I can’t help but think of a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when I scan the respective Walker Cup squads ahead of the match to be played at Seminole Golf Club, Florida, May 8-9 next year.
I’m thinking it might be a Walkover Cup instead of a Walker Cup, with the U.S. team walking over the Great Britain & Ireland side.
Butch gives Sundance some advice before he takes on Harvey Logan in a knife fight, after Logan challenges Butch for leadership of the Hole in the Wall gang. Butch says:
“Maybe there’s a way to make a profit in this: bet on Logan?
“I would, but who’d bet on you?”
Who’d bet on the GB&I Walker Cup team winning back the cup over the course where Ben Hogan used to practise for the Masters? Not many.
Butch uses his wits to win his fight with Logan and retain leadership of the gang. The GB&I boys are going to need all their wits to win the cup for the first time since 2015 at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club (pictured).
If the World Amateur Golf Ranking is anything to go, by then GB&I doesn’t stand much of a chance. The 16 U.S. players recently named for a Walker Cup practice session range from 3-35 on the WAGR table, with an average ranking of 17.88. GB&I has players from eighth to 135th, with an average ranking of 58.40.
The U.S squad has five players in the top 10. Davis Thompson and Ricky Castillo are ranked third and fourth respectively. Both have had recent spells as world number one. Scotland’s Sandy Scott is GB&I’s only top 10 player. He’s the world number eight. He and Alex Fitzpatrick, world number 37, are the only two players in the GB&I squad who played in the 2019 match. Ireland’s Caolan Rafferty is the next highest ranked player after Scott at 26th.
Although the U.S. won the last match at Royal Liverpool, home course advantage has played a massive part in determining the team that carries off George Herbert Walker’s prized chalice. The GB&I boys clearly weren’t comfortable at ultra-snooty Los Angeles Country Club in 2017. Ditto for the 2013 match at the National Golf Links on Long Island, New York.
Donald Ross’s Seminole has lightning fast greens with a lot of subtle slopes that are going to require deft short games. I was feeling a bit yippy when I walked off Seminole’s 18th green when I was fortunate to play the course, and the green speeds for the Walker Cup will be much faster.
I hope GB&I captain Stuart Wilson is lobbying the R&A hard for a pre-match squad trip to Seminole. Getting comfortable on this course takes more than a couple of practice rounds.
A further thing on home course advantage: it’ll be 20 years since a GB&I team won on American soil when Wilson and his 10-man team turn up in North Palm Beach, Florida. A 2001 GB&I side including future European Tour winners in Luke Donald, Nick Dougherty, Graham McDowell, Michael Hoey, Marc Warren along with strong players in Nigel Edwards and Gary Wolstenholme defeated the United States at Ocean Forest 15-9.
Three-time GB&I captain Edwards has always maintained the team that holes the most putts wins the match. That was certainly true last year at Hoylake, especially in the final singles session. The match was close until Sunday afternoon, and then the U.S. showed its dominance by taking the final session 8-2. GB&I is going to have to hole a lot of putts on slick greens that should favour the U.S.
The signs on paper don’t look good for GB&I ending a two-match losing streak. Just as well Walker Cups aren’t played on paper.
#JustSaying: “The game would be nothing without this troublesome business round the hole.” Joyce Wethered