Tuesday 22 May 2018

USA keep the home fires burning bright in Walker Cup victory

Ireland’s Paul McBride. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Ireland’s Paul McBride. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Home sweet home is a recurring key to success in the Walker Cup as the USA team, captained by John 'Spider' Miller, showed by their whopping 19-7 victory over Great Britain and Ireland at Los Angeles Country Club in California.

Miller shed tears two years ago when a team containing five Irish players defeated his side, but Sunday brought redemption for the skipper and for Maverick McNealy, the only remaining USA player from the 2015 match at Lytham.

Patriotism and passion inspired the Americans who swept away the GB & Ireland challenge, but once again, home territory worked to the winning team's advantage.

In 15 stagings of the Walker Cup from 1989 to 2017 inclusive, GB & Ireland have won seven times - but only two of those victories were on American soil.

The first, 1989 at Peachtree GC in Georgia, was truly historic, as no American team had lost at home since the inaugural match in 1922.

They were finally conquered, albeit narrowly by 12.5 points to 11.5, with Ireland represented by Garth McGimpsey and Eoghan O'Connell.

In 2001, the next, and to date, only other away victory for GB & Ireland came at Ocean Forest GC in Georgia when a team which included Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey slammed the USA 15-9.

The Americans have won eight of those matches from 1989-2017 and they also have just two away victories.

Both of them came on two of Ireland's prime links venues.

Phil Mickelson and David Duval were on the 1991 team that eclipsed GB & I by 14-10 at Portmarnock, with Paul McGinley, Pádraig Harrington and Garth McGimpsey on the losing side.

Rory McIlroy's amateur swansong in 2007 was ideally set up by Royal County Down hosting the match, but the USA, featuring Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Billy Horschel, had other plans. They took the cup home after a great match finished 12.5-11.5 in their favour.

The ebb and flow of the biennial contest is no salve to the wounds of the 2017 losing team which was led by Andrew Ingram, chairman of the R & A's selectors. He replaced captain Craig Watson, who had to opt out due to a family illness.

Ingram brought a ten-man team, including Ireland's Paul McBride of The Island, which had high hopes of retaining the trophy won in 2015. Spider Miller and his men had other ideas.

Maverick McNealy, the world No 2, spoke about the Americans' motivation.

"I don't mind you bringing up two years ago, because that was such a crucial part of our win this week.

"I was so fired up and ready to play and I wanted it so badly for these guys and, yeah, winning is way more fun than losing.

"Captain Miller is in the history books for his win this week.

"This team is in the history books for our win this week. And I think that was a huge statement for the United States of America amateur golf," he said.

Andrew Ingram believes the R & A need to look at the possibility of a pre-match training camp for future away venues to fully prepare the GB & I teams "because I think it is quite a shock to the system when they come and play on a course like this", he said.

David Boote, who turned pro today and makes his debut at the Irish Challenge event at Mount Wolseley on Thursday, agreed with that sentiment.

"The style of golf is totally different to back home," he said.

Irish Independent

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