2016 World Amateur Team Championship – Preview

18th and 20th September 2016 

The draws for rounds 1 and 2 of the 2016 Men’s WATC have been released today – Eisenhower Trophy Pairings

I posed the question on Sunday evening as to whether a home nation team could win the event ? Having now looked through all of the teams I genuinely believe they can.

The WATC’s stroke play format is of course uncompromising. With two scores from three counting on each of the four days there is little room for manoeuvre when the competition is so strong.

On balance AUSTRALIA must start as my favourites. Their team of Cameron DAVIS, Harrison ENDYCOTT and Curtis LUCK is probably the best on paper.

I think SCOTLAND (Grant FORREST, Robert MACINYTRE and Connor SYME) are not far behind them and expect them to finish in the Top 5, as a minimum.

The other two teams that stand out for me are ITALY and FRANCE – in that order. Italy have Luca CIANCHETTI, Stefano MAZZOLI and Guido MIGLIOZZI, all experienced players and winners. France include Ugo COUSSARD, Jeremy GANDON and Antoine ROZNER and should therefore also score well. 

ENGLAND (Jamie BOWER, Scott GREGORY and Alfie PLANT) and IRELAND (Stuart GREHAN, Jack HUME, Paul MCBRIDE) should also do well but I am not sure they are quite of the calibre of the four teams mentioned above.

My view on England may be being tarnished by the omission of Sam HORSFIELD though. Whilst I understand this decision it is a disappointment to me that the World’s, and therefore GB&I’s, No.1 amateur is not competing in this prestigious event.

WALES, consisting of David BOOTE, Joshua DAVIES and Owen EDWARDS, could be a surprise package. Boote’s score should be assured but Davies and Edwards are a bit more hit and miss. If they both have good weeks, which they are more than capable of, then I can see a good result for them.

What makes 2016 such a good opportunity for the home nations in my eyes is the fact that the USA team is far from inspiring. The USA have won 15 of the previous 29 WATC and have only finished outside the top 3 on four occasions. Fortunately for the rest of the world there is no Bryson DECHAMBEAU and Beau HOSSLER to worry about this time. I don’t think their team of Brad DALKE, Maverick MCNEALY and Scottie SCHEFFLER will win in 2016 and frankly I think they will do very well to place.

ME.

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18th September 2016

The 30th Men’s World Amateur Team Championship (WATC) will be played this week, between Wednesday 21st and Saturday 24th September 2016.

The WATC is a biennial international amateur golf competition run by the International Golf Federation (IGF). This year a record equalling 72 teams have entered.

The competition moves in turns between Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe-Africa. In 2018 the WATC will be hosted by the Golf Union of Ireland and held at Carton House, near Dublin.

The first WATC took place in 1958 and was played over the Old Course at St. Andrews. Bobby Jones captained the U.S.A.,famously receiving the Freedom of the Town during the trip, although his team ended up losing a play-off to Australia for the first ever title.

The 2016 WATC
This year’s WATC is being hosted by the Mexican Golf Federation.

The Mayakoba El Camaleón and the Iberostar Playa Paraiso golf courses are to be used in Riviera Maya, near the holiday resort of Cancun. Both courses opened in 2005.

img_6760

Mayakoba El Camaleón Golf Course, Mexico (Photo: PGA Tour)

The El Camaleón course was designed by Greg Norman and will play 6,988 yards to a par of 71. Playa Paraiso, designed by P.B. Dye, is shorter at 6,771 yards but has a par of 72. Clearly the emphasis will be on making a score on the latter.

Competition Format
Teams of three players play 72 holes of stroke play over four days. The two lowest rounds recorded on each day count towards the team’s total score. The winning team receive the Eisenhower Trophy.

The U.S.A. are the defending champions. In 2014 their team of Bryson DECHAMBEAU, Beau HOSSLER and Denny MCCARTHY scored 534 (-38) in Karuizawa, Japan to beat Canada by 2-shots.

2014 Eisenhower Trophy

The 2016 USA Team (Photo: IGF)

Whilst individual results are reported and the player with the lowest score is recognised at the closing ceremony there is no prize awarded for the honour. In 2014 Spain’s Jon RAHM ‘won’ the Individual with a record breaking 263 (-23) total.

The historic WATC results are provided in an Appendix at the end of this article.

GB&I Competitors
Each of the home nations will be represented in 2016 with the following players having been selected: –

ENGLAND
Jamie BOWER (23), Scott GREGORY (21) and Alfie PLANT (24)

IRELAND
Stuart GREHAN (23), Jack HUME (22) and Paul MCBRIDE (20)

SCOTLAND
Grant FORREST (23), Robert MACINTYRE (20) and Connor SYME (21)

WALES
David BOOTE, Joshua DAVIES and Owen EDWARDS

Good luck to all of the home nation teams competing in Mexico this week.


The Eisenhower Trophy (Photo: USGA)

Appendix – Historic Results

Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) have won the Eisenhower Trophy four times but only Scotland have won it in their own right since each of the home nations started to compete separately.

The competion holds a special place in the story of English amateur Peter MCEVOY. He participated in the winning GB&I team in 1988, he also ‘won’ the Individual (284) that year and he went on to captain the GB&I team that won it again in 1998.  A hat trick of Eisenhower Trophy achievements that may prove difficult for anyone else to match.

Here is the full list of historic results: –

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-19-53-18

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Amateurs In The 2016 Masters

10th April 2016

UPDATE

Bryson DECHAMBEAU lived up to his star billing and won the Silver Cup. Rounds of 72, 72, 77 and 72 saw him finish on +5 and a creditable Tied 22nd.

Bryson DeChambeau Masters 2016

Bryson DeChambeau Receives The Silver Cup (Photo: Jon-Michael Sullivan)

France’s Romain LANGASQUE shot the lowest ever round by a European Amateur in Rd 4 – his 68, followed rounds of 74, 73, and 83. He finished on +10 for Tied 42nd.  As the only other amateur to make the cut he won the Silver Medal.

Derek BARD (76, 77), Sammy SCHMITZ (81, 75), Cheng JIN (79, 78) and Paul CHAPLET (83, 82) all missed the cut.

______________________________________________

3rd April 2016

There will be six amateurs competing at this week’s Masters. The 2016 intake will take the total number of amateurs who have competed in the tournament to 415.

Masters 2016 Journal

The Masters Tournament – 2016 Journal

Listed below are all of the potential eligibility routes to The Masters for amateurs and the 2016 beneficiaries (where applicable): –

Current U.S. Amateur champion (honorary, non-competing after one year*)
Bryson DECHAMBEAU (United States) won the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields C.C. last August.

DeChambeau was just the fifth golfer in history to win the Individual title at the NCAA Division I Championship and follow it up with the U.S. Amateur Championship a few months later.

He has made a big noise in golf since becoming U.S. Amateur champion and it will be interesting to see how he goes at the Masters. He plans to turn pro at the RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head the week immediately after his Augusta experience.

Current Amateur Rankings – SPWAR 1 / WAGR 3.

Bryson DeChambeau US Amateur 2015

Bryson DeChambeau (Photo: USGA)

Current U.S. Amateur runner-up
Derek BARD (United States) lost the U.S. Amateur final 7&6 to DeChambeau but gained the consolation of an invitation to The Masters.

Bard is a Junior at the University of Virginia. He has won once this season at the U.S. Collegiate in October and more recently has had two Top 5’s in March; at the Palmetto Invite (71-65-71, -3 5th) and the Linger Longer Invitational (68-71-71, -6 4th).

Current Amateur Rankings – SPWAR 13 / WAGR 25.

Derek Bard

Derek Bard (Photo: USGA)

Current British Amateur champion (honorary, non-competing after one year*)
Romain LANGASQUE (France) won the 2015 Amateur Championship at Carnoustie last June.

The 20 year old Amateur champion seems to be going from strength to strength in recent weeks winning the Spanish Amateur, coming second at the Barclays Kenya Open on the European Challenge tour and then earlier this week defeating DeChambeau 4&3 in The Georgia Cup challenge match.

He also plans to turn pro straight after the Masters – few would doubt he is ready.

Current Amateur Rankings – SPWAR 5 / WAGR 7.

Romain Langasque Amateur 2015 Photo 2

Romain Langasque (Photo: Getty Images)

Current Asia-Pacific Amateur champion (since 2014)
Cheng JIN (China) won the 2015 Asia-Pacific at the Clearwater Bay G.&C.C. in Hong Kong last October. A first round 62 (-8) set him up for a famous victory.

Jin was 18 on 6th March but has been making a name for himself for a few years now. He won a PGA Tour China pro tournament in 2014 and has impressed when given invitations to play in both Asia and European Tour events in recent months.

He will become the second Chinese player to compete in The Masters and no one would be surprised to see him making the cut like Tianlang Guan did back in 2013.

Current Amateur Rankings – SPWAR 16 / WAGR19.

Cheng Jin Asia-Pacific 2015

Cheng Jin (Photo: APAC)

Past Asia-Pacific champions invited to the following year’s Master’s include: –
2009 Chang-Won Han (Korea)
2010 Hideki Matsuyama (Japan)
2011 Hideki Matsuyama (Japan)
2012 Tianlang Guan (China)
2013 Chang-Woo Lee (Korea)
2014 Antonio Murdaca (Australia)

Current Latin America Amateur champion (since 2015)
Paul CHAPLET (Costa Rica) won the 2016 Latin America Amateur in January at the Casa de Campo Resort in the Dominicon Republic.

Despite winning the Costa Rican National Junior Championship in both 2014 and 2015 16 year old Chaplet was something of a surprise winner of the 2016 Latin American Amateur.  The second youngest player in the field he was ranked 834th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the start of play in January.

He will easily be the youngest player at this year’s Masters.

Current Amateur Rankings – SPWAR 380 / WAGR 441.

img_5639

Paul Chaplet (Photo: LAAC)

Matias Dominguez (Chile) won the inaugural Latin America Amateur at Pilar G.C. in Argentina, thus gaining entry to the 2015 Masters.

Current U.S. Mid-Amateur champion
Sammy SCHMITZ (United States) won the U.S. Mid-Amateur (over 25’s) at John’s Ireland Club in Florida last October. A hole-in-one on a par 4 normally gets the job done. It certainly did for Schmitz (35) on the final hole of last year’s championship.

Schmitz was a 3-time All-American at St. John’s University before moving to Florida to pursue his pro ambitions. It didnt work out so he regained his amateur status and now works in the healthcare industry back home in River Falls, Minnesota.

Current Amateur Rankings – SPWAR 509 / WAGR 2,535.

Sammy Schmitz 2016 US Mid-Amateur

Sammy Schmitz (Photo: USGA)

The first 12 players, including ties, from the previous year’s Masters
Last year none of the 7 amateurs who competed made the cut so no one has taken advantage of a return trip.

The 2015 amateur scores were: –
Corey CONNERS (Canada)            80 69
Byron METH (United States)           74 76
Anthonio MURDACA (Australia)     78 73
Matias DOMINGUEZ (Chile)           76 76
Scott HARVEY (United States)        76 81
Bradley NEIL (Scotland)                 78 79
Gunn YANG (South Korea)             85 74

The first 4 players, including ties, from the previous year’s other Majors, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the U.S. P.G.A. Championship  

No amateurs were able to take advantage of this exemption criteria last year although at The Open Championship at St. Andrews they were queuing up to try.

The low amateur at the 2015 U.S. Open was Brian Campbell (United States) +5 T27.

The low amateur at the Open Championship was Jordan Niebrugge (United States) -11 T6. Oliver Schniederjans (United States) and Ashley Chesters (England) -9 T12 as well as Paul Dunne (Ireland) -6 T30 were also noteworthy.

No amateurs compete in the U.S. P.G.A. Championship.

Prior to this year the Current U.S. Public Links champion also earned a berth. The U.S.G.A. decided to discontinue the Championship in 2015 and as a result Byron Meth was the last player to gain an exemption via this route.

* Honorary, non-competing after one year invitations are awarded to the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur champions. In other words they are invited to play in the tournament the following year after their Amateur victory (so long as they remain amateurs) but then are also invited annually to attend the tournament as guests of the Club.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

The Georgia Cup – 2016 Preview & Results

29th March 2016

UPDATE – France’s Romain Langasque, the 2015 Amateur champion, beat Bryson DeChambeau, the 2015 U.S. Amateur champion 4 & 3 in today’s Georgia Cup match.

Georgia Cup 2016

Bryson DeChambeau and Romain Langasque (Photo: Marc Langasque)

27th March 2016

The Georgia Cup is an 18-hole match play competition played the week before The Masters between the reigning United States (US) and British Amateur champions.

Both Amateur champions are always in town in late March ahead of The Masters for which their respective wins gain them honorary invitations, albeit only one year competing.

Georgia Cup

The Georgia Cup (Photo: David Burke)

The match was established by The Golf Club of Georgia (GCOG) and was first contested in 1998. Craig Watson, the recently appointed Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captain, was the British Amateur representative in that first match. He lost to Matt Kutcher, obviously now a well known PGA Tour pro, 3 & 1.

Located in Alpharetta the GCOG has two Alfred Hills-designed courses, the Lakeside (L) and the Creekside (C). Both have hosted the event in the past but since 2006 the Lakeside has taken precedence.

The 2016 Georgia Cup is being played at 1.00pm (6.00pm GMT) on Tuesday 29th March. It is a charitable event with funds being raised for the Georgia State Golf Association Foundation which primarily provides educational scholarships for children.

Gunn Yang GC3

Gunn Yang – 2015 Georgia Cup Winner (Photo: GCOG)

Following last year’s win for Gunn Yang (KOR) over Bradley Neil (SCO) the match is tied between the British and US champions 9 – 9. Yang’s win ended a run of three straight British wins. All of the previous results can be seen in the Appendix below.

This year’s match, the 19th, looks like being a little bit special, bringing together as it does Bryson DeChambeau (USA) and Romain Langasque (FRA).

Bryson DeChambeau achieved the rare double in 2015 of winning both the NCAA Division I Championship (Individual) and the US Amateur Championship. Ahead of turning pro, which he plans to do immediately after The Masters, he has been playing in various professional tournaments gaining experience on both the European and PGA Tours. It is my view that he is the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world at the current time. He has coped with huge expectation in 2016 and to his credit delivered many noteworthy performances with the ‘big boys’.  His T18 (-12) at the Dubai Desert Classic and last week’s T27 (-6) at the Arnold Palmer Invitational being the highlights of his year to date.

Bryson DeChambeau US Amateur 2015

Bryson DeChambeau – 2015 US Amateur champion (Photo: USGA)

In most years a player of DeChambeau’s calibre would be the strong favourite to lift the Georgia Cup. What makes this match so appetising is that his opponent is also one of the world’s very top amateurs and better still is also bang in form.

France’s Romain Langasque will also be turning pro after his Masters debut. He arrives in Georgia on the back of a string of great results – T2 at the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande, 1st at the Spanish Amateur (where he showed some great match play skills) and 2nd last week at The Barclays Kenya Open, the European Challenge Tour’s season opener.

Romain Langasque Amateur 2015 Photo 2

Romain Langasque – 2015 Amateur champion (Photo: Getty Images)

Whilst The Georgia Cup always presents an interesting match up I do have a feeling that this year’s contest may be on a different level to previous years. I for one can’t wait to see how the two of them get on and hope you will also take the time to follow the match on Tuesday.

Appendix

The previous results are shown below (with the Amateur titles won shown in brackets): –
1998 (L) – Matt Kuchar (US) def. Craig Watson (British) – 3 & 1
1999 (L) – Sergio Garcia (British) def. Hank Kuehne (US) – 5 & 4
2000 (L) – David Gossett (US) def. Graeme Storm (British) – 3 & 2
2001 (C) – Mikko Ilonen (British) def. Jeff Quinney (US) – 6 & 4
2002 (C) – Michael Hoey (British) def. Bubba Dickerson (US) – 4 & 2
2003 (L) – Ricky Barnes (US) def. Alejandro Larrazabal (British) – 4 & 2
2004 (C) – Gary Wolstenholme (British) def. Nick Flanagan (US) – 4 & 2
2005 (C) – Ryan Moore (US) def. Stuart Wilson (British) – 2 & 1
2006 (L) – Brian McElhinney (British) def. Edoardo Molinari (US) – 3 & 2
2007 (L) – Richie Ramsay (US) def. Julien Guerrier (British) – 2 & 1
2008 (L) – Colt Knost (US) def. Drew Weaver (British) – 2 & 1
2009 (L) – Danny Lee (US) def. Reinier Saxton (British) – 2&1
2010 (L) – Matteo Manassero (British) def. Byeong-hun An (US) – 5&4
2011 (L) – Peter Uihlein (US) def. Jin Jeong (British) – 4&2
2012 (L) – Brydon Macpherson (British) def. Kelly Kraft (US) – 2&1
2013 (L) – Alan Dunbar (British) def. Steven Fox (US) – 1Up
2014 (L) – Garrick Porteus (British) def. Matthew Fitzpatrick (US) – 3&2
2015 (L) – Gunn Yang (US) def. Bradley Neil (British) – 3&2

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

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.