12th May 2015
The 45th Walker Cup match starts at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club in four months time on 12th September 2015. Following the playing of the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Amateur Open Championship I thought it was time for a further review of the potential Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup Team.
On 23rd January 2015 The R&A announced an initial 20-man GB&I Walker Cup squad. Since then two members of that squad, Paul Howard (ENG) and Ben Stow (ENG), have chosen to turn Pro thus excluding themselves from this amateur match against a team from the United States. Whilst not confirmed, Bradley Neil (SCO), the 2014 Amateur Champion, is expected to follow their lead after he has taken advantage of invitations to the forthcoming Irish Open, Memorial Tournament and US Open. Chris Selfridge (IRE), whilst not in the initial Squad but currently ranked 128th in the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings* (SPWAR), has also stated his intention to turn Pro once his US collegiate season with Toledo is completed. One of the primary roles of a Walker Cup captain is to persuade their better players to stay amateur. However, the opportunities and rewards available to young golfers are now so great that this is becoming increasingly difficult. One thing’s for certain Nigel Edwards can ill afford to lose any more of his top GB&I players to the Pro ranks prior to this year’s contest.
So how are the 18 remaining Squad members getting on now the season is well and truly underway ? I have listed each player alongside their current SPWAR rankings. In brackets is their SPWAR ranking on the 23rd January when the Squad was announced. I have used just the SPWAR rankings this time as most players and commentators I have spoken to consider this to be a more accurate ranking than the alternative World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR).
1. Gary Hurley (IRE) 13 (33)
2. Bradley Neil (SCO) 15 (6)
3. Cormac Sharvin (IRE) 23 (53)
4. Ashley Chesters (ENG) 30 (36)
5. Gavin Moynihan (IRE) 32 (74)
6. Nick Marsh (ENG) 36 (22)
7. Paul Dunne (IRE) 38 (26)
8. Grant Forrest (SCO) 44 (31)
9. Jack Hume (IRE) 50 (63)
10. David Boote (WAL) 65 (55)
11. Sam Horsfield (ENG) 71 (39)
12. Jack McDonald (SCO) 102 (75)
13. Tomasz Anderson (ENG) 106 (110)
14. Jimmy Mullen (ENG) 139 (119)
15. Jamie Savage (SCO) 140 (103)
16. Daniel Brown (ENG) 146 (170)
17. Adam Chapman (ENG) 195 (112)
18. Graeme Robertson (SCO) 208 (146)
A little worryingly only 7 of the 18 players have seen their SPWAR rankings improve since the Squad was selected.
Gavin Moynihan’s win at the Irish Amateur last Sunday represented a very welcome return to form for him. Moynihan, who played in the 2013 Walker Cup match, had been struggling a little since finding the US College scene at Alabama not entirely to his liking. One would think this win should go a long way to cementing his place in the 2015 team. His past Walker Cup experience could be very useful for the Team at Lytham.
In addition to Moynihan there were excellent performances from Ashley Chesters, Jimmy Mullen and to a lesser degree Nick Marsh in the England v. Spain match at Burnham and Berrow GC last weekend. Indeed if ever we needed evidence that a week is a long time in golf last weekend provided it. Chesters, Marsh and Moynihan had all very noticeably missed the cut the previous weekend at the Lytham Trophy. A quick return to form for all three was therefore very welcome.
Likewise Paul Dunne, Grant Forrest and David Boote are playing for their US College’s and have therefore not contested the major early season events in GB&I. The SPWAR rankings will be updated in early June to reflect their recent play in the US, primarily in the NCAA Division 1 Championship which takes place at the end of this month and for which they all will hopefully qualify later this week.
18 year old Sam Horsfield is completing his High School studies in Florida so isn’t playing too much at the moment. His planned appearances in the UK, on links courses, during the summer will clearly be critical to his potential selection as will his outings in some of the top US competitions. It would be great to see Horsfield on the team but at this stage he still has some questions to answer about his ability to deliver on a links course.
What will have pleased Mr. Edwards, and to be fair he did throw down the challenge when he announced his Squad, is the number of non-Squad players who are stepping up to the mark in 2015; some of whom are now well and truly on the Team radar. These players, whose performances are reflected in big jumps up the SPWAR rankings are: –
Ewen Ferguson (SCO) 52
Daniel Young (SCO) 57
Dermot McElroy (IRE) 58
Craig Ross (SCO) 61
Connor Syme (SCO) 99
James Allan (ENG) 107
Ashton Turner (ENG) 127
Ben Taylor (ENG) 137
Scott Gibson (SCO) 144
Sean Towndrow (ENG) 175
Jamie Bower (ENG) 179
Richard James (WAL) 186
Michael Saunders (ENG) 189
Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, Daniel Young and Craig Ross appear to have benefitted from spending much of the winter in South Africa with the Scottish Golf Union. Ferguson and Young have both won twice this season but Ferguson’s consistency has probably made him the stand out GB&I player of 2015 so far.
Dermot McElroy has enjoyed a good last month winning the West of Ireland and finishing well at Lytham and in the Irish Amateur. His T7 and T10 finishes in the 2014 and 2015 Lytham Trophy events must also benefit his selection chances too.
England’s James Allan and Ashton Turner should also be highlighted from the above list. Allan, who has been gaining valuable experience in the last 12 months on the MENA Tour, mainly in the United Arab Emirates, has returned to these shores and delivered a string of impressive performances, most notably his win at the West of England at Saunton GC. Turner has come from even further back but a win at the Darwin Salver, recent Top 10s at the Duncan Putter and Lytham and an encouraging display for England at Burnham have certainly got him in the mix. If both of these players can continue their current form they will undoubtedly start to put pressure on some of the higher ranked players currently ‘in the Team’.
As I intimated earlier the Lytham Trophy was obviously a very important event this year. The high finishes of Richard James (T2) and Jamie Bower (T10) will certainly have registered with the selectors. Likewise 17 year old Bradley Moore (ranked 228th), who finished 8th at Lytham and who continues to demonstrate outstanding potential. Nothing would please me more than to see Bradley, who plays a limited schedule, win a big one in the Summer and force his way into the Walker Cup discussion too.
It will be interesting to hear in the coming weeks if any of the above players have been added to the Squad who are formally meeting at Lytham on 21st and 22nd July 2015. There are theoretically two spaces now up for grabs !
The unwritten rule that a win at the Amateur Championship or US Amateur Championship for a GB&I player automatically leads to selection in that year’s Walker Cup team means that a ‘wild card’ is still a possibility. Putting this aside who would I select for the GB&I Walker Cup if a decision had to be made today ?
Objectively, and taking the SPWAR rankings as my lead, I would currently have to go with Hurley, Neil, Sharvin, Moynihan, Chesters, Marsh, Dunne, Forrest, Hume and Ferguson. If Neil jumps ship as is expected then I’d add McElroy to the list – his Lytham track record just pipping Young to this place.
The above team would have 5 (6) representatives from Ireland (a record number), 3 (2) from Scotland, 2 from England and 0 from Wales. The final 10-man team with 2 reserves will be announced in mid-August. So there is still plenty of time for things to change. The question is which players are going to hold their nerve and deliver the results to change the current picture ?
* The SPWAR used in this article were correct as at 12th May 2015 6.55am
Walker Cup background information and my previous articles on it can be found by clicking here – 2015 Walker Cup
Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.