The Lytham Trophy – 2016 Preview & Results

1st May 2016

UPDATE 

Alfie Plant won the Lytham Trophy today by 7-shots helped in no small part by a superb level par final round of 70.

Alfie Plant Lytham Trophy 2016 Photo 2

Alfie Plant (Photo: Darren Plant)

Click this link to view the final Lytham Trophy scores – Results

Click this link to view Sunday’s Lytham Trophy start sheet – Rds 3 & 4 Draws

Rd 4 – Alfie Plant won the Lytham Trophy by 7-shots after a superb final round 70 (E). Bradley Moore (79 +11) who led by 2-shots with 9 holes to play, fell away but still finished in a very creditable tie for 2nd place (4th on countback). He was joined on +11 by France’s Ugo Coussard (2nd) and Jamie Savage (3rd).

Rd 3 – Bradley Moore (72, 68, 72 +2) moved into pole position after out scoring Alfie Plant (67, 73, 74 +4) and final day playing partner James Walker (74, 66, 79 +9). Scotland’s Jamie Savage (73, 71, 73 +7) moved into position to spoil the English party on Sunday morning.

Rd 2 – James Walker (74, 66 E), Bradley Moore (72, 68 E) and Alfie Plant (67, 73 E) will take a 2-shot lead over Sandy Scott (70,72 +2) into Sunday’s final 36-holes. Walker birdied four holes on the front nine before paring in for an exceptional 66 on Day 2.

Rd 1 – Alfie Plant (67 / -3), benefitting from a late 3.20pm tee time, took the early lead in the Lytham Trophy. Jamie Li (69 / -1) was the only other player to finish Day 1 under par.

24th April 2016

The Lytham Trophy, played annually at Royal Lytham & St. Annes G.C., is the first major event in the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) men’s amateur golf season.

Royal Lytham Clubhouse

In 2015 the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) ranked it the 14th most important amateur competition in the world based on the strength of it’s field. It ranked 3rd in GB&I behind the Amateur Championship and the St. Andrews Links Trophy.

The famous links course certainly presents a stern test. Playing off the blue championship tees competitors have to meet a 7,118 yard par 70 challenge; the front nine being 3,437 yards, a par 34, and the back nine being 3,681 yards, a par 36.

The Lytham Trophy is a 72-hole stroke play event. 18 holes are played on the first two days before a top 40 and ties cut is made. 36-holes are then played on the final day by the leading competitors.

In the event of a tie for the lowest score there is a 3-hole stroke play play-off on holes 1, 2 and 18. If a winner still hasn’t been determined then the play-off moves to sudden death over the same holes. The Winner receives a silver replica of the Lytham Trophy.

Lytham Trophies

The Lytham Trophy and the Winner’s Replica (Photo: Royal Lytham & St. Annes G.C.)

The 2016 Lytham Trophy

This year’s Lytham Trophy will be played between Friday 29th April and Sunday 1st May 2016.

144 scratch golfers from 21 different countries have paid the £90 entry fee and will tee off in what will be the 52nd playing of this prestigious competition. Most of GB&I’s leading amateur golfers will be competing.

The 2016 start sheet for Rounds 1 and 2 is here – Lytham Trophy Start Sheet.

Here is a list of players showing some early season form and as such who I expect to do well this week: –
John Axelsen (DEN) – Arrives in form like Marcus Kinhult last year, T4 Junior Invitational.
Jamie Bower (ENG) – 2016 Gauteng North Am & Southern Cape Open Winner.
Owen Edwards (WAL) – 2016 Spanish Int Am medallist, European Nations T2, Portuguese Int Am T4.
Mattias Eggenberger (SUI) – 13th in 2014 and 16th in 2015. 2016 R&A Scholars Champion.
Grant Forrest (SCO) – 2016 Battle Trophy, T9 African Amateur.
Scott Gregory (ENG) – 2nd Spanish Int Am.
Josh Hilleard (ENG) – 2016 Berkhamsted Trophy, Faldo Series Wales, Hampshire Salver, West of England winner.
Jack Hume (IRE) – 2016 South African SP Champion & European Nations Winner.
Robert MacIntyre (SCO) – 2016 Scottish Champion of Champions Winner.
Dermot McElroy (IRE) – 7th in 2014 and 10th in 2015.
Bradley Moore (ENG) – 8th in 2015. Never finishes outside the Top 10 in any SP event !
Craig Ross (SCO) – 2016 South African Am Champion.
Marcus Svensson (SWE) – 2015 British Boys Am Champion, T9 Junior Invitational.
Connor Syme (SCO) – 2016 Australia Am Champion.
Ashton Turner (ENG) – 7th in 2015. 2016 European Nations T9.
Jonathan Yates (IRE) – 2016 West of Ireland Champion.
Jack Yule (ENG) – 2016 Portuguese Int Am T9, Italian Int Am T2.

Guido Migliozzi (ITA) has withdrawn having been offered an amateur invitation to the Challenge de Madrid event on the European Challenge Tour. Two of Europe’s other leading amateurs Mario Galliano (ESP) and Ivan Cantero Gutierrez (ESP) are also playing in Spain next weekend.

Weather Forecast (updated daily ahead of play commencing)

The weather forecast (@ Thursday 28th April, 9.00 pm) has generally deteriorated as the week has progressed with Friday and Sunday now looking particularly cold and wet.

Fri 29th April – Heavy Showers. Wind 25 mph W. Temp. Max. 8°C / Min 5°C.
Sat 30th April – Sunny Intervals. Wind 15 mph NW. Temp. Max. 13°C / Min 6°C.
Sun 1st May – Heavy Rain. Wind 15 mph SW. Temp. Max. 11°C / Min 7°C.

Like The Open players will tee off between 7.30am and 3.30pm on Friday and Saturday so the weather may very well play a big part in scoring.

Betting Odds

Ireland’s Jack Hume is the favourite with the bookmakers.

Click on the links below to view the current betting odds (which will be removed when play starts): –

Sky Bet – Outright Winner Odds

Paddy PowerOutright Winner Odds

img_5953
Sky Bet Leading Ante Post Betting Odds 

Each Way Terms 1/4 places 1,2,3,4,5.
All bets to be placed before 8.00am on Friday 29th April 2016.

The 2015 Lytham Trophy

Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult won the 2015 Lytham Trophy by 8-shots. In testing conditions he shot rounds of 68, 69, 71 and 72 to finish on Even par and comfortably hold off Richard James (WAL), Robin Roussel (FRA) and Cormac Sharvin (IRE), who all tied for second place on +8.

Marcus Kinhult Lytham Trophy

Marcus Kinhult – 2015 Winner (Photo: GolfChannel.com)

Highlights of the 2015 Lytham Trophy (© Golfing World)

History, Past Winners and Records

The competition was first played in 1965 after the Club identified a need for another top class amateur competition and one that was in the North of England.

A date on the first weekend in May was established and a 72 hole stroke play format adopted.

Member’s subscribed to purchase a unique sputnik trophy. This does not leave the Club with a smaller replica issued annually to that year’s winner.

As one would expect the list of past winner’s is a who’s who of GB&I and more recently world amateur golf.

Of the older winners the most notable are: –
Michael Bonallack – 1965(s), 1972
Rodney Foster – 1967, 1968
Geoffrey Marks – 1970(s)
Charles Green – 1970(s), 1974
Michael King – 1973
Peter McEvoy – 1978
Ian Hutcheon – 1980
Roger Chapman – 1981
John Hawksworth – 1984
Paul Broadhurst – 1988
Gary Evans – 1990, 1991
Graham Rankin – 1997

In 2004 21 year old James Heath won with a record score of 266 (-18), recording rounds of 67, 68, 66, and 65. No one else has ever come close to this mark before or after. The next best scores being Daan Huizing’s 273 in 2013 and Richard McEvoy’s 276 in 2001. Garth McGimpsey, the then Walker Cup captain, described Heath’s performance as ‘the best amateur golf I’ve ever seen’.

In 1999 the Lytham Trophy was won by Tino Schuster, the first time a non-GB&I player had been successful.

The last six winners show just how international the amateur game has become as well as the increasing attraction of the Lytham Trophy beyond these shores: –
Paul Cutler – 2010 (Irish)
Jack Senior – 2011 (English)
Daan Huizing – 2012 (Dutch)
Albert Eckhardt – 2013 (Finnish)
Thriston Lawrence – 2014 (South African)
Marcus Kinhult – 205 (Sweden)

The Royal Lytham website lists all of the Past Winners and their Scores.

img_5938

Lytham Trophy Winner’s Board (Photo: Andrew Pennington)

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (5)

20th August 2015

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

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

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPWAR 190815 WC

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

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

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

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

GBCR 190815 WC

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

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

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

Lytham Form Extract - 19th August 2015

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

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

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

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

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

WC Team 1 190815

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

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

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

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

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

WC Team 2 190815

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

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

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

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

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

WC Team 3 190815

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

Reserves

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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.