Who Should Be The Next GB&I Walker Cup Captain ?

28th September 2015

With the 2015 Walker Cup now in the history books some golf commentators are asking the question who should captain Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) in 2017 ?

I have been clear from the start, tweeting from the fairways of Royal Lytham no less, that Nigel Edwards should be invited to continue in the role if he wants to.  Whilst he has already captained the GB&I team more than anyone else, on an unprecedented three occasions, his captaincy record and position with England Golf make him an ideal fit.

I also touched on the matter in my Reflections On The 2015 Walker Cup article posted on the 15th September 2015.

John Huggan started the ball rolling in wider circles in The Golf Paper on 16th September 2015 putting forward the name of Sandy Lyle as a potential successor.

Colin Callander joined the debate in an article in Global Golf Post on 21st September 2015 suggesting like me that Edwards has earned the right to carry on if he wants to.

Historically, the role has generally been restricted to past Walker Cup players who have remained amateur. A small group and one that has been getting smaller as the years go by and the opportunities in professional golf broaden. However, this ‘rule’ hasn’t always been applied rigorously. A recent notable exception being Clive Brown, a Welsh International but never a Walker Cup player, who fulfilled the role in 1995 and 1997, famously winning his first encounter at Royal Porthcawl.

I think most people are coming to the conclusion that with a dwindling pool of candidates to select from the time has come for the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) to loosen its traditional Walker Cup captaincy ‘rules’, thus giving themselves some options.  To my mind it makes sense to announce such a policy change now but not necessarily to implement it immediately.

Many also suggest a higher profile current or former professional – preferably with a Walker Cup appearance on their CV – would help to raise the profile of the match.

We shouldn’t forget that in addition to the Walker Cup the role also encompasses the St. Andrews Trophy, GB&I’s biennial match against Europe which takes place in non-Walker Cup years. I am sure there are plenty of other less glamorous captaincy responsibilities too !

In 2016 the St. Andrews Trophy will take place at Princes Golf Club in Kent whilst the 2017 and 2019 Walker Cups have already been slated for the Los Angeles Country Club and Royal Liverpool respectively. Of course we shouldn’t be ignorant of these venues when considering potential candidates.

I think I am right in saying that historically the R&A meet and announce their decision in January of the new year so we may have a little while to wait yet. Perhaps we can help the R&A Committee draw up a short list ?  I’ve given a little bit of thought to it and come up with some names that may fit the bill in terms of an affinity with amateur golf, the Walker Cup, coaching and captaincy material and the all-important R&A connections.

Let me know your thoughts in the poll below. I am bound to have missed an obvious candidate so feel free to add other names if you have them in the space provided. Perhaps in these more enlightened times you or the R&A may consider a lady for the role ?

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Reflections On The 2015 Walker Cup

UPDATE – Eric O’Brien has rightly pulled me up in the Comments section below on my failure to mention Slow Play.  He is absolutely right.  There were some players who were very slow and the R&A / USGA referees failed to punish them.  I know this was the Walker Cup and it was important but unless the matter is addressed in high profile events like this how will this problem in our game ever start to be eradicated.

15th September 2015

Who would have predicted a 16.5 – 9.5 victory for Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I).  Perhaps just Captain Nigel Edwards in his wildest dreams ?  The record breaking win was a magnificent achievement for Nigel and all of his players.

WC 2015 GB&I Podium

The GB&I Team Celebrate Their Walker Cup Win (Photo: GolfBible)

The GB&I performance was particularly pleasing as they were up against a strong USA team – at least on paper and we now know preferably playing on parkland courses back home.  The GB&I players performed superbly to a man and the final results made something of a mockery of the world rankings.

The detailed 2015 Walker Cup results can be reviewed here – Walker Cup Results.

Having reflected on the weekend’s events here’s my 16.5 observations on the 2015 Walker Cup: –

GB&I Simply Played Better Than The USA
The overall standard of golf that I saw was very high – these guys can really play.  As we all know the team that chips and putts best normally wins these competitions. This weekend GB&I outplayed USA but particularly with these scoring shots.  As such few holes were conceded softly and victories were therefore frequent on a tough course where the green surrounds are undulating and scattered with deep bunkers.  It was great to see all ten members of the GB&I team contributing at least a point to the total.

Nigel Edwards
Experienced, focussed, motivated and respected by his players Nigel (47) was in supreme control of events at Lytham. He simply put on a captaincy masterclass at this Walker Cup.  Save for the Horsfield debacle, which I guess he has to take some responsibility for, he seemed to get every decision right.  His team selection, pairings and playing orders were spot on.  Nigel has undoubtedly earned the right to captain the team in the USA in 2017 should he wish to take on the responsibility again.  His age, background and role with England Golf means he is close to the players and knows what is required better than almost anyone else.  #WeWantFour

WC 4th Tee

Why Change A Winning Formula – We Want Four ! (© Golf Bible)

The English Contribution Was Key 
Ahead of the match all the talk was of Ireland’s ‘famous five’ but it was England’s Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen that shone brightest.  A rock solid foursomes partnership delivered under pressure and set the foundation for a comprehensive team win.  Perhaps helped by being under the radar a little, albeit exposed by being sent out towards the top of the order in each series, Jimmy secured 4 points out of 4 whilst Ashley achieved 3.5 out of 4.  Having said that Ashley’s dropped half came against Bryson DeChambeau – who denied him with a golfing near miracle on the 18th on Saturday afternoon – and any points taken from him during the match were always going to be a bonus.

WC 2015 AC and JM

England’s Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen (© @WalkerCup)

Cormac Sharvin and Jack McDonald
The two Sterling University players really impressed me at Lytham and perhaps demonstrated better than anyone else on the team what made GB&I so strong this year.  It was clear they got on well and had played golf together many times before this match started.  Their personalities dovetailed as well as their foursomes play.  The calmer McDonald who played with a smile on his face counter-balancing the outwardly more hyper and focussed Sharvin.  To say Sharvin was ‘up for it’ would be an understatement from what I saw.

WC NE JM and CS

Captain Edwards, Jack McDonald and Cormac Sharvin (© @WalkerCup)

Ewen Ferguson
Ewen’s non-selection then selection must have been difficult for him but he got on with it and contributed fully to the team both on and off the course.  He played three of the most memorable shots of the competition too – his drive on the par 4th 16th on Saturday, his final putt on 18 on Saturday (video 1) and then his superb chip-in on 17 on Sunday (video 2).  I was stood right in front of him when he played the chip and it’s fair to say that some of his mates from Glasgow and myself briefly lowered the tone of the event.

Both Videos Courtesy of @WalkerCup and the BBC

Some Of The USA Team Didn’t Show Up
Without wishing to take anything away from the GB&I Team’s superb performance, Jordan Niebrugge (0/3), Denny McCarthy (1/4), Maverick McNealy (0.5/3), Lee McCoy (0.5/3) and Hunter Stewart (1/4) all under-performed.  All of them came with big reputations but left with them tarnished.  The biggest surprise was perhaps Niebrugge, who starred in the recent Open Championship, but struggled badly at Lytham.

US Mid-Amateurs
I watched quite a bit of Mike McCoy (52) and Scott Harvey (37) and unsurprisingly they were both very good golfers.  Their problem is golf is increasingly a young person’s sport at the highest level.  They were expected to be a weak link in the USA Team and they didn’t disappoint – McCoy securing no points (0/3) and Harvey one (1/3), the latter a singles win over Grant Forrest.  To be fair Sunday’s entrance fee was worth paying to see McCoy’s fist pump on the 16th green after he matched Hurley’s well celebrated birdie in their foursomes match.  However, Harvey’s drive on the very next hole, way right onto the range, was critical to ending any hopes the USA had of turning the match around.  I admire the USGA’s policy to some degree but perhaps just one mid-amateur would be sufficient to convey the message they wish to send out.

WC 2015 Team USA

Team USA Were Soundly Beaten at Royal Lytham & St. Annes (© @WalkerCup) 

John ‘Spider’ Miller
It is easy to be critical of a losing captain after the event.  I am also conscious that Mr. Miller (65), who was clearly a nice man, didn’t play any shots during the match and is said to have had no say on the team selected.  However, there is no question in my mind that he contributed to the manner and extent of the USA’s defeat.  His more relaxed approach to the match simply didn’t work – he wasn’t as visible as Edwards and appeared to lack the leadership and motivational skills required for the job.  Sometimes the players don’t know what’s right and on those occasions firm guidance needs to be forthcoming from above.  How could you not play Bryson DeChambeau in the Day 1 foursomes (even if he did tell you he had a sore neck) ?  Was it not complacent to tell all the players in advance that they would play no less than three times ? Were the two mid-amateurs overplayed ?  Who came up with the Day 2 Singles line up which even on Saturday evening clearly needed to be front-loaded ?  Unfortunately for the USA they had a spider and we had a dragon at the heart of affairs.  It will be interesting to see if he is retained by the USGA for 2017.

Bryson Dechambeau
There were many very good players on show at Lytham but one exceptional one in my opinion.  It was not a surprise to see Bryson DeChambeau (2.5/3) impress at the Walker Cup after all he is the World Amateur No. 1 (SPWAR) after a stellar summer where he won both the NCAA and US Amateur Championships.  He looked the part both physically (accepting the neck injury which must have quickly settled down) and mentally, had a real aura and clearly a lot of game.  Like Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth he will probably turn Pro next summer without a Walker Cup win on his resume but what a prospect.

WC 2015 BDeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau (© USGA)

Beau Hossler
Beau Hossler, top points scorer for the USA, with three out of four, also impressed me.  He helped shock star pairing Dunne and Hurley on the opening morning before going on to win both of his singles (Jimmy Mullen being the only other player to achieve that feat).  Whilst not the blue eyed boy like Dechambeau there is a steely determination about Hossler which suggests his journey has equally only just begun.  Hossler’s recovery from Ferguson’s ‘shot heard around the world’ (well most of Lancashire anyway) on 17 on Sunday was particularly notable.  An approach over the bunkers on 18 to a tight back right pin that finished stone dead – not that Ferguson was rightly in any mood to concede it – to win the match was one of USA’s most memorable moments.  He clearly didn’t enjoy the loss.

Lytham Trophy
I think the role of the Lytham Trophy and course knowledge may have been overstated as contributing factors to the victory.  It clearly won’t have done any harm that some of the GB&I players had competed in the Lytham Trophy previously and attended a squad session at the course back in July.  Additionally, their wider links experience will of course have been beneficial.  However, with the exception of Gary Hurley and Jack McDonald most of the team either hadn’t played competitively or had poor form at Lytham.  I guess the strength and direction of the wind changes the course’s playing characteristics from one day to the next anyway.

Foursomes
The opposite is true of foursomes though.  The US Walker Cup players always turn up with next to know experience of foursomes.  It shouldn’t really matter but somehow it does.  This means partnerships are unproven and the players are lacking in confidence in this format.  GB&I’s team are used to the vagaries of foursomes having played it in both the Home Internationals and the European Amateur Team Championships.  The players and selectors also have the benefit of seeing which partnerships work and which don’t well in advance of the Walker Cup.  Foursomes is clearly a nice advantage for us.

Royal Lytham Golf Club
The course and members were a credit to this great Club. The bunkers, greens and run off areas in particular looked superb on the ground.  I did overhear a member talk of a major course overhaul starting shortly with the removal of over 40 bunkers which will be interesting.  A story to follow, if and when it happens, given the status of this much respected links.

WC 2015 Bobby Jones Plaque

I Found The Famous Bobby Jones Plaque – Some Shot Over The Corner Of The Dog-Leg ! (© Golf Bible)

Watching The Walker Cup Live
Watching golf live can be something of an expensive walk, albeit often a pleasant one.  I had read many times before that the Walker Cup was golf’s best spectator event and I wasn’t disappointed when I attended on Sunday.  It was great having access to the fairways and green frontages.  Stewarding, undertaken mostly by Lytham members, was effective but relaxed ensuring all of the spectators enjoyed the match.  Getting up close and personal with the players, both before and after play, certainly made up for only being able to be in one place at one time and therefore missing most of the action.  The numbers were good but not overbearing so an atmosphere was created without one ever feeling hemmed in.

Peter Dawson
As you may have seen Peter Dawson undertook the starter duties at this year’s Walker Cup.  Presumably one of his final duties for the R&A as he hands over the Chief Executive reins later this month to new CEO Martin Slumbers.  As one would expect he performed the duties perfectly.  I don’t know him at all but he strikes me as someone who is going to be missed a great deal and will be a hard act to follow.

Walker Cup Awareness
As I was walking around the sun drenched Lytham fairways on Sunday my mind drifted off to the golfing public’s awareness of the match.  I asked myself what percentage of the UK golfing population even know this match is taking place now ?  Low single digits I guessed to myself.  What a shame and surely something we all must try to address.

I certainly felt part of a special occasion and was pleased I’d made the effort to witness the final day of a memorable match at Royal Lytham in person.

2017
Having got the bug I am sure Lytham won’t be the last Walker Cup match I attend.  I will certainly have few excuses for Royal Liverpool in 2019 which is even closer to home.

Los Angeles CC 1

Los Angeles Country Club (© Geoff Shackleford)

However, as I was driving away from the Fylde Coast my mind turned to how I could persuade Mrs. GB that a trip to the West Coast of America in September 2017 would be nice for us.  The ultra-exclusive Los Angeles Country Club in Beverley Hills – said to be amongst the most expensive golf real estate in the world – sounds right up my street.

Rarely photographed or seen on television it’s North Course is meant to be something really special.  Even more so following a sympathetic restoration by Gil Hanse and golf historian / blogger Geoff Shackleford in 2009-11.  This has returned the course more closely to how George C. Thomas originally designed it in the 1920s.  This August 2015 LA Times article on the project makes interesting reading too if you have the time.  After a long courtship the USGA persuaded the Club to initially host the 2017 Walker Cup and more recently the 2023 US Open which whets the appetite even more for a long away trip.  Even if I don’t get there the TV coverage should be good – Fox have the rights and I believe their HQ is only 1 mile down the road.

ME

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Does The Walker Cup Need A Refresh ?

11th September 2015

This week many golf commentators, particularly in the United States, have been discussing an apparent lack of interest in the Walker Cup and throwing out suggestions as to how the match could be rejuvenated and improved.

You may have read Geoff Shackleford’s summary piece – What To Do To Restore The Walker Cup’s Luster ?

Whilst it is obviously important that the contest doesn’t become totally irrelevant and that it remains competitive I personally think, in broad terms, it should be left well alone.

The Walker Cup will never be played in front of 50,000 spectators a day and shown live to a global TV audience of tens of millions.  It is a niche event, albeit one that enjoys a prestigious place in the golfing spectrum.  In striving for change and publicity we must not forget history and tradition, two attributes that set our sport apart.  Of course that’s not to say improvements aren’t possible.

Here’s my thoughts on some of the suggestions that I have seen aired this week: –

Change The Date
I do like the season finale feel a September date brings to the Walker Cup but have to say I can see real benefits to tying the event into the two major Amateur Championships. This was of course the approach in years gone by when travelling was more time consuming and expensive.

Why not play it adjacent to the Amateur Championship or the US Amateur depending on which country is staging it ?  I am sure the competition calendar could be adjusted to accommodate this if required.  Certainly from an R&A and GB&I perspective such a move would be beneficial.  It would ensure better US participation in the Amateur at least every two years – where few of the leading American players compete nowadays – and also secure more entries for home players into the US Amateur Championship.

The September date also sits uncomfortably with regard to both the start of the US College season and the commencement of the Professional Tour Q-Schools.  Traditionalists may argue that the Walker Cup should sit above both of these but the reality is they are both important to many of the players and a distraction that could easily be avoided.

Introduce A More Transparent Selection Process
Both teams have always been selected by small Committees established by the R&A and the USGA.  You still hear references to dodgy selections in years gone by and with regard to GB&I examples of blatant national interest overriding the wider team perspective.  Selection in the USA will always be difficult because of the vast number of really good players at their disposal – a USA 2nd Team would give GB&I a very competitive match such is their strength in depth.

Calls for a Fedex Cup / Race To Dubai standings table to generate year round interest have some merit but in reality already exist.  The two amateur ranking systems, the WAGR and the SPWAR, are both high quality and mean the days of biased and poor selections are long gone.  Good quality rankings are therefore readily available and those that follow this blog have seen me use them this year to highlight the leading players.

Perhaps this one is more relevant for the USA rather than GB&I where the quest for sporting attention is tougher at this time of year ?  No one could question the appropriateness of the R&A’s selections this year and it has been a while since any major controversies so the current approach appears to be working for us.

Review The Rules of Amateur Status To Improve The Quality of Players Available
This appears to me more of a GB&I issue than one that affects the USA.

The College system means that young sportsmen in the United States have a well trodden path into professional sports. Golf is no different – a four year scholarship means plenty of practice and competitive play whilst a degree is hopefully secured on the side.  As a result only in the most exceptional circumstances do young American golfers turn pro before they are 22.

This is not the case in GB&I.  Elite programmes have been established by each of the Home Unions in recent years which have helped, providing both coaching and financial support to leading amateurs.  The problem nowadays is that to become an elite player you have to be working on your golf almost 24/7, not just at weekends which to an exaggerated degree was the case twenty years ago.  It is difficult for the R&A and the Home Unions to ask our best players to do that and then in the same breathe tell them they can’t receive any remuneration for doing so.  Committed to their golf, youngsters are seeing no alternative, depending on their family and ‘sponsorship’ circumstances, but to quickly move into the Pro. game.  This is despite many lacking real experience or frankly the game required. They then end up trapped in development tour sweeps with no real way back.  When the reality dawns the opportunity’s often gone and many simply become disillusioned with the game.

Is it time to keep more of these good players in the Amateur game by moving the status line a little bit further and making it more appropriate for modern day realities ?  I think it probably is and so do the likes of Peter McEvoy who has been espousing similar views for a few years now.

Add Europe to the GB&I Team
I am against this and it will need another very long run of USA victories for me to be persuaded by it.  This is not professional golf and whilst the European Golf Association (EGA) exists it is in no way the well-funded governing organisation that the Royal & Ancient Club (R&A) is.

Of course ‘our’ team would be individually stronger by widening the selection net but at the same time it may lose something on the team front with a more disparate group being involved.  The GB&I lads play against and with each other quite a bit nowadays, which is not so much the case with the Europeans, so know each other well.  To be fair over the last 20 years the GB&I team have generally been performing well so calls for this have largely receded, albeit a loss at Lytham will no doubt see them return.

Perhaps a better alternative would be to insist that the USA pick three mid-amateurs in their team, after all they already handicap themselves with this antiquated selection policy !

The Walker Cup was originally established as an international challenge match with many countries invited to play.  However, in the 1920s only Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) via the R&A took up the invitation and a match against the USA and United States Golf Association (USGA) quickly became the norm.  The USGA and R&A are also the two governing bodies of world golf so the ties between the two are close with many other meetings taking place during match week.  Then of course there are all the administrator and player friendships that are rekindled every two years.  In many respects it has become more than just a match so it is hard to see the R&A and USGA rushing to change it anyway.

Tweak The Match Rules – Add a Fourball Session / Announce the Singles line ups at lunch time 
The Walker Cup is one of the few team events in what is essentially an individual sport.  Fourball golf masquerades as team golf when two players dove-tail well but it is only when the same ball is being played, as in Foursomes, that golf really is played as a team, or at least as a pair.  So I am all for keeping the existing foursomes format intact.

Perhaps we should have five foursome matches rather than four ? I guess the current arrangement for four on each day reflects the GB&I Team’s perceived lack of depth and a wish to manage the match’s competitiveness to a degree.

The Day 1 and Day 2 Foursome and Singles line ups are both announced on the evening prior to the following day’s play.  Whilst adding to the stress for the Captain’s I agree that added excitement could be brought to leaving the Singles announcement until after the Foursomes have been played or are at least well underway.

Introduce Higher Profile Captains
Both the R&A and USGA seek to appoint Captains from a pool of former Walker Cup players that have remained amateur.  As the rewards in professional golf have risen this has become an increasingly difficult task for both organisations.

I have heard it said that mid-amateur Mike McCoy (52) was largely selected this year based on the fact that he was considered captain material by the USGA but hadn’t yet played in the match.  If even partially true that can’t be a good thing.

I think it would be good to keep the tradition alive but realistically the time has now come for the amateur status condition to be relaxed.  Surely a past performance in the Walker Cup is sufficient for consideration irrespective of the fact the player may have moved on to the professional ranks following their appearance.

I accept that for those seeking to raise the event’s profile there is no denying higher profile Captains, those who have made a name for themselves in the Pro. ranks, may help with greater media interest and publicity.  A Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley or Colin Montgomerie perhaps in the near future.

What do you think ? Is it time to review the Walker Cup or should we leave it be ?   Alternatively do you have any other ideas that could improve the match ?

ME

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – Match Briefing

9th September 2015

The United States of America (USA) will start as firm favourites to win the Walker Cup when the 2015 match is played this coming weekend.

The 45th match in the biennial series is being played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, just south of the famous seaside town of Blackpool in Lancashire, England.

However, with plenty of links experience, a good knowledge of the Lytham course, a little bit of rain and wind forecast and the support of thousands of home fans who’s to say Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) can’t pull off an upset.  Recent matches on these shores – at Ganton, Royal County Down and Royal Aberdeen – have all been close and no one should be surprised if this one follows suit.

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

Match Format
Over the two days there will be 26 matches played in the following order: –
Saturday Day 1 – Four foursomes (AM) and eight singles (PM).
Sunday Day 2 – Four foursomes (AM) and ten singles (PM).

With one point awarded for each win and a half point for a draw the winning team will be the first to achieve 13.5 points.

Teams
Both teams were finalised in late August following the playing of the United States Amateur Championship.  The two Teams that will contest the Walker Cup are: –

Great Britain & Ireland
Ashley Chesters   (England)         26
Paul Dunne           (R. Ireland)      22
Ewen Ferguson    (Scotland)        19
Grant Forrest        (Scotland)        22
Jack Hume           (R. Ireland)      21
Gary Hurley          (R. Ireland)      22
Jack McDonald    (Scotland)        22
Gavin Moynihan   (R. Ireland)      20
Jimmy Mullen       (England)        21
Cormac Sharvin   (N. Ireland)      22

WC 2015 Team GB&I

Back Row (l-r) – E Ferguson, A Chesters, C Sharvin, J Mullen and G Hurley
Front Row (l-r) – J McDonald, G Forrest, J Hume, [P McGinley], N Edwards (Captain), P Dunne and G Moynihan 

United States of America
Bryson DeChambeau  (California)           21
Scott Harvey                (North Carolina)   37
Beau Hossler               (California)           20
Denny McCarthy         (Maryland)           22
Lee McCoy                  (Georgia)             21
Mike McCoy                (Iowa)                   52
Maverick McNealy       (California)          19
Jordan Niebrugge       (Wisconsin)         22
Robby Shelton             (Alabama)           19
Hunter Stewart            (Kentucky)           22

WC 2015 Team USA

Back Row (l-r) M McCoy, L McCoy, B Hossler, S Miller (Captain), J Niebrugge, S Harvey, B DeChambeau, R Zalzneck
Front Row (l-r) – R Shelton, H Stewart, D McCarthy and M McNealy

Captains
The GB&I team will be captained, for the third consecutive time, by Nigel Edwards, a four time player (2001-03-05-07) whilst the USA team will be captained for the first time by John “Spider” Miller, who competed in 1999 at Nairn, Scotland.

Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club
One of the most famous links courses in the world, Royal Lytham was founded in 1886.  It was laid out in 1897 but then re-designed in 1919 by the great Harry S. Colt.  It is a strategic, heavily bunkered course where accuracy nearly always overcomes length.

137852880RM00087_141st_Open

An Aerial View Of Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC

Off the blue championship tees Royal Lytham is a 7,118 yard par 70.  The front nine plays 3,437 yards, a par 34, whilst the longer back nine, being 3,681 yards, is a par 36.

Royal Lytham Clubhouse

18th Hole, Clubhouse and Dormy House – Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC

Match History
The Walker Cup is contested by ten male amateur players from both the USA and GB&I. The former team is selected by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the latter by The R&A.

The first official Walker Cup match was played in 1922.  It was the brainchild of George Herbert Walker, the maternal grandfather of President George H.W. Bush.  Walker was the President of the USGA in 1920 and offered to donate the trophy that is still played for today.  It should be noted that it was the American press that christened the trophy the Walker Cup rather than the far more modest Mr. Walker.

The USA leads the series W35-L8-D1.  However, in recent years the match has been more even – each side winning five of the last ten matches since 1995.  Having said that the USA are building up some momentum again winning four of the last five.

Weather Forecast
This far out there still remains some uncertainty about this weekend’s forecast.

Updated – as at 16.00 on 11th Sept. 2015: –
Sat. 12th Sept. – AM Showers / PM Cloudy. Wind 16 mph (NE). Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 13°C.
Sun. 13rd Sept. – AM / PM Cloudy. Wind 12 mph (NW). Temp. Max. 17°C / Min 11°C.

Watch It Live
The opportunity to watch some of the best amateur golfers in the world up close shouldn’t be missed for those that can make it to Lytham. There is free public car parking close to the course and day tickets costing £30 can be acquired on the gate.

Event Coverage
Internet (GB&I) – News and score links will be available here on the R&A’s website – Walker Cup
Internet (USA) – Other news can be found on the USGA website – www.walkercup.org
Twitter – @RandA / @WalkerCup / #WalkerCup, not forgetting @GolfBible !
Television – BBC2 (GB&I) / ESPN (US) – Sat. 12th Sept. 2.00 – 6.45pm / Sun. 13th Sept. 1.30 – 6.00pm (GMT)

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (6)

UPDATE – On 31st August it was announced that Sam Horsfield (ENG) had withdrawn from the GB&I Walker Cup team for unspecified personal reasons.

Ewen Ferguson (SCO), the first reserve, will now take his place at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.  Bradley Moore (ENG) also stepped up to become the new first reserve for the GB&I Team.

Captain Nigel Edwards said: “It’s a shame Sam isn’t going to play because he’s very talented. I don’t know the specific reasons and obviously didn’t ask. We have to respect his decision. Ewen will fit into the team very well because he knows and gets on with everyone. He was unlucky not to make the original team”.

____________________________________________________

24th August 2015

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

The R&A today confirmed the ten players and two reserves that had been selected to make up the GB&I Walker Cup Team: –

Ashley Chesters (26) – England
Paul Dunne (22) – Ireland
Grant Forrest (22) – Scotland
Sam Horsfield (18) – England

WC Team 1 190815

Paul Dunne, Ashley Chesters, Grant Forrest and Gavin Moynihan

Jack Hume (21) – Ireland
Gary Hurley (22) – Ireland
Jack McDonald (22) – Scotland
Gavin Moynihan (20) – Ireland

WC Team 2 190815

Gary Hurley, Cormac Sharvin, Jack McDonald and Sam Horsfield

Jimmy Mullen (21) – England
Cormac Sharvin (22) – Ireland
(R) Ewen Ferguson (19) – Scotland
(R) Bradley Moore (17) – England

WC Bradley Moore

Jack Hume, Jimmy Mullen, Ewen Ferguson and Bradley Moore

With the two Teams now confirmed here’s how they compare based on the current amateur world rankings.

WC 2015 Rankings Comparison

Walker Cup 2015 – Amateur Rankings Comparison (click to enlarge)

The match will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on the weekend of the 12-13 September 2015.

WC Lytham

Royal Lytham and St. Annes – Dormy House

Good luck to all the players and officials.

Take a look at my previous Walker Cup posts to follow the full 2015 selection story by clicking here – Walker Cup

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – Team USA (2)

24th August 2015

Last night following the completion of the U.S. Amateur Championship the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee and Captain John “Spider” Miller finalised the 2015 USA Walker Cup team.

US Walker Cup Logo 2015

On the 10th August 2015 the USGA named the first five members of their team.  These players and their World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) and Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (SPWAR) on the date of this announcement were: –

Bryson DeChambeau (21)  – WAGR 8 / SPWAR 1
Beau Hossler (20)               – WAGR 9 / SPWAR 5
Lee McCoy (21)                   – WAGR 6 / SPWAR 15
Maverick McNealy (19)       – WAGR 3 / SPWAR 22
Hunter Stewart (22)            – WAGR 5 / SPWAR 4

All five attended the December 2014 Squad Session and have enjoyed strong playing seasons.  Of course DeChambeau also went on to win the U.S. Amateur in convincing fashion yesterday.

US WC Team Photo 1

Bryson DeChambeau, Beau Hossler, Lee McCoy and Maverick McNealy

The remaining members of the USA team were confirmed late last night.  These players and their WAGR and SPWAR rankings as of yesterday were: –

Scott Harvey (37)               – WAGR 98 / SPWAR 78
Denny McCarthy (22)        – WAGR 10 / SPWAR 6
Mike McCoy (52)                – WAGR 202 / SPWAR 167
Jordan Niebrugge (22)      – WAGR 17 / SPWAR 3
Robby Shelton (19)           – WAGR 8 / SPWAR 2

US WC Team Photo 2

Hunter Stewart, Scott Harvey, Denny McCarthy and Mike McCoy

The final U.S. Amateur selections were as expected. The only minor surprise here was the selection of Mike McCoy as the second Mid-Amateur, where Nathan Smith, who played in 2013, was a very credible alternative. I have heard it said that the USGA were keen to get McCoy on this team as he is considered a potential future U.S. Captain (of which there are few on either side) and at 52 this was almost certainly his last chance to make his debut.

I admire the USGA for sticking with their policy of two Mid-Amateur selections.  However, it does, at least on paper, weaken their team.  As of yesterday there were respectively 36 and 73 other U.S. Players (not already selected) ahead of Scott Harvey and Mike McCoy in the WAGR.

Two Alternates (Reserves) were also confirmed: –

Matt NeSmith (21)             – WAGR 21 / SPWAR 11
Scottie Scheffler (19)        – WAGR 15 / SPWAR 17

US WC Team Photo 3

Jordan Niebrugge, Robby Shelton, Matt NeSmith and Scottie Scheffler

Here’s how the final US Team rates according to the current World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) and Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (SPWAR): –

US Walker Cup Team 240815

A formidable team on paper it will be interesting to see how they play at Royal Lytham in a few weeks time.  The Team are scheduled to meet up for a final training session at Latrobe Country Club next week where Arnold Palmer will be their host.

Fore more information on the Walker Cup and the two teams click here – Walker Cup

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (5)

20th August 2015

The R&A Selection Committee meets tomorrow to finalise the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team for the 45th Walker Cup match.  The team is scheduled to be announced on Monday 24th August following the conclusion of the U.S. Amateur Championship.

The match will be played at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England on 12th and 13th September 2015.

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

This is the fifth GB&I Team update I have written and you may wish to read through the others to follow the story so far.  Just click here to do so – Walker Cup Home Page.

Since my fourth update on 12th July the Open Championship, the English, Scottish and Welsh Close Amateurs, the International European Amateur and the Boys and Mens Home Internationals have been played.  This week the U.S. Amateur and Irish Close are being contested.

The Selectors – Captain Nigel Edwards, Andy Ingram (WAL), Garry Hay (SCO) and Michael Burns (IRE) – will also have had the benefit of seeing some of the leading contenders at close quarters at the Squad Session that took place at the host course, Lytham, on 21st and 22nd July.  However, only they and the players invited know what happened there.

So let’s look at some of the objective evidence that the Selectors will no doubt have in front of them.  First and foremost that means the two Amateur World Rankings which should clearly show us who has been playing well in recent times.

The R&A and USGA oversee the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) and update them weekly on a Wednesday.  So let’s start with the WAGR rankings released yesterday covering the 12 month period to 16th August 2015.  I am going to focus on the Top 25 as it is hard to see the Selectors wanting to dip lower than this. WAGR 190815 WC

WAGR as at 19/08/15 – Top 25 GB&I players (click to enlarge)

If the WAGR was used in isolation then based on the current rankings the players highlighted above in yellow would be selected.  The above table also shows each player’s WAGR moves since the start of the year.

Let’s now have a look at the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (SPWAR), generally accepted as being the most thorough and accurate of the two amateur listings.  This ranking covers a 24 month period and includes many more events.

SPWAR 190815 WC

SPWAR as at 19/08/15 9.41am PST – Top 25 GB&I players (click to enlarge)

I have maintained the yellow highlighting from the WAGR list above but highlighted in green the new players that make the SPWAR GB&I Top 10, namely Jack McDonald and Ben Taylor.  Again the above table also shows each player’s SPWAR moves since the start of the year.

As has been the case for some time Ben Taylor (WAGR 181 / SPWAR 52) and Graeme Robertson (WAGR 52 / SPWAR 144) are outliers in the GB&I ranking analysis when you consider both lists.  The WAGR doesn’t like Ben and likewise the SPWAR doesn’t rate Graeme.

Finally let’s have a look at the GolfBible Combined Ranking (GBCR) which brings together both rankings by simply averaging out the WAGR and SPWAR results.

GBCR 190815 WC

GBCR as at 19/08/15 – Top 25 GB&I Players (click to enlarge)

The Top 10 GB&I players in my combined ranking are clearly shown above as are their 2015 movements on this list.

I also think the Selectors should consider course form.  We have the benefit of being able to review the scoring and results from The Lytham Trophy in 2014 and 2015.  Whilst not comprehensive, as this early season event is not available to our US College based players, it is still a useful reference point.  The Lytham is one of the world’s most prestigious events and this year it had the 14th strongest field in amateur golf.

Lytham Form Extract - 19th August 2015

   2014 and 2015 Lytham Trophy Scores and Form (click to enlarge) 

The above table shows how the leading players who competed at Lytham got on.  Just four players made the cut in both years and it shows very clearly that Gary Hurley, Dermot McElroy and Jack McDonald have performed very well here over the last two years.  As we all know different courses suit different players and turning up positively is half the battle in golf.

So without further a do here are the ten players plus two reserves that I believe should be selected for the 2015 GB&I Walker Cup Team (in the order in which I would select them): –

1. Paul Dunne (IRE) 22 – SPWAR 9  / WAGR 33 (WC SQUAD)
A superb Open Championship performance followed by a T11 at the International European Amateur in Slovakia and qualification for the US Amateur Match Play stage this week.  Paul has played consistently well this year with the above results backing up his 5th place finish at the NCAA Division 1 National Championship, a Brabazon T9 and a European Team Stroke Play (SP) Qualifier T8.

2. Ashley Chesters (ENG) 26 – SPWAR 8 / WAGR 6 (WC SQUAD)
A T12 finish at The Open, which could have been even better save for a poor finish to his Rd. 1, must be the highlight of Ashley’s season.  He has also enjoyed good results at the Welsh Amateur (T2), The Amateur (last 16) and the Brabazon Trophy (T7).  Importantly he has also demonstrated good match play form contributing well at the European Amateur Teams (W5/H0/L1), for England against Spain (4/0/0) and at last week’s Home Internationals (3/1/2).

WC Team 1 190815

Paul Dunne, Ashley Chesters, Grant Forrest and Gavin Moynihan (clockwise)

3. Grant Forrest (SCO) 22 – SPWAR 25 / WAGR 40 (WC SQUAD)
Back from San Diego, where he ranked 84th in the Golfstat US college player rankings (2nd only to Paul Dunne in GB&I terms) for the 2014/15 season Grant delivered a superb Amateur Championship performance, finishing runner up to Romain Langasque.  Whilst he would have liked to go further in the recent Scottish Close Amateur (a match play event) and at this week’s US Amateur there can be no questioning his contribution to Scotland’s 2015 European Amateur Team Championship victory (5 points out of a possible 6).

4. Gavin Moynihan (IRE) 20 – SPWAR 22 / WAGR 29 (WC SQUAD)
Gavin, a member of the 2013 Team, has found a little more consistency since winning the Irish Amateur.  He made the Last 32 at The Amateur, finished 2nd at the Brabazon and recently came 3rd at the European Amateur.  Now fully deserving of his second Walker Cup selection.

5. Gary Hurley (IRE) 22 – SPWAR 21 / WAGR 26 (WC SQUAD)
Whilst I picked Gary in July I expressed some concerns about his recent form and scheduling – where in particular he chose to miss The Amateur and Brabazon.  He had a strong winter overseas (South African Amateur T5, Spanish International Amateur 2nd, Argentina Stroke Play T8 and Southern Cross Invitational 3rd) and followed it up back home in the early summer  (Lytham Trophy T19 and Irish Amateur T25).  However, I felt he needed one more result – therefore it was great to see him finish 2nd at the European Amateur to cement his spot.  He has a proven Foursomes partnership with Paul Dunne and will be confident at Lytham having finished 4th and 19th at the 2014 and 2015 Lytham Trophy events.

6. Cormac Sharvin (IRE) 22 – SPWAR 26 / WAGR 20 (WC SQUAD)
Consistently high finishes this season – Lytham Trophy (T2), Irish Amateur (2nd) and Scottish Amateur (3rd) – culminating in a superb Brabazon Trophy victory in late June.  Cormac’s dropped a few places since last month in my list but is still fully deserving of his selection.

WC Team 2 190815

Gary Hurley, Cormac Sharvin, Jack McDonald and Sam Horsfield (clockwise)

7. Jack McDonald (SCO) 21 – SPWAR 42 / WAGR 70 (WC SQUAD)
Jack reached the semi-finals of The Amateur losing on the 19th hole to the eventual champion Romain Langasque.  He missed the Brabazon but made the cut at the conflicting Challenge Tour event in Scotland. He was the highest GB&I finisher in the European Amateur Team Championship SP Qualifier (T4) and alongside Forrest largely delivered the Championship to Scotland (also delivering 5 out of 6 possible points).  Whilst not at this best at last week’s Home Internationals (2/1/3) he does have good Lytham form to fall back on – finishing 13th and 15th at the Lytham Trophy in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

8. Sam Horsfield (ENG) 18 – SPWAR 45 / WAGR 23 (WC SQUAD)
How can you select someone for Lytham who has never played on a links course and hardly knows any of his team mates ?  Not easily but Sam hasn’t really given the selectors any choice.  His rankings are high across the board and he is competing week in week out against the best fields in amateur golf.  My only question mark would be his match play experience and record.  I said last time that for me he needed to do well in both the Western Amateur and US Amateur to force his way in.  He has done.  He made the 16-man Match Play Stage of the Western losing in the Quarter Finals to Aaron Wise and this week has done the same at the US Amateur and at the time of writing is comfortably through to Rd. 2.

9. Jack Hume (IRE) 21 – SPWAR 34 / WAGR 42 (WC SQUAD)
Jack has done well in recent weeks.  He finished T19 on -13 at the European Amateur (which could have been better after a -12 first 36 holes) and contributed well to Ireland’s Home Internationals victory last week (3/1/2).  Additionally at Royal Portrush Jack was unbeaten in Singles playing at No. 1 (2/1/0) but his foursomes partnership with Gavin Moynihan failed to spark (1/0/2), which is a slight concern.  Earlier this season Hume finished T6 at the St. Andrews Links Trophy and followed it up with a T3 at The Brabazon Trophy.

10. Ewen Ferguson (SCO) 19 – SPWAR 55 / WAGR 34
Ewen has played very well this year, winning twice in Scotland and following it up with good results at the Irish Open Amateur (T3), Scottish Open Amateur (T4), Amateur Championship (T7 / 64s) and Brabazon (T11).  He was invited to the Walker Cup squad session in July on the back of this.  A strong match play track record both in the Boys’ Amateur, which he won in 2013, and for Scotland, where he has played foursomes with Forrest, means he must be there or thereabouts.  A surprise Rd. 3 loss at the Scottish Close Amateur had perhaps left him needing something in the final weeks.  However, he chose to skip the European Amateur and Home Internationals and therefore had a lot riding on the US Amateur which clearly didn’t work out.  Let’s hope he doesn’t regret these scheduling decisions on Monday morning as he is now right on the cusp for me.

WC Team 3 190815

Jack Hume, Ewen Ferguson, Dermot McElroy and Jimmy Mullen (clockwise)  

Reserves

11. Dermot McElroy (IRE) 22 – SPWAR 84 / WAGR 165
‘Horses for courses’ – anyone who has followed my postings know how highly I rate Dermot’s T7 and T10 finishes at the 2014 and 2015 Lytham Trophy events in the context of this team selection.  He has also played consistently well since Lytham – Irish Amateur (5th), Brabazon Trophy (11th) and European Team (SP T8 / 2 out of 3 points in the MP). His 2015 Home Internationals record (3/0/3) was a bit mixed where it really needed to be perfect.  Of course he also won the West of Ireland earlier in the year.  He has just fallen short for me and his non-invitation to the recent Squad Session suggested the Selectors hadn’t been persuaded either.  His case obviously hasn’t been helped by the fact there are already potentially five other Irish players (above him) in the Team.  His knowledge of the course and many of the team make him an ideal reserve though.

12. Jimmy Mullen (ENG) 21 – SPWAR 123 / WAGR 90 (WC SQUAD)
Not quite the Home internationals I had hoped for for the normally strong Mullen / Chesters partnership (0/1/2) which is not really what Jimmy needed. Having said that the partnership is nearly as well established as the Dunne / Hurley one and Mullen was unbeaten in Singles (1/2/0).  He just hasn’t done enough to make the Team for me.  Having said that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in it and, if not, he would certainly make a very sound Reserve.

Finally, I could also make a case, in alphabetic order, for David Boote (WAL), Bradley Moore (ENG), Marco Penge (ENG), Alfie Plant (ENG), Graeme Robertson (SCO) or Ben Taylor (ENG) making up the Reserve positions.  However, I would be surprised if any of these were to make the actual Team after following their performances this year and based on their current rankings.

I particularly like the idea of Moore and Penge being invited to attend – possibly as the reserves – as the Walker Cup dates don’t fall kindly for these two outstanding young players.  2015 has probably come too soon and 2017 may come too late for both of them.  With neither planning to go to a US College they may need some persuading to hang around for the next Walker Cup match – what better way than seeing the event at close quarters this year.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.