IT WAS a Dunne deal. In the driving seat from the off in the 45th Walker Cup, Great Britain & Ireland sealed victory – their fourth in the last five home encounters against the United States – with plenty to spare. Six singles matches, in fact, were still out on the course at Royal Lytham when Irishman Paul Dunne sealed the success.
In securing a half against Maverick McNealy – the world No 2 missed with a six-foot birdie attempt for the win – the 22-year-old took the home team past the winning post. Needing just three and a half points from the final singles session, English duo Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen and another Irishman, Cormac Sharvin, had all managed to chalk up wins inside the top four matches before it became game over.
For Dunne, the taste of victory – it finished 16.5-9.5 to create a new record winning margin for GB&I in the biennial bout – made up for his last-day disappointment in this year’s Open at St Andrews, where he shared the lead heading into the final round before tumbling out of contention after a shaky start. “I’ll take winning over finishing 30th every day,” he said, smiling. “Winning is also better as a team and this one is brilliant.”
They may have been outnumbered by both the Irish and Scottish, but English duo Chesters and Mullen proved that old adage about quality being more important than quantity. Sent out first by home captain Nigel Edwards in all four sessions, Chesters, a 26-year-old from Hawkstone Park – Sandy Lyle’s old club in Shropshire – delivered every time. In putting Jordan Niebrugge, the leading amateur in this year’s Open Championship to the sword, he finished with three and a half points out of four.
“I’m used to leading from the front,” said Chesters, a double European champion who also underlined his potential in the Claret Jug joust at St Andrews by finishing joint 12th. “I’ve been doing it for England over the last couple of years and also for GB&I in the St Andrews Links Trophy.” His next outing is likely to be as a professional. “If this is my last appearance as an amateur, it’s a nice way to finish,” he added.
Mullen slipped through the Scottish net five years ago when an approach by his father, who hails from Glasgow, to the SGU led to him being told that the lanky youngster would need to play in events north of the Border to be considered for selection. Based in Devon, he decided to concentrate on tournaments closer to home and eventually broke into the English set-up. The 21-year-old was GB&I’s star of the show as he emerged with four points out of four, topping off a memorable weekend by sweeping aside Denny McCarthy 3&2. “For me to win all my games is the icing on the cake,” admitted a modest Mullen.
Sharvin also emerged with a 100 per cent record, though from three outings in his case. The 22-year-old, who has come on leaps and bounds under head coach Dean Robertson’s guidance at Stirling University, completed his fairytale weekend with a 4&3 win over Mike McCoy – 30 years his senior. “This is the greatest experience I’ve ever had. It’s been an awesome week,” declared Sharvin.
After the contest had been decided, another Irishman, Gary Hurley, and Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest, who turned the tables on 37-year-old Scott Harvey with a 2&1 triumph, added further home victories. With Barassie’s Jack McDonald taking his tally to two and a half points from three games as he finished all square with Lee McCoy and Jack Hume also securing a half, it meant GB&I ran out resounding winners as they emulated wins at Nairn, Ganton and Royal Aberdeen in the past 16 years.
After claiming McNealy’s scalp 24 hours earlier, Bearsden’s Ewen Ferguson, the third Scot in the side, was beaten but certainly not disgraced in losing on the last to Beau Hossler, the top American performer. The 19-year-old chipped in from 50 feet for a birdie at the 17th only for Hossler to make a winning 3 at the last.
Leading 7-5 after the opening day, GB&I extended their advantage by winning the second foursomes session 3-1 – a scoreline that looked as though it might go in favour of the Americans until a couple of dramatic finishes. One involved McDonald and Sharvin, a pairing made in Stirling or, more specifically, Stirling University, where they were both room-mates and team-mates. Four up after seven on Hunter Stewart and Lee McCoy, the world No 5 and No 6 respectively, they looked to be heading for another big win, having triumphed 5&4 on the opening morning. Five birdies in seven holes by the American duo put paid to that possibility, but the home pair stood firm to come out on top.
Their only disappointment, which was understandable given that a classic cut-and-thrust encounter deserved to go the full distance, was that a wayward drive by Stewart, who’d just kept the US alive with a superb approach to five feet at the previous hole, that resulted in a lost ball meant the handshakes took place in the middle of the 18th fairway rather than in front of the iconic old clubhouse. “I’d say this win was sweeter than our one on the first day,” admitted McDonald, an applied maths graduate at Stirling University, where Sharvin has another year left on his scholarship. “They put up a great fight, but we stuck to our gameplan and it paid off down the stretch.” In two games, they only dropped shots at one hole. “We only played once together before this week but, with Jack’s driving ability and my iron play, it’s a combination that can throw up a lot of chances,” said Sharvin.
An equally important morning victory for the all-Irish pairing of Dunne and Hurley was aided by Harvey hitting a shot that matched Stewart’s final drive in terms of it being woeful. The 37-year-old carved one out out of bounds from the 17th tee to allow the GB&I duo, having been two down with five to play, to edge in front as Dunne played a delightful bunker shot to secure a conceded par.
On the back of those telling blows, it didn’t take long in the afternoon for the win to be wrapped up.