Strong Irish contingent included in initial GB&I Walker Cup squad

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Mark Power in action at the Walker Cup in Seminole in 2021 (Photo by Sam Greenwood/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Matthew McClean, Hugh Foley, Robert Moran, Mark Power, Liam Nolan and Peter O’Keeffe have been included provisional Great Britain and Ireland team ahead of the 40th Walker Cup at St Andrews.

The six Irish players are part of a squad of 19 players who are in contention for selection to play the United States of America in September the R&A have announced.

The biennial encounter will be played over the world-renowned Old Course on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September 2023, marking 100 years since the match was first played at the Home of Golf.

GB&I is aiming to win back the trophy after narrowly losing 14-12 to the United States of America at Seminole last year.

Peter O’Keeffe is the elder statesman of the squad at 41 and the Douglas native announced his credentials in 2021 with victories in the Irish Amateur and Irish Close Championships – becoming the first player since Pádraig Harrington to complete the double.

O’Keeffe, who had a stint on the Challenge Tour earlier in his career, reached the quarter-finals of the Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham this summer.

Matt McClean – the highest ranked Irishman at 75th on the WAGR – emerged as a contender to make Stuart Wilson’s GB&I side when he became the first Irishman to win the US Mid-Amateur Championship at Erin Hills earlier this year.

While he came close on several occasions in Ireland, McClean’s performances abroad are standout with the win in the States backed up by 9th at the Amateur, third at the Brabazon and sixth at the Lytham as well as team appearances in the St Andrews and Eisenhower Trophies.

The Malone native who is the second oldest in the squad at 29, overcame compatriot and close friend Hugh Foley after the Royal Dublin man conquered all of Ireland this year.

Foley (25) wrapped up wins at the North and South of Ireland Championships, the first man since Darren Clarke in 1990 to achieve such a feat and if he can take some of that form into his tournaments abroad he will be hard to ignore in 2023.

Robert Moran was unable to get a win on the board in 2022 but he has a good chance of making the GB&I side for St Andrews as he boasts strong performances abroad.

The 23-year-old from Castle Golf Club in Dublin joined McClean on the Eisenhower and St Andrew’s Trophy sides and he came close to registering wins in the UK as well.

The 2021 Ulster Strokeplay winner was third at the St Andrews Links Trophy and fourth at the Lytham Trophy while he was also fifth at the African Amateur last February. Moran also threatened to win at home with top five finishes in Ulster and the Irish Amateur Championship.

Mark Power of Kilkenny is the only Irish selection who was part of the 2021 GB&I team who lost in Seminole. Power (22) formed a formidable partnership with John Murphy who is now a member of the DP World Tour. The Wake Forest student played on the St Andrews and Eisenhower Trophy sides last season.

Galway’s Liam Nolan (22) is the sixth and final inclusion in the provisional squad. The NUIG student came within a whisker of winning his home championship at the West of Ireland but he was beaten in the final by Alan Fahy.

Nolan was a constant contender for the national championships and it is expected he will get over the line sooner rather than later. Nolan was tenth at the Brabazon Trophy.

Stuart Wilson, GB&I captain, said, “We have selected a talented group of players who are key to our preparations for the Walker Cup and share our determination to win back the trophy from the United States of America.

“We will be getting together in St Andrews so that the players can really get to grips with the Old Course, understand its subtleties and learn from those individuals who have vast experience of the links.

“Our aim is to select a team which will give us the best chance of winning the match next year. In that regard, we will continue to monitor the players’ performances in amateur events over the coming months and provide them with support and advice. There is also still time for golfers not included in the squad to play their way into our plans and we will be keeping a close eye on their results too.”

The listed squad included eight players who were part of the victorious GB&I side who defeated Continental Europe in the St Andrews Trophy.Scotland’s Calum Scott and England’s John Gough will hope to follow in the footsteps of brothers Sandy and Conor, who both played in the match at Royal Liverpool in 2019, by earning selection for the final GB&I team. Connor Graham, The R&A Junior Open champion from Perthshire, is also included in the squad.

The final ten-man team will be announced in August.

The players included in the GB&I squad are:

James Ashfield (21, Delamere Forest, Wales) Matthew McClean (29, Malone, Ireland)
Josh Berry (17, Doncaster, England) Robert Moran (23, Castle, Ireland)
Barclay Brown (21, Hallamshire, England) Liam Nolan (22, Galway, Ireland)
Archie Davies (21, Carlisle, Wales) Peter O’Keeffe (41, Douglas, Ireland)
Arron Edwards-Hill (23, Chelmsford, England) Mark Power (22, Kilkenny, Ireland)
Hugh Foley (25, Royal Dublin, Ireland) Dylan Shaw-Radford (17, Huddersfield, England)
Connor Graham (16, Blairgowrie, Scotland) Calum Scott (19, Nairn, Scotland)
John Gough (24, Beaconsfield, England) Harley Smith (17, The Rayleigh Club, England)
Josh Hill (18, Trump International Dubai, England) Tyler Weaver (17, Bury St Edmunds, England)
Frank Kennedy (17, Trump National Jupiter,  England)

 

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