Homepage InstructionJuly, 2011
Two high-profile former Walker Cup players debate the future of the GB&I v USA competition
YES says Gary Wolstenholme, who played in six Walker Cups
TWO years ago the powers-that-be changed things for the first time since 1963.
Back then they moved from 36 holes of foursomes and singles to what we have become used to, foursomes-singles, foursomes-singles over two days.
Then at Merion in 2009 they tinkered with the format ever so slightly with all 10 players being involved on the second day. Personally I would like to be even more radical.
I would like to see the Walker Cup played in exactly the same format as the Ryder Cup, over three days with everyone playing in the singles.
In the previous format Sir Michael Bonnallack didn’t play a single match in his first Walker Cup and he went on to be a five-time Amateur champion.
In more recent times players, whether out of form or simply out of luck, turn out for just one round having worked their socks off to get on the side for a couple of years.
Certain players are more suited by either fourballs or foursomes so there is more of a tactic involved in the captain’s selections.
The captain would therefore have more of a role to play and, as brilliant a game as foursomes is, there is more scope for excitement and drama – as well as players showing off their skills – in the more risk-reward fourballs.
Also pairings would have more of a chance to evolve which I believe would work quite well for GB&I teams.
There would also be the chance to rest players for one round of matches to get the most out of them – playing for your country and your team-mates in front of 15,000 supporters can take it out of you. You give absolutely everything for four or so hours and sometimes it can be difficult to get going after a short break.
Most importantly, it would be great for the match as a lot of the supporters and media go along and enjoy themselves so much and then it is over in two days.
Plenty of people would like to see the Ryder Cup go to four days as they can’t get enough of it and this is the case for many of us in the Walker Cup, so I would add an extra day’s entertainment.
This is as good as it gets; the camaraderie and support is like nothing else we experience so to have an extra day to savour it, while taking nothing away from the competition, would get my vote every time.
I like tradition and if you start changing things you risk reducing its standing, its stature. NO says Sky Sports’ Bruce Critchley, a player in the 1969 Walker Cup
PLAYING in the Walker Cup is, I think, the ultimate strapline for an amateur; more of a statement of achievement even perhaps than winning your own Amateur Championship.
Certainly it was great when I made the team, but I never realised how important it would be when I set out to be a golf commentator.
As for changing the format (of the Walker Cup), I am from the school of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Foursomes and singles over two days is fine.
I like tradition and if you start changing things you risk reducing its standing, its stature.
There is talk of extending the Ryder Cup from three days to four and of having more players play in each of the sessions – fewer sitting out. I am against all that.
Who plays and who doesn’t is as much of interest as who plays with whom, and I think an enormous part of the success of the Ryder Cup, its excitement, is that so much is packed into such a short space of time.
There is another very good reason for hanging on to the current format and a relatively small team – I think it still counts in the Walker Cup in that the bigger the team the more it plays to the American strengths.
They’re still the overwhelming favourites because they have this college system and they’ve got these 21, 22-year-olds on the same principle and I think it’s always been one way to make it as competitive as it can be so I wouldn’t change it.
It’s all very well having a match but it’s got to be competitive, you’ve got to have a chance of winning. And we’ve slipped back, that’s my impression.
What I think would be worth looking into is extending the team to include Europe. I’m really not averse to that at all. And of course Europe has hardly ever had any outstanding amateurs in the past, one or two perhaps, but they wouldn’t have improved the side.
Now they probably would and I think because there has been such a move to the European Ryder Cup I wouldn’t be offended by that.
That doesn’t offend me as much as changing the format and I understand that the best European players do play against each other regularly.
However, how you’d pick the side I don’t know – because it’s difficult enough as it is just with the Home Nations.