Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (4)

12th July 2015

The 45th Walker Cup match starts at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club in two months time on 12th September 2015. Both teams will be finalised on or around the 24th August 2015 following the completion of the US Amateur Championship at Olympia Fields CC in Illinois.

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

Since my last GB&I Team update quite a lot has happened.

First of all Golfing World released a video interview with Captain Nigel Edwards filmed at The Lytham Trophy in which he ran through his own selection criteria.  The words he used were “strong performances”, “great attitude”, “good putters” and “embrace the situation” and “embrace something very much out of their comfort zone”.  Watch the full video here:

More importantly three major events have been played – The Amateur Championship, The Brabazon Trophy and this week the European Amateur Team Championships.  The latter – which Scotland won – are particularly important as it has seen nearly all of the main protagonists playing the same course and in some cases competing directly against each other.

On 23rd January 2015 The R&A announced an initial 20-man GB&I Walker Cup squad.  Since then three members of that squad, Paul Howard (ENG), Ben Stow (ENG) and most recently Bradley Neil (SCO) have chosen to turn Pro thus excluding themselves from this amateur match against a team from the United States.  Chris Selfridge (IRE), whilst not in the initial Squad, has also turned Pro.  If he had produced the form he has since shown as a Pro in the amateur ranks he may very well have been in the selection shake-up too.  Rhys Pugh (WAL), who played in the 2011 and 2013 matches, has also graduated from College and turned Pro.  Barring miracles at the Open Championship it is unlikely that any more amateurs will turn Pro before the Walker Cup is contested.

Before looking at the GB&I Team it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves of the competition’s format.  A total of 26 matches will be played; singles and foursomes. Four foursomes and eight singles matches are played on the first day. On the second and final day there are again four foursome matches but there are two additional single matches, so that all team members play in the final session of the competition.  The point in raising this is the foursomes angle simply can’t be ignored when picking the Team.

So let’s look at the players who are available and will most likely make up the GB&I team.  Inevitably as the match draws closer the 10-man GB&I team is starting to take shape.

Putting aside the softer team attributes the Selection Committee will be looking for (and of which I have next to no knowledge) and simply taking an objective assessment of 2015 performances and possible foursome pairings I believe there are now just 14 players who have a chance of making the GB&I Team. I have split them into Certainties, Probables and Possibles and ranked them all in the order in which I would currently select them: –

Certainties

1. Paul Dunne (IRE) – SPWAR 10 / WAGR 81 (WC SQUAD)
His recent qualification for the 2015 Open Championship – for the second year running winning the Woburn Final Qualifier – has capped an excellent run of recent results.  A win would have been nice to see but his 5th place finish at the NCAA Division 1 National Championship, Brabazon T9 and European Team Stroke Play (SP) Qualifier T8 have all been impressive.

2. Cormac Sharvin (IRE) – SPWAR 12 / WAGR 19 (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 mean Cormac must have already done enough.

3. Ashley Chesters (ENG) – SPWAR 16 / WAGR 14 (WC SQUAD)
The Englishman has been towards the top of the GB&I standings for some time now. Whilst his play at the Lytham Trophy (127th MC) was unhelpful he has generally enjoyed a fine early summer with good results at the Welsh Amateur (T2), the Amateur (last 16) and the Brabazon Trophy (T7). He also demonstrated good match play form contributing well for England against Spain at Burnham & Berrow as well as at this week’s European Team event (5 points out of a possible 6).  He also plays in The Open Championship this week following last year’s successful defence of his European Amateur crown.

4. Grant Forrest (SCO) – SPWAR 15 / WAGR 53 (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.  He finished T7 in the SP before progressing all the way through the match play (MP) before losing 4&2 to Frenchman Romain Langasque in the Final.  In the R&A’s flagship event this will surely be enough to secure his place at Lytham even before his strong contribution to Scotland’s effort at the European Amateur Team Championship (5 points out of a possible 6).

5. Gavin Moynihan (IRE) – SPWAR 24 / WAGR 57 (WC SQUAD)
As a 2013 team member – and one of the few to come away from the National Golf Links of America with some credit – Mr. Edwards will have been keen from the start to see Gavin in his 2015 team.  Like the thoroughbred he is Gavin has found some form at just the right time winning the Irish Amateur (albeit at Royal Dublin, a course he could play blindfolded) and following it up with two good performances at the Amateur (Last 32) and the Brabazon (2nd).  A little inconsistent this year but given his Walker Cup experience he has probably done enough to be selected now.  It is this match experience that places him above McDonald and Ferguson.

6. Jack McDonald (SCO) – SPWAR 34 / WAGR 82 (WC SQUAD)
His semi-final defeat at The Amateur on the 19th hole to the eventual champion Romain Langasque must have resonated with the selectors – it certainly did with me.  Coupled with his 13th and 15th place results at the Lytham Trophy in 2014 and 2015 respectively he has made himself very selectable.  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).  He appears to be sprinting through the finishing line.

7. Ewen Ferguson (SCO) – SPWAR 43 / WAGR 43
A two time winner this season in Scotland with consistent form behind him, including a Irish Amateur T3, Scottish Amateur T4, Amateur Championship T7 / 64s and Brabazon T11.  A strong match play track record both in the Boys’ Amateur, which he won in 2013, and for Scotland means he is just about worthy of a place in my Certainties. A good finish to the season will secure his spot and no doubt a nice foursome pairing with Grant Forrest in the match itself.

Probable

8. Jimmy Mullen (ENG) – SPWAR 96 / WAGR 102 (WC SQUAD)
Rankings don’t tell the full story for Mr. Mullen who has an excellent MP record and is increasingly a strong proven foursomes partner for Ashley Chesters.  After reaching the last 16 of the US Amateur last year he also progressed to the last 32 of the Amateur this.  He also has a recent win to his name, the 2015 Welsh Amateur which he won by a street.  If he and Chesters deliver in the Home Internationals I think he has a very good chance of being selected.

9. Gary Hurley (IRE) – SPWAR 33 / WAGR 28 (WC SQUAD)
Gary looked a certainty for selection after starring overseas during the winter (South African Amateur T5, Spanish International Amateur 2nd, Argentina Stroke Play T8 and Southern Cross Invitational 3rd) and then producing solid early season form back home (Lytham Trophy T19 and Irish Amateur T25).  However, his / the decision to play in the Palmer Cup rather than the Amateur, as well as missing the Brabazon Trophy, has opened the door to others and appears to me to have put unnecessary pressure on his selection.  He just makes it into my current Team largely on the back of his proven Foursomes partnership with Paul Dunne.  Whilst he has course form with 4th and 19th places at the 2014 and 2015 Lytham Trophies he may need to help himself with a result or two in the next few weeks to stay on the Team.

10. Ben Taylor (ENG) – SPWAR 38 / WAGR 223 (How ?)
Ben’s strong performance in the MP stage of the NCAA Division I Nationals, where he helped his college, Louisiana State, to the Championship title closing out both the semi-final and final matches will not have been lost on the selectors.  Riding a wave of confidence he has played well at both the Amateur and Brabazon, finishing T7 in both stroke play events.  An impressive QF win over Cormac Sharvin at the European Team’s but followed it with a disappointing late loss to Greig Marchbank in the SF that let Scotland in.  His qualification for The Open Championship gives him an opportunity to move forward again next week.  His maturity and US experience may be useful to the Team too.

[Potential foursomes partnerships – Chesters & Mullen / Dunne & Hurley / Forrest & Ferguson / Sharvin & McDonald]

Possibles

11. Dermot McElroy (IRE) – SPWAR 67 / WAGR 139
‘Horses for courses’ – I simply can’t get out of my head Dermot’s T7 and T10 finishes at the 2014 and 2015 Lytham Trophy events.  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).  Of course he also won the West of Ireland earlier in the year.  It was only at the last minute that I dropped him into Possibles from Probables when I decided to give Hurley the benefit of the doubt due to his longstanding foursomes partnership with Dunne.

12. Jack Hume (IRE) – SPWAR 26 / WAGR 48 (WC SQUAD)
A much needed T6 at the St. Andrews Links Trophy followed by a T3 at The Brabazon Trophy for Hume.  A bit like compatriot Hurley Jack had appeared to go off the boil a little following some strong Winter results, notably in Argentina.  Only out of the Team because I am currently undecided about his foursomes partnership with Moynihan.  For me he still has some work to do in the coming weeks but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Team in September.

13. Nick Marsh (ENG) – SPWAR 41 / WAGR 42 (WC SQUAD)
Nick has unfortunately drifted from the centre of the team photo to the periphery in recent months after looking odds on at the start of the year.  A solid if unspectacular season to date with the highlights a 2nd in the West of England (at Saunton where he won last year’s English Closed Amateur) and a T4 at the Welsh Amateur.  Notably lightly utilised by England at the European Team’s this week.  Like Hume and McElroy Nick now needs to force his way back in in the coming weeks.

14. Sam Horsfield (ENG) – SPWAR 74 / WAGR 10 (WC SQUAD)
How do you solve a problem like 18 year old Sam Horsfield ?  Undoubtedly a hugely promising talent but beyond qualifying for the US Open last month – which in turn meant he didn’t play as originally planned in The Amateur Championship – he hasn’t frankly achieved a great deal this season, admittedly due partly to school commitments.  When coupled with his lack of links experience and next to no contact with any of the other potential team members to date calls for his selection become increasingly difficult to accept.  Despite being the highest ranked GB&I player in the WAGR at the time of writing (I am not sure how or why ?) his selection would be a very brave call at this point.  To force his way in now he surely needs to either impress beyond believe at the forthcoming Squad weekend (which I assume he is still attending ?) or go deep in the US Amateur.  Finally, I see he has not entered the English Amateur at Alwoodley and Pannal GC’s which starts just a few days after the Lytham squad session preferring to return to the US for the Western Amateur – wherever he plays a strong result is required sooner rather than later.

From my short list of 14 players 11 (as shown in brackets above) were in the initial Walker Cup Squad.  Ferguson, McElroy and Taylor have forced their way into the shake up.  To differing degrees, and perhaps a little prematurely, I believe David Boote (WAL), Jamie Savage (SCO), Tomasz Anderson (ENG), Daniel Brown (ENG), Adam Chapman (ENG) and Graeme Robertson (SCO), who were all in the Squad, have already played themselves out of, or if you prefer not sufficiently well to get in to, the final selection picture (or at least mine !).

Daniel Brown finished 19th and 6th at the Lytham Trophy in 2014 and 2015 respectively so perhaps shouldn’t be completely discounted but unfortunately he hasn’t done enough elsewhere since his very good 2014 Amateur championship performance at Royal Portrush to get on the radar.

Scotland’s Greig MarchbankConnor SymeDaniel Young and Craig Ross, are unlucky not to have been mentioned somewhere above based on their 2015 results but in the case of the last two their non-selection by the Scottish Golf Union for the European Team event makes it hard to see a way in for them.  Ross may also move up the world rankings today if he can hold onto his 54-hole lead at the Chiberta Grand Prix in France. [NB: Craig did win so may now be on the cusp of the Possibles too.]

As mentioned above the Squad are formally meeting up at Lytham on 21st and 22nd July 2015.  No further Squad announcements have been made since January so it will be interesting to see who actually turns up for that gathering.

In terms of forthcoming major Championships that are still to be played and will be being watched carefully – we have the English, Scottish and Welsh Amateurs (27th July), the European Amateur (4th August), the Men’s Home Internationals (11th August) and the US Amateur (15th August).  So there is still plenty of golf to be played before any decisions have to be made.  As always the Men’s Home Internationals, being played at Royal Portrush, and being fresh in the mind of the selector’s will be material to the final decisions.

One thing writing this article has highlighted to me beyond doubt is that now we are getting to decision time picking the GB&I team is, I guess as always, not going to be straight-forward.  There maybe some surprises and disappointments come August.

* The SPWAR and WAGR used in this article were correct as at 11th July 2015 and 8th July 2015 respectively.

Notes
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.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (3)

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. Walker Cup 2015 Logo 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 FergusonDaniel 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

Notes
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.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (2)

23rd January 2015

The R&A has today announced an initial 20-man Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup squad.

The 2015 Walker Cup is to be played on 12th and 13th September.

The players are to meet up at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, the host course, on two occasions; ahead of the Lytham Trophy which is to be played on 1st – 3rd May and then more formally on 21st and 22nd July.

The squad is shown below in full.  I have listed the players based on their World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) but also show their Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) alongside: –

Rankings –                                     WAGR   SPWAR

  1. Bradley Neil (SCO)                     9             6
  2. Ashley Chesters (ENG)             22           36
  3. Grant Forrest (SCO)                  24           31
  4. Sam Horsfield (ENG)                 26          39
  5. Nick Marsh (ENG)                     32           22
  6. Gavin Moynihan (IRE)               34           74
  7. Paul Howard (ENG)                   45          20
  8. Ben Stow (ENG)                        48          34
  9. Paul Dunne (IRE)                      49           26
  10. Jack Hume (IRE)                       51          63
  11. Jamie Savage (SCO)                52         103
  12. Gary Hurley (IRE)                      64          33
  13. Adam Chapman (ENG)             82         112
  14. Jack McDonald (SCO)              90          75
  15. Cormac Sharvin (IRE)               92          53
  16. Jimmy Mullen (ENG)                123        119
  17. Tomasz Anderson (ENG)         124        110
  18. Daniel Brown (ENG)                 131        170
  19. Graeme Robertson (SCO)       139        146
  20. David Boote (WAL)                  159         55

The Top 10 GB&I players listed above have a combined WAGR ranking of 340.  The USA’s current Top 10 in the same rankings have a combined total of 108.  If one removes Ollie Schniederjans (1) and Brian Campbell (18), who have already indicated they will probably be turning Pro and won’t be playing, and replace them with the next highest ranking Americans, Xander Schaufelle (28) and Bryson DeChambeau (29), this total rises to 146.  This gives a rough indication – without allowing for the USGA’s Mid-Amateur selection policy * – of the relative merits of the two teams.  Thankfully Walker Cup’s are not played on paper.

[* On the 25/1/15 Scott Harvey (36), the reigning US Mid-Amateur Champion, won the South American Amateur Championship – almost assuring himself a spot on the US Team and to a degree overturning the point I was trying to make about this policy potentially weakening the US team.]

The squad consists of 9 English, 5 Irish, 5 Scottish and 1 Welsh player.  In 2013 there were no Scottish players in the team, the first time this had happened since 1949.  This time Wales looks the most likely to miss out with the other Home Nations well represented in this initial squad.  Hopefully someone else, perhaps Evan Griffith, Mike Hearne or Rhys Pugh, can rise to the challenge and give David Boote some support in this regard.

There are no real surprises here and the players selected are all well known and proven.  As I highlighted in December on this website there is little the selectors can do at this stage than go off the World Rankings.  Daniel Brown is the only player I excluded from today’s squad when I selected one in December.  I included Ireland’s Dermot McElroy instead.  Some background information and 2014 playing information on the players is available in that post – Golf Bible Squad.

Bradley Neil has rightly chosen to keep his options open at this stage but it is no secret that he will be hoping to turn Pro in the summer after competing in the US Masters and US Open.  Good results and growing confidence may also see other selected players elect to turn Pro before the competition starts in September, thus making themselves ineligible.

With the exception of Robertson and Boote the squad is essentially made up of the highest ranking GB&I players on the R&A-endorsed World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) list (click to view).  Continuing down the current WAGR – see below – highlights those players, most notably Dermot McElroy, who are perhaps unlucky to miss out.  Of course these and many others are still in with a good chance of making the team as the season unfolds.

  1. Dermot McElroy (IRE)              130        84
  2. Haydn McCullen (ENG)           147       363
  3. Ben Taylor (ENG)                     156       136
  4. Robin Dawson (IRE)                 170       211
  5. Chris Selfridge (IRE)                175       159
  6. Luke Johnson (ENG)               187        201
  7. Cameron Shaw (ENG)             192        547
  8. Sean Towndrow (ENG)            214        190
  9. Brandon R.-Thompson (ENG) 222        738
  10. Paul Kinnear (ENG)                 225        150
  11. Craig Ross (SCO)                    226         93
  12. Daniel Young (SCO)                229        109
  13. Connor Syme (SCO)                358       177

I am sure all of the elite GB&I players appreciate an early squad announcement so they all know where they stand with the selectors and the work they have to do over the season ahead – both to stay in the Top 20 but equally to break into it.  Whilst slightly ironic for me to say so, The R&A may regret making their thoughts known this early, particularly as it is not possible for the squad to meet before May, a full three months away.  There is lots of amateur golf to be played between now and then.  A ‘date for the diary’ communication via the Home Nations about a pre-Lytham Trophy gathering may have been preferable alongside a statement as to an early April date for a formal squad announcement.

The final 10-man team with 2 reserves will be announced in mid-August.  I look forward to following the progress of the squad and reporting on how the team is shaping up over the coming months.

Notes
Walker Cup background and my previous articles on it can be found by clicking here – 2015 Walker Cup
The full R&A press release with regard to todays GB&I squad announcement can be read here – GB&I Squad Announcement

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (1)

18th December 2014

Golf in Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) has well and truly entered the quieter winter period.  All of the rounds being played now are of the bonus variety, with survival often the priority over score.  The 2015 Walker Cup still seems an age away and it is no surprise at all that The R&A has made no announcements with regard to it’s possible Team yet.

Royal Lytham Clubhouse

Royal Lytham & St. Annes – Venue Of The 2015 Walker Cup

The 45th Walker Cup Match will take place at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England on 12th and 13th September 2015, i.e. in 268 days time.  For more information on the 2015 Walker Cup and Royal Lytham please click here.

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

Across the Atlantic the USGA have been far more forthcoming, naming a 16-man Walker Cup squad for a practice / bonding session which started yesterday in Georgia.  You may have read my analysis of ‘Team USA’ a few weeks ago.

Whilst it may appear GB&I are falling behind in their preparations we all know that the ever meticulous Captain Nigel Edwards will already be mulling over his options.  He will certainly be looking forward to seeing how some of his charges go in the early 2015 events in the Southern Hemisphere.  Many of our elite players have been overseas enjoying warmer climes and practicing hard for these competitions and the season ahead in recent weeks.  Of course, in his capacity as Performance Director for England Golf Mr. Edwards will also have spent a lot of time with England’s top players at their recent training camp in Portugal.

So to keep myself occupied in the absence of any news I thought I’d pick my own 20-man GB&I training squad.  To give it a bit more edge I’ve split the players into a Current Walker Cup Team and a Challenger Team.  Each player has been given a current Selection * Rating out of 5.

As consistency in selection is important I started by carefully considering the merits of all of the players selected for the GB&I Team that beat the Continent of Europe 14-10 to win the St. Andrews Trophy match in Sweden last August.

Obviously Ryan Evans has turned Pro so he has been excluded.  Likewise Amateur Champion Bradley Neil is almost certain to turn Pro after the US Open so I have reluctantly left him out also.  His recent playing record is included below just in case he decides to play on as Amateur.

Bradley Neil (Blairgowrie GC) – Blairgowrie, Scotland
WAGR 10 / SPWAR 5 – d.o.b. 16/01/96
World Amateur Team T15 (2014)
St. Andrews Trophy W2 D1 L1 (2014)
Amateur Championship Champion (2014)
St. Andrews Links Trophy 2nd (2014)
Lytham Trophy 3rd (2014)
Selection Rating = ***** Would be a definite but expected to turn Pro after the US Open so discounted here.

In addition I have objectively reviewed the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking Positions (WAGR) and Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) to try to determine the best GB&I team available.  The rankings quoted below are accurate as at 17th December 2014.

So here goes: –

My Current Walker Cup Team – December 2014

1. Paul Dunne (Greystones GC) – Dublin, Ireland
WAGR 48 / SPWAR 21 – d.o.b. 26/11/92
Performing well for the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 2014 (Senior)
St. Andrews Trophy W3 D1 L0 (2014)
Home Internationals W6 D0 L0 (2014)
Qualified for The Open Championship (2014)
Palmer Cup W1 D1 L2 (2014)
Selection Rating = *****  Playing very well over in the US and on the back of some excellent Team results last year is simply too good not to be selected.  I believe he can be measured for his outfits now.

2. Grant Forrest (Craigielaw GC) – North Berwick, Scotland
WAGR 26 / SPWAR 25 – d.o.b. 19/06/93
Performing well for the University of San Diego in 2014 (Senior)
European Amateur Team T6 (2014)
Palmer Cup W2 D0 L2 (2014)
St. Andrews Links Trophy Champion (2014)
Home Internationals W5 D0 L1 (2013)
Selection Rating = ***** Like Paul, Grant is doing well on the US College circuit this year and given his recent competition results is therefore increasingly certain of a 2015 Walker Cup debut.

3. Nick Marsh (Huddersfield GC) – Huddersfield, England
WAGR 23 / SPWAR 28 – d.o.b. 20/09/94
St. Andrews Trophy W1 D1 L1 (2014)
Home Internationals W4 D1 L1 (2014)
English Amateur Champion (2014)
Scottish U21 Champion (2014)
Scottish Open Amateur T2 (2014)
Portuguese International Amateur 2nd (2014)
Selection Rating = ***** Well worth his place after an outstanding 2014.  He seems to be getting better as each year passes which is no mean achievement.

GB&I Walker Cup 1-6

Dunne, Forrest, Marsh (top row l-r), Hurley, Chesters and Howard (bottom row l-r)

4. Gary Hurley (West Waterford GC) – Dungarvan, Ireland
WAGR 67 / SPWAR 30 – d.o.b. 28/01/93
St. Andrews Trophy W3 D1 L0 (2014)
Home Internationals W5 D1 L0 (2014)
European Amateur T2 (2014)
Brabazon Trophy T5 (2014)
Lytham Trophy T4 (2014)
Selection Rating = ***** A consistent sequence of high finishes in 2014, including some course form at Lytham, means Gary is looking a very good bet for selection. 

5. Ashley Chesters (Hawkstone Park GC) – Shrewsbury, England
WAGR 24 / SPWAR 33 – d.o.b. 25/08/89
St. Andrews Trophy W3 D0 L1 (2014)
Home Internationals W5 D0 L1 (2014)
European Amateur Champion (2013, 2014)
Brabazon Trophy 2nd (2014)
Hampshire Salver T3 (2014)
Selection = *****  Consecutive European Amateurs and excellent 2014 Team results mean the experienced Shropshire man is worthy of his place.  Will almost certainly be turning Pro after the Walker Cup so will be striving hard for a place this season.    

6. Paul Howard (Southport & Ainsdale GC) – Southport, England
WAGR 43 / SPWAR 36 – d.o.b. N/k
Good run at European Tour Q-School in November 2014
US Amateur 32s (2014)
Amateur Championship T4 SP / QFs MP (2014)
St. Andrews Links Trophy T3 (2014)
Lytham Trophy T7 (2014)
Hampshire Salver 2nd (2014)
South American Amateur Champion (2014)
Selection Rating = ***** Lancashire’s No. 1 simply has to be selected; an excellent 2014, including a Top 10 at Lytham.  Certain to boost the crowd numbers too !

7. Gavin Moynihan (The Island) – Dublin, Ireland
WAGR 32 / SPWAR 61 – d.o.b. 17/09/94
Left Alabama and the US College circuit behind in Autumn 2014.
World Amateur Team T15 (2014)
European Amateur Team T13 (2014)
Brabazon Trophy T5 (2014)
Scottish Open Amateur Champion (2014)
Bonallack Trophy W3 D0 L2 (2014)
Walker Cup W2 D0 L2
Selection Rating = *****  I am confident Gavin will settle back into GB&I amateur golf in 2015 and put his disappointing time in Alabama behind him.  His undoubted ability and past Walker Cup and Irish Team experience will make him a valuable member of the 2015 team.  

8. Ben Stow (Rushmore) – Salisbury, England
WAGR 28 / SPWAR 37 – d.o.b. 24/10/91
World Amateur Team T8 (2014)
European Amateur T5 (2014)
Brabazon Trophy Champion (2014)
Amateur Championship 64s (2014)
NCAA Div. 1 National USA T29 (2014)
Jones Cup T6 (2014)
Selection Rating = **** A solid performer for many years with the Brabazon Trophy win the highlight of 2014.  Now back from US College I expect him to do well in the major amateur events this year.  Lots of international golf experience should stand him in good stead for Lytham too. 

9. Sam Horsfield (Davenport, USA) – Manchester, England
WAGR 25 / SPWAR 62 – d.o.b. 8/10/96
Outstanding Junior record in the US and now signed up for the University of Florida (2015)
Junior Players Champion (2014)
US Amateur T8 SP / 64s MP (2014)
US Junior T1 SP / SFs MP (2014)
US Public Links 6th SP / 32s MP (2014)
Selection Rating = **** Clearly an outstanding prospect who is consistently delivering in the top junior / adult events in the US.  A lack of competitive UK play / links experience makes his selection tougher than it should be.  It’s probably now or never for Sam as he appears to be on the fast track to the Professional ranks.  His reputation, if not his play, will also be well known to the opposition unlike some members of the Team.

GB&I Walker Cup 7-12

Moynihan, Stow, Horsfield (top row l-r), Chapman, Sharvin, McDonald (bottom row l-r)

10. Adam Chapman (Windermere GC) – Windermere, England
WAGR 83 / SPWAR 103 – d.o.b. N/k (19)
North of England Amateur Champion (2014)
European Amateur T18 (2014)
South of England Amateur Champion (2014)
Amateur Championship 16s (2014)
Hampshire Salver 10th (2014)
Duncan Putter 3rd 2014)
Selection Rating = *** Far from secure in the team, after all I have elevated him above more highly ranked players,  but there is something about Mr. Chapman’s game that I like.  Clearly needs a few good results in 2015, preferably in a national event and ideally in the Lytham Trophy to secure his place.   

Challenger Team

11. Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass GC) – Ireland
WAGR 93 / SPWAR 49 – d.o.b. 8/10/92
Selection Rating = *** Cormac, the 2013 & 2014 Irish Amateur (Closed) champion has a really good chance of making the Team but like many others will need a few good national results to be certain of a spot. 

12. Jack McDonald (Kilmarnock Barassie) – Troon, Scotland
WAGR 91 / SPWAR 59 – d.o.b. 12/02/93
Selection Rating = *** The University of Stirling player impressed at the 2014 Home internationals and appears to like Lytham (2014 LT – T13).  He will need to play himself on to the team in 2015.

13. David Boote (Kingswood GC / Walton Heath GC) – Surrey, England
WAGR 164 / SPWAR 51 – d.o.b. N/k (20)
Selection Rating = *** Gaining momentum for selection with some encouraging Fall 2015 results for Stanford University.  Unclear whether the US base will help or hinder his selection prospects.  Limited GB&I competition exposure is always a concern as Greg Eason found out in 2013.   

14. Dermot McElroy (Ballymena GC) – Ballymena, Northern Ireland
WAGR 132 / SPWAR 69 – d.o.b. 13/06/93
Selection Rating = *** An exceptional if slightly inconsistent player.  Capable of some very low scoring and good results as he showed in 2014 at the European Amateur (T9) and usefully at the Lytham Trophy (T7).  

15. Jamie Savage (Cawder GC) – Scotland
WAGR 52 / SPWAR 92 – d.o.b. 24/07/94
Selection Rating = *** 2014 was a good year for Jamie who won the Irish Amateur (Open) and reached the QFs of the Amateur Championship.  Unfortunately he struggled to make an impression in the St. Andrews Trophy, losing the two matches he was selected for.  Will Mr. Edwards see beyond this ?  

 GB&I Walker Cup 13-18

Boote, McElroy, Savage (tope row l-r), Anderson, Taylor, Robertson (bottom row l-r) 

16. Tomasz Anderson (Brocket Hall GC) – Welwyn Garden City, England
WAGR 126 / SPWAR 96 – 29/05/92
Selection Rating = *** Will need a good run next year but has performed well for Jacksonville State University in the Autumn and scored well in the 2014 Home internationals last year.  US base may hinder prospects as with others.

17. Ben Taylor (Walton Heath GC) – Leatherhead, England
WAGR 161 / SPWAR 118 – d.o.b. N/k (22)
Selection Rating = *** A strong player who appears to be improving in the tough US College system.  Now a Senior at Louisiana State he has a recent win to his name and must be a good ‘outsider’ if he can continue his form into 2015. 

18. Graeme Robertson (Glenbervie GC) – Scotland
WAGR 141 / SPWAR 126 – d.o.b. N/k (26)
Selection Rating = *** Selected for the St. Andrews Trophy last summer – so on the radar – but will need some strong 2015 results to secure a spot.

19. Jack Hume (Naas GC) – Ireland
WAGR 56 / SPWAR 99 – d.o.b. 8/10/93
Selection Rating = *** performed well in the British (64s), Irish (T6) and Scottish (T2) Amateurs last year but will clearly need to play himself into contention in 2015 given the competition.  Likes to travel around and often pops up in high quality US events which can be ranking enhancing. 

20. Jimmy Mullen (Royal North Devon GC) – Devon, England
WAGR 94 / SPWAR 129 – d.o.b. 18/11/93
Selection Rating = *** The 2014 Duncan Putter Champion went on to impressively record the highest GB&I finish at the US Amateur last year (SP T8 / MP 16s).  He will need to record similar results next year to break into the team but wouldn’t surprise anyone if he did.

GB&I Walker Cup 19-20

Hume, Mullen and The Walker Cup Trophy

Other Notables Worth Watching (i.e. time to cover my back a little more)

Wales’ Rhys Pugh** (WAGR 265 / SPWAR 214) played on the Walker Cup team in 2011 and 2013 so his experience would be very useful.  However, he is having something of a lacklustre year at East Tennessee State in the US, where he is in his final year of study.  Well down the world rankings currently.

Scotland’s Craig Ross** (WAGR 235 / SPWAR 84) and Daniel Young** (WAGR 237 / SPWAR 95) are both unlucky not to be included above given their good results at the 2014 Home internationals and 4th / T5 places at the Brabazon Trophy.

Others put on the bench by me at this stage but with a good chance to fight their way up the rankings are Paul Kinnear *(WAGR 231 / SPWAR 138), Daniel Brown* (WAGR 133 / SPWAR 160), Connor Syme *(WAGR 355 / SPWAR 166), Chris Selfridge* (WAGR 208 / SPWAR 167), Haydn McCullen* (WAGR 158 / SPWAR 342), Robin Dawson* (WAGR 168 / SPWAR 200), Luke Johnson* (WAGR 190 / SPWAR 184) and Scott Borrowman* (WAGR 282 / SPWAR 187).

Of course the above commentary is all a bit of fun.  We all know it is very early days in terms of GB&I selection with the final team not expected to be announced until late August 2015.  There is clearly plenty of time for other players, even those not listed anywhere above, to play there way in to consideration.  Irrespective of what happens and how accurate my initial assessments are I look forward to following the selection process through 2015 and updating the above analysis (with apologies to those who prove me wrong) over the coming months.

Please let me know what you think and feel free to point out anyone who I should have mentioned but haven’t !

ME.

Copyright © 2014, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – Team USA (1)

30th November 2014

It seems early but the countdown to the 2015 Walker Cup is already underway.  On 13th November 2014, a full 304 days before the next instalment of this biennial contest starts, the USGA announced their first Walker Cup training squad.  As has become the norm in Team USA’s preparations a turn-of-the-year practice session is to be held; this time on 17th – 20th December at Frederica GC in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

The 45th Walker Cup Match will take place at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England on 12th and 13th September 2015.  For more information on the 2015 Walker Cup and Royal Lytham please click here.

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

As the USA have shown their hand first I thought I would take a closer look at their training squad and what it tells us.

Whilst neither team will be confirmed until mid-August 2015 it is interesting to note that nine of the final ten in the 2013 USA Team attended the first practice session held that year in January 2013.  Therefore the 16-man squad named two weeks ago is likely to be a very good indicator of who we may see on the Fylde Coast next September.

I have listed the USA players below in order of their current World Amateur Golf Ranking Positions (WAGR).  I have also provided some basic biographical information and their current Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR).  The differences highlighted between an individual player’s WAGR and SPWAR ranking are in themselves interesting.

The following players have accepted an invitation to attend the St. Simons Island session: –

1. Robby Shelton (Wilmer, Alabama)
b. 25/08/95 (19)  WAGR – 3  SPWAR – 8
University of Alabama – Sophomore (2014/15)
NCAA Div. 1 Championship winning team member (2013/14)
National Freshman of the Year – Phil Mickelson Award (2013/14)
Qualified for the 2014 US Open
Palmer Cup Team member (2014)

2. Will Zalatoris (Plano, Texas)
b. 16/08/1996 (18)  WAGR – 7  SPWAR – 92
Wake Forest University – Freshman (2014/15)
2014 US Junior Amateur Champion

3. Lee McCoy (Clarkesville, Georgia)
b. 05/02/1994 (20)  WAGR – 10  SPWAR – 14
University of Georgia – Junior (2014/15)
SP co-medalist at the 2014 US Amateur

4. Denny McCarthy (Rockville, Maryland)
b. 04/03/1993 (21)  WAGR – 12  SPWAR – 2
University of Virginia – Senior (2014/15)
6th at the NCAA Div. 1 Championship (2013/14)
SF at the 2014 US Amateur 
US Junior Ryder Cup Team (2010)

5. Doug Ghim (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
b. 16/04/1996 (18)  WAGR – 13  SPWAR – 60
University of Texas – Freshman (2014/15)
Runner-up at the 2014 US Amateur Public Links
SF at the 2013 US Junior Amateur

6. Beau Hossler (Mission Vejo, California)
b. 16/03/1995 (19)  WAGR – 14  SPWAR – 4
University of Texas – Sophomore (2014/15)
Western Amateur Champion (2014)
2014 World Amateur Team Champion – USA
Competed in the 2011 (age 16) and 2012 (29th) US Open Championships
USA Junior Ryder Cup (2012)

US Walker Cup 1-6

Shelton, Zalatoris, McCoy (top row l-r), McCarthy, Ghim and Hossler (bottom row l-r)

7. J. Hunter Stewart (Lexington, Kentucky)
b. 22/05/1993 (21)  WAGR – 15  SPWAR – 12
Vanderbilt University – Senior (2014/15)
Qualified for the 2014 US Open

8. Charlie Danielson (Osceola, Wisconsin)
b. 16/01/1994 (20)  WAGR – 32  SPWAR – 44
University of Illinois – Junior (2014/15)
Last 16 at 2013 US Amateur

9. Kyle Jones (Snowflake, Arizona)
b. 15/07/1993 (21)  WAGR – 39  SPWAR – 67
Baylor University – Senior (2014/15)

10. Bryson Dechambeau Clovis, California)
b. 16/09/1993 (21)  WAGR – 40  SPWAR – 9
Southern Methodist University – Junior (2014/15)
2014 World Amateur Team Champion – USA
Last 16 at the 2014 US Amateur
QFs of the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links
Palmer Cup Team member (2014)
9th at the NCAA Div. 1 Championship (2013/14)

11. Rico Hoey (Rancho Cucamonga, California)
b. 19/09/1995 (19)  WAGR – 41  SPWAR – 18
University of Southern California – Sophomore (2014/15)
Palmer Cup Team member (2014)

12. Maverick McNealy (Portola Valley, California)
b. 07/11/1995 (19)  WAGR – 53  SPWAR – 99
Stanford University – Sophomore (2014/15)
Competed at the 2014 (29th) US Open
[Named, like his siblings, after a car by his father Scott, the co-founder and former long-time CEO of Sun Microsystems]

US Walker Cup 7-12

Stewart, Danielson, Jones (top row l-r), Dechambeau, Hoey and McNealy (bottom row l-r)

13. Byron Meth (San Diego, California)
b. ??/??/1993 (21)  WAGR – 73  SPWAR – 110
University of the Pacific – Senior (2014/15)
2014 US Amateur Public Links Champion
Last 16 in the 2014 US Amateur 

14. Scott Harvey (Greesboro, North Carolina) *
b. 30/05/1978 (36)  WAGR – 79  SPWAR – 69
2014 US Mid-Amateur Champion
2014 Cardinal Amateur Champion
Property Manager and former Mini-Tour Professional.

15. Nathan Smith (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) *
b. 06/08/78 (36)  WAGR – 80  SPWAR – 160
2014 US Amateur QF
2003 (aged 25), 2009, 2010 and 2012 US Mid-Amateur Champion 
US Walker Cup Team 2009, 2011 and 2013
Investment adviser

16. Mike McCoy (West Des Moines, Iowa) *
b. 21/11/1962 (52)  WAGR – 184  SPWAR – 76
2013 US Mid-Amateur Champion
Insurance Executive

US Walker Cup 13-18

Meth, Harvey, Smith (top row l-r), McCoy, Schniderjans and Campbell (bottom row l-r)

If you will forgive me for stating the obvious the USA Team is again going to be very strong with a foundation of elite amateurs, with both major Am / Pro championship experience and victories as well as sound current College playing records.  However, in GB&I’s favour is home advantage and the challenge of links golf which will be a new experience to many of the USA team.  May be a bit of September wind and rain will help too.

The USGA have a policy of including a minimum of two mid-amateurs (aged 25 or over) in their team.  Whilst some commentators argue that this weakens their team it is clear from the squad selections that it will be continued in 2015.  Of course Captain Miller also played his one Walker Cup in 1999 as a mid-amateur in his late 40’s. What was a surprise was why it was felt necessary to include three mid-amateurs (denoted with a *) in the squad.  The inclusion of the 2013 US Mid-Amateur Champion Mike McCoy, now 52, in particular looks a little odd given his rankings.

Looking at the current WAGR’s notable omissions from the practice team were Ollie Schniederjans (WAGR – 1), Brian Campbell (WAGR – 8), Sam Burns (WAGR – 12), Xander Schauffele (WAGR – 26) and Jack Maguire (WAGR – 37).  In other words the USA team could still be improved or in reality may have been stronger.  I say this as we can probably now assume that in the case of Schniederjans and Campbell they must have already indicated an intention to turn Pro next Summer prior to the match.  In the case of Burns, Schauffele and Maguire they clearly still have work to do in convincing the Selection Committee of their merits.  Miller doesn’t seem overly keen at this stage on giving youth an opportunity at Lytham.  Burns, 18, has been overlooked as has well ranked Cameron Young (WAGR – 32), Scottie Scheffler (WAGR – 33) and Davis Riley (WAGR – 41).

Mid-amateur Nathan Smith is the only member of the current squad who played in the 2013 Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America (he also played in 2011).  Jordan Niebrugge (WAGR – 64) could add some more experience from the victorious 2013 team but clearly needs to show some better form to get pack in the picture.  Of course, that is exactly what he did in 2013 as he was the player who forced himself onto the team last time through outstanding play.

In theory selection for the December 2014 USA practice squad means nothing but, as noted above, in practice it has in the past proven to be a good indicator.  There is still plenty of golf to be played next year so only time will tell how close the Selection Committee have got it on their first stab.  Another unknown in the USA selection equation is who will succeed the current Selection Committee Chairman Dan Burton who steps down from post in February 2015 ?  Only time will tell if a new person leads to a different approach and new names being put forward.

Finally, look out for my early thoughts on a possible ‘GB&I Squad’ which will be coming soon.

ME.

Copyright © 2014, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.