US red rules on Merseyside in 47th Walker Cup
Red rules on the football field on Merseyside and, ultimately, it did on the golf course, too. After the blue of Great Britain & Ireland had been the prominent colour in the 47th Walker Cup, the United States red eventually prevailed at Royal Liverpool.
The concluding singles session was well and truly dominated by the Americans. Only Nairn’s Sandy Scott, who defeated the previously unbeaten Brandon Wu, and Tom Sloman managed to muster victories in the deciding head-to-head tussles at the Hoylake venue.
On a painful afernoon for GB&I captain Craig Watson, the visitors won the concluding session 8-2 to claim a resounding 15½-10½ victory. It was the first time the US had come out on top on this side of the Atlantic in the biennial event since 2007. The side at Royal County Down on that occasion included Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel and Webb Simpson, and this one looks to have some stars in the making, too.
Over the opening three sessions in a match played in benign conditions, GB&I had held their own. They led by two points after the opening day and still had their noses in front following the second batch of foursomes. But noses were bloodied as an American team led by Nathaniel Crosby, Bing’s youngest son, came out with all guns blazing when it mattered most. They won the opening hole in six of the ten matches and, with the tone having been set, it turned into a losing battle for the home players as hopes of GB&I reclaiming the trophy following a hammering in Los Angeles – the Americans also won 8-2 in the second-day singles there – quickly evaporated.
As game after game fell to the visitors, the win was clinched by 21-year-old Kentuckian John Augenstein as he beat Englishman Thomas Plumb 4&3. Stewart Hagestad, Akshay Bhatia and Cole Hammer also recorded comfortable victories, the latter bouncing back from a defeat at the hands of Alex Fitzpatrick the previous afternoon to show why he is the world No 1. Sent out first again by Watson, Fitzpatrick went down to Isaiah Salinda on this occasion. At least Fitzpatrick put up a fight in that one, as did Euan Walker in the match behind against John Pak. Two down early on, the Kilmarnock (Barassie) man got it back to all square at one point and had three birdies on the back nine. Helped by an eagle 3 at the 16th, though, world No 20 Salinda eventually won 2&1.
With Alex Smalley and Andy Ogletree also displaying fighting qualities to get the job done for “Captain Crosby”, it meant Scott’s point was swamped in a sea of red. That was a pity for the 21-year-old after doing all he could to try to build up some momentum for his side. He birdied three of the first seven holes to be four up on Wu, who got into the Open Championship this year after winning a final qualifier at Fairmont St Andrews, and then went five up after eight.
Helped by an eagle 2 at the ninth, world No 8 Wu got it back to two down before birdies at the 12th and 14th enabled Scott to secure a brilliant 4&3 success. That came on the back of an equally impressive victory over US Amateur champion Ogletree on Saturday afternoon. Having also secured a half in partnership with Walker in the foursomes on day two, the former Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play champion emerged as GB&I’s top scorer with two and a half points.
“I played very well today,” said Scott, who now heads back to Texas Tech to resume the new US college season. “Started well and made a few birdies and just had a rough patch in the middle but managed to hold on for the win.”
Watson had no complaints. “It’s been a fantastic week,” said the 1997 Amateur champion from East Renfrewshire. “The lads will probably learn a lot from this disappointment today. It was a tough course the way it was set up. If you were ahead early pars were enough to stay ahead because birdies were going to be few and far between and the American boys did that very well.”
It was a second Hoylake success for Crosby after being in a winning side as a player in 1983. “I am very excited,” he said. “I spent a year and a half hand-selecting this group of talent and I got the team that I wanted. We were a crazy mix of personalities but all blended well. It was almost too much fun but after yesterday we sobered up and really focused today and it was an amazing afternoon.
“I let them just go play. They are very talented guys who believe in themselves. Their talent came to the surface. I could not be more excited for them and me; I’ve not won anything in about 38 years.”