albeit I feel the countdown clock has certainly started to tick.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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87. GB&I 2018 St. Andrews Trophy Squad Selected

14th May 2018

The R&A have today announced a 20 player Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) squad for the 2018 St Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe.

The match, played in alternate years to the Walker Cup, will take place at Linna Golf in Finland on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July 2018.

It was also confirmed that Scotland’s Craig Watson would return to the GB&I captaincy role after he was unfortunately unable to fulfil these duties at the 2017 Walker Cup due to a family bereavement.

Watson captained GB&I in the last St. Andrews Trophy match at Prince’s G.C., Kent in 2016. A 12.5 – 12.5 draw back then was good enough for GB&I to retain the trophy.

Captain Watson and Alfie Plant with the St. Andrews Trophy

(Photo: Darren Plant)

Watson said in the R&A announcement: “I’m delighted to resume the role and am excited about the potential of the new crop of players coming through and contending for a place in the team.”

As always the captain left the door open for other players to step forward in the coming months: “We know we will be in for a tough match in Finland and we will need a strong team if we are to win the trophy. I am sure the players we have identified, and others not currently in the squad, will be working hard to impress the selectors.”

The squad will meet up before the St Andrews Links Trophy event which starts on 8th June.

The final 9-man team will be announced after the European Men’s Team Championships, which conclude on 14th July.

Here is a list of the 20 players selected, along with their current Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (SPWAR) and GB&I SPWAR rank.

Player SPWAR GB&I Rank
Todd Clements, England (21) 21 2
Robin Dawson, Ireland (22) 128 12
Alex Fitzpatrick, England (19) 332 32
Calum Fyfe, Scotland (20) 182 15
Alex Gleeson, Ireland (24) 127 11
David Hague, England (21) 90 6
Harry Hall, England (20) 64 4
Benjamin Jones, England (19) 151 14
Matthew Jordan, England (22) 14 1
Rowan Lester, Ireland (22) 361 35
Sam Locke, Scotland (19) 205 18
Ryan Lumsden, Scotland (21) 102 8
Billy McKenzie, England (23) 211 19
Gian-Marco Petrozzi, England (21) 91 7
Caolan Rafferty, Ireland (25) 104 9
Sandy Scott, Scotland (19) 111 10
Jamie Stewart, Scotland (18) 131 13
Euan Walker, Scotland (22) 281 27
Robin Williams, England (16) 279 26
Andrew Wilson, England (24) 420 38

No one would argue that any of the above aren’t worthy of consideration for the GB&I team.

There are 10 English players in the squad, 6 from Scotland and 4 from Ireland. Sadly no one from Wales made the initial grade.

Only Royal Liverpool’s Matthew Jordan remains in the above selection from the 2017 Walker Cup team. Seven of the 10-man team having turned professional since the heavy loss in Los Angeles.

As the SPWAR rankings suggest GB&I currently has two outstanding players, Jordan and compatriot Todd Clements. To my eyes both have already done enough this season to warrant selection. However, the other 7 team spots are still broadly up for grabs, albeit fellow Englishman Harry Hall and Gian-Marco Petrozzi must also be close.

Below is a list of those players who are also highly ranked in the SPWAR and whose omission is therefore worthy of further discussion.

Player SPWAR GB&I Rank
Harry Ellis, England 48 3
Paul McBride, Ireland 71 5
Tom Plumb, England 197 16
Jake Burnage, England 204 17
Conor Purcell, Ireland 229 20
Daniel O’Loughlin, England 236 21
Mitch Waite, England 243 22

The two most obvious omissions for me are England’s Mitch Waite, who has won the Hampshire Salver this year and finished runner-up at the recent Lytham Trophy, and Conor Purcell, who has done well for Charlotte this year in the U.S., culminating in an invitation by the NCAA to play in this week’s Division I Regionals as an individual.

Finally, a quick word on the two other 2017 Walker Cup players who remain amateur and are listed in the second table above.

Harry Ellis withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Cup selection process in April signalling a clear intention to turn Pro after his forthcoming U.S. Open appearance in June. Hence his absence from the list is understandable.

Paul McBride is perhaps more of a surprise. He had intimated that he may stay amateur until the Autumn once he graduates from Wake Forest in the next few weeks. The World Amateur Team Championship (for the Eisenhower Trophy) is being held at Carton House, Ireland in September and this was supposedly a factor in his thinking. However, his omission from this squad is a clear indicator that he too will be turning pro very shortly.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2018, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

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.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

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.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

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.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

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.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

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.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

18. The 2016 European Amateur Championship

10th August 2016

The 30th European Amateur Championship, a 72-hole stroke play event, was contested between 3rd – 6th August on the 7,100 yards Sea Course at the Estonia Golf & Country Club.

Italy’s Luca CIANCHETTI beat Norway’s Viktor HOVLAND on the seventh play-off hole to win this prestigious competition. Luca wins a nice trophy but more importantly an invitation to compete in next year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

Luca Cianchetti Euro Mens Amateur 2016

Luca Cianchetti (Photo: Italian Golf Federation)

Once again from a Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) perspective Scotland’s Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) -13 and Connor SYME (SCO) -12 rose to the top, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) is now also starting to show up regularly; he finished an impressive T9 on -9.

In total 37 GB&I players started the European Men’s Amateur Championship. In addition to the above the following 15 players had a good week making the Top 60 54-hole cut in a strong field: –
T13 Andrew WILSON (ENG)-8
T13 Craig ROSS (SCO) -8
T17 Ben AMOR (ENG) -7
T17 Daniel BROWN (ENG) -7
T17 Grant FORREST (SCO) -7
T26 Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) -5
T26 Stuart GREHAN (IRE) -5
T26 Sandy SCOTT (SCO) -5
T35 Matthew JORDAN (ENG) -4
T35 George BLOOR (ENG) -4
T44 Alex GLEESON (IRE) -2
T50 Marco PENGE (ENG) -1
T50 James WALKER (ENG) -1
T54 Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) Ev
T54 Owen EDWARDS (WAL) +1

Click here to review the complete final results from Estonia – 2016 European Amateur Championship Live Scores

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

14. The 2016 St. Andrews Trophy Team – My Selection

7th July 2016

Here’s my stab at the 2016 Great Britain & Ireland St. Andrews Trophy Team.

The St. Andrews Trophy has been played biennially between GB&I and Europe since 1956.

GB&I have won 25 times with Europe having just five wins to their name, albeit two of them came recently in 2010 and 2012. GB&I won the 2014 match, played in Barsebäck, Sweden, 14-10.

I anticipate this year’s match being a very close encounter.

With the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship coming to a conclusion at Golf de Chantilly in France on Saturday I expect the GB&I Team to be named by The R&A and Captain Craig Watson early next week.

These are the questions I’ve asked myself before selecting my Team: –

How many players do I need, where are we playing and what’s the format ?

The match is to be contested by a team of 9 GB&I players.

It is to be played on the links of Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, England on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st July.

On Day 1 4 foursomes and 8 singles will be played. On Day 2 there are again 4 foursomes but in a change to the recent format all 9 players will then compete in singles this year. I know from past experience that there is always a tendency to prefer pairs from the same country so need to consider that.

Who’s in the frame ? 

An 18-man St. Andrews Trophy Squad was announced on 24th March 2016.

This included David BOOTE (WAL), Jamie BOWER (ENG), Owen EDWARDS (WAL), Ewen FERGUSON (SCO), Grant FORREST (SCO), John Ross GALBRAITH (IRE), Alex GLEESON (IRE), Stuart GREHAN (IRE), Scott GREGORY (ENG), Jack HUME (IRE), Jack MCDONALD (SCO), Robert MACINTYRE (SCO), Greg MARCHBANK (SCO), Bradley MOORE (ENG), Marco PENGE (ENG), Craig ROSS (SCO), Connor SYME (SCO) and Ashton TURNER (ENG).

There were 7 players from Scotland, 5 from England, 4 from Ireland and 2 from Wales in the initial squad.

We can of course remove Jack McDonald from the above group as he turned pro on 31st March.

Who has performed well this year ?

Here is my 29th June 2016 Rankings Assessment which clearly shows who our leading players have been in the year to date, at least according to the two main Amateur Rankings.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 21.06.37

It seems unlikely to me that anyone outside my Combined Top 20 listed above will be selected. Unless of course The R&A go for a completely Scottish team – which given current form is not as outlandish a statement as it may at first seem.

Who’s showing form at this week’s European Men’s Amateur Championship ?

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 18.40.34

EMATC GB&I Stroke Play Scores

The above table clearly shows who performed well in the stroke play qualifying and how today’s first round match play has gone for our leading players.

In Division 2 David BOOTE was the medalist in the stroke play qualifying with a -9 36-hole total in Luxembourg.

Notable Omissions ?

At the end of June our highest ranked player was Sam HORSFIELD (ENG). I understand that Craig Watson watched and met with him at the Arnold Palmer Cup a few weeks ago at Formby but I don’t envisage him being considered or dare I say making himself available for this event. I am sure Sam will be committed to the series of major amateur events that are played in the United States during July and August.

Ewen FERGUSON (SCO) has been struggling with a wrist injury in recent weeks, withdrawing from three events in succession. I have therefore chosen to exclude him from my thoughts on fitness grounds. This is a shame for Ewen as he has started to show some good form lately with a 3rd place in the St Andrews Links Trophy and a good run at The Amateur.

So excluding Sam and Ewen here’s my team of 9, in order of selection: –

1. Grant FORREST (SCO) – since winning the Battle Trophy in Scotland he has strung to together a series of top quality results. Playing well in France and now back to his very best.

2. Jack HUME (IRE) – the South African SP and European Nations Individual 2016 champion was solid in the 2015 Walker Cup and outstanding in the Bonallack Trophy earlier this year.

3. Connor SYME (SCO) – the 2016 Australian Amateur champion has enjoyed an excellent season and is now undoubtedly one of GB&I’s top amateur players.

4. Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) – has peaked perfectly for this selection. Finalist in The Amateur and has taken that form into his last two events on the Challenge Tour and this week in France.

5. Scott GREGORY (ENG) – having just won The Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl he obviously must play. He’s delivered winning results for England in two international matches this year also.

6. Alfie PLANT (ENG) – a fantastic winner of the Lytham Trophy who has enjoyed good finishes at the French International Amateur (T11) and Brabazon Trophy (T7) since. A Kent-lad too which should help with local support.

7. Jamie BOWER (ENG) – he’s won three events this year including the prestigious Brabazon Trophy in Kent, albeit on an inland course. Jamie also got to the last 16 of the Amateur so has certainly backed up his early season wins in South Africa.

It starts to get a bit trickier from here on in, particularly around foursomes pairings, but I’ve given the benefit of the doubt to: –

8. Stuart GREHAN (IRE) – a strong performance this week for Ireland on the back of a positive contribution at the Arnold Palmer Cup. Stuart seems to be on an upward curve to me.

9. David BOOTE (WAL) – David has enjoyed a good season for Stanford in the US and delivered winning results at the Bonallack Trophy (where he played with Jack Hume) and Arnold Palmer Cup this year. He has also made a good start in Luxembourg this week for Wales at the Division 2 European Men’s Team Championship.

Having put my head above the parapet I have to say it would be hard for me to argue if any of Craig HOWIE (SCO – partnering Connor Syme at the Euros this week), Conor O’ROURKE (Naas GC, IRE – as is Jack Hume), Sandy SCOTT (SCO), Craig ROSS (SCO) or Bradley MOORE (ENG – a possible partner for Alfie Plant) were selected by The R&A based on 2016 performances and potential foursome pairings.

Let me know what you think by commenting below or on Twitter ?

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail

11. The 2016 Lytham Trophy And St. Andrews Links Trophy

6th June 2016

I thought it was worth recording the two biggest wins in Great British and Irish (GB&I) amateur golf in 2016 to date.

These being Alfie Plant (ENG) in the Lytham Trophy and Conor O’Rourke (IRE) in the St. Andrews Links Trophy.

Both are notable because of the quality of the fields that contested the events and because of the Open Championship venues that staged them. Rarely does anyone win a 72-hole stroke play competition at Royal Lytham or St. Andrews without being some player.

There were some similarities in the wins too. Both players came into the events relatively unheralded and both proceeded to get off to good starts before happily leading throughout.

Alfie Plant Lytham Trophy 2016 Photo 2

Alfie Plant (Photo: Darren Plant)

Alfie Plant won the Lytham Trophy by 7-shots in what were largely awful playing conditions. Rounds of 67, 73, 74 and 70 gave him a +4 total and enabled him to overcome compatriot Bradley Moore (ENG) who had pinched the Rd. 3 lead on the morning of the final day. Moore finished T2 on +11 with Ugo Coussard (FRA) and Jamie Savage (SCO) after a disappointing final back-9.

Other GB&I Top 10 finishers were James Walker (ENG) and Grant Forrest (SCO), both +12 tied 5th, and Ashton Turner (ENG) and Gian-Marco Petrozzi (ENG), +13 and tied 8th.

The Lytham Trophy results can be viewed in detail by clicking this link – Results

Conor O’Rourke won the Links Trophy yesterday with a magnificent performance. He showed admirable composure and no shortage of game to complete a famous wire-to-wire victory at The Home of Golf.

Conor shot 65 on the New Course on Friday and followed it up with weekend rounds of 69, 71 and 70 on the Old to pick up by far the biggest title of his amateur career with a 275 (-12) total.

More so than Plant this win seemed to come from absolutely nowhere. Prior to play commencing O’Rourke was ranked 1,245th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR). Admittedly he was a lower, at 549th, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) but either way this was one of the biggest amateur competitions in the world with a field to reflect it’s status.

Scottish players were very well represented in the final standings with seven appearing in the top 20. Sandy Scott (-11 / 2nd), Ewen Ferguson (-10 / 3rd), Calum Fyfe and Jamie Savage (both -9 / tied 5th) -9 all standing out.

Ireland had Dermot McElroy (-8 / 7th) and Colm Campbell (-2 / 20th) in the Top 20. However, England will be disappointed that they only had Adam Chapman (-6 / tied 9th), who continues to show a welcome return to form in 2016, to shout about. Joshua Davies (WAL), a regular winner at home, finished tied 21st on -1 showing he’s capable of mixing it with the best on his day too.

The Links Trophy results can be viewed in detail by clicking this link– Results

The question now is can Alfie Plant and Conor O’Rourke build on these two outstanding performances in the coming weeks to stake a strong claim for inclusion in the 2016 St. Andrews Trophy team squad and who knows possibly the 2017 Walker cup one.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.Facebooktwitterpinterestmail