Rónán MacNamara at the Old Course
Matthew McClean turned any early morning nervous energy into fun as he had a ball on his Walker Cup debut alongside John Gough.
The pair survived an 18th hole scare to cling on for a narrow victory which put GB&I 2-1 ahead in the morning foursomes and into the lead for the first time. Malone native McClean (30) is the elder statesman for the home side but he felt like a kid again on a glorious morning on the Old Course.
“Yeah, it was unbelievable. It’s probably as good a day as you’ll have on any golf course anywhere,” said McClean who teed off on the first hole early this morning. “Me and John didn’t decide who was going to hit the first tee shot until half an hour before the tee time just because I didn’t want to sleep on it. It was a bit nerve-racking but it was fun.”
It was both players’ first Walker Cup experience with Gough set to turn pro after this weekend while McClean may well be back for more in two years time. The reigning US Mid-Amateur champion was thrilled with how the morning went.
“Yeah, can’t have any complaints. As I said, the course is in pristine condition, the weather is perfect, and we obviously both played well and managed to get a point. Yeah, couldn’t really go any better so far today, and obviously we’re both focused to go out and play the same this afternoon and try to get two.”
Gough added: “And more. I think the crowd, the golf course is the best I’ve ever played it at the minute, the weather. The weather has been better than I think I’ve ever had it here, as well. Yeah, it’s all that I’ve thought of and more really.
“We said to ourselves going down 16, we’re like, there’s not many times you get a view like this with all the people because obviously the earlier matches finished, and we said, it was like, this is pretty special walking down here, isn’t it.”
Both players dovetailed nicely particularly on the greens as they came from 1DN after five to turn 1UP before being pegged back after 15. McClean left a couple of late lag putts stone dead while Gough drew one of the loudest roars of the morning with a winning birdie on 16.
“Yeah, we played well. We got off to a bit of a flat start, got pretty unlucky on 2 and lost the hole and then didn’t really do anything wrong on the way in there,” McClean said. “Yeah, we both played good. Holed a couple putts between us, a couple putts at the right time, we managed to hole, and that was probably the difference in the end.”