130. My 2021 GB&I Walker Cup Team With 50 Days To Go

19th March 2021

With 50 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts at Seminole G.C. here are the 10 players I would currently select for the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team.

In the spirit of fairness I have tried to find a balance between players who have been performing well overseas and those that have been unable to play due to the COVID-19 pandemic but were previously trending towards selection.

My selection is primarily an objective one based on playing results, preferably recent as I would prefer a ‘match fit’ team. I do not know the players well enough to take into account personalities and team dynamics which I accept would be a part of a wider selection decision.  

On 20th October 2020 I wrote an article entitled ‘My Current GB&I Team And Squad With 200 Days To Go’ which listed the leading 20 players at that time. I have assessed all 20 players again. 

This is not a prediction of what The R&A Selection Committee will do. Indeed if it were a few names would be different, particularly as the Chairman Pádraig Hogan has publically stated they will automatically be including the two highest ranked WAGR players at the end of March.

I have included extracts from each player’s SPWAR and WAGR playing records so you can view their form and results for yourself. Unfortunately due to some recent IT issues the SPWAR is still catching up on some events in March. I consider the SPWAR to be far more accurate so always favour it’s ranking over that of WAGR.

Here are my leading 10 players: – 

1. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) ⇑18
SPWAR #24 / WAGR #24

I didn’t pick Alex for my 2019 team (which he made) and back in October I had him in 19th place in my 2021 team list. All I’ve ever wanted was results to back up his longstanding reputation as a great prospect. I have been pleased to see that he’s consistently delivered them over the last 6 months. With two wins, including this week’s Valspar Collegiate (not yet shown in the tables below), the in form Wake Forest man has separated himself from the pack.

Alex Fitzpatrick – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Alex Fitzpatrick – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

2. Mark POWER (IRL) ⇑1
SPWAR #44 / WAGR #28

Mark enjoyed a strong summer back home playing very well in the Amateur Championship and Brabazon Trophy. He has continued to play well for Wake Forest on the US College circuit in his sophomore year and finished T16 in the Valspar Collegiate this week (not shown below). He has plenty of match play experience representing Ireland and GB&I in boys and men’s tournaments.

Mark Power – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Mark Power – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

3. Jack DYER (ENG) ⇑11
SPWAR #31 / WAGR #238

Jack has backed up his good summer on the British amateur circuit by performing very well in South Africa in recent months. To feature prominently in five big events over there, including medalist and runner-up honours in the South African Amateur Championship, gives me a lot of confidence. I have a much higher regard for South African golf and golfers than the WAGR does. He offers what few other GB&I potential players can at the moment – U.S. experience from his college days (the first two years of which were in Fort Lauderdale, Florida), recent match play results and competitive form.

Jack Dyer – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Jack Dyer – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

4. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) ⇑6
SPWAR #63 / WAGR #31

Ben secured his place in my team with his T11 result at the Jones Cup in February which showed he had lost none of his ability or competitive spirit during the COVID-19 lock down. He has been one of our better players since 2019 and deserves his chance on the biggest stage in May.

Ben Schmidt – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Ben Schmidt – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

5. Joe LONG (ENG) ⇓4
SPWAR #18 / WAGR #47

Joe returned to South Africa again during the winter. After a couple of disappointing European Tour pro events in late 2020 he only played in one of the South African amateur events where he was disqualified. As the reigning Amateur champion and on the back of an impressive couple of seasons he must be selected for the GB&I team but his lack of recent outings are a concern. We will see where his game is when he takes up his Masters invitation at Augusta in a few weeks time. 

Joe Long – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Joe Long – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

6. Matty LAMB (ENG) ⇓4
SPWAR #90 / WAGR #86

Matty proved to be one of our better players in 2020 when play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur. It was encouraging to see him also perform well against a strong field at the Jones Cup in February. With a 2021 EuroPro Tour card already earned he deserves his Walker Cup amateur send off.

Matty Lamb – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Matty Lamb – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

7. John MURPHY (IRL) ⇑13
SPWAR #76 / WAGR #117

John has played his way on to my team on the back of his T6 at the Jones Cup and continued solid play for Louisville University. Not shown below he also finished 2nd at the V1 Sports General Hackler Invitational in South Carolina this week. If he can follow that up with another solid outing at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational in Florida on 28-29 March the experienced Irishman must be worth a go.   

John Murphy – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

John Murphy – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

8. Jake BOLTON (ENG) ⇓2
SPWAR #58 / WAGR #59

Limited competitive action in 2021 has seen Jake slide a little but for me it would be unfair for him to miss out on the Walker Cup team due to the pandemic. Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has played consistently well. He reached the semi-finals of the Amateur and South African Amateur Championships last year and also has two top 5’s finishes to his name in Florida in recent years which bode well for him.

Jake Bolton – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Jake Bolton – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

9. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) ⇓5
SPWAR #95 / WAGR #41

Angus performed very well in the Western Amateur last summer – 72 hole medalist honours there shows his class – and has a number of recent wins in Minnesota where he continues to study. He now has lots of experience in big events but would help his case further with the men that matter if he could produce a top 10 for the Gophers in The Goodwin event in California next week. 

Angus Flanagan – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Angus Flanagan – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

10. Barclay BROWN (ENG) ⇓3
SPWAR #70 / WAGR #133

Barclay produced a string of fine results in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur last summer. Whilst he hasn’t quite made his mark at Stanford yet, not always making their starting line up, he is playing regularly in the U.S. and hopefully his T5 at Bandon Dunes in early March will boost his confidence. He may still need a high finish in the Cardinal’s home event, The Goodwin, on 25-27 March to seal the deal.   

Barclay Brown – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Barclay Brown – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

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Looking at the rest of the players I originally selected in my 20 man squad: –

11. Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL) ⇑2
SPWAR #118 / WAGR #108

A well known name and reputation but are the recent results really there to justify his selection after a positive Winter 2020 touring Australia and South Africa ?  Whether relevant or not I was also disappointed to read in a Golf channel article in December that he had chosen not to complete his school exams and in the process had chosen to forego his 2021 scholarship to the University of Florida. Tom’s playing in the Azalea Invitational this week in South Carolina and hopefully can get that good 2021 finish under his belt.

Tom McKibbin – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Tom McKibbin – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

12. Sandy SCOTT (SCO) ⇓4
SPWAR #216 / WAGR #6

Sandy was GB&I’s star player in the 2019 match at Hoylake and has huge amounts of experience. However, accepting he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech, his results haven’t been good enough to make my 2021 line up. Worse still he hasn’t played competitively since 18th October having injured his wrist during Round 1 of the Maridoe Collegiate invitational. He is due to make his comeback around now following minor surgery. Texas Tech are scheduled to play in the Old Waverley Collegiate in Mississipi on 26-28 March. It won’t be easy for him to make his university team, who have been doing well in his absence, but let’s hope he’s fit enough to give it a go. He may be our highest ranked player in the WAGR but sadly that says more about its accuracy than it does about his current standing. 

Sandy Scott – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Sandy Scott – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

13. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG) ⇓8
SPWAR #79 / WAGR #111

I thought Haider was very unlucky not to be included in the formal R&A Squad given his 2020 results which were arguably as good collectively as anyone else’s. Unfortunately he hasn’t appeared since the European Amateur last September so has fallen down the pecking order.  

Haider Hussain – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Haider Hussain – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

14. Ben JONES (ENG) ⇓5
SPWAR #52 / WAGR #42

In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 but his case for inclusion this time is weaker. I had him 9th in October but his late withdrawal from the Jones Cup and his lack of action in recent months means I reluctantly can’t find a place for him.

Ben Jones – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Ben Jones – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

15. Olly HUGGINS (ENG) ⇓4
SPWAR #105 / WAGR #134

Olly enjoyed a good 2020 season and must have been close to inclusion in the official R&A squad. However, the pandemic has snookered him in 2021 and by not finding any competitive action has now missed the chance to play at Seminole.

Olly Huggins – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

Olly Huggins – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

16. Arron EDWARDS-HILL (ENG) ⇓4
SPWAR #116 / WAGR #222

Arron is another very good English player who has performed consistently well for a few years now. He has recently played in the Spanish International Amateur and in a few events on the Evolve Pro Tour but sadly another one who has been deprived of the chance to make a run at the team in 2021.

Arron Edwards-Hill – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Arron Edwards-Hill – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

17. Joe PAGDIN (ENG) ⇑1
SPWAR #169 / WAGR #91

I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. Joe has an excellent match play record and massive potential but unfortunately hasn’t been able to make a big enough impression in his freshman year at the University of Florida. Sadly the Gators had to withdrawal from this week’s Tiger Invitational due to a positive COVID-19 test within their golf program thus depriving him of a timely playing opportunity.

Joe Pagdin – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Joe Pagdin – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

18. Callan BARROW (ENG) ⇓1
SPWAR #169 / WAGR #427

Callan had a good 2020 but has been unable to play any events in 2021 so like a few others has slipped out of the picture.

Callan Barrrow – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Callan Barrrow – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

19. Jack COPE (ENG) ⇓3
SPWAR #197 / WAGR #613

After a long spell on the sidelines Jack came back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy. No events since last September means he has sadly not had the opportunity before this year’s match to build on his comeback season.

Jack Cope – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Jack Cope – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

20. Callum FARR (ENG) ⇓3
SPWAR #185 / WAGR #129

English International Callum is a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events over the years but hasn’t done enough to make the GB&I 2021 team. Sadly failed to make an impression in the Jones Cup his only event in the last 6 months.

Callum Farr – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Callum Farr – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

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Caolan Rafferty wasn’t in my 20 man squad in October but his high WAGR means he is worthy of further comment in this article.

Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) N/a
SPWAR #109 / WAGR #22

Caolan suffered a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major British events last summer. He played in the rescheduled Arnold Palmer Cup at Bay Hill in December having originally been selected for the International Team in March 2020. I like Caolan and he was my 2nd pick for the 2019 match at Hoylake but his lack of action must go against him this year. 

Caolan Rafferty – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21

Caolan Rafferty – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21

It would be wrong of me not to mention in passing Dan BRADBURY (ENG) SPWAR #152 / WAGR #99 and Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG) SPWAR #131 / WAGR 361 who have both been playing well on the US College circuit in 2020/21. Enrique’s Florida Athletic University is about 60 miles south of Seminole G.C.

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Appendix 1 – World Amateur Rankings – Top 20 GB&I Players on 18th March 2021

Scratch Players World Amateur RankingSPWAR 

World Amateur Golf RankingWAGR

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The Walker Cup match is being played on 8-9th May at Seminole GC in Florida.

The actual GB&I squad is being selected in the week commencing 29th March with an announcement expected in early April. In such a difficult year it will be interesting to see who the Selection Committee opt for.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2021, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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128. Will The 2021 Walker Cup Be Postponed Until October ?

17th February 2021

All of the signals suggest that the 2021 Walker Cup may shortly be postponed.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the primary reason why the match should not take place in early May. The United Kingdom and Ireland have been badly impacted. Golf is currently banned in all home countries except for Scotland with widespread travel restrictions and quarantining in place. Whilst a roadmap to an easing of these controls is due to be announced by the UK Government next week this is not expected to deliver a quick fix. A gradual easing of health and safety measures over the next 4-6 months seems to be the plan.

Reflecting the above The R&A today announced that the Men’s Home Internationals would not now be played between 14-16 April 2021 at Royal Dornoch in Scotland due to the pandemic. You will recall this competition had been brought forward in December from its original September date to assist the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) selectors in choosing a Walker Cup team.

Some leading GB&I amateurs have struggled to find regular practice – let alone playing – opportunities since last summer given the UK lockdowns and travel issues with regard to the normal winter haunts of Australia, South Africa and USA. It now seems unlikely that any competitive golf will take place in GB&I until June 2021. It will also be interesting to see how many of the current 27 GB&I entrants to the forthcoming Spanish International Amateur make the 1st tee on 3rd March.

The selection of a proper GB&I team in April is compromised in my opinion. Yes, The R&A could select one for a May match at Seminole but would it be fair to all of the players currently competing for a spot to do so.

Last week I wrote about Davis THOMPSON, Ricky CASTILLO and John PAK all being selected for the USA Walker Cup team as the three highest ranked USA players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) released on the 10th February 2021. The USGA announced this preliminary selection criteria on 21st December 2020 but have subsequently been unusually silent in formally confirming these names. I interpret this as evidence that a decision to proceed in May is still being considered carefully by both parties.

The Walker Cup needs family, friends and fans to make it what it is. With travel from Europe likely to be very difficult until later in the summer this will not be straight forward for away supporters in May. It should not be played behind closed doors and with no tickets having gone on sale yet this seems to be an option being considered. A match with just the players and captains on site – perhaps with some home fans too – hardly seems worth playing to me.

There is no material commercial television and sponsorship considerations to hamper a deferment; something which has driven the continuation of the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and PGA or European Tour events in 2020/21.

Golf at Seminole is seasonal with play commencing in late October and ending in mid-May. Therefore if the USGA wish to keep the match in Juno Beach, Florida it seems sensible to reschedule it for October as soon as the course re-opens. A move to another venue in August or September is an option if October is considered too late.

Amateur golf fans in USA may not understand a postponement given that college and professional golf is being played with some fans able to attend. However, the situation in GB&I is not the same. I understand that some players on both sides may not choose to wait for an Autumn date but on balance I believe we’ve now reached the point where we need to buy ourselves some more time. A date broadly in line with the now traditional September one is not a disaster if it means a normal match for both sides can be played.

ME.

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127. Thompson, Castillo and Pak Secure USA Team Places

10th February 2021

Davis THOMPSON #2, Ricky CASTILLO #4 and John PAK #7 were the three highest ranked USA players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) released on the 10th February 2021.

In line with the USGA’s announcement on 21st December 2020 they therefore received automatic exemptions onto the 2021 USA Walker Cup team.

World Amateur Golf Ranking – 10th February 2021 Release

Pierceson COODY #8, who has been swapping third place with Pak in recent months, dropped out of the USA top three with the finishing line in sight. As is sometimes the way with WAGR it appears he was penalised for playing in last week’s Jones Cup Invitational which Castillo and Pak both missed. Coody should not worry overly as he is very likely to be selected by the USGA when the remaining places are confirmed.

The USA team is now taking shape.

Tyler STRAFACI, the U.S. Amateur champion, secured his place at Bandon Dunes G.C. in August 2020.

Stewart HAGESTAD is as close to a certainty as there can be to make his third successive appearance in the match, once again picking up the mid-amateur berth. Hagestad reached the Quarter Finals of the U.S. Amateur in Oregon and finished a creditable tied 11th in last week’s Jones Cup Invitational. No one can question his status as the USA’s No. 1 mid-amateur.

In addition to Pierceson COODY I am confident that Cole HAMMER, Austin ECKROAT and Quade CUMMINS will also be selected based on their recent performances.

The remaining spot is a little harder to determine at this stage with William HOLCOMB, Mac MEISSNER, William MOUW, David PERKINS, Garrett REBAND seeming to have the strongest cases. All accept Holcomb were in the USGA’s original practice squad.

If Hagestad and Hammer do get the nod to join Pak then that will mean USA will have an unusually high three players returning from the last match.

Captain Nathanial Crosby suggested at the Jones Cup Invitational last weekend that a full team announcement may surprisingly be made by the end of February so it seems we won’t have long to wait for the final USA team.

ME.

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125. The R&A Announce Their 2021 GB&I Walker Cup Squad

2nd December 2020

The R&A today announced a 15-man Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup squad for the 2021 match.

The GB&I 2021 Squad (Graphic: The R&A)

Here is a list of all of the selected players with their current amateur rankings: –

Jake BOLTON (22) – England – SPWAR #19 / WAGR #54

Barclay BROWN (19) – England – SPWAR #54 / WAGR #135

Callum FARR (22) – England – SPWAR #99 / WAGR #112

Alex FITZPATRICK (21) – England – SPWAR #71 / WAGR #37

Angus FLANAGAN (21) – England – SPWAR #58 / WAGR #38

Benjamin JONES (21) – England – SPWAR #17 / WAGR #39

Matty LAMB (22) – England – SPWAR #43 / WAGR #83

Joe LONG (23) – England – SPWAR #7 / WAGR #50

John MURPHY (22) – Ireland – SPWAR #148 / WAGR #103

Tom MCKIBBIN (17) – Ireland – SPWAR #62 / WAGR #78

Joseph PAGDIN (19) – England – SPWAR #167 / WAGR #47

Mark POWER (20) – Ireland – SPWAR #33 / WAGR #32

Caolan RAFFERTY (27) – Ireland – SPWAR #49 / WAGR #26

Benjamin SCHMIDT (18) – England – SPWAR #40 / WAGR #34

Sandy SCOTT (22) – Scotland – SPWAR #97 / WAGR #8

As expected the squad is dominated by English players of whom there are ten. Ireland have contributed four, Scotland one and Wales none.

Alex Fitzpatrick, Caolan Rafferty and Sandy Scott were all members of the losing GB&I team at Royal Liverpool in 2019.

Whilst all of these players have justified their selection the Committee do appear to have given the benefit of any doubt to those with US playing experience, which makes sense for an away match, and higher WAGR rankings.

In my opinion English trio Haider Hussain SPWAR #46 (7th) / WAGR #143, Olly Huggins SPWAR #51 (9th) / WAGR #162 and Arron Edwards-Hill SPWAR #75 (14th) / WAGR #157 can consider themselves unfortunate to be overlooked for the squad.

Eight of the squad, if you include Tom McKibbin, are US-based and given the additional complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic it seems unlikely a practice / team building session will be held before the team gather in Florida. 
GB&I captain Stuart Wilson said “We have selected a talented group of players to work with in preparation for the match against the United States of America next year. We will be closely monitoring their form and results in a number of important events over the coming months while other players still have time to play their way into contention before we finalise the team which will travel to Florida. We will go to Seminole with belief in ourselves and will give it our best shot to win back the trophy.”

Given the small number of events scheduled to be played between now and when the final team will be announced in April, let alone the complications of travelling abroad to compete in many of them, it is going to take something exceptional for a player outside this initial group to break into the GB&I team.

The 48th Walker Cup match will be played at Seminole Golf Club in Florida on 8th and 9th May 2021.

ME.

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124. Sixteen Players Selected For USA 2021 Walker Cup Practice Session

24th November 2020

Sixteen players have been invited to attend a USA Walker Cup practice session on 16-18 December 2020 by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee.

The session will be overseen by captain Nathaniel Crosby and held at Bay Hill Club & Lodge and the nearby Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, both in Orlando, Florida.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge

The sixteen players, with their current SPWAR’s and home towns, are: –

Ricky Castillo – #13 – Yorba Linda, California
Pierceson Coody – #5 – Plano, Texas
Quade Cummins – #2 – Weatherford, Oklahoma
Cooper Dossey – #32 – Austin, Texas
Austin Eckroat – #8 – Edmond, Oklahoma
Stewart Hagestad – #64 – Newport Beach, California
Cole Hammer – #18 – Houston, Texas
McClure Meissner – #16 – San Antonio, Texas
William Mouw – #12 – Chino, California
John Pak – #9 – Scotch Plains, New Jersey
David Perkins – #14 – East Peoria, Illinois
Garett Reband – #35 – York, South Carolina
Cameron Sisk – #31 – San Diego, California
Tyler Strafaci – #6 – Davie, Florida
Davis Thompson – #3 – St. Simons Island, Georgia
Michael Thorbjornsen – #267 – Wellesley, Massachusetts

Mid-amateur Stewart Hagestad (2017-19), Cole Hammer (2017) and John Pak (2019) have all represented the USA in previous Walker Cup matches.

Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, has the highest SPWAR and there are 123 other American players above him in this particular ranking. However, he did recently reach the quarter finals of the 2020 U.S. Amateur and he does enjoy a WAGR of #32 which goes someway to explaining his inclusion.

Trey Winstead #18 in the SPWAR, Trent Phillips #21, Travis Vick #24 and Parker Coady #29, twin brother of Pierceson, can all consider themselves unlucky to miss out on an invite.

Lake Nona Golf & Country Club

Eight of the sixteen players invited are competing in the Arnold Palmer Cup, also being played at Bay Hill on 21-23 December, so the USGA is sensibly limiting travel for the invitees during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also an advantage to the visiting GB&I team as USA’s leading players will not be gaining the early look at Seminole that they may have been expecting.

Seven of the sixteen players from the 2019 Walker Cup practice session ultimately made the 10-man USA Team.

The 48th Match will be played at Seminole Golf Club, in Juno Beach, Florida on 8-9 May 2021.

ME.

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