Englishman Alfie PLANT (25) yesterday collected the Silver Medal at the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
The Silver Medal is awarded to the lowest amateur competitor who makes the cut at The Championship. It was first awarded in 1949 and previous recipients include José Mariá Olazábel (1985), Tiger Woods (1996), Justin Rose (1998) and Rory McIlroy (2007).
The 2017 Open will of course be remembered for Jordan Spieth’s fine win – amazing to think he is 1 year and 21 days younger than Alfie – and Brandon Grace’s record breaking 62 in Round 3; the lowest Major score in 157 years and 442 Championships.
Alfie shot rounds of 71 73 69 and 73 for a 286 (+6) total. He finished tied 62nd ahead of both Andy Sullivan (-7) and Danny Willet (+9).
This prestigious prize was secured on Friday when he was the only amateur to make the cut with a 144 (+4) 36-hole score.
Alfie Plant With The Silver Medal (Photo: Golf Monthly)
The other competing amateurs, Connor SYME (73 76 +9), Luca Cianchetti (75 76 +11), Maverick McNealy (78 74 +12), Harry ELLIS (77 75 +12), all missed the +5 cut.
I am sure Captain Craig Watson will have been pleased to see Alfie, already a certainty for our Walker Cup team after his performances in recent weeks, once again deliver at the highest level and under the most extreme pressure.
Scott GREGORY also showed that he can mix it with the Pros last week. He finished tied 4th at the COBRA PUMA GOLF Championship on the PGA EuroPro Tour. Scott shot rounds of 65, 74 and 73 (-4) at Machynys Peninsula GC. He is pushing hard for inclusion in our Walker Cup Team.
The above reports are certainly encouraging from the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) perspective. However, need to be tempered by some of the results our amateur friends in the USA are delivering with the ‘big boys’.
Sam Burns was the latest to impress in USA. He shot rounds of 68 66 66 and 66 (-18) to finish tied 6th in the Barbasol Championship on the US PGA Tour last weekend.
Other US amateurs to deliver on the PGA Tour this year include: –
Braden Thornberry – T4 FedEx St Jude Classic
Scottie Scheffler – T27 US Open
Cameron Champ – T32 US Open
Stewart Hagestad – T36 The Masters
Maverick McNealy – T44 John Deere Classic
Sahith Theegala – T49 Genesis Open, Los Angeles
Nick Hardy – T55 John Deere Classic
I think it’s hard picking a GB&I Walker Cup Team but it doesn’t compare to the job facing the USA selectors.
I noticed today that Maverick McNealy, the golden boy of US college and amateur golf, is only the 15th highest ranked US player in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking. He is rated 18th in the World. Could he miss out given that Mid-Amateurs Stewart Hagestad (63rd) and Scott Harvey (85th) are relative outliers meaning there may only be 8 spots available for US college players ?
There was good news from Gailes Links earlier this week when Scotland’s Connor SYME came through Final Qualifying to earn his place at this month’s 146th Open Championship.
Connor shot rounds of 71 and 67 in often wet and windy conditions to finish tied 1st on -4 alongside USA’s Julian Suri.
Connor Syme (Photo: Matthew Lewis)
Like Alfie Plant last weekend at the European Amateur, who is 25 today, Syme gave himself an early golfing birthday present with his performance. He is 22 on 11th July.
Connor’s likely Walker Cup teammates Matthew JORDAN (ENG) and Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) also did well in Ayrshire finishing 10th and tied 11th respectively.
Down in Nottinghamshire Stefano Mazzoli (ITA) and Rhys NEVIN-WHARTON (ENG) both recorded -7 results at Hollinwell but sadly missed out in a 1-from-3 play-off with Pro Laurie Canter.
It was also a close thing down at Royal Cinque Ports for some of our other leading amateurs too.
David BOOTE (WAL) made the 1-from-4 play-off after rounds of 71 and 70 (-1) but like at Walton Heath for the US Open Qualifier a few weeks ago just came up short in the final reckoning.
Scott GREGORY (ENG) and Harry HALL (ENG) both finished on Even par to miss out on the same Kent play-off. Josh HILLEARD (ENG) on +2 was also in the mix.
Finally, Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG), paired with home favourite Ian Poulter, did well at Woburn. His rounds of 72 and 68 (-4) on The Marquess’ Course saw him finish tied 8th.
So I make it a total of five amateurs competing this year at Royal Birkdale: –
Luca Cianchetti (ITA) – 2016 European Amateur Champion Harry ELLIS (ENG) – 2017 Amateur Champion
Maverick McNealy (USA) – 2016 Mark McCormack Medal Winner Alfie PLANT (ENG) – 2017 European Amateur Champion Connor SYME (SCO) – via Final Qualifying at Gailes Links
Australia’s Curtis LUCK, the 2016 US Amateur Champion, also held an exemption for Royal Birkdale but gave this up when he chose to turn Professional after The Masters.
Good luck to them all but particularly Messrs. Ellis, Plant and Syme !
England’s Harry ELLIS yesterday won the Amateur Championship on the 38th hole at Royal St. George’s G.C.
Ellis, who was 4 down with 5 holes to play, showed remarkable courage and nerve to overcome Australian Dylan Perry’s apparently unassailable lead.
In doing so the 21 year old from Southampton also guaranteed himself a spot in Great Britain & Ireland’s 2017 Walker Cup team. The selectors have been clear in recent years that a home winner of the Amateur Championship, in a Walker Cup year, would rightly have to be included in our team.
Harry Ellis (Photo: @RandA)
Harry will also receive exemptions into the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale GC. and the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills GC., as well as an invitation to the 2018 Masters at Augusta National GC. In addition there will also be other European Tour and PGA Tour invitations available to him if he wishes to pursue them.
In what is becoming a recurring theme this year Harry is another player performing well and winning who was not included in the initial 19-man Walker Cup squad. However, to be fair to the R&A selectors I don’t think many people would have included him back in January 2017.
This is Ellis’ second major amateur victory. In 2012, aged just 16, he became the youngest player to win the English Amateur Championship. This led to both Boys and Men’s representative honours for England in 2012 and 2013.
He moved to Florida State University in January 2014, his start date deferred due to the tragic death of his mum Tracy in 2013 from cancer aged just 50.
Understandably he found his Freshman year difficult and his golf suffered. With Florida State having a strong line up Ellis decided to take a red jacket Sophomore year, playing no competitive College golf. In 2015/16 he returned to the golf squad but found it hard to get any game time. In his four tournaments he had an average score of 75.58. His patience and hard work were finally rewarded in 2016/17, his Junior season, where he was required to play a leading role for the Seminoles. He played 39 rounds, the joint highest in the Florida state line up, and delivered a 71.62 stroke average (the second best) which strongly contributed to the team reaching the NCAA Division 1 National Championships. He finished the season ranked 53rd in the Golfstat US College rankings and as a result was selected for Europe’s Arnold Palmer Cup team.
Despite his strong season in the United States it still appeared at the start of last week that Harry would come up short in the Walker Cup selection debate.
He needed to deliver a knock out blow in the coming weeks to force his way in to the Walker Cup picture. It’s one thing needing it, it’s another delivering it.
How quickly things can change. Despite only flying back into the country 10 days ago and without the links practice that many of his fellow GB&I players will have enjoyed over the last 6 weeks he managed to deliver that knockout blow in some style. Harry Ellis – 2017 Amateur Champion.
As a quick Walker Cup aside we should of course note that one man’s success is another man’s failure. Ellis wasn’t in the now 21-man Squad and whilst nearby wasn’t a probable pick before his stunning Amateur Championship victory. Harry Ellis has therefore just cost some one else there place in the 2017 GB&I Team.
When you look at Harry’s recent story – from personal tragedy to the ups and downs of (College) golf – you can quickly see how mentally strong he must be. Few players in the world would have been able to battle to the very end yesterday – after 10 rounds in six days – and win. He is now fully deserving of his Walker Cup spot and the spoils of victory that will come his way.
Well done Harry.
Appendix – Other GB&I Amateur Championship Performances
Two other US college golfers did very well at The Amateur. Ireland’s Paul MCBRIDE (Wake Forest) reached the Quarter Finals whilst Ryan LUMSDEN (Northwestern) fell in Round 4. McBride now has a very good chance of making our 2017 Walker Cup team
Robert MACINTYRE and Jack SINGH BRAR also reached Round 4 further strengthening their Los Angeles 2017 claims.
Here’s a look at how all of the leading GB&I players got on: –
Match Play Stage
Harry ELLIS (ENG) – Champion / Won 38th hole v. Dylan Perry AUS)
Paul MCBRIDE (IRE) – Lost 2 holes to Harry Ellis (ENG)
Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) – Lost 2 holes to Jarle Kaldestad Volden (NOR) Robert MACINTYRE (SCO) – Lost 1 hole to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Paul McBride (IRE) Charlie STRICKLAND (ENG) – Lost 4&3 to Alejandro Tosti (ARG)
George BAYLIS (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Robert MacIntyre (SCO) Stuart GREHAN (IRE) – Lost 1 hole to Ryan Lumsden (SCO) Craig HOWIE (SCO) – Lost 20th hole to Kristoffer Ventura (NOR) David LANGLEY (ENG) – Lost 4&3 to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Daniel O’LOUGHLIN (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Zach Murray (AUS) Caolan RAFFERTY* (IRE) – Lost 25th hole to Alejandro Tosti (ARG) Tom SLOMAN (ENG) – Lost 1 hole to Matias Honkala (FIN) Jordan SUNDBORG (ENG) – Lost 6&5 to Stefano Mazzoli (ITA)
David BOOTE (WAL) – Lost 3&2 to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Ben CHAMBERLAIN (WAL) – Lost 2&1 to Hurly LONG (GER) Robin DAWSON (IRE) – Lost 5&3 to Ryan Lumsden (SCO) Sean FLANAGAN (IRE) – Lost 2&1 to Jack Singh Brar (ENG) Evan GRIFFITH (WAL) – Lost 4&2 to Hayden Springer (USA) Matthew JORDAN (ENG) – Lost 2&1 to Jordan Seiple (USA) Chris MACLEAN (SCO) – Lost 1 hole to Tom Sloman (ENG) Llewellyn MATTHEWS (WAL) – Lost 3&1 to Luca Cianchette (ITA) Conor O’ROURKE (IRE) – Lost 3&2 to Min Woo Lee (AUS) Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) – Lost 3&1 to Alejandro Tosti (ARG) Craig ROSS (SCO) – Lost 1 hole to Danile O’Loughlin (ENG) Sandy SCOTT (SCO) – Lost 2&1 to Charlie Strickland (ENG) Euan WALKER (SCO) – Lost 3&2 to Jordan Sundborg (ENG)
JR GALBRAITH (IRE) – Lost 3&2 to Casper Simberg (FIN) Tim HARRY (WAL) – Lost 19th hole to Kim Koivu (FIN) Josh HILLEARD (ENG) – Lost 5&4 to George Baylis (ENG) Conor PURCELL (IRE) – Lost 3&1 to Frerik Niléhn (SWE) Connor SYME (SCO0 – Lost 1 hole to David Langley (ENG) William WHITEOAK (ENG) – Lost 2 holes to Tom Sloman (ENG)
Stroke Play Stage
*Caolan Rafferty achieved medalist honours in the Stroke Play Qualifying Competition. He shot 70 at Royal St. George’s GC on Day 1 and a new course record 62 at Prince’s on Day 2 for a 132 (-10) total.
The Match Play qualifying cut fell at 141 (-1).
Notable players, mainly in the context of the Walker Cup, to miss this cut included: –
Bradley MOORE (ENG) Ev Alfie PLANT (ENG) Ev Jamie STEWART (SCO) Ev Jack DAVIDSON (WAL) +1 Jake BURNAGE (ENG) +2 Colm CAMPBELL (IRE) +3) Dan BROWN (ENG) +5 Peter O’KEEFFE (IRE) +5 Liam JOHNSTON (SCO) +6 James WALKER (ENG) +6 Marco PENGE (ENG) +7 Alex GLEESON (IRE) +7 Harry HALL (ENG) +8 Owen EDWARDS (WAL) +12 Barry HUME (SCO) +12.