49th Walker Cup: Meet Ireland’s ‘Fab Four’

Ronan MacNamara

Alex Maguire (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ireland will have four representatives on the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team next weekend after captain Stuart Wilson announced the ten-man squad earlier in the week.

Laytown & Bettystown star Alex Maguire (22), Galway’s Liam Nolan (23), Malone’s Matthew McClean (30) and Kilkenny’s Mark Power (23) are all heading to St Andrews for the 49th edition of the biennial contest which marks the centenary of the first ever playing at the Old Course.

Maguire is one of two players who wasn’t announced on the provisional Walker Cup squad last winter to play his way onto the side, joining Jack Bigham in the process while Power will be making his second GB&I appearance after an impressive performance in Seminole in 2021.


Ireland will be the most represented country on the GB&I side, boasting its largest contingent since the ‘Famous Five’ of 2015 (Gavin Moynihan, Jack Hume, Cormac Sharvin, Paul Dunne, Gary Hurley) which is also the last time the hosts won the contest.

Despite having home advantage and perhaps the wind in their favour, Great Britain and Ireland are massive outsiders to stop the USA from making it four Walker Cup wins in a row.

All ten members of the USA side are ranked inside the top-20 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, including current world number one Gordon Sargent while GB&I boast just one player inside the top-20 in John Gough (13) who has struggled to find the same early season form that saw him win the Australian Master of the Amateurs and the Irish Amateur Open Championship.

Regardless of what happens next weekend it is a brilliant reflection on the work Golf Ireland do that they have four players donning the GB&I colours next weekend.

So, who are Ireland’s Fab Four?

Alex Maguire (Laytown & Bettystown)

Age: 22

Home Club: Laytown & Bettystown

Career wins: North of Ireland Amateur Championship (2021), Connacht Strokeplay (2021), East of Ireland Amateur Championship (2022, 2023), Bayou City Collegiate Classic (2022), St Andrews Links Trophy (2023).

WAGR: 144th

After winning the first-ever Open Amateur Series to qualify for The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool in July, Maguire has achieved another highlight. This year, the member of Ireland’s national team has also won the St Andrews Links Trophy and East of Ireland Amateur Open, reached the quarter-finals of The Amateur Championship at Hillside, finished fourth in the Irish Amateur Open and closed his senior season at Florida Atlantic University with a tie for fourth in his conference championship.

In 2022, he won the East of Ireland Amateur Open and reached the semi-finals of The Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. In 2021, he won the North of Ireland Amateur Open and reached the quarter-finals of the South of Ireland Amateur Open.

Growing up a stone’s throw away from Laytown & Bettystown Golf Club, Maguire has earned his stripes on the Meath links and has been brilliantly supported by the club during his amateur career so far, none more so than his mother Brenda and especially his father Sean who keeps everybody updated on Alex’s progress on Facebook.

The members of Laytown & Bettystown are always quick to praise Maguire but aren’t afraid to dig the elbow in if he has an untidy scorecard!

“I live two minutes from the course. I’ve grown up there playing golf since I was about 11, Bettystown has been a great place to grow up and it’s a great environment for juniors a great place to grow up.

“I’ve always had great support in Bettystown, a lot of my dad’s friends were members, and they were huge in supporting me through the club as I made my way up and then when I started doing well a lot of the members jumped on the bandwagon and started cheering me on which is great.

“My dad is always posting on social media and his posts will get sixty or seventy comments saying play well or good luck if I’m playing somewhere.”

Maguire played his way onto the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team after being omitted from the provisional panel last December.

“I don’t know if it could get any better than this! The fact it’s the centenary of the Walker Cup at St Andrews especially where I won a few months ago it’s probably going to be one of the best weeks ever of my golfing career no matter what I go on to do afterwards,” explains Maguire who competed his Senior year in Florida Atlantic University. “To make any Walker Cup team is very special but at St Andrews the Home of Golf there will be so much planned that will just add to how amazing the week will be.”

Matthew McClean (Malone) 

Age: 30

Home Club: Malone Golf Club

Career wins: US Mid-Amateur Championship (2022)

WAGR: 53rd

A Walker Cup debut for McClean – the elder statesman on the team by six years. Last year, he won the US Mid-Amateur Championship by defeating Hugh Foley in the final at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. To date in 2023, the member of Ireland’s national team has competed in both the Masters Tournament and the US Open and recorded top-ten finishes in the South African Amateur, East of Ireland Amateur Open and Brabazon Trophy.

He also reached the last-64 of the US Amateur and the semi-finals of the Western Amateur. In addition to his USGA championship title in 2022, he also finished runner-up in both the Irish Amateur Open and North of Ireland Amateur Open, reached the last-16 in The Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes and represented Ireland in the Eisenhower Trophy. In that year, he was also a member of the winning GB&I team in the St Andrews Trophy against the Continent of Europe.

“Over the years even back in schools golf from whatever standard to Walker Cup I have been lucky to be part of a lot of good teams. Obviously a few Home Internationals wins with Ireland so it’s been good a lot of successful teams I have been a part of and the Walker Cup is a huge step up but that’s where you want to be playing against the best in the world and give yourself chances so no matter what happens over the weekend it will be one to remember forever and it’s a huge honour to represent a GB&I Walker Cup team. I think by a few years I am the elder statesman of the team!”

The Malone man comes from a sporting family; his great uncle won an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship medal with Down so despite growing up in Antrim he can be seen donning the black and red of the Mourne county.

As a child he played football and Gaelic Football, winning county titles in both sports and it wasn’t until he turned ten years old that he first got introduced to golf.

“My dad played casual, social golf. Then in the summers when I was ten or eleven, I played a lot of Gaelic and football and just sort of picked up golf. 

“One of my mum’s friends, dad was the captain in one of the clubs and said why not join and give it a go so yeah that was pretty much it. Played it relatively seriously until I was 16 or 17 when I gave up the football to take golf more seriously.

“It was one of those where golf became an easy sport to put in the time over the summer as a kid. 

“My first golfing memory watching golf is probably Tiger Woods at the 2000 Open Championship and then playing golf my earliest memory is taking a caravan in Dunmore East in Waterford and playing out there for fun,” he said.

Liam Nolan (Galway)

Age: 23

Home Club: Galway

Career wins: South American Amateur Championship (2023), Brabazon Trophy (2023).

WAGR: 140th

Nolan makes his Walker Cup debut thanks to a fine season in which the member of Ireland’s national team has won the South American Amateur in Ecuador and Brabazon Trophy and reached the last-64 in The Amateur Championship at Hillside.

In 2022, he recorded top-four finishes in the North of Ireland, South of Ireland and West of Ireland Amateur Open championships and finished in a share of tenth in the Brabazon Trophy and tied-14th in the St Andrews Links Trophy. In 2021, he won an R&A Student Tour Series event in Ireland and finished runner-up in both the West of Ireland Amateur Open and Connacht Men’s Stroke Play.

“It’s something I never really thought I could make until the provisional panel was announced in December then getting the early win in January made me think about it a bit more,” beamed Nolan. “If you told me a few years ago I would be called up to the team it wouldn’t seem real but I’ve played well all year and buzzing to get over now and get cracking.”

His talents won’t come as a surprise to those who know him best. A talented basketball player who seemed destined to rub shoulders with the likes of Kieran Donaghy until his days on the court came to an end, aged 19 after breaking the same ankle twice, Nolan has made a name for himself across the country for his golf.

Sport runs through the Nolan household with his grandfather and father Tom – who was on the Galway hurling team that won the 1988 All-Ireland – keen golfers and it is with the former where Liam learned to love the game. 

From an early age, Nolan knew golf was the sport for him.

“My grandad and dad were hurlers and dad got injured and stopped playing early so he went playing golf. He would have played Interpros too.

“My mother and father are both teachers so when I was finished school before them I would go to my grandparents house and they would bring me to the driving range or to a nine-hole course and I always loved it.

“There’s pictures of me when I was three out in the back garden just whacking some plastic balls around the place.

“I loved Pádraig Harrington. I thought he was class. I remember being on Dad’s shoulders for his homecoming from the Open and there was plenty of pushing and shoving to try and get near him.

“The earliest I can remember is Harrington winning the two Open Championships, so that was my earliest professional golf memory.

“Also a big fan of Darren Clarke, I got a signature off him at the 2011 Irish Open at Killarney. Then I won the Leinster Boys when I was 18 and got to go on a Darren Clarke trip to Spain and he was the soundest guy ever, he was so funny. It’s nice to see that these lads are normal,” he added.

Mark Power (Kilkenny)

Age: 23

Home Club: Kilkenny

Career wins: Battle at Briar’s Creek (2023)

WAGR: 97th

A second Walker Cup appearance for Power who went 3-1-0 in 2021 at Seminole and was 2-0-0 in foursomes with John Murphy. To date in 2023, the Ireland national team player has completed his fourth collegiate season at Wake Forest University and finished tied 13th in the European Amateur Championship in Estonia. In 2022, he reached the last-32 in The Amateur Championship and the last-64 in the US Amateur and represented Ireland in the Eisenhower Trophy.

In that year, he was also a member of the winning GB&I team in the St Andrews Trophy against the Continent of Europe. In 2020, he finished runner-up in the Brabazon Trophy, reached the semi-finals of The Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale and represented the International team in the Arnold Palmer Cup.

Power is the son of Eddie and Eileen Rose Power. His father was a three-time Irish Close champion (1987, 1993, 1998. His mother won the Irish Women’s Close in 1990 and 1995, and she won the Irish Women’s Open in 1996 while she also represented Great Britain and Ireland in the 1994 Curtis Cup.

The Kilkenny man will close the door on his amateur golf career at the Home of Golf next weekend.

“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.”

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