Rónán MacNamara at the Old Course
Things just seem to happen for Alex Maguire at the Old Course, particularly on the greens. Whether it be the St Andrews Links Trophy or the 49th Walker Cup, this is his kind of place.
It proved so again when he held vital momentum putts of 8-feet on 17 and 15-feet on 18 to help himself and James Ashfield beat US Amateur champion Nick Dunlap and three-time Walker Cup winner Steward Hagestad to give Great Britain and Ireland a 3-1 foursomes lead and a first opening session win since 2015.
Maguire said in the pre-tournament press conference that he would bring a never say die attitude and grit to the team on his Walker Cup debut and that feeling waved through the pair as they recovered after seeing a 3UP lead disappear.
“Being 3-up, you sort of think you’re cruising, and all of a sudden you make one mistake and they make a birdie and you’re 1-up. Then we made a sort of sloppy bogey on 15. I hit a bad second shot and a bad putt,” explained Maguire who admitted he needed to take a moment to relax on the 18th tee after hurting his abs in celebration on 17.
“To be fair, the last two putts were great, but the putt James hit on 16 was a big one because if he misses that, then all of a sudden we’re 1-down, two to play.
“James had a 20-footer on 16 to keep us in the match, and yeah, I’ll take the glory, but it was all down to James.”
The Laytown & Bettystown star has been bullish about GB&I’s chances all week as he relished the underdog tag and winning the foursomes session is just a step on the road to glory.
“I think if we go out there and win each session, we’re going to win, so we’ve done one out of the four. We’ll go out in the afternoon, try and win that session and see where that leads us tomorrow. But yeah, good start.”
After the opening two foursomes matches finished on the 16th, matches three and four were played out to a crescendo of noise with the 17th and 18th greens being submerged in an amphitheatre of electricity and Maguire revelled in it, portraying his passion at a place he has had such great success.
“This morning it was good but then the back nine was incredible,” he said of the crowd. “They’re out here supporting us. They’re not here judging us, which as, as a golfer it can feel quite intimidating. They’re all people here, but they want the same result as we do. Obviously some of them are Americans and they don’t want the same result as we do, but yeah, like, what an opportunity.
“The roar is just so cool. You don’t really hear that apart from major championships or big events. I know we’re sort of in the arena, and getting those roars is mad. It’s great.”
Maguire won here as recently as June which paved the way for him to play in the Open Championship a month later. It’s been a dream summer for the 22-year-old who admits a Walker Cup win – a first for GB&I since 2015 – would be the icing on the cake.
“Yeah, especially the greens, yeah. For whatever reason, sometimes I lose focus and I just can’t really get the read, but when — it’s annoying because I wish I could do it all the time, but it’s usually when it’s in crunch time I get the read very well and I commit to it a lot more. I’m so intense over it, and I commit to it.
“Yeah, good memories. I think if we win this week or if we have a good week, it’ll definitely trump what happened in June. But yeah, good start. Long way to go, but hopefully win the singles now.”