Rónán MacNamara at the Old Course
Great Britain and Ireland lead after the opening session of a Walker Cup for the first time since 2015 after they won the last two matches to win the Saturday morning foursomes 3-1.
Written off before a competitive tee shot had been struck in anger, it was the home side who were in sizzling form on the greens on a heavenly morning on the Old Course which was playing firm and fast.
“Yeah, obviously early on, I think the Americans got off to a bit of a fast start because there was a lot of red on the board in the first two or three holes, but the guys were patient and held in there. To be fair, on any other day it could have quite easily gone the other way the last two matches. Just glad that the favour shone on us,” GB&I Captain Stuart Wilson reacted.
It’s the first time any side has held an advantage after the first session of a Walker Cup since 2015, in the last three editions the score was 2-2.
USA have not been in the lead after the first day’s foursomes since 2009 when they led 3-1 at Merion.
First blood went to the USA after world number one Gordon Sargent and Dylan Menante pulled away from Mark Power and Barclay Brown to win 3&2. Scottish duo drew level on the same hole to a raucous roar.
At the turn GB&I were up in three and all square in one but the session threatened to sway in favour of the Americans or at least conclude as a draw, but, Matthew McClean/John Gough and Alex Maguire/James Ashfield both edged matches in dramatic fashion on the 18th to ensure the hosts go into the afternoon singles with some daylight.
Kilkenny’s Power and Brown were the only survivors from the 2021 defeat to the Stars and Stripes in Seminole as they led the team out at 08.30 this morning and after a tight front nine a sloppy double on 12 and an equally clumsy bogey on 13 saw the pair slip to 2DN and they were unable to recover that deficit.
Power admitted he had a “shocker” as he slumped to his first foursomes defeat in the Walker Cup having formed a winning combination with John Murphy two years ago.
GB&I skipper Wilson made a bold selection to pair Scottish duo Calum Scott and Connor Graham – the youngest ever Walker Cup player at 16 – and they put the first dash of navy on the scoreboard with a comfortable win over Caleb Surratt and Ben James.
“Oh, it was amazing. The home support has just been absolutely incredible. There’s absolutely an advantage over the Americans, and I think when you hit that good shot it just motivates you and pumps you up a little bit more and makes you want to hit even better shots,” said Scott.
“Yeah, it was a great experience. It was quite nerve-racking at the start of the round, but kind of got in a flow and tried to play some good golf,” added Graham who got hot with the putter.
The last two matches were extremely dramatic and could be hugely significant as GB&I scramble for every advantage possible.
Roared on by a boisterous late morning crowd, McClean and Gough dovetailed superbly to get the better of Preston Summerhays and David Ford.
Gough, whose parents hail from Meath and Down showed shades of some classic Meath thickness as he wellied in celebration when a crucial putt on 16 put the boys in navy and white ahead.
Summerhays responded with a gutsy half on the road hole 17th and after GB&I had three-putted from adjacent to the 18th green it looked like the States would snatch a momentum shifting half. But they were denied as Summerhays’ four-footer stayed out and the home side went 2-1 up.
Yeah (relief), that was a fantastic match,” said McClean. “I think early doors, it was a little ropey for us, but since then we played fantastic golf. It’s tough to see your opponents finish like that on the last hole, but obviously in the nicest way possible, we’re delighted to get a point.”
Gough added: “I think coming down the closing stretch there when you have the three holes, they’re never easy, but with that, obviously delighted to get that in the hole and obviously credit to Matt’s wedge shot into the green there.”
Laytown & Bettystown star Alex Maguire has had his fair share of moments at the Home of Golf having won the St Andrews Links Trophy in June and he came up clutch with huge putts on 17 (8-feet) and 18 (15-feet) as he and Ashfield beat US Amateur champion Nick Dunlap and Stewart Hagestad.
Hagestad was already mid celebration when his eagle putt from off the green somehow stayed out after the cruellest of lip outs.
Having made the turn 3UP, Maguire and Ashfield were under the cosh after being pegged back to all-square but a huge putt for par and a halve from Welshman Ashfield set the tone for a dramatic conclusion with the putter for the pair.
“We fought so hard out there, fought too hard to let it go at the end, we got a stroke of luck with their putts horseshoeing and we wanted it bad, we wanted to get a point on the board,” Maguire smiled.
“I tensed so much on 17 that my abs hurt so I had to take a few seconds on 18. I missed one on 10 which annoyed me but after that I played very well and delighted to come through the last few holes.”
Galway’s Liam Nolan wasn’t selected to start in the morning foursomes session but he will make his Walker Cup debut in the afternoon singles when he tackles world number ten, Austin Greaser.