Some things are worth waiting for. For Mark Power, the decision to delay turning professional in order to bow out of his amateur career at the Home of Golf looks worth the wait.
Having graduated from Wake Forest University after an accomplished four years with the Deacs – 8th best stroke average programme history – the Kilkenny star could have made the leap into the pro ranks but he longed for a second Walker Cup appearance for Great Britain and Ireland at St Andrews feeling the pinnacle of amateur golf as the ideal place to sign off this part of his golf career.
“Ever since I played the last one in Seminole all roads were leading to this. I had other goals and things I wanted to achieve but the main goal was to play another Walker Cup especially because it’s in St Andrews I knew it would be the last amateur event I’ll play so it’s going to be a really special way to finish my amateur career,” said Power who was one of four Irish players to be named on the ten-man GB&I team for next month’s 49th Walker Cup.
“I could’ve turned pro when I graduated from college back in May and people were asking me if I was going to. But the Walker Cup is such a special event and it was my main goal to make another team, at the Home of Golf it will be really special and if we can come out with the win it will be class.
“The last Walker Cup was definitely the highlight of my career so far and hopefully St Andrews will top that. We had no GB&I fans in Seminole in 2021 so I imagine things will be different this time around.”
When Power headed to Seminole with John Murphy two years ago Europe were heavy outsiders against a star-studded USA side but punched above their weight as they ran their hosts close. On paper the US have by far the stronger outfit this year with every player ranked inside the top-20 in the world including world number one Gordon Sargent while GB&I have just one player inside the top-20, John Gough of England.
But links golf and matchplay often proves a stiff leveller and the 23-year-old is hoping for strong winds on the Old Course next month.
“I’d say some of those lads haven’t played in those conditions. It does get windy in the US but it hits the ball differently over here. The ball flies through wind in the US so it will be an advantage for us. Hopefully it blows and we will embrace it. If it gets messy we are used to that stuff which might give us an edge but they are class players and we will take any edge we can get,” explained Power who won three of his four matches in 2021, striking up a fierce partnership with Murphy in foursomes.
“We had a really good team bond and everyone really came together and we all wanted to win for each other. This year I feel like we are all really close and we can build on that again. Two years ago not many people gave us much of a look in and we really performed well as a team so we will have a similar environment in the team room again and maybe more given it’s on home soil. My main memory is just how good the team connection was and playing foursomes with John Murphy, someone I know really well we were just trying to have as much fun as possible so if we can get something going like that again it will be a very exciting week.”
The build up to the 2021 Walker Cup proved to be a rollercoaster for Power and co as a vicious stomach virus ran riot around the GB&I team with many players falling ill earlier in the week forcing alternates to be called in.
“It was so weird because nobody really knew what was going on. Some guys had eaten food and started to feel sick and some guys hadn’t even eaten food yet and were feeling sick. It ended up being a virus rather than food poisoning. I remember the night before the first round we had a few lads sick and I was nervous for the occasion and started convincing myself that I wasn’t feeling well just because I had a nervous sick feeling in my stomach I didn’t know was I starting to come down with something or just bricking it for tomorrow, I ended up being fine and everyone made a turnaround. It was a rollercoaster to start things off.”
Ireland will be the most represented country on the GB&I team with four players (Liam Nolan, Matthew McClean, Alex Maguire and Power) which is the largest Irish contingent since the ‘Famous Five’ of 2015 which is also the last time GB&I won the Walker Cup with the USA hoping to win a fourth successive title on literally the R&A’s home turf.
“I feel like all year the Irish guys have been in form and a lot of guys threw their hat in the ring,” continued Power. “Five or six guys could have had a good shout to make the team. Everyone has earned their place and we had a lot of guys coming with form, the four Irish lads we have will push each other on and hopefully if all four of us play well it should result in a positive week.”
Power is just one of two players (Barclay Brown) to be making a second successive Walker Cup appearance and he feels his experience can help the team as well as his love of team golf.
“This time will be a lot different, on home soil, we will be over there pretty early and there will be more fans on our side. I love team golf and I really get stuck into it and it lifts my game to another level. Playing St Andrews Trophy for GB&I against Europe I was highest points scorer so I feed off those team environments so I feel I can bring a lot to team events.
“Playing last time around I know what to expect and I can help guys prepare so I can’t wait for it and hopefully I can bring as much as I can to the table.”