68. Irish Walker Cup Hopes Remain On A Knife Edge

31st July 2017

At Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s in 2015 Ireland contributed five players to the winning Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team.

With six players in the 21 man Squad at the end of April 2017 the Irish could have confidently hoped for two or three representatives in this year’s team. Fast forward to August, the month of selection, and they are surprisingly trending towards one or perhaps even none.

Last week was a big one for Irish amateur golf. An opportunity for their leading players to really step forward. This was because the South of Ireland Amateur Championship was played at Lahinch Golf Club.

Already a prestigious event in itself The South again took on greater importance in this Walker Cup year. This is because the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship starts on 22nd August, a day after the 2017 GB&I Walker Cup Team is expected to be announced. Therefore unlike their English, Scottish and Welsh peers, who play their national championships this week, the Irish don’t have their most prestigious (closed) amateur competition in the qualifying timeframe. The South effectively becomes it in a Walker Cup year.So let’s have a look at how Ireland’s leading players got on last week.

In something of a surprise James SUGRUE beat Conor O’ROURKE 3&2 in the South of Ireland Amateur Championship Final on Sunday.

With SUGRUE, having done little else of note this year, well out of the Walker Cup picture O’ROURKE was therefore the main Irish winner at Lahinch as far as potential selection goes.

O’ROURKE has had a good season, finishing tied 13th in the Irish Amateur Open, the Brabazon Trophy and the European Amateur before last weekend’s 2nd place. A solid follow up to his breakthrough St. Andrews Links Trophy win in 2016.

In broad terms Ireland’s other leading candidates all did well in the Stroke Play Qualifying but lost early in the Match Play. In the defence of all of the players the latter stage was played in frequently very challenging wet and windy conditions making this form of the game even more of a lottery than normal.

Here’s a quick summary of how the other key Irish players got on at The South: –

Rowan LESTER – SP -1 1st / MP QF
Colm CAMPBELL – SP +14 T38 / MP Rd 3
Stuart GREHAN – SP +10 T13 / MP Rd 2
Robin DAWSON – SP +3 2nd / MP Rd 1
Alex GLEESON – SP +6 T4 / MP Rd 1
John-Ross GALBRAITH – SP +12 T18 / MP Rd 1

My conclusion from the above set of results is that only O’ROURKE and to a lesser degree Rowan LESTER, furthered their Walker Cup cases at the Championship. Unfortunately for both of them they are probably too far back to make the team now. Yes a ‘W’ next to their name, or for that matter one of the others, would have been helpful but the likelihood is that even that would not have been enough for any of them.

In terms of the updated Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (as at 01/08/17), Conor O’ROURKE jumped 25 spots to 94th, Rowan LESTER 72 to 256th and James SUGRUE 1,040 places to 884th. O’ROURKE is now 4th in the Irish list behind Paul MCBRIDE (46th), Robin DAWSON (59th) and John-Ross GALBRAITH (60th).

Irish players will get further opportunities to shine at next week’s Mullingar Scratch Trophy and at the Men’s Home Internationals at Moortown GC between 16-18 August. However, as I have said before with the US Amateur scheduled against the Home’s the influence this event will have on our Walker Cup selection remains to be seen.

For more information on the South of Ireland Amateur Championship please click these links – SP Results and MP Results

The obvious name missing from the above list is of course Paul MCBRIDE, the man I still think has a very good chance to make the GB&I Team for the match at  Los Angeles CC.

MCBRIDE missed The South of Ireland to take up an amateur invitation to play on the European Tour at the Porsche European Open near Hamburg. In a strong field Paul shot rounds of 70, 72, 72 and 72 for a 286 (-2) total and a tied 47th finish. Making the cut as an amateur at any European Tour event is no mean achievement so I view this as a positive performance which should hopefully stand him in good stead for the final run in.

Interestingly Sean CROCKER, who is on the fringes of the US Team selection, shot 284 (-4) and finished tied 33rd after rounds of 69, 70, 71 and 74 in Germany.

Please click here for more information on the Porsche European Open – Results

Irish hopes now lie solely with Paul MCBRIDE in my view and in what is increasingly becoming a close call for the final spaces he will still need to finish the Walker Cup season strongly if he is to secure a much coveted place on the GB&I Team.

ME.

Copyright © 2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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33. USA Selects 2017 Walker Cup Practice Squad

29th November 2016

Yesterday the USGA announced a 16-man squad to attend a 2017 Walker Cup practice session at the Los Angeles Country Club between 14th-18th December 2016.

Tom Hough, Chairman of the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee, said “This practice session will provide Captain Miller the opportunity to get to know prospective members of his 2017 team in an informal setting at the venue that will host the competition.”

The 16 players invited are (in alphabetical order / rankings as at today’s date): –

Dawson ARMSTRONG (21) – Brentwood, Tennessee
Lipscomb University (Senior)
SPWAR 25 / WAGR 29

Sean CROCKER (20) – Westlake Village, California
University of Southern California (Junior)
SPWAR 12 / WAGR 14

Brad DALKE (20) – Norman, Oklahoma
University of Oklahoma (Sophomore)
SPWAR 51 / WAGR 119 – US Amateur Runner Up 2016

Doug GHIM (20) – Arlington Heights, Illinois
University of Texas (Junior)
SPWAR 2 / WAGR 32

Stewart HAGESTAD (25) – Newport Beach, Califonia
US Mid-Amateur – 2016 Champion
SPWAR 272 / WAGR 1,139

Gavin HALL (22) – Pittsford, New York
University of Texas (Senior)
SPWAR 11 / WAGR 19

Nick HARDY (20) – Northbrook, Illinois
University of Illinois (Junior)
SPWAR 20 / WAGR 31

Scott HARVEY (38) – Greensboro, North Carolina
US Mid-Amateur – Champion 2015 / Runner-Up 2016
SPWAR 62 / WAGR 60

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Rico HOEY (21) – Rancho Cucamonga, California
University of Southern California (Senior)
SPWAR 10 / WAGR 24

Maverick MCNEALY (21) – Portola Valley, California
Stanford University (Senior)
SPWAR 4 / WAGR 1

Dylan MEYER (21) – Evansville, Indiana
University of Illinois (Junior)
SPWAR 8 / WAGR 9

Collin MORIKAWA (19) – La Cãnada, California
University of California (Sophomore)
SPWAR 3 / WAGR 16

John ODA (20) – Honolulu, Hawaii
University of Nevada – Las Vegas (Junior)
SPWAR 28 / WAGR 22

Scottie SCHEFFLER (20) – Dallas, Texas
University of Texas (Junior)
SPWAR 17 / WAGR 17

Jimmy STANGER (21) – Tampa, Florida
University of Virginia (Senior)
SPWAR 24 / WAGR 35

Will ZALATORIS (20) – Plano, Texas
Wake Forest University (Junior)
SPWAR 7 / WAGR 18

As always the USA look like having a very strong team on show in Los Angeles.

Scott Harvey and Maverick McNealy were both members of the USA’s 2015 Walker Cup team that lost at Royal Lytham & St. Annes so will bring some experience to the table if selected.

Those who follow this website will know that Harvey and Stewart Hagestad were the finalists in the 2016 US Mid-Amateur Championship and as such are very likely to be in the final team.  [See this News Article for more information on this – 24. Stewart Hagestad Wins The 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship]

Two other squad selections stood out for me.

Sean Crocker up until very recently, when he secured US citizenship, played under the Zimbabwean flag where he was born and brought up. However he has never represented Zimbabwe in international competition.

The same can’t be said for Rico Hoey. I believe he was born in the USA but has dual citizenship in the Philippines. He represented the Philippines in both the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, where he finished 28th behind Guan Tianlang (remember him ?), and the 2013 South East Asia Team Championship, where the Philippines won the team prize and he finished third individually. I know this is only the Walker Cup but nevertheless I personally don’t like to see nationalities being used as a badge of convenience.

Finally, a quick glance down the SPWAR and WAGR rankings highlights the following notable selection absentees: –

Patrick MARTIN – SPWAR 16 / WAGR 53

Sam BURNS – SPWAR 26 / WAGR 49

Corey PEREIRA – SPWAR 41  / WAGR 15

Noah GOODWIN – SPWAR 183 / WAGR 7

These players and a number of others will now have to use their non-selection as motivation for a strong 2017 playing year. They can of course take heart from the fact that both Lee McCoy and Jordan Niebrugge ended up making the 2015 USA team without having attended the previous winter’s practice session.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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