DEAN Robertson, who played in the 1993 match, believes Scotland’s hopes of avoiding a Walker Cup wipeout for only the second time in the event’s history rest solely on one player’s shoulders heading into this week’s Home Internationals.
The four-cornered event, which starts today at Ganton in Yorkshire, is the final chance for Great Britain & Ireland hopefuls to shine as the team that will defend the trophy at the National Golf Links of America next month is being named on Monday. It is likely to be dominated by English players after their stellar season, to the extent, in fact, that Scotland, Ireland and Wales could all be facing the prospect of providing, at best, one representative each in the ten-strong line-up.
Only once in the past 43 meetings – at Winged Foot in 1949 – has a Scot failed to feature in the biennial battle against the Americans, but Robertson fears that is a “possibility” on this occasion unless his namesake, Graeme, shines over the next three days.
“We have, at best, one chance and that is Graeme Robertson, though I can’t say confidently that he deserves a spot,” said the former Italian Open champion, who works with the Glenbervie player in his performance role at Stirling University.
“He has the talent and is a quality golfer but still has a lot to learn. He has produced glimpses of what he is capable of, his 64 in the Links Trophy last year, for instance, and taking six points out six for Scotland in the Home Internationals at Glasgow Gailes last season then showing great leadership in last month’s European Team Championship in Denmark.
“He also beat Derek Ernst, a PGA Tour winner this year, in the Palmer Cup at Royal County Down, so it is in there. But he’s not been the full package this season and only time will tell if that comes back to bite him.
“He needs to shine this week. He’s sometimes a person who can be Jason Dufner-esque in the sense he’s very placid but inside is trying 100 per cent. I know that [GB&I captain] Nigel Edwards is huge on body language and energy. Graeme sometimes lets his shoulders drop and you can’t show signs of any weakness.”
Welshman Edwards, re-appointed after seeing his side upset the odds against a strong American line-up at Royal Aberdeen two years ago, will pick the team along with four R&A selectors – one each from the Home Unions.
It will definitely include Garrick Porteous, winner of the Scottish Stroke-Play and Amateur Championship in quick succession earlier in the season, as well as Matthew Fitzpatrick, who claimed the Silver Medal as leading amateur in last month’s Open at Muirfield. Other English players with strong credentials are Neil Raymond, Max Orrin, Harry Casey, Jordan Smith, Callum Shinkwin, Nick Marsh and Greg Eason while Ireland’s hopes look to lie with Kevin Phelan, Rory McNamara and Edinburgh-born Reeve Whitson. Like the Scots, Wales only seem to have one candidate in Rhys Pugh, the sole member of the triumphant team in Aberdeen still in the amateur ranks.
“Matthew Fitzpatrick is a shoo-in for his performances and the way he handled himself at Muirfield,” added Robertson. “He showed experience way beyond his years and he’d be my No 1 on the the team as you imagine him thinking, ‘I belong here’.
“As for the rest of the team, it is down to the selectors, but I don’t think politics should play any part in it. I dearly want Graeme Robertson to experience the Walker Cup and would love to see him make the team. But he’s going to have to deliver the goods at Ganton to have a chance of clinching the final place by the skin of his teeth.”
Scotland recovered from an opening defeat at the hands of Ireland at Glasgow Gailes 12 months ago to claim the title for the first time in six years. In addition to Robertson, other survivors from that side are Grant Forrest, Jack McDonald, Matthew Clark and Scott Borrowman, with Scott Crichton, Zander Culverwell, Bradley Neil, Ewan Scott, James Ross and Danny Young the players coming in.