It’s the event which saw Scotland slip from champs to chumps. On top of the world after winning in Australia in 2008, outgunning a US team consisting of Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel and Jamie Lovemark, the Eisenhower Trophy then delivered one of our darkest days, four years later in Turkey, as the Saltire finished in 44th position – lower than the flags of Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Zimbabwe.
Happily, a measure of pride was restored two years ago in Japan as Grant Forrest, Bradley Neil and Chris Robb joined forces to secure a respectable 10th position and now, starting today in Mexico, we wait to see what the latest edition of the World Amateur Team Championship has in store for the players representing the home of golf.
It’s always dangerous, of course, to feel excited when Scottish teams head into events looking as though they could be in with a chance, but we’d be doing Forrest, Robert MacIntyre and Connor Syme a disservice to think anything different on this occasion. Yes, it will take a monumental effort to reclaim a crown which has ended up in the hands of the United States after the last two stagings, with world No 1 Maverick McNealy spearheading their hat-trick bid. But, represented by a trio all in the top 30 in the global rankings, Scotland certainly start out with realistic hopes of emulating the title triumph recorded by Wallace Booth, Gavin Dear and Callum Macaulay on the same stage in Melbourne eight years ago.
“The guys have prepared very well,” said national coach Ian Rae of the trio spending a few days at Lake Nona in Florida en route to Mexico, where the 72-hole stroke-play event is being played at at the Mayakoba El Camaleón and Iberostar Playa Paraíso courses. “They have all worked really hard coming into the event and its been a great season for all three players.”
The highlight of the campaign for the trio probably came when they all played leading roles in helping Scotland make a successful defence of the European title at Chantilly in France, with MacIntyre, a left-hander from Glencruitten in Oban, producing the best individual performance as he reached the final of the Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl. He’s 13th in the world rankings, Craigielaw man Forrest is 19th and Drumoig’s Syme 27th.
“We have a really strong team again ths year,” added Rae, who has been part of both the highs and lows in this event since Scotland went it alone in 2002 after previously being part of Great Britain & Ireland. “With all three players in the top 30 of the amateur rankings, I’d say we have a great chance of repeating the fine win of 2008. One of the biggest issuses here will be the 40-degree heat and the 100 per cent humidity. But everyone is looking forward to getting started on Wednesday and it should be an awesome event.”
McNealy, who paid a visit to Scotland recently with his Stanford team-mates to prepare for the new US college season, teams up with Scottie Scheffler and Brad Dalke as they bid to hold on to the title which was retained by Bryson DeChambeau, Denny McCarthy, and Beau Hossler two years ago. Justin Thomas, one of the contenders for Davis Love’s last Ryder Cup wild card, was in the winning team in 2012 along with Chris Williams and Steven Fox.
The Scots, though, seem unfazed about the strength of the teams they’re up against this week. “It was great that we were able to practice at Lake Nona on her way out here as it’s an amazing facility and getting acclimatised there definitely helped,” said Syme. “We have a great team so, hopefully, we can all perform this week as it’s a tournament we have all been looking forward to for a while now.”