Thursday 19 September 2019

Purcell backing Rafferty and Sugrue to be star Walker duo

Golf

Conor Purcell. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Purcell. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Portmarnock's Conor Purcell believes Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty and Mallow's James Sugrue can be a dream team for Great Britain and Ireland in next month's Walker Cup at Hoylake.

It's the 20th successive Walker Cup with Irish participation and Purcell (22) reckons Craig Watson's 10-man side can make it three home wins in a row and avenge that 19-6 loss in 2017 when the sides meet at Royal Liverpool from September 7-8.

"We have a lot of winners, which will favour us, and it's nice to have three Irish in the team," said Purcell, who was thrilled to be named in the side yesterday. "With James being a really good ball striker and Caolan a wizard around the green, they'd be a formidable foursomes partnership. We have a strong team and lots of potential partnerships."

Sugrue (22) was guaranteed his place when he won the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock, while current West of Ireland champion Rafferty (26) and Australian Amateur champion Purcell (22) have been models of consistency.

They will be joined by two English players with Irish parents - world number two Conor Gough (16) from Stoke Park, whose father hails from Co Meath, and Tom Sloman (23) from Taunton & Pickeridge, whose father is from Sligo.

Skippered Gough, who will turn 17 two days before the match, will become the youngest Walker Cup player after Oliver Fisher, who was 16 in 2005.

England's Alex Fitzpatrick, Harry Hall and Thomas Plumb and Scots Euan Walker and Sandy Scott round out the side. The Americans, who will be skippered by 1981 US Amateur champion Nathaniel Crosby, romped to a 19-6 win at Los Angeles CC two years ago.

But Purcell believes that Royal Liverpool will suit GB&I as they bid to make it six wins from the last seven matches on home soil.

"Royal Liverpool is quite flat, but there's a lot of trouble," he said. "So strategy and keeping the ball in play and out of the high rough is going to be critical, especially if the weather is not warm and sunny."

Slow play should not be an issue at Hoylake, but the European Tour will implement measures approved by the European Tour's Tournament Committee in July for the start of the 2020 season.

Focused on regulation, education, innovation and field sizes, the new measures will see players handed an immediate one-shot penalty for two bad times in a round as well as increased fines. A player who is timed 15 times in the 2020 season will have to pay £26,000 (€28,445) in fines as opposed to £9,000 (€9,846) this season.

A trial pace-of-play system will be put in place for next month's BMW PGA, providing referees with the times for every group.

Irish Independent

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