Walker Cup: GB&I’s Nigel Edwards on his career and captaincySeptember, 2015
How the Welshman went from a broken Dunlop 9-iron to taking on Dustin Johnson
The tradition is for the Walker Cup captain to be in place for two terms.
In September Nigel Edwards will lead Great Britain & Ireland for a third straight go at the Americans, his leadership skills and highly likeable manner trusted once again.
In 2011 the Welshman masterminded a narrow victory at Royal Aberdeen before an early lead two years ago was wiped out by a pair of lickings in the singles.
Edwards has been involved in six of the past seven matches and you won’t find anyone more determined to provide a GB&I victory for just the ninth time in the competition’s 93-year history.
“I got the golfing bug, it was really bizarre, when driving past a course on the way to a family holiday in Bournemouth.
I would say to my dad that I would love to be able to play golf, pro-celebrity was on TV at the time, and so we queued up for the crazy golf at the Winter Gardens.
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Then my dad brought home a Dunlop Max Power 9-iron, which was snapped in the grip, and I would go and hit a ball in the long grass. Then I had to go and find the balls and I was hooked. I joined Bryn Meadows at 13.
I played in the Gwent boys’ medals and had a bit of success. I was working for Mid Glamorgan County Council and was parttime at college, doing civil engineering at the University of Glamorgan so I didn’t get in the Welsh Boys team and that really, really hurt me.
But it spurred me on. I first became aware of the Walker Cup when watching Philip Parkin on TV at Hoylake in 1983. After that the GB team went so close at Pine Valley in 1985, then Wales’ Paul Mayo won the Amateur Championship in ’87. Little did I know that the Walker Cup would play such a big part in my life.
I didn’t play for Wales as a junior and I didn’t get into the men’s team until I was 26. My first Home Internationals was at Portrush and I loved it and that was two weeks after the Walker Cup at Porthcawl.
I am probably quite demanding as a partner for some people I partnered Bradley Dredge and we beat Graham Rankin and Gordon Sherry of Scotland – and then England for the first time in 25 years.
People were talking about staying amateur until the next Walker Cup and I thought, if they think he’s good enough then maybe I am too.
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I was nowhere near in 1999. Then the players stayed amateur a bit longer so they could build up experience and performances over a period of time. Now they’ve not got that and they have a short amateur career.
The likes of Gary Wolstenholme, Jody Fanagan, Noel Fox, Stuart Wilson, Craig Watson and me all stayed amateur and therefore built up a record that wasn’t just current form. I wasn’t winning tournaments but I guess I was OK in matchplay and team events.
Did I expect to make it into the 2001 team? I’ll be honest, I think I would have been one of the last on to the team. There were the likes of Luke Donald, Nick Dougherty, Michael Hoey, Graeme McDowell, Marc Warren and Gary Wolstenholme so I was delighted to get on it.
I only played one game at Sea Island but I learned so much and it was a big, big benefit going to Ganton two years later.
I felt like I was contributing to the team off the course. I didn’t contribute in points but, even when told I wouldn’t be playing the second day and I was so disappointed, this was the pinnacle of my career, this was a stab in the heart, I didn’t let my head go down. I could have sulked around and not been any benefit, that would have been totally useless, but we had a great team.
Long term it made me a stronger player and pushed me on to making the next team, you don’t want to leave the competition on that note.
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It didn’t bother me who I played with. I enjoyed playing with Jamie Donaldson for Wales, I don’t think we lost a match.
I am probably quite demanding as a partner for some people, I used to have a great laugh with Donaldson, with someone like Gary Wolstenholme it was different and you talk about different things.
A lot of players say ’I don’t care who I play with’, then they say who they really want to play with. You find that out by building a relationship with them. You would guess Paul McGinley spent a lot of the time understanding his players.
In 2011 the press would say six of the top 10 in the world are Americans. I had no issue with that. That was a seriously good American team.
We were playing a course we knew inside out, in conditions we knew inside out, our players had been winners throughout their careers and had had a great year, so it was just a matter of focusing on our own games and influencing them by what we do.
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I always thought it was fantastic playing at home – the crowds are fantastic, everybody is behind you so why not enjoy it. Embrace those nerves as it is so different from what you’ve done before, smile walking onto the 1st tee. This is what you’ve wanted to achieve.
There are players who you think I’m not sure they can step up and you have to go by instinct when picking the team. Sometimes those last players on the team sheet are there by instinct. Stats are a big part of things but sometimes they don’t tell you the truth about how you might be when coming down the last few holes of the Brabazon or St Andrews Links.
In 2005 Lloyd Saltman holed a putt on the last, Robert Dinwiddie chipped in, Ollie Fisher holed a putt and it came down to my match where I just missed a 30-footer to halve the overall match.
In the first match on the first day Rhys Davies and I were playing Brian Harman and Anthony Kim. We were one down playing the last, Rhys hit it on the green, they hit it over the back and it hit a cameraman and it stopped just short of the out of bounds. They got a half and that was the difference in the end. It can be all about fine margins.
In 2007 at County Down I was teeing off against Dustin Johnson in the foursomes. Thankfully he was hitting an iron a lot of the time so my driver could keep up with his 5-iron.
I played Jonathan Moore in the singles that afternoon. When you prepare you visualise a 6&5 win so there’s no pressure and you can watch the other lads. For the third match in a row it all came down to my game.
The previous matches didn’t work out all the time but it did give me a lot of confidence in how I controlled myself. I was nervous but I wasn’t out-ofcontrol nervous.
I had made a birdie at 17 and Jonathan then hit a 4-iron from 252 yards to four feet.
In 2009 I didn’t get in the team for Merion. At Christmas I got a phone call from Peter Dawson offering me the captaincy. There will have been recommendations from certain people and I was working within golf for the Golf Union of Wales. Across golf so many are turning pro it gets more difficult to find people.
Now I work for England Golf and the captaincy blends nicely with that as quite a lot of my time is spent watching players from all the home nations. It also gives me the chance to see other players and speak to other coaches from the continent.
Without telling the players they are in the team it is difficult to try and persuade them to stay amateurs. If they have belief in their ability then what is the problem in waiting six months or even two years as they will be successful whenever.
Rory had that belief, likewise Luke. The advantage the Americans have is the college system so they stay amateur that bit longer, those two extra years do make a difference.”