In a bitterly disappointing but not totally unexpected blow for the amateur game in Scotland after an unspectacular season, Great Britain & Ireland will defend the trophy won at Royal Aberdeen two years ago with a team made up of seven Englishmen, two Irishmen and a Welshman.
The National Golf Links of America, venue for next month’s event, will be a Scot-free zone just under 20 years after the biennial bout boasted a four-strong Tartan Army in back-to-back matches, including the 1995 one in Wales that featured Tiger Woods. You must go back to 1949 to find a Walker Cup without a Scot in it.
“We have picked the strongest team possible and there was never any question of politics coming into it,” insisted Nigel Edwards, the GB&I captain, of a process that involves representatives of all four Home Unions. “That has always been my philosophy and I’d be comfortable if we had ten English, ten Scots, ten Welsh or ten Irish – as long as they were the best players available.”
The Welshman made personal phone calls to both Glenbervie’s Graeme Robertson and Grant Forrest from Craigielaw over the weekend to break the bad news after they failed to figure in the team itself or the two reserve spots.
“That was nice of Nigel as it was better than being left in the dark,” said Forrest, who feared the worst despite picking up five points from six in last week’s Home Internationals at Ganton. “I felt I was just outside, to be honest,” added last year’s Scottish Amateur champion. “Nigel said he felt I was one of the players that deserved a phone call as I wasn’t far away and told me to keep up the good work.”
Robertson, the top Scot in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, said he was a “bit disappointed” but will now make his final appearance as an amateur in this week’s Johnnie Walker Championship instead before joining the paid ranks. “It would have been nice to have played in a Walker Cup but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” he added. “I’m looking forward to Gleneagles this week but will then enter the European Tour Qualifying School as a professional with the Alps Tour as a back-up.”
The disappointment has come despite the Scottish Golf Union investing a lot of time and money in training camps in the Middle East and South Africa over the past few winters. It has also followed the Scots finishing a dismal joint-44th in the Eisenhower Trophy last October, a display that “embarrassed” performance director Steve Paulding and left him promising some “tough love” for the country’s leading amateurs.
“To have no Scottish player at all in the Walker Cup team is disappointing but we have no complaints and the players will feel that way as well,” said SGU chief executive Hamish Grey. “Despite the support they’ve been given, individual performances have not been up there this year and our job now is to make sure it is another 60 or so years before this happens again.”
England’s strong representation includes Garrick Porteous, winner of this year’s Scottish Stroke-Play, and newly-crowned US Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick.