GB and Ireland seek rare Walker Cup win on American soil

Great Britain and Ireland will rely on their strong team spirit to overcome the odds and retain the Walker Cup against the United States, according to British Amateur champion Harry Ellis.
Connor Syme is one of two Scots in the GB&I team at the Walker Cup.  
Picture: Ian RutherfordConnor Syme is one of two Scots in the GB&I team at the Walker Cup.  
Picture: Ian Rutherford
Connor Syme is one of two Scots in the GB&I team at the Walker Cup. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Nigel Edwards captained Great Britain and Ireland to a record seven-point victory at Royal Lytham in 2015, but their last win on American soil came back in 2001. Home teams have won ten of the last 12 biennial contests and the 2007 US team – which featured the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson and Billy Horschel – were the last to win on away soil.

The holders will also be without captain Craig Watson at Los Angeles Country Club after he stood down due to a serious illness in his immediate family, but Ellis has faith in his team-mates.

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“The best thing about our team is that we’ve grown up together,” Ellis, who came back from four down with five holes to play to beat Dylan 
Perry in the final of the Amateur Championship, said.

“I’ve been with Alfie (Plant) for five or six years. Jack (Singh Brar), Scott (Gregory) and I live 10 miles apart so we’ve grown up together. Actually, this whole group has all come through junior golf together.

“They’ve got a strong team but there’s something about this group of guys that feels special. Everything feels right. There’s a natural camaraderie.

“Even with me being away at school [at Florida State] for the last few years, I come back and it’s just like family.”

Scots pair Robert MacIntyre and Connor Syme are in the GB&I team and Macintyre could be paired with Plant. Syme, meanwhile, will be buoyed by the fact he beat one of America’s big guns, Maverick McNealy, in the US Amateur championship.

Confidence is certainly high in the Great Britain and Ireland side and Plant believes stand-in skipper Andrew Ingram has a selection headache ahead of the foursomes on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s going to be hard for the captain to drop anyone out because we’ve all had good seasons,” said Plant, who won the silver medal as the leading amateur in the Open at Royal Birkdale in July.

For the US, captain John “Spider” Miller and former world No 1 amateur McNealy will have revenge on their minds after being part of the side beaten at Lytham in 2015.

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And McNealy believes the home team will be inspired by a visit from former US president George W Bush.

“For me, that kind of guy is the absolute role model, somebody that sacrifices eight years of his life, and even more, to work for the country and to do everything he can to make the lives of 200-something million people better,” said McNealy.