'Famous Five' lead Walker rout as gateway opens to paid ranks for Irish stars
Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30
The celebrations at Royal Lytham & St Annes following the GB & Ireland Walker Cup triumph reflected the delight of the victors, but were tinged with a pang of regret by members of both teams.
Days of innocence as amateurs are over, or soon to be over, for most of the competitors on duty in this, the 45th staging of the biennial clash between the best unpaid golfers in these islands and America.
Professionalism beckons, and will be taken on with heady anticipation and great hope, with Ireland's Gavin Moynihan an early starter.
The flame-haired two-time Walker Cup player, and winner of the Irish Amateur Open title this year, is already booked in for a place in the Italian Open which starts in Milan on Thursday.
Moynihan has gained a sponsor's invitation and could hardly have chosen a more auspicious day to launch the new phase of his golfing career, as it is his 21st birthday.
The Island GC member played his part in helping GB & Ireland to a 7-5 opening day lead on Saturday, a lead they stretched to 10-6 after yesterday morning's foursomes.
On a personal note, Moynihan would have liked to go out on a high, but lost 6&5 against the US Amateur champion Bryce DeChambeau in the bottom singles.
This event, however, is all about the team, and the most important statistic was the overall result of 16.5 to 9.5, a resounding victory for captain Nigel Edwards and his players.
Two years ago the USA hammered the then Walker Cup holders 17-9, and this was sweet revenge for GB & Ireland, backboned by a record five Irish players.
The selectors, which includes former international Michael Burns of Tramore, and captain Edwards were justified in their reliance on the Irish 'famous five.'
Following points gained by the superb English number one Ashley Chesters, Ireland's Cormac Sharvin and Jimmy Mullen, another Englishman, the clinching of the match fell to Paul Dunne of Greystones.
GB & Ireland needed to get to 13.5 points for victory, and Dunne produced the half after an intense tussle with Maverick McNealy, ranked number two in the world amateur rankings.
Dunne, who was co-leader of the British Open at St Andrews after 54 holes, said: "It's brilliant. It's so much better as a team. The team atmosphere all week, you've people rooting for you from all ends of the course.
"Nigel has been a fantastic captain all week. He's inspired us from start to finish."
The Cup was secure but the event is played to a finish.
Gary Hurley from West Waterford won his match and Jack Hume of Naas earned a half point for the cause.
Scotland's Grant Forrest was the other home team winner and Jack McDonald, also of Scotland, got the other half point.
Their compatriot Ewen Ferguson, who resembles former Rangers and Scotland star Ally McCoist in appearance and in his passion, raised the roof with a chip-in from 30 yards on the 17th .
Ferguson was a late call-up after Sam Horsfield withdrew from the team on August 31, citing 'personal reasons'.
The 19-year-old Scot could not prevent opponent Beau Hossler from winning their match by one hole to become only the second USA winner in the singles but he lit up the tournament with his fighting spirit.
Team captain Edwards hailed his players for their performance but deserves credit for placing his top men in the early matches.
"The boys at the top of the order had gone out really fast, as we needed to.
"You don't want to give anybody any sort of an edge and give them any momentum because the Americans are very good players," he said.
No Dutch delight for Irish KLM Open
Simon Thornton, Pádraig Harrington and Peter Lawrie had to take their own positives from the KLM Open at Zandvoort in Holland as the Irish contingent finished well off the top spot occupied by winner Thomas Pieters of Belgium.
Pieters, 23, is on a remarkable run of form, claiming the Dutch title just two weeks after his last appearance which culminated in his maiden Tour victory at the D+D Czech Open.
Pieters took the top prize of €300,000 with a closing 65 for 19-under par 261, beating runners-up Eduardo De La Riva (Spain) and Lee Slattery (England) by a shot after Slattery missed a short putt on the 18th to force a play-off.
Thornton, 38, born in Yorkshire but an Irish citizen, produced four rounds in the sixties, finishing with a 68 for joint 23rd place and a cheque of €18,180.
Harrington continues to play with a torn meniscus (cartilage) in his right knee. His 71 left him on a six-under par 274 for the tournament which was worth €6,300.
Peter Lawrie filed a 69 for three-under par 277, earning €4,680.