IT may look like little to shout about in comparison to Ireland’s record five-strong representation but, two years after one of the darkest days in Scottish golfing history, the inclusion of both Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest and Jack McDonald from Kilmarnock (Barassie) in the Great Britain & Ireland team for the upcoming Walker Cup is a welcome first step to some pride being restored in that event.
Though not exactly a shock – we’d finished joint-44th in the Eisenhower Trophy the previous year – it was embarrassing nonetheless that the 2013 clash against the Americans took place without a Scot involved, the first time that had happened in more than 60 years and only the second time in the event’s history. Given that no-one had cause to muster a grumble about that lack of a tartan touch in a ten-man team, it was a case of the Scottish amateur game hitting rock bottom, but let’s give credit to the players for the way they’ve responded to that bleak chapter and also to the Scottish Golf Union for taking some steps in a bid to ensure there can be no repeat.
Forrest, beaten finalist in this year’s Amateur Championship at Carnoustie, and McDonald, who reached the last four in Angus, are certainly in Nigel Edwards’ team on merit. They backed up those respective efforts in the R&A’s flagship amateur event by each picking up five points out of six in helping Scotland become European champions in Sweden last month. Add in the fact they were both members of the European team that beat the Americans in the Palmer Cup, a college equivalent of the Ryder Cup, and they’ve earned the right to play on the amateur game’s greatest stage at Royal Lytham on 12-13 September.
As Scotland’s highest-ranked player in 34th position – six spots higher than Forrest and 36 places above McDonald – you can probably see why Bearsden’s Ewen Ferguson, another member of that European title-winning team, will be feeling disappointed that he’s been named as one of the two reserves. The fact he has come so close at 19 – three years younger than both his compatriots – is another sign of the positive progress that has been made over the last two years, though, and let’s not forget that Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil would also have been a leading contender for this team if he’d still been in the amateur ranks.
In short, Scottish amateur golf has its feelgood factor back and, with the likes of Connor Syme, Robert MacIntyre, Sandy Scott and Calum Fyfe all looking as though they can back up Ferguson if Forrest and McDonald pursue professional careers after the Walker Cup, then let’s set our sights high and, in two years’ time, try to match Ireland’s historic achievement.
Coupled with an impressive win in the recent Home Internationals, it’s down to a string of outstanding individual performances, from Paul Dunne, Jack Hume, Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin, who, like McDonald, is a product of the sports scholarship programme at the University of Stirling, that their names will go in the record books. Yet the achievement – four, set in 1949 and repeated in 1951, was the previous biggest representation from the Emerald Isle – is another feather in the cap of Edinburgh man Neil Manchip in his role as national coach to the Golfing Union of Ireland.
With English trio Ashley Chesters, Sam Horsfield and Jimmy Mullen completing the GB&I line-up, Edwards has reason to feel quietly confident his side can emulate a 2011 triumph at Royal Aberdeen, especially on a course that is so familiar to most of his players through Lytham Trophy appearances. “We believe we have selected the best players for the team and are very much looking forward to the match,” said the Welshman. If Europe’s Solheim Cup captain, Carin Koch, adopts the same picking policy, then Catriona Matthew will surely be among her four wild cards today for that forthcoming event in Germany.
Great Britain and Ireland team to face US in 2015 Walker Cup (Royal Lytham, 12-13 Sept)
• Ashley Chesters, 26, England
• Paul Dunne, 22, Ireland
• Grant Forrest, 22, Scotland
• Sam Horsfield, 18, Florida, US
• Jack Hume, 21, Ireland
• Gary Hurley, 22, Ireland
• Jack McDonald, 22, Scotland
• Gavin Moynihan, 20, Ireland
• Jimmy Mullen, 21, England
• Cormac Sharvin, 22, Ireland
Ewen Ferguson, 19, Scotland
Bradley Moore, 17, England
Captain: Nigel Edwards, 47, Wales
2013: US 17 GB&I 9
2011: GB&I 14 US 12
2009: USA 16.5 GB&I 9.5
Made in Denmark event has a style worth emulating
IF the figure of around 85,000 mentioned on Sky Sports was right, then the Made in Denmark tournament won by Englishman David Horsey on Sunday attracted 20,000 more spectators than the Scottish Open at Gullane.
Sure, it’s the only Danish event on the European Tour schedule compared to four in Scotland this year and wasn’t being staged the week before a major taking place less than two hours away.
Nonetheless, it is an impressive attendance and showed the event, which was only added to the calendar last year, when Marc Warren came out on top, has found something that the European Tour should be tapping into as it enters a new era with Keith Pelley at the helm.
The 16th hole on the Himmerland course in Farsø, for instance, is something that should be copied at more events, both in terms of the atmosphere it creates due to it being a terrific amphitheatre and also the test that awaits players when they reach there. On Sunday, it measured just 81 yards – the shortest in European Tour history. Just about every player had a smile on his face on the tee after giving it a go, so let’s see more holes being
set up like that rather than par-3s playing at 200 yards or more.
It also wouldn’t go amiss for more players to do their bit to add something extra to events, as Dane Andreas Harto did last week when he proposed to his girlfriend in front of the huge gallery at that hole.