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.

 

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 – Match Briefing

9th September 2015

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

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

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

Walker Cup 2015 Logo

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

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

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

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

WC 2015 Team GB&I

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

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

WC 2015 Team USA

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

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

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

137852880RM00087_141st_Open

An Aerial View Of Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC

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

Royal Lytham Clubhouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (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.