Is the Walker Cup mission impossible for GB&I?September 5, 2017 Golf News
Only two Great Britain & Ireland sides have won in America in the 95-year history of the Walker Cup. Can the class of 2017 make it three?
Consider some of the toughest tests in sport. A Lions tour flying straight into the den of the Southern hemisphere; an England team trying to win an Ashes series in Australia.
What about a Great Britain & Ireland outfit taking the Walker Cup back home with them from American soil?
The 2017 team will have the weight of history against them when they combat the best of the stars and stripes at the Los Angeles Country Club.
The Walker Cup has been contested since 1922. In the intervening 95 years, GB&I have won twice in the United States.
You read correctly: Twice.
Ocean Forest in 2001 was the last time, when a side including Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Marc Warren and Nick Dougherty – all multiple winners on either the European or PGA Tours – handed out a 15-9 beating in the American’s own backyard.
Peachtree in 1989 is the only other time a raiding party has gone across the Atlantic and won.
Captain Craig Watson, who spoke to NCG before he was forced to step down due to a family illness, knows only too well the challenges of such an expedition. He was part of the 1997 GB&I outfit that was humbled at Quaker Ridge, in New York.
A youthful Justin Rose and former amateur stalwart Gary Wolstenholme were part of that team, but the visitors were sent packing in an 18-6 defeat.
“It’s very difficult,” Watson admitted.
“It’s obviously going to be a difficult test. You see the names of some of the guys who will be in their team who did well at the US Open.
“History says that we are always struggling out there.”
But that’s not to say that GB&I are resigned to their fate. Far from it.
GB&I travel on a high, having grabbed the trophy in such impressive fashion two years ago when romping to a 16.5-9.5 win at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
The side needs only to look at some of the players at their disposal this time for his resolve to be even further stiffened.
Amateur champion Harry Ellis propelled himself into the squad and the Florida State University senior is well versed in the ways of the US collegiate system – and his potential opponents.
Alfie Plant has enjoyed an incredible 18 months, winning the Lytham Trophy last year, holing the putt that bagged England a silver medal at the Eisenhower Trophy, claiming the European Amateur crown at Walton Heath and then winning the Silver Medal at the Open Championship.
GB&I can also call on last year’s Amateur winner, Scott Gregory, Rob MacIntyre, the runner-up at Royal Porthcawl 12 months ago, and a host of other young players who all have one thing in common. They are used to winning.
The Los Angeles Country Club should hold no fears, either.
“I went last year to have a look at the course and it was fantastic,” Watson added.
“All the members were really enthusiastic about us coming across. The fairways are pretty generous. Both teams will be able to drive the ball.
“The rough doesn’t look particularly deep and I don’t think there is any intention of making it a US Open. The greens are fast with subtle slopes.”
The Americans don’t lose much with home advantage – they’ve not been too shabby in the Ryder Cup over the years and have never lost the Presidents Cup when hosting. Yes, the odds could seem overwhelming.
But captain Watson wasn’t fazed before his resignation and nor should his team be.