GB&I unveil team of Walker Cup debutants for Los Angeles

Golf News

A look down GB&I's 2017 Walker Cup team shows a team of debutants, none of them older than their mid-20s. It's a sign of the times, writes Dan Murphy.

Every player in GB&I’s 2017 Walker Cup team is a debutant.

Yet it wasn’t very long ago that the spine of any self-respecting Walker Cup team comprised several career amateurs.

The likes of Michael Bonallack, Rodney Foster, Joe Carr, Charles Green, Cecil Ewing, George Macgregor, Cyril Tolley, Garald Micklem and Gary Wolstenholme all played at least six matches.

Joining Wolstenholme more recently, stalwarts Peter McEvoy and Nigel Edwards proved, in hindsight, the last of their kind.

Around these great servants of amateur golf would be blooded the likes of Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, Colin Montgomerie and Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Paul Casey.

Nowadays though, the GB&I  team is simply made up of talented tour pros in waiting.

The 2017 Walker Cup team named to play at Los Angeles Country Club on the weekend of September 9 and 10 comprises entirely of 20-something debutants.

The oldest man on the team is Alfie Plant, who caught the eye at Birkdale last month in the Open, when he won the Silver Medal. At 25, the Sundridge Park star is fully two years older than any of his team-mates.

Two of them are 20, four more 21, two 22 and one 23.

It is safe to assume that all be professionals by the time the next home match comes along at Royal Liverpool in two years’ time.

That’s exactly what’s happened to the team from Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2015, who won so memorably under Nigel Edwards’ astute leadership.

His team contained the likes of Paul Dunne, Ashley Chesters, Jimmy Mullen and Cormac Sharvin. Only Dunne, and to an extent Chesters, has established himself as a tour player since.

Edwards’ team had a strong Irish spine. The class of 2017, which will be led by Scotland’s Craig Watson, has a different feel.

There are five Englishmen, including the team’s most high-profile players on the 2017 Walker Cup team. Joining them are two Scots, two Welshmen and a solitary Irishman.

2017 Walker Cup team

Reigning Amateur champion Harry Ellis (Meon Valley, above) and the man whose crown he inherited, Scott Gregory (Corhampton) join Plant, the Lytham Trophy winner Jack Singh Brar (Remedy Oak) and Matthew Jordan (Royal Liverpool).

The Scottish contingent includes Robert MacIntyre (Glencruitten) and Connor Syme (Drumoig).

Welshmen David Boote (Walton Heath) and Jack Davidson (Llanwern) plus Ireland’s Paul McBride (The Island) complete the line-up.

Conor O’Rourke (Naas) and Craig Howie (Peebles) are the first and second reserves respectively.

For Boote, a place in the team will be consolation for missing out in play-offs for a place in not one but two majors this season. The Surrey-based Welshman was a shot away from making both the US Open and Open.

His compatriot Davidson is the reigning Spanish Amateur champion.

Left-hander MacIntyre lost in the final of last year’s Amateur championship to his teammate Gregory. Syme, like Plant and Ellis, played in the Open last month. He also reached the last eight of the US Amateur.

McBride is studying at Wake Forest, in North Carolina. He reached the quarter finals of the Amateur and played all four rounds in the European Tour’s Porsche European Open in July.

As for the English contingent, Amateur champion Ellis also studies in America, at Florida State.

Gregory is the top-ranked player in the team. He played in both the Masters and US Open earlier this year.

Jordan is the St Andrews Links Trophy champion. He has also posted impressive results in the Brabazon, Scottish Strokeplay and Irish Open this season.

Plant is the European Amateur champion while Singh Brar won the Lytham Trophy in April, as well as finishing second in the Brabazon.

As a team, then, their talent and pedigree are beyond question. As for experience, well, that comes on the job these days.

Interestingly, the USA team is configured slightly differently. Concerned that something of the Walker Cup’s heritage was being lost, they stipulated in 2013 that two of their team must be mid-ams (aged 25 or over).

Now they have reduced that to just one.

It would surely be cynical to suggest the reason for that was anything to do with the fact those players contributed just four points between them across the 2013 and 2015 matches.

The USA do, however, name one survivor from the previous Walker Cup. He is the only player on either side who has prior experience of the event.

Maverick Nealy, still only 21, was the baby of the American team at Lytham.

Now he will be the player his teammates look to; the voice of experience.

That must be a difficult concept for the likes of McEvoy, Wolstenholme and Edwards to comprehend.

GB&I 2017 Walker Cup team

David Boote, Jack Davidson, Harry Ellis, Scott Gregory, Matthew Jordan, Paul McBride,Robert MacIntyre, Alfie Plant, Jack Singh Brar, Conor Syme. Reserves: Conor O’Rourke, Craig Howie.

USA 2017 Walker Cup team

Cameron Champ, Doug Ghim, Stewart Hagestad, Maverick McNealy, Collin Morikawa, Doc Redman, Scottie Scheffler, Braden Thornberry, Norman Xiong, Will Zalatoris. Reserves: Sam Burns, Dawson Armstrong, Dylan Meyer.

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