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  • Alistair Tait

Walker Cup miracles can come true, but…

I hope Stuart Wilson is right.

I want to believe in miracles.

Wilson leads Great Britain & Ireland’s 10-man Walker Cup team at Seminole Golf Club in ultra-affluent Juno Beach, Florida this weekend. The 43-three-year old Scot, his eight Englishman and two Irish players are trying to achieve what very few GB & I Walker Cuppers have done.

Win on American soil.

The United States holds a massive 37-9-1 won, lost and tied record in the biennial match stretching back to the inaugural 1922 contest. Just two of those nine GB & I wins have come on U.S. soil. A third looks unlikely considering Seminole should suit the U.S. team more than GB & I, while the boys in red, white and blue, on paper at least, are far stronger.

The American side includes four players – Ricky Castillo, Pierceson Coody, Cole Hammer and Davis Thompson – who have been number one on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Rankings for team members range from two for Coody to 27 for William Mouw. The latter is the only player outside the top 20. There are five top 10 players, and the U.S. team’s average ranking is 11.3.

The GB & I team has an average world ranking of 68.7. Alex Fitzpatrick is the only player inside the world top 25 at 12th. Jack Dyer is the lowest ranked player at 190th.

On paper it looks like a massacre. Just as well Walker Cups are not played on paper, albeit it’s something of a stretch for Wilson to maintain his team are not underdogs.

“We'd never say we're outsiders because certainly with the format of the match and how in 18 holes of match play, everybody knows anything can happen at any time.
“As far as kind of being up against it, you're always up against it when you come, it doesn't matter what school you generally play in, America is always going to be strong.”

Peach Tree Golf Club, Georgia in 1989 was the scene of GB& I’s breakthrough American win. The visitors ran out 12 ½ – 11 ½ winners. Twenty years ago, future European Tour winners Luke Donald (above), Nick Dougherty, Graeme McDowell, Marc Warren, Richard McEvoy and Michael Hoey, along with strong amateurs in Gary Wolstenholme and Nigel Edwards, provided the nucleus of the side that won at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Georgia.

“We know there's only been two teams that have been successful over here. Again, which shows it's not impossible. We've had a look at the numbers, and there's been 310 Walker Cup players, 84 of those have played on winning sides but only 20 have played on a winning side in America. We're trying to make that 30 basically.”

Twenty players! So few it’s easy to rhyme them off. Add Stephen O’Hara and Jamie Elson to the 2001 team. The 1989 heroes were: Craig Cassells, Russell Claydon, Stephen Dodd, Andrew Hare, Peter McEvoy, Garth McGimpsey, Jim Milligan, Eoghan O’Connell, Darren Prosser and Neil Roderick.

Listing American players who’ve won on British and Irish soil would take up too much space: The U.S. has won 17 times overseas.

As expected, Wilson still believes – he has to.

“Nothing is impossible. We know it's always a very difficult match and the history books tell us so, but it's not impossible.”

True, but looking at the respective sides and history, it sounds like mission impossible.

Incidentally, Donald has indicated he’s willing to one day captain GB & I should the well of available former players who’ve remained amateur run dry.

Hopefully he won’t still be one of 20 players to have won on U.S. soil by then.

#JustSaying: “It’s all about holing putts. The team that holes out better wins the Walker Cup. Simple as that.” Four time player and three-time GB & I captain Nigel Edwards

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