Walker Cup race wide open, says Craig Watson

Liam Johnston with the Scottish Open Stroke Play trophy.
Liam Johnston with the Scottish Open Stroke Play trophy.
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Craig Watson, the Great Britain & Ireland captain, is unconcerned that most of the top amateur events so far this season have been won by 
players outwith the initial 19-man squad for the 
Walker Cup in Los Angeles in September.

Liam Johnston became the latest addition to that list when the Dumfries & County man landed the Carrick Neill Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship at Western Gailes last weekend, meaning the heat is being turned up on the squad selections heading into two massive events.

The St Andrews Links Trophy, one of the biggest amateur stroke-play tournaments in the world, gets underway tomorrow before the Amateur Championship, which starts on Monday week at Royal St George’s and Princes in Kent, offers another opportunity for California contenders to do something significant.

“I think is still wideopen,” said former Amateur champion Watson of the battle for 
10 spots in the visiting team for the 46th Walker Cup, which is being held at Los Angeles Country Club on 9-10 September. “All the big winners so far this season have been outwith the squad, and I think that shows the strength in depth in the amateur game these days.”

English duo Jack Singh Brar (Lytham Trophy) and Gian-Marco Petrozzi (Welsh Open Stroke-Play) landed two of those victories while Douglas O’Keefe was a home winner in the Irish Open Stroke-Play before the Brabazon Trophy ended up in the hands of South African Kyle McLatchie.

“We’ve got two big events coming up,” added Watson, who has a hard act to follow after Nigel Edwards won two of his three matches as captain. “The Links Trophy is certainly an opportunity for someone to impress and the winner of the Amateur Championship (if eligible) normally gets into the team, even though that may not be a written rule.”

Having also won the African Amateur at Leopard Creek earlier in the year, Johnston has certainly nudged himself into the frame. “A win is a win and it was a good one for Liam last weekend,” admitted the GB&I skipper. “I wouldn’t have enjoyed playing two rounds in the one day in a crosswind at Western Gailes, as he did on Sunday, and he certainly didn’t do himself any harm.”

Twenty years after Justin Rose won it, Irishman Conor O’Rouke defends the Links Trophy, having held off Nairn’s Sandy Scott to record a wire-to-wire victory 12 months ago. Scott is among four Scots in that GB&I squad aiming to boost their hopes this weekend, the others being Connor Syme (Drumoig), Craig Howie (Peebles) and Robert MacIntyre (Glencruitten).

Also in the strong field are Welshman Jack Davidson and Ireland’s Robin Dawson, two additions to that intitial group, as well as Travis Smyth and Harrison Endycott, who, along with Curtis Luck, put Australia on top of the world with a 19-shot victory in the Eisenhower Trophy in Mexico last September.