ABERDEEN, Scotland – Great Britain & Ireland couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 43rd Walker Cup, even though the omens didn’t look good when the action started at 9 a.m.
The home side takes a 3-1 advantage into the afternoon singles after coping with the Royal Aberdeen links better than the U.S. team in the opening session.
The strong duo of Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart set the tone with a 2-and-1 victory over Peter Uihlein and Harris English. The all-English pairing of Andy Sullivan and Jack Senior copied that score by overcoming Russell Henley and Kelly Kraft. Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar of Northern Ireland had an easier time in winning 5 and 4 over Blayne Barber and Nathan Smith.
Stiggy Hodgson and Steven Brown were the only pairing that did not come through for GB&I captain Nigel Edwards. They lost 5 and 3 to Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams.
Lewis didn’t give his side hope with his opening drive. A lost ball in the gorse left of the fairway wasn’t the perfect response to a Uihlein iron shot that found the fairway grass.
“I was much more nervous at The Open than I was there at the first tee,” Lewis said. “It was embarrassing going back to the tee, but we managed to win a couple of holes at the start of the back nine, and we’ve managed to come away with a win, which is good.”
The leading GB&I pair found themselves 2 down after the short par-4, seventh hole when Uihlein drove into the greenside bunker and he and English got up and down for a birdie.
However, the GB&I pair hung in tight to halve the match with birdies at the eighth and 10th holes. They were gifted the par-3 11th when Uihlein hit his tee shot 40 yards right and out of bounds.
The U.S. got it back to all square after 13, but sloppy U.S. bogeys at Nos. 14 and 16 saw the GB&I pair home.
“Once we got 1 up, it was all about hanging on up 16 and 17,” Stewart said. “It’s huge to get ahead in the morning foursomes. It will carry the momentum forward for this afternoon, and we’ll come out fighting.”
The importance of GB&I winning the opening foursomes can’t be overemphasized. The home team needs to do well in the foursomes sessions if it hopes to stop the U.S. from winning the match for a fourth consecutive time.
“The guys from GB&I putted extremely well today. Nobody’s down,” U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve said. “Everybody said they played pretty well. I think a couple of guys were nervous out of the box. I think we are fired up for the singles matches. I told them we have a long way to go. There are still three significant rounds of golf to be played. They are in good spirits. They are fired up and ready to play hard.”
Of the seven GB&I victories in Walker Cup history, GB&I won the foursomes on six occasions. Throw in the Americans’ historic strength in singles play over the years, and it’s no wonder Edwards will be hoping that taking first blood provides the momentum to help GB&I win the Cup for the first time since 2003.
Indeed, Edwards was a member of that team, the last time GB&I won the opening session, also 3-1. There’s a long way to go, but so far the stars are aligned in GB&I’s favor.
“It was a tremendous morning,” Edwards said. “I thought our boys did a great job.”
43rd Walker Cup 1st Foursomes results
• Tom Lewis & Michael Stewart, GB&I, def. Peter Uihlein and Harris English, 2&1
• Jack Senior & Andy Sullivan, GB&I, def. Russell Henley & Kelly Kraft 2&1
• Paul Cutler & Alan Dunbar, GB&I, def. Nathan Smith & Blayne Barber 5&4
• Patrick Cantlay & Chris Williams, U.S., def. Steven Brown & Chris Williams 5&3.