132. The R&A Announce The 2021 GB&I Walker Cup Team

30th March 2021

The R&A have today announced their 10-man Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team for the 48th Walker Cup match to be played against USA on 8th-9th May at Seminole G.C. in Florida.

GB&I Team (Graphic: The R&A)

Here is a list of the players with their nationalities, ages and current amateur rankings: –

Team

Barclay BROWN – England (20) – SPWAR #65 / WAGR #134

Alex FITZPATRICK – England (22) – SPWAR #18 / WAGR #14

Angus FLANAGAN – England (21) – SPWAR #110 / WAGR #40

Ben JONES – England (21) – SPWAR #86 / WAGR #41

Matty LAMB – England (23) – SPWAR #113 / WAGR #85

Joe LONG – England (23) – SPWAR #31 / WAGR #48

John MURPHY – Ireland (22) – SPWAR #63 / WAGR #99

Mark POWER – Ireland (20) – SPWAR #52 / WAGR #29

Ben SCHMIDT – England (18) – SPWAR #78 / WAGR #31

Sandy SCOTT – Scotland (22) – SPWAR #241 / WAGR #8

Reserves

Jack DYER – England (23) – SPWAR #42 / WAGR #225

Jake BOLTON – England (22) – SPWAR #73 / WAGR #60

Here is my analysis of the 2021 selection: –

There are 7 English, 2 Irish, 1 Scottish and 0 Welsh players in the 2021 GB&I team.

Joe LONG (ENG) earned his place on the team by winning the 125th Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale G.C. in August 2020.

Sandy SCOTT (SCO) and Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) secured their places as the two highest ranked GB&I players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) at the time of selection. They are also the only two players to return from the 2019 match at Royal Liverpool G.C.

The remaining seven players and two reserves were selected by the four-man Selection Committee which comprised Pádraig HOGAN (Chairman / Ireland), Stuart WILSON (Captain / Scotland), Nigel EDWARDS (England) and Carl ROWE (Wales).

The Covid-19 pandemic has complicated the selection process with home-based players largely unable to make their cases with few competitive opportunities in the last 6 months.

It is therefore no surprise to see six of the ten-man team made up of US college players, namely, Barclay Brown (Stanford), Alex Fitzpatrick (Wake Forest), Angus Flanagan (Minnesota), John Murphy (Louisville), Mark Power (Wake Forest) and Sandy Scott (Texas Tech).

Callum FARR (ENG), Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL), Joe PAGDIN (ENG) and Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL), who were all in the original 15-man GB&I Walker Cup Squad announced on 2nd December, missed out.

Jack DYER (ENG) played his way into the picture from outside the Squad with a series of very good results in South Africa early in 2021.

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.

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

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126. The 2021 R&A Men’s Home Internationals Are To Be Played In April

17th December 2020

The R&A have announced that the Men’s Home Internationals will now be played at Royal Dornoch G.C. in Scotland on 14-16 April 2021.

The decision has been made to assist Great Britain and Ireland’s (GB&I) preparations for the Walker Cup match against USA on 8-9 May 2021.

It now seems likely that the GB&I team will be selected immediately following the tournament and announced publically on Monday 19th April.

Royal Dornoch G.C. Championship Course (Photo: Royal Dornoch G.C.)

The R&A will be running the Men’s Home Internationals for the first time next year. They will be taking over from the four home golf unions that participate and have hosted it in turn since 1932.

The 2020 Home Internationals were scheduled to be played at Royal Dornoch G.C. on 9-11 September but were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 event was due to be played at Hankley Common G.C. in England on 8-10 September but it appears they will now have to wait until 2022 for their turn.

The Home Internationals are contested by 11-man teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales with the four countries playing each other over three successive days. Each match involves 5 foursomes and 10 singles, all played over 18 holes.

Ireland were champions four times between 2014-17 with England winning the title in 2018 and 2019.

It’s mid-September date in the amateur calendar has always been a surprise given it’s prestige and excellent basis for GB&I team selection. Mid-June to mid-August would be the ideal time for the Home Internationals to be staged as this would allow most of our U.S. college players to also participate.

It is worth noting that 7 of the recently announced 15 man 2021 GB&I Walker Cup Squad are studying in the United States. Their Spring seasons will be heading towards their NCAA Championship climax so these players won’t be able to participate in these ‘trials’.

An informal GB&I squad gathering will probably take place around the Jones Cup Invitational which is been played between 4-7 February 2021 and may involve a trip to Seminole GC.

The Raymond Trophy (Photo: Ayrshire Golf Blog)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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117. Stuart Wilson Appointed GB&I Walker Cup Captain For 2021

19th December 2019

Scotland’s Stuart WILSON (42) was today announced as the new captain of the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) men’s golf team.

Wilson is the Managing Secretary of Forfar G.C., the club he represented with distinction as a player for many years. He becomes the second GB&I captain to come from Forfar G.C., following in the footsteps of Sandy Saddler who led the team in 1977.

Stuart is married with two children.

His first match in charge will be against Continent of Europe in the St. Andrews Trophy which is being staged at Royal Porthcawl G.C. on 23-24 July 2020.

He will then captain the GB&I team against United States of America at the 48th Walker Cup match on 8-9 May 2021 at Seminole G.C. in Florida.

In all likelihood Wilson will also take in the 2022 St. Andrews Trophy before having the honour of captaining the GB&I Walker Cup team in his home country when the match returns to St. Andrews in 2023.

Stuart Wilson (Photo: carnoustiecountry.com)

The highlight of Wilson’s playing career was his victory in the 2004 Amateur Championship at St Andrews where he beat Lee Corfield 4&3 in the 36 hole final. He overcame Francesco Molinari 3&1 in the quarter finals in the same year.

A few weeks later he went on to win the low amateur Silver Medal at the Open Championship at Royal Troon when he finished tied 63rd. In his only other appearance at The Open he missed the cut at Royal Lytham & St. Annes’s in 2001 having come through qualifying.

In 2003 Wilson won the Lytham Trophy by 4-shots and was subsequently selected  for that year’s Walker Cup side at Ganton. GB&I won 12.5-11.5 with Stuart contributing two points from his four games; one and half of them coming with fellow Scotsman David Inglis in an unbeaten foursomes partnership.

A graduate of Abertay University in Dundee Wilson also represented GB&I in the Palmer Cup in 2001 and 2002, USA winning both matches.

Wilson has plenty of team captaincy experience firstly with Scotland Boys, then at the Junior Ryder Cup and most recently with GB&I Boys. However, he has found victories hard to come by to date.

USA beat Europe in both the 2012 and 2014 Junior Ryder Cup matches, firstly 14.5-9.5 at Olympia Fields C.C. and then 8-16 at Blairgowrie G.C.

In the Jacques Léglise Trophy Continent of Europe have twice beaten GB&I at home, at Ballybunion G.C. in 2017 and Aldeburgh G.C. in 2019 with Wilson’s team winning away at Kytäjä Golf, Finland in 2018.

Commenting upon his appointment Wilson said “I am very proud to be selected as the GB&I men’s team captain and look forward to leading a talented group of golfers at the St Andrews Trophy and the Walker Cup.”

“I have fond memories of my time as a player representing GB&I in these prestigious matches and I am determined to make a valuable contribution to the team as its leader and in helping the players.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on The R&A Boys’ Selection Committee and know first-hand the level of talent which is emerging. It feels like a very natural progression to be taking on this role to continue to foster these gifted amateur golfers.”

Stuart Wilson succeeds fellow Scot Craig Watson. Unfortunately for Craig he was unable to find the winning formula during his term of office.

GB&I currently hold neither the St Andrews Trophy or Walker Cup and with Continent of Europe seemingly getting stronger by the year and an away Walker Cup coming up in USA captain Nathanial Crosby’s back yard Wilson certainly has a big job on his hands. I wish him the best of luck.

ME.

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

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15. The 2016 European Men’s Amateur Team Championships

9th July 2016

The European Men’s Amateur Team Championships finished today in France (Division 1) and Luxembourg (Division 2).

These are the events that highlight a player’s ability to compete at the highest level and help firm up foursome pairings for selectors down the line.

Scotland retained their European Team title and in particular Connor SYME, Craig HOWIE, Robert MACINTYRE and Grant FORREST have enhanced their already strong reputations further.

Ireland‘s Stuart GREHAN and Jack HUME qualified strongly and performed well in the match play stage as the their team finished a creditable 6th.

There was little to cheer for England who finished a disappointing 13th. Alfie PLANT did however perform well himself.

Wales finished 2nd in Division 2 but David BOOTE won the stroke play qualifier and all four of his match play games.

All in all, save for Craig HOWIE, who is really applying pressure on the R&A selectors (and me), I haven’t seen anything to suggest I need to alter my St. Andrews Trophy team selection which I published here a few days ago.

Here is my GB&I Player Performance Analysis covering these two events.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 18.01.22

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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