My Top 15 In 2015 – A Review Of Men’s Amateur Golf

24th December 2015

Every amateur golf season seems to be memorable for some reason but as I look back on 2015 I can’t help but think this year has been extra special.

We have seen exciting Championships, notable Major and Tour performances by amateurs and to cap it all off a stunning Walker Cup success for Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I).  It is not easy for amateur golf to usurp the pro game in the media but during 2015 it has managed to do it quite frequently.

By way of an annual review I have drawn up a ‘My Top 15 in 2015’ list. I am not looking to re-invent the world rankings but simply note those players that have impacted me most to tell the story of the year. I also make no apologies for a little GB&I bias here.

1. BRYSON DECHAMBEAU (USA)

Some people say Miguel Ángel Jiménez is the ‘most interesting man in golf’.  I never thought it myself and I certainly don’t at the end of 2015.

California’s 22 year old Bryson DeChambeau ticks a few more boxes for me – be it the name, the ‘Hogan cap’, the thick gripped irons all at the same 7-iron length or the ball dipping in water and epsom salts to ensure they each have a perfect centre of gravity.  It is easy to be different, it is another to win different – which is what he’s being doing.

Bryson, let’s call him that because I am sure we all will be soon – as in Tiger and Rory – won both the U.S. Amateur Championship and the NCAA Division I Individual Title in a memorable breakout season.  Not many people do that same season double – to be precise just Jack Nicklaus (1961), Phil Mickelson (1990), Tiger Woods (1996) and Ryan Moore (2004) have done it before him.

He beat Derek Bard 7&6 in the 36-hole U.S. Amateur final at Chicago’s Olympia Fields, having already secured the NCAA title by finishing 1-shot ahead of Washington’s Cheng-Tsung Pan with a 280 (-8) total at the Concession CC in Florida.

Bryson DeChambeau US Amateur 2015

Bryson DeChambeau – 2015 U.S. Amateur Champion (© USGA)

Despite a saw neck at Royal Lytham he won two and halved one of his three matches at The Walker Cup in September too.

With Southern Methodist University (SMU) kicked out of the 2016 NCAA’s due to historic recruiting violations DeChambeau has recently left college – not finishing his Physics Major – and started to compete in professional events as he looks forward to taking up his Masters invitation in April.  In November he tied 2nd at the Australian Masters at Huntingdale GC on 278 (-6), 2-shots behind home favourite Peter Senior.

2. MARCUS KINHULT (SWE)

Marcus Kinhult won the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley by 1-shot from Davis Shore in late April then followed it up with the Lytham Trophy just a week later.  The latter he won by a staggering 8-shots in tough conditions.

Marcus Kinhult Lytham Trophy

Marcus Kinhult – Winner of the 2015 Lytham Trophy  (© GolfChannel.com)

In June he led the Nordea Masters on the European Tour after 36 holes in Sweden before finishing tied 33rd.  He showed that was no fluke in July by then finishing tied 10th at the Omega European Masters in the week of his 19th birthday.

To put the icing on the cake – not only to a fine year but sadly to his amateur career – Marcus recently strolled through European Tour Final Q-School finishing 17th and turning Pro immediately.

Currently 951st in the Official World Golf Rankings it will be interesting to watch his progress in the coming years.

3. ROMAIN LANGASQUE (FRA)

The highlight of Romain Langasque’s year was clearly his Amateur Championship victory at Carnoustie.  He beat Scotland’s Grant Forrest by 4&2 in the Final.

Playing a global schedule he also enjoyed six other top 6 finishes during the year in Argentina, South Africa and Great Britain.  He won the Southern Cross Invitational in March in Argentina and the Mouchy Cup back home in France.

His season tailed off a little as he struggled to take advantage of a number of pro tournament invites that came his way.  He did make the cut at The Open Championship which in any other year would have been a notable achievement for an amateur.

4. CORMAC SHARVIN (IRE)

Cormac enjoyed a great year and in a hard fought contest is probably my top GB&I amateur of 2015, just pipping Paul Dunne, Jimmy Mullen and Marco Penge.

Cormac Sharvin Reflects on the Walker Cup and his 2015 (© BBC Sport)

His victories at the Brabazon Trophy (English Amateur Open) and unbeaten Walker Cup (P3 W3 L0 H0) were clearly the highlights.  I really enjoyed his ‘heart on the sleeve’ performance at the Walker Cup which has tipped the balance in his favour.

His overall consistency, with Top 5 finishes at the Lytham Trophy, Irish Amateur Open and Scottish Amateur Open really impressed me.

5. MARCO PENGE (ENG)

Marco Penge Scottish Open Strokeplay Championship

Marco Penge – 2015 Carrick Neill Scottish Open Strokeplay Champion (© Kenny Smith)

By any measure 2015 was a superb season for 17 year old Marco Penge.  He certainly won more events than any other GB&I amateur golfer.

He destroyed three Junior U18 fields, easily winning the Faldo Series Wales Qualifier (+2, to win by 6 shots), the McEvoy Trophy (-12, to win by 8 shots) and the Sir Henry Cooper Masters (-14, to win by 7 shots).

He capped the year off by winning the Carrick Neill Scottish Open Stroke Play (-6), his first Men’s win against a strong field at Moray GC.

He also got to the quarter finals of the English Men’s Amateur and reached the semi-finals of the British Boys, eventually losing to the winner, Marcus Svensson.  If he had won the Boys or another late season Men’s event he may well have had to be picked for the Walker Cup.  However, late season injuries saw him tail off and drift out of that picture.

Marco is clearly a great prospect. The question is what does he do in 2016 ?  Push on to a full Men’s schedule or continue to play both Junior and Men’s, incorporating leading Junior events for which he will still be eligible.  There is nothing like winning and having the chance to win to gain experience and breed confidence.

6. PAUL DUNNE (IRE)

Paul Dunne finished his time at UAB with a 5th place result at the NCAA Division I Individual Championship with a 283 (-5) total.  However, a final round 73 (+1) meant this was a famous title he perhaps let slip – whilst easy to say a 70 would have tied him with DeChambeau.

He was the first name on my Walker Cup team sheet which tells you how good he is.

Paul followed a tied 9th finish at the Brabazon and a tied 8th in the European Team Stroke Play (SP) Qualifier with a memorable Open Championship performance at St. Andrews (his tied 30th telling only a little of the full story, having won the Final Qualifier at Woburn for the second successive year).  He then tied 11th at the International European Amateur in Slovakia and reached the quarter-finals of the US Amateur Match Play stage in late August. 

He finished the season by turning Pro where he quickly settled in; a tied 19th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and a tied 25th at the British Masters being the early highlights.  To cap a great year he then played his way through every stage of the European Tour Q-School to secure a 2016 card.

Earlier this week the Irish Golf Writers’ Association voted Paul their Men’s Amateur Player Of The Year, an award he also won in 2014.

Perhaps he should be higher in my 2015 list but without a win I have chosen to scale him back.

7. JIMMY MULLEN (ENG)

Devon’s Jimmy Mullen became just the fourth GB&I player – after Andrew Oldcorn, Paul Casey and Luke Donald – to deliver a maximum four points in a Walker Cup match.  He continued his strong foursomes partnership with Ashley Chesters (perhaps unlucky not to be on this list himself) successfully leading GB&I out on both days at Royal Lytham.  He also beat Denny McCarthy twice in singles.  That’s the same Denny McCarthy that subsequently finished tied 9th at the Web.com Tour Q-School to secure his 2016 playing privileges in the U.S.

WC Jimmy Mullen Kneeling

Jimmy Mullen (Photo: Getty Images / The R&A)

Earlier in the year Mullen won the Welsh Open Stroke Play Championship and finished tied 3rd at The Duncan Putter.

He turned Pro in late September and unsurprisingly made an encouraging pro debut at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (tied 30th).  He finished the year with a good run at the European Tour Q-School, winning his Second stage qualifier at El Saler before sadly coming up short in the Final.

8. JON RAHM (ESP)

Jon Rahm Rodriguez (21), who is now a Senior at Arizona state, has sat on or near the top of the Amateur Rankings throughout most of 2015.   He continued to shine on the US College circuit – with four wins and eight top 5’s – and was rewarded with the 2015 Mark McCormack Award for being the top amateur player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) at the end of August.  That in itself will gain him entry into both the 2016 U.S. Open and Open Championships.

Jon Rahm Arizona Waste Management

Jon Rahm competing in the 2015 Waste Management Open in Arizona (© PGA Tour).

He also received the prestigious 2015 Ben Hogan Award in the summer; voted for by the Golf Coaches Association of America and awarded in their view to the best college player in the U.S.

However, what made this year particularly special was his two top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour – tied 5th at the Waste Management and tied 10th a few weeks ago in the Mayakoba Classic.  It was that first result that drove his amateur rankings standing – rightly or wrongly it earned him way more points than DeChambeau got for winning either the U.S. Amateur or the NCAA Division I title.

9. MAVERICK MCNEALY (USA)

Stanford’s Maverick McNealy had an astonishing 6 wins and 9 top 5’s in the 2014/15 US College season.  He won both the Nicklaus Award (given to the top player in NCAA Division I) and the Haskins Award (given to the most outstanding U.S. collegiate golfer) as a result.

Maverick McNealy

Maverick McNealy – Winner of the 2015 Haskins Award (© Haskins Award)

There seems to be no stopping him in the first half of 2015/16 too.  Junior McNealy has already won three times and finished in the top 10 in the other event he has played this academic year.  He is now just 2 wins behind the Stanford record of 11, held jointly by Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers.

I can see Maverick turning out to be the Matt Fitzpatrick of U.S. golf in the next few years – a baby-faced assassin.  He is a player who still looks very young and has not filled out and as a result is under-estimated by nearly everyone who watches and plays against him.  Just like Fitzpatrick one can see him moving seamlessly from the amateur to paid ranks in due course.

10. CHENG JIN (CHN)

Cheng Jin Asia-Pacific 2015

Cheng Jin – 2015 Asia Pacific Amateur Champion (© APAC)

The new Guan Tianlang ?  Cheng Jin is certainly the latest child prodigy to come out of China and make a global name for themselves.

He won the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship after a first round course record 62 and as a result will tee it up in the 2016 Masters Tournament.

More recently at the Thailand Golf Championships Darren Clarke described him as “the best 17 year old I’ve seen since Rory McIlroy – seriously impressed.”  Cheng Jin finished the event, won by Jamie Donaldson, tied 11th.

11. EWEN FERGUSON (SCO)

Ewen, who turned 19 in July, enjoyed a fine season culminating in his selection for the GB&I Walker Cup team.  Not originally in the Walker Cup squad at the start of 2015 he simply played his way on to the roster by being one of GB&I’s most consistent performers during the year.

He started off with a string of good finishes on Scottish Golf’s early season tour of South Africa before returning home to win the Scottish Champion of Champions and Craigmillar Park Open events.

He followed that up with a tied 3rd at the Irish Amateur Open, a tied 4th at the Scottish Open Amateur, a satisfactory Amateur Championship and a tied 11th at the Brabazon Trophy.  Finally, he was also a member of the Scottish Team that won the European Amateur Team Championship in Sweden.

12. JORDAN NIEBRUGGE (USA)

Very much like Danish Pro Thorbjørn Olesen a pretty ordinary year was made special by a great week in St. Andrews.  Olesen did very little all year but then won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.  Niebrugge did very little all year but then came through on the last day to finish tied 6th on -11 in The Open Championship – a stunningly good result in a Major for an amateur.

Jordan Niebrugge Open 2015

Jordan Niebrugge – Open Championship 2015 Silver Medal Winner (© Getty Images / The R&A)

I also think Jordan should be congratulated for coming over to Great Britain after the U.S. college season and playing our leading amateur events.  He may not have got the results he was looking for – save for The Open which he also chose to and had to qualify for – but hopefully the experience will stand him in good stead for the future.

He was selected for the U.S. Walker Cup team at Royal Lytham, largely on the back of his Open result.  Surprisingly he proved to be largely anonymous, losing all three of his matches comfortably.

13. BEN TAYLOR (ENG)

Ben deserves recognition for his contribution to Louisiana State University’s (LSU) 2015 NCAA Division I victory in June.  Ben, ending his college career at the Championship, sunk the winning 8-foot putt in the final match against the University of South Carolina.  He was conceded the winning putt in LSU’s semi-final match against Georgia too after hitting a 6-iron close.  It was LSU’s first national title since 1955.

Ben Taylor NCAA

Ben Taylor – Louisiana State University, 2015 NCAA Div. I Champions (© LSU Men’s Golf Team)

This was Ben’s second National Title.  He won the 2012 Division II Championship with Nova Southeastern as a freshman – earning himself the Nicklaus Award for Div. II Player of the Year in the process – before transferring up a league to LSU.

Unfortunately he wasn’t able to deliver the results back home in the summer, both individually and for England, that were necessary to secure a place on the GB&I Walker cup team – but he must have been close.  He did finish tied 7th in both the Amateur Championship Stroke Play Qualifier and the Brabazon Trophy.  He secured an impressive quarter final win over Cormac Sharvin at the European Team’s but followed it with a disappointing late loss to Greig Marchbank in the semi’s that let in Scotland.  He also qualified for The Open Championship but unlike many of his amateur peers failed to really get going at St. Andrews.

14. PHILIP BARBAREE (USA)

For me amateur golf is all about winning tournaments and championships.  Philip Barbaree won the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur in such style he simply had to be included in my 2015 list.  The victory assisted him in becoming the world’s undisputed No. 1 Junior in 2015 – well at least in the eyes of our American friends.

In the 36 hole final at Collation River Plantation Club, South Carolina, Barbaree found himself 5 down with 8 holes to play against Andrew Orischak.  Watching his comeback (and sadly Orischak’s collapse) – he won on the 37th hole after being one down on the 18th second time around – was amongst the most exciting and interesting golf I saw on TV all year.

Barbaree also won the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Rolex Tournament of Champions by a record 14-shots and finished tied 6th at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, the event won by Marcus Kinhult.

15. BRADLEY MOORE (ENG)

As the unofficial chairman of the Bradley Moore Fan Club it would be remiss of me not to include him in my 2015 list.

The highlight of another very solid year was his victory in the Carris Trophy, the English Boys’ U18 Open Amateur Stroke Play, at Little Aston.

Bradley Moore Carris Trophy 2015

Bradley Moore – Winner of the 2015 U18 Carris Trophy (© Leaderboard Photography)

In addition to many other good junior performances 2015 also saw Bradley step up to the Men’s circuit; his 8th place in the Lytham Trophy, progress in the Amateur Championship and tied 23rd in the European Amateur all bode well.

He was selected as second reserve for the GB&I Walker Cup Team in August.  Having chosen not to go down the U.S. College route it will be interesting to see just how long he stays amateur.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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.