Let's make the Walker Cup an annual event
It is now some 22 years since I endured what was undoubtedly the most depressing tournament I ever covered.
I had been handed what appeared at the time to be the enviable task of travelling to the Walker Cup at Interlachan Country Club in Edina, Minnesota, but it soon become clear it would be anything but.
GB&I ended the first day trailing by just 6½ to 3½ but any thoughts that we might be about to witness a decent contest were dented when the Americans won the second foursomes 4-0 and then dashed altogether as the home side routed the visitors 8½ to 1½ in the singles.
The 19-5 score line remains the largest winning margin in the history of the event and not surprisingly it led to a series of damning post mortems in the British press.
I was one of a sizeable number of golf writers who clamoured for the GB&I team to be extended to include leading European amateurs but the good news is the R&A and the USGA took no heed of our demands and their obduracy has subsequently been rewarded.
Back in 1993 some of us doubted GB&I could ever hope to compete against the massed ranks of the Americans but over the last two decades that pessimism has proved unfounded and more importantly the decision of the authorities not to succumb to media pressure has safeguarded the unique atmosphere at what is a very special event.
I am often asked which events are my favourites and I have no hesitation in putting the Walker Cup right up there alongside the likes of the Open, Amateur Championship, Boys Championship and the Sunningdale Foursomes.
It helps of course that GB&I’s recent win at Royal Lytham & St Annes was the fourth time in five matches they have made home advantage count.
But that is only part of the attraction.
What I really like about the Walker Cup is the spirit it is played in and the unique atmosphere it generates.
I love watching the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup – all matchplay events in fact – but I do tire sometimes of the almost tribal atmosphere found at those events.
Call me an old fuddy duddy if you like – my children certainly do – but I was brought up to believe golf was a civilised game and nowhere does that remain so apparent than at the Walker Cup where both the players and the spectators remain courteous to each other at all times.
I particularly enjoyed the camaraderie displayed during this year’s singles match between Ewen Ferguson and Maverick McNealy.
They chatted throughout and at one stage even exchanged a high five after the Scot played a particularly deft recovery shot.
I have no hesitation in putting the Walker Cup right up there alongside the likes of the Open, Amateur Championship, Boys Championship and the Sunningdale Foursomes. The Walker Cup might be a bit of a blast from the past but it is all the better for that.
I worry that slow play is increasingly becoming a problem – Paul Dunne received at least a couple of warnings this year – but it remains so entertaining that the authorities might want to consider playing it every year.
That might sound like a somewhat radical suggestion given that hitherto it has always been contested every two years but I would argue the benefits of such a move would stretch well beyond merely providing a more regular dose of entertainment for aficionados like me.
At the moment far too many top amateurs elect to turn professional rather than wait for up to two years to play in the Walker Cup.
You wouldn’t stop that drain altogether if you made it an annual event but you might well slow it down.
That I would suggest would be good for the profile of the match.
It would be advantageous for the home unions who could plan with more certainty on finishing the season with the same elite squads they started with and it would also be beneficial for the development of the players themselves.