Before the Tour of Britain rolled into the Wirral, Scottish pair Sandy Scott and Euan Walker got on their bikes in the 47th Walker Cup. After flattering to deceive as a partnership in the morning foursomes, they both delivered singles successes in the afternoon to help Great Britain & Ireland take a 7-5 lead after the opening day at Royal Liverpool.
Scott, a 21-year-old from Nairn, claimed the scalp of US Amateur champion Andy Ogletree while Kilmarnock (Barassie) 24-year-old Walker took down world No 10 Steven Fisk. The double triumph made amends for the disappointment of being unable to capitalise on a promising start earlier in the day as they eventually went down 2&1 to strong opponents in world No 19 John Pak and 20th-ranked Isaiah Salinda.
That morning session ended 2-2, but the second one belonged to the home team. In glorious conditions at Hoylake, captain Craig Watson’s side delighted big crowds enjoying the chance to get close to the action out on the fairways in this special event by prevailing 5-3. Watched by his older brother Matt, Alex Fitzpatrick beat world No 1 Cole Hammer to chalk up his second win of the day, as did Conor Gough. At 17, he’s the second-youngest GB&I player after Oliver Fisher to play in the biennial event and took to it like a duck to water.
All in all, it was a satisfying day’s work by Watson’s troops. With 14 points still up for grabs, it’s still all to play for, but, based on the evidence so far, home advantage could be about to count again, having been the decisive factor in 11 of the last 13 transatlantic tussles. “It was a pretty good day,” declared Watson, pictured, the 1997 Amateur champion from East Renfrewshire. “It could have been better, but we knew the Americans were going to come back the way they did and it is actually a nice fright for tomorrow to make sure we keep the momentum going to the end tomorrow.”
Walker, who is bidding to join clubmates Jim Milligan, Gordon Sherry and Jack McDonald in becoming a Walker Cup winner, stormed into an early three-hole lead against Fisk, was hanging on a bit as things turned scrappy around the turn and then produced a couple of touches of class when it mattered most.
A brilliant shot from close to the face of a bunker set up a hole-winning birdie-4 at the 14th while the one a couple of holes later to repeat the feat was even better as he landed that on a sixpence with a bunker waiting to gobble it up. Equally pleasing, as he admitted afterwards, was finding the heart of the green at the last from the left rough to effectively seal a two-hole success.
“I am really happy to win and it is great to get my first individual point on the board,” he said. “I was pretty nervous coming down the last few holes. In fact, I was really nervous all day. I played really exceptionally well this morning. I hit one poor tee shot but, apart from that, every facet of my game was really good. The opposition was very strong and the conditions were really good as well with hardly a breath of wind. It was good to know that I had that type of game and the ability to produce it.
“The pressure here is probably comparable to the Amateur Championship final (having played in that at Portmarnock earlier in the year) and I think it is good I played in that because I was shaking on the first tee and I was definitely nervous as well today.”
Cheered on by a small army from Nairn, Scott set up his equally impressive victory with four birdies in the first six holes against Ogletree before matching Walker by winning both the 14th and 16th with 4s when the heat was on and then clinching his point by hitting the flag with a delicate chip from 20 yards at the last.
“Great to get the point and contribute on the day,” said Scott, who used the break between the morning defeat and the restart after lunch to straighten out his driver. “I played a lot better this afternoon,” he added. “I was trying to figure out how to start it a little bit more left. I had a few that flowed out to the right or started out on the right and I managed to get it in control.”