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  • Alistair Tait

Walker Cups Aren't Won On Paper

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

According to the World Amateur Golf Ranking, the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team might as well not show up for the 49th Walker Cup over the Old Course at St Andrews.

GB&I captain Stuart Wilson might as well throw in the towel, shake hands with American skipper Mike McCoy and concede defeat to avoid the scars that might inflict his team from suffering an absolute thrashing from the boys in red, white and blue.

McCoy’s United States side heavily outguns Wilson’s 10 charges.

America has eight of the top 10 players on World Amateur Golf Ranking (it should be nine, but world number two Michael Thorbjornsen withdrew with a back injury), nine of the top 15 and all 10 are inside the top 20. World number one Gordon Sargent leads the way with Stewart Hagestad as the worst ranked player at 19th. Here is the American line up.

Player Ranking Age

Gordon Sargent 1 20

David Ford 4 20

Nick Dunlap 5 19

Dylan Menante 6 22

Ben James 7 20

Caleb Surratt 8 19

Nick Gabrelcik 9 21

Austin Greaser 10 22

Preston Summerhays 13 21

Stewart Hagestad 19 32

That’s an average ranking of 8.2.

Only one GB&I is ranked higher than America’s lowest player. England’s John Gough is 14th. Scotland’s Connor Graham is the lowest ranked player in this year’s match. The 16-year-old Blairgowrie native, the youngest ever Walker Cupper, is currently 214th. Wilson’s team features just two players in the top 30. Here’s how GB&I ranks.

Player Ranking Age

John Gough 14 24

Barclay Brown 26 22

Calum Scott 31 20

Matthew McClean 54 30

James Ashfield 69 22

Jack Bigham 87 19

Mark Power 98 23

Alex Maguire 143 22

Liam Nolan 150 23

Connor Graham 214 16

That’s an average ranking of 88.8.

So there you have it. Massively outgunned.

Will home course advantage make up for the ranking disparity? After all, of the 12 matches between 1993 and 2007, the home team only failed to win twice, 2001 and 2007.

The home course advantage signs don’t look good considering America has won six of the previous eight Walker Cups at the Home of Golf going back to 1923.

So no contest, both captains should shake hands and take the boys on a pub crawl of St Andrews’s famous hostelries. GB&I has no chance! It will be a Walkover Cup. Correct?

Not so fast.

History proves international team matches are not played on paper. If they were then underdog European teams wouldn’t have won so many Ryder Cups in recent years. Ditto for the Solheim Cup.

As for the Walker Cup, there have been a instances in recent years when GB&I captains arguably had no chance of lifting George Herbert Walker’s silver trophy.

Tiger Woods is 0-1 in his Walker Cup career. He was the talk of the 1995 match at Royal Porthcawl. Tiger wasn’t the factor everyone expected him to be. He lost by one hole to Gary Wolstenholme in the opening singles as GB&I went on to win 14-10.

Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein, Harris English, Patrick Rodgers and Russell Henley provided the backbone to a 2011 U.S. team at Royal Aberdeen that was heavy favourite to win the biennial match for the fourth straight time. The U.S. side couldn’t cope with the wind and rain that swept over the Balcomie links and lost 14-12.

Bryson DeChambeau wasn’t the only high calibre player on the 2015 U.S. team at Royal Lytham. The U.S. Amateur Champion was one of six of the world’s top 10 players against GB&I’s one: seventh ranked Ashley Chesters of England. Yet GB&I romped to a 16 ½ – 9 ½ victory.

If that’s not proof international matches aren’t won on paper, then what is?

America should win the 49th match over the Old Course against a decidedly underdog GB&I team, but don't write off GB&I's chances of celebrating with amateur golf’s most famous team cup at the conclusion of the 49th match.

Sometimes it pays to be underdogs. Besides, it all comes down to one simple, perennial fact: the team that better handles the humps and hollows of the quirky 7,313-yard, par-72 Old Course will win this Walker Cup.

#JustSaying: “Be respectful, but be ruthless,” Ian Poulter’s advice to Charley Hull before the 2012 Curtis Cup

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