Sunday, September 08, 2013


Relaxed: the unique feel of the Walker Cup is clear as th supporters crowd the 17th greem
Relaxed: the unique feel of a Walker Cup match is clear as the gallery gather round the 17th green. Photo: AP
If Nigel Edwards’s men are to pull off just their third win on US soil in the match’s 91-year history they will require something special; perhaps not quite as special as Europe’s Ryder Cup recovery in Medinah last year, but their chances do reside somewhere on the fringes of unlikely.
A glorious day – in which the sun shone and the breeze blew all over this stunning National Golf Links of America layout – began so well for the vistors, yet ended so wretchedly. Having won the morning foursomes 2½-1½ they lost the eight singles by the almost humiliating margin of 6½-1½.
America prevailed in the top six games and but for the resistance of Nathan Kimsey – who halved with Justin Thomas – and Gavin Moynihan – who beat Patrick Rodgers 2 and 1 – this match would already be all but over. 
Moyninan is the youngest player here and Edwards plainly requires the rest of his squad to emulate the 18-year-old.
In fairness to GB and I, the afternoon pin positions were brutal on greens this firm. But America, who have enjoyed nine practice rounds here to their opponents’ three, were far more composed. Most disappointingly for Edwards were the singles performances of the US Amateur champion, Matt Fitzpatrick, and the British Amateur champion, Garrick Porteous.
Fitzpatrick, the amateur world No 1, succumbed 3 and 1 to Michael Weaver, while Porteous pushed his approach into trouble on the last and so ruined the good work of the 17th, where he pulled back a one-hole deficit.
In particular, America wanted the scalp of Fitzpatrick. GB and I had never gone into a Walker Cup match boasting the US Amateur champion – that made the Starred and Striped dominance seem even sweeter.
The last time a team won a singles session by such a margin was 2001 at Sea Island, when a GB and I team including Luke Donald and Graeme McDonald stunned the home galleries.
Edwards was also a member of that team and refused to write off GB and I.
 “We never seemed to get going in the afternoon - America were in complete control,” he said. “We are 8-4 down but that is not an insurmountable deficit.”
GB and I had threatened to blitz the morning foursomes in similar style, leading all four games at one stage.
But they only secured a one-point lead. The crack home pairing of Patrick Rodgers and Justin Thomas pulled out a 2 and 1 win in the bottom match, against the Irish duo of Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan, and the Stars and Stripes fought back for a half in the opening match.
Max Orrin was furious with himself for allowing Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt to deny him and Nathan Kimsey the full return. They were never behind and having won the 17th, thanks to the Americans visiting the bunker, they appeared set for the win with both 35-feet in two on the par-five 18th. 
But Orrin charged his putt 10 feet past, Kimsey missed the return and the US celebrated one of those halves which seemed more like a win.
By then Rhys Pugh and Porteous were on their way to tying up a 3 and 1 win over Michael Weaver and Todd White. It meant that Pugh, the Welsh hero of the 2011 match, had played four and won four in his Walker Cup career. Not bad for a 19-year-old. 
But by then the US captain, Jim Holtgrieve, could sense parity – or better.
Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond were two up with four to play, but Nathan Smith and Jordan Niebrugge won the 15th and 16th – courtesy of two Smith 12-footers – and the match went up the last all square.
From the middle of the fairway, Fitzpatrick struck a three-wood 260 yards to the back of the green. When Smith could only chip to 20-feet, and Niebrugge missed his birdie effort, two putts were enough for the English.
Raymond and Fiztpatrick hugged and squealed with joy. Raymond, at 27, the oldest on the team by four years, had waited a long time for this – and so, too, had Pauline Raymond.
They say nothing is as pure as a mother’s tears and the sight of Pauline grasping her son and crying summed up what it means to all those involved. 
Let's hope there are not more tears of a different sort at today's conclusion.



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