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 Men’s Home Internationals came to a dramatic conclusion this afternoon at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds.
The Raymond Trophy was won by IRELAND. They drew the deciding match with ENGLAND 7.5 – 7.5 but in doing so pipped the home nation by a half point in total match points earned, 26.5 against 26.0.
Ireland (Photo: Leaderboard Photography)
This was Ireland’s fourth consecutive victory in the event, a national record for them in the long history of this competition.
For the second year running Colm CAMPBELL found himself in the all important final Singles game. Once again he delivered. His half, having been 5 Down after 6 holes, against Jake BURNAGE pushed Ireland up to 7.5 points which they had known at the start of play would be enough for them to secure the title.
Here is the final Points Table with the ‘Countback’ information at the bottom: –
Points Table (Photo: England Golf Event Microsite)
The European Men’s Amateur Team Championship concluded yesterday at the Diamond CC in Austria. Spain were victorious beating England 4-3 in the Final.
ENGLAND came 2nd, SCOTLAND 5th, IRELAND 7th and WALES 16th.
So what does this mean from a Walker Cup perspective ?
Here’s my assessment of the individual performances of the 24 Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) players who were competing. I have tried to take into account stroke play qualifying scores, match play results, singles or foursomes games played and the quality of the opposition faced.
There are now just 36 days until the GB&I team is announced, assuming this will take place on 21st August, the day after the US Amateur finishes.
In conclusion events in Austria largely confirmed my initial thoughts on our team selection with most of the players previously listed doing well.
Unfortunately those on the periphery, save for Scott GREGORY, largely failed to take advantage of the opportunity this Championship gave them to state their cases more forcibly. England’s Gian-Marco PETROZZI also showed that his Walker Cup race may not yet be run with two singles wins.
Jack SINGH BRAR chose to make himself unavailable for England last week, preferring to travel to New York to try and qualify for the US Amateur. A potentially high risk strategy but one that in the end paid off. He won the qualifier at Paramount CC by 4 shots with two rounds of 66. Results
So if I had to pick the GB&I Walker Cup team today this is who I would go for (in order): –
1. Matthew JORDAN (ENG)
2. Connor SYME (SCO)
3. Jack SINGH BRAR (ENG)
4. Liam JOHNSTON (SCO)
5. Craig HOWIE (SCO)
6. Robert MACINTYRE (SCO)
7. Alfie PLANT (ENG)
8. Harry ELLIS (ENG) *
9. David BOOTE (WAL)
10. Paul MCBRIDE (IRE)
* Selection supposedly confirmed following Amateur Championship win.
I think the first eight, probably nine, in the above list are increasingly secure based on 2017 results and current form. With there being four each from both England and Scotland one would hope foursomes pairings could be found fairly easily amongst them too.
David BOOTE continues to be a consistent performer with a number of solid results this season. When you add in his four years experience of playing in the US at Stanford – let’s not forget the 2017 match is an AWAY one – you have to say his exclusion from our 2017 team would be a big surprise. With Jack DAVIDSON having lost a bit of form in recent weeks the potential all Welsh foursomes partnership appears to be drifting away from his case though. Nevertheless I am sure there will be a list of team mates delighted to have him as their partner in Los Angeles.
Paul MCBRIDE qualified well in Austria (-3 / Tied 2nd) but will have been disappointed to lose all three of his singles games, albeit these were all tight affairs – two were by 1 hole and the other on the 19th. McBride has played very well since returning home from the US and what gives him the edge for me at the moment is his three years of US College experience. McBride will be a Senior at Wake Forest next Autumn. Interestingly one of his teammates, Will Zalatoris, has a good chances of making the US team too. It was also interesting to read this morning that McBride has been granted a place in the European Tour’s Porsche European Open in Hamburg in two week’s time. If he can make the cut there then that would certainly be a huge boost to his chances.
Whilst by no means the primary concern, which is of course selecting the best team to win, BOOTE and McBRIDE also enable a full house to be delivered, i.e. a representative from all four of the GB&I nations to be included. This hasn’t happened that often in recent years but would no doubt be beneficial for the profile of the match on our side of the Atlantic.
After this week it is probably Scott GREGORY now, rather than Jack DAVIDSON, Robin DAWSON or John Ross GALBRAITH, who is pushing hardest for inclusion. Whilst he was only the tied 10th best GB&I stroke play qualifier Scott once again showed what a tough match player he is in the later stages.
So what events are left that can move the GB&I Walker Cup dial over the next four weeks ?
First up are the closed English, Scottish and Welsh Amateur Championships which are all being played at the start of August. The Irish Amateur continues to be played in late August, starting this year on 22nd. In a Walker Cup year this is a huge scheduling error and one that could prove costly in a tight selection race, particularly as things stand for Paul MCBRIDE. *
*The South of Ireland Championship starts on 26th July and whilst not as prestigious as the Irish Amateur in fact may be more important this year.
The US Amateur (14-20 August) is of course the big one but I anticipate that will have a relatively limited GB&I field with no more than 8 of our players competing.
The Men’s Home Internationals (16-18 August) will also be an important event but as it is scheduled against the US Amateur some of it’s value to the selectors will inevitably be lost.
WALES, represented by David BOOTE, Jack DAVIDSON, Joshua DAVIES and Owen EDWARDS, yesterday won the European Nations Cup in Spain.
The recently renovated RGC Sotogrande course, presented with super fast greens, proved to be a very stern test for all of the teams competing due to the windy conditions.
This was a great win for Wales. Their total of +13 was 11 shots better than second placed IRELAND (+24) and 21 shots better than fourth placed SCOTLAND (+34). ENGLAND (+61), never really got to grips with the conditions, and finished a disappointing 12th.
Wales – l-r Josh Davies, David Boote, Jack Davidson and Owen Edwards (Photo: GUW)
In the context of the Walker Cup it was Jack DAVIDSON who once again stole the headlines. Rounds of 70, 70, 70 and 73 (-5) gave him the Individual European Nations Cup title by 4-shots.
Whilst the overall field – consisting of 16 four man teams – wasn’t as a strong as the Spanish International Amateur Championship, which he won up the coast at El Saler last month, in many ways this was the more impressive win. No longer under the radar he certainly arrived at Sotogrande with more expectation on his shoulders. He then proceeded to complete a near wire-to-wire win holding off a select international field with a total of 20 birdies and 2 eagles.
The Newport man has certainly given himself a magnificent platform to build on with regard to his potential 2017 Walker Cup selection. For me he now has a spot on our Team and it’s his to lose.
Whilst there are nine or ten major amateur events still to be played over the next 4 months Jack has moved into the Top 10 in the Great British and Irish (GB&I) rankings, there is now less than 150 days until the team is announced and I ask myself how many of the candidates will have two major (overseas) wins to their name come the middle of August. I see no reason why he shouldn’t continue playing well and go from strength to strength. Of course, in many ways the pressure is also now off him.
Ireland’s Robin DAWSON (-1) finished second and was the only other player to complete the 72-holes under par. This was his third runner-up finish of the season. Robin is clearly in form and building a persuasive 2017 playing record for his own inclusion in the GB&I Walker Cup team.
The fact that the Czech Republic’s Nicolas SCHELLONG (+6) was third shows the degree of separation that Davidson and Dawson achieved this week.
Scotland’s Robert MACINTYRE and Connor SYME (both +11) both battled hard to achieve a tied 7th finish. I have already said in previous articles that both of these players, along with Scott GREGORY (over in Augusta, ahead of The Masters) are certainties in my GB&I Team, so their continued solid play was good to see.
Davidson’s teammates Owen EDWARDS and David BOOTE (both +12) finished tied 10th. No one would be surprised to see Edwards continue in this vein given his closeness to Jack – he won’t want him having all the glory for long ! I am also pulling for Boote who has been one of GB&I’s leading players for a few years. Having graduated last year from Stanford his knowledge of the U.S. opposition, California and the Los Angeles Country Club course, which I imagine he has played, would probably be useful for the Team.
Irish pair Alex GLEESON and Stuart GREHAN (both +15) finished tied 16th. These results would have been much higher save for disappointing final days; Gleeson shooting 80 and Grehan 82 after both made poor starts on Sotogrande’s front nine. Both remain very much in the Walker Cup picture.
With Davidson and Dawson, neither of whom were selected for the initial GB&I Walker Cup squad but both presumably being added as I write, continuing to play well the GB&I selection story remains intriguing. What is clear is some of the ‘early favourites’ for inclusion need to find some form and results – and quickly. The Lytham Trophy early in May will be everyone’s next opportunity to shine.
Over the last few weeks each of the home nations has announced their 2016/17 national men’s squads.
England have selected 16 players, Ireland 24, Scotland 11 and Wales 7.
Given that these 58 players will receive most of the funding and best coaching it is very likely that the majority of our 2017 Walker Cup squad will come from within their ranks.
Of course a number of high quality players are playing in the US College system and in some cases they have not been selected by their national unions. Sam Horsfield, David Wicks, Billy McKenzie and Euan Walker fall into this group.
Here is the complete list of 58 selections (with rankings as at 4th December): –England
Dan Brown 22 (Masham) – SPWAR 167 / WAGR 124
Scott Gregory 22 (Corhampton) – SPWAR 49 / WAGR 6
Harry Hall 19 (West Cornwall) – SPWAR 243 / WAGR 242
Josh Hilleard 21 (Farrington Park) – SPWAR 189 / WAGR 505
Bradley Moore 19 (Keddleston Park) – SPWAR 174 / WAGR 46
Marco Penge 18 (Golf at Goodwood) – SPWAR 122 / WAGR 81
Alfie Plant 24 (Sundridge Park) – SPWAR 48 / WAGR 48
Sean Towndrow 25 (Southport & Ainsdale) – SPWAR 1,122 / WAGR 746