2011 Walker Cup

September 15, 2011 · James Blog
UKI_GGP_2011_09_12_minicover

The Build-Up

The team spirit was great from the very start. Most of the lads knew each other and with great characters in the team like Stiggy, Mikey and big Jack, there were plenty of laughs had throughout. The week building up to the Walker Cup was very relaxed; just practicing and playing when we wanted to really, although everyone played at Kingsbarns and Carnoustie which was good fun. The Irish boys cleaned up all the money. Carnoustie in particular was excellent preparation as the winds were in excess of 25mph.

By Thursday and Friday the atmosphere was starting to build around the course and the boys were raring to go. We had been put up in 5-star accommodation at the start of the week at the Fairmont Hotel and the Marcliffe was no different.

One of their big suites had been turned into a team room with DVD player/X-box for us, so there was plenty to do at night. Sully and I in particular took advantage of the Marcliffe’s snooker table most nights and managed a few decent breaks (41!). Golfers tend to be pretty sharp on a snooker table; must be something to do with the hand-eye coordination.

On Friday night Nigel sat us all down and read out some letters of encouragement that had been sent to him by Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Monty, Darren Clarke, and even Eduardo Molinari and Jose-Maria Olazabal. We knew we had the whole of not just GB&I but most of Europe right behind us. Stiggy, the only remaining player from Merion, bravely stood up and said a few words. Although he came up against tough opposition in Cantlay and Uihlein over the weekend, Stig was brilliant in the team room and an invaluable member of the squad. To finish on Friday night we watched the Ryder Cup 2010 DVD and a few clips from previous winning Walker Cups.

 

The Matches  Saturday and Sunday

James celebrates after holing an 85 foot putt on the 17th hole to close out his match with Nathan Smith

I was disappointed to be left out of the morning foursomes, but was determined to put a point on the board in the afternoon singles. I went out with Mikey Stewart and Tom Lewis in the morning and watched a fine display as they beat the American top pairing of Peter Uihlein and Harris English 2&1. Further wins from the Irish pair and Jack and Sully put us 3-1 up after the foursomes.

My match against Nathan Smith was tight the whole way and I spurned some great chances to edge ahead by missing from close range. I felt that going into the 17th hole, I should have already closed the match out. Ironically, having not made a putt of note all day, I rolled one in across 2 tiers from about 85 feet on the 17th green to close out the match 2&1. I have never heard a roar like that in my life and perhaps never will again. I can’t remember exactly how I reacted but I have vague recollections of shouting come on!, waving my hat in the air and running all over the immaculate green. A moment I will carry for the rest of my life, undoubtedly.

James and Rhys Pugh celebrate after sinking a putt on No. 16 in their foursomes match against Cantlay and Williams

After winning a point each in the Saturday singles, Rhys Pugh and I were drafted into the Sunday foursomes as the anchor match. Up against world number one Patrick Cantlay and number ten Chris Williams, we barely put a foot wrong and won 5&3. Again, I was charged up throughout and was fist pumping and high-fiving all over the place, which generally is not like me at all.

In the singles I came up against a brilliant player in Harris English. I fought hard but didn’t quite have enough in me to beat Harris, who will without question go on to achieve great things in the coming years as a pro. Fortunately the boys had already done the business, and the pain of defeat soon turned into elation as I ran the length of the 18th hole to celebrate with the rest up at the green.

The closing ceremony came and went; Nigel gave a brilliant, emotional victory speech, we hoisted the trophy, and we spent at least the next hour in the team room drinking champagne and signing various items (t-shirts, flags, etc.) for memorabilia. Songs belted out on the bus on the way back (“there’s only one Captain Edwards!!”), more swigs of champagne, more signing stuff, more photos.

CHAMPIONS!!

We had a quick change at the hotel, attended the closing dinner and promptly left for a night in Aberdeen. Can’t say Aberdeen on a Sunday night is remarkably exciting but we made it a night to remember, let’s just leave it at that!!

I will be turning pro this week and won’t have the honour of playing another Walker Cup, but I will be forever thankful that I had the chance to play in just one, and a winning one at that. To have had Balgownie as the venue made it all the more special. I said to a few of the lads before Sunday, that unless we play in Ryder Cups, we will never play golf with that much passion and emotion ever again. Never again will we play for Nigel, for our respective nations, for Great Britain and Ireland. With that in mind, we cherished the moment, played with heart and determination, and came out victorious.

 

Below: The 2011 Walker Cup by INCHMARLODC