Comment: Barry Hume in Walker Cup mix on merit, not favouritism

Barry Hume was among six Scots named in the 19-strong Great Britain & Ireland squad ahead of the Walker Cup. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Barry Hume was among six Scots named in the 19-strong Great Britain & Ireland squad ahead of the Walker Cup. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Goodness, we really are a predictable – cynical, too – race at times, as evidenced following Barry Hume’s inclusion in the Great Britain & Ireland squad for this year’s Walker Cup in California. That a 35-year-old – his birthday was yesterday – should be among six Scots to make a 19-strong group is surely something praiseworthy, yet not according to someone who took to social media to comment on Hume’s selection.

“Failed ex pros should not be considered for any team events,” wrote the individual in question on scotsman.com. “If they can’t hack it as a pro, why should they deprive a current amateur of a place...maybe they could only hack it round as a pro! Or is it an “old mates” scenario with the captain.”

Yes, of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I strongly believe that Hume’s inclusion in that squad along with Craig Ross (Kirkhill), Sandy Scott (Nairn), Craig Howie (Peebles), Connor Syme (Drumoig) and Robert MacIntyre (Glencruitten) is something we should be celebrating, not criticising.

As a young amateur – he won the Scottish Amateur in 2001 then the Scottish Stroke-Play the following year – the Haggs Castle man was tipped for the top and certainly looked to have all the tools when he turned professional.

Unfortunately, his spell in the paid ranks proved ill-fated and only Hume himself will know if things could have worked out differently if a wiser head had sat on his shoulders between 2002 and 2010, during which time he played in two Open Championships. At least he had the gumption, though, to make that tough decision to call time on his dream of golfing glory at the highest level, one that lots of others seem to shirk and end up wasting time and money.

Back in the amateur ranks, Hume has become a happy golfer again. His own game has flourished, as evidenced by an excellent victory in the Welsh Open Stroke-Play Championship at Harlech last summer. He’s also made successive appearances in the Home Internationals, having bridged a 13-year gap in making his return to that event.

At the same time, he’s also played a part in delivering a shot in the arm to established amateur events on the Scottish circuit that had lost some of their lustre. In short, Hume has made it known that amateur golf can be both enjoyable and satisfying, a message that seemed to have been overlooked by way too many over the past decade as a flood of players turned professional without really having proved they had any real vindication to make that career move.

Based on his performances over the past couple of years, Hume’s inclusion in that GB&I squad is no real surprise and now he’ll be working his socks off over the next few months in a bid to make up for being first reserve for the 2001 Walker Cup at Sea Island in Georgia.

This certainly isn’t an “old mates scenario”. Yes, Hume is a good friend of Craig Watson, the man who succeeded two-time winning Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards last year. They even fought out that Scottish Amateur Championship final won by Hume at Downfield 16 years ago.

Let’s not insult Watson, though, by suggesting that he’d pick someone for such a prestigious event based on anything but performances and Hume will know that he’ll have to shine in events like the Amateur Championship, Lytham Trophy and St Andrews Links Trophy to have any chance of being among the 10 players selected for duty at Los Angeles Country Club in September. Would it be better for Scottish golf if the younger Syme, MacIntyre, Scott, Ross and Howie are more likely to be in the frame as we try to back up having three representatives – Ewen Ferguson, Grant Forrest and Jack McDonald -– in a winning team at Royal Lytham last time out? Perhaps.

At the same time, though, it can only be a good thing going forward for GB&I surely to have more experienced campaigners like Hume putting themselves in the mix, not just in terms of having a chance of making teams but also for what they can offer to younger players at squad sessions.

Like it or not, golf can’t just be about the majors, WGCs and all the other big-money tournaments. It also needs a healthy amateur scene and well done to Barry Hume for doing his bit in showing what it can offer, even though it might not be where he’d ideally have been playing the game at this stage in his career.