Florida State’s Harry Ellis will spearhead a Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team that should contain another four of his countrymen when the GB&I team is decided next week.
Expect the reigning British Amateur champion to be one of five Englishmen to make the trip to Los Angeles Country Club for the match against the United States Sep. 9-10. Open Championship silver medallist Alfie Plant, 2016 British Amateur champion Scott Gregory, Matthew Jordan and Jack Singh Brar should be the other English players joining Ellis. Two Scots look likely to make the trip along with three players from Wales and Ireland, with an interesting fight to see if it’ll be two Irish and one Welsh player, or the other way around.
This week’s Home Internationals at Moortown, a contest between the four British nations of the British Isles, could decide the Irish/Welsh question.
Ellis’s place on the team was settled when he won the Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s. He should make his match debut alongside England foursomes partner Alfie Plant. They were unbeaten as a pair, with three wins in this year’s European Team Championships, helping England finish second to Spain.
Plant has impressed this year by winning the European Amateur Championship at Walton Heath, which booked him a place in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. The 25-year-old took full advantage as the only one of five amateurs to make the cut, finishing 62nd.
Gregory, last year’s British Amateur winner at Royal Porthcawl, delayed turning professional to make this year’s GB&I team. He’s the world’s highest-ranked GB&I player at number five on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Although he’s been fairly low key since his Amateur triumph, Gregory did compile a 3-1-1 record in this year’s European Team Championships.
Jordan is the world’s 30th best amateur, and second highest-ranked English player. He won this year’s St Andrew’s Links Trophy, one of the most prestigious events in the British Isles. He was also unbeaten in the European Team Championships, with three wins and three halves.
Singh Brar is the lowest ranked of the five English players at No. 73 on the WAGR table. However, he may go on to have the best professional career. He won this year’s Lytham Trophy and was runner-up in the Brabazon Trophy, two of the four British amateur majors along with the St Andrews Links and British Amateur. He played alongside Ian Poulter in Open Championship Final Qualifying at Woburn. He missed qualifying, but impressed Poulter.
Robert McIntyre and Connor Syme, the world’s two highest-ranked Scots at 12th and 13th on the WAGR list, should make the GB&I team. McIntyre proved his match play credentials with a gritty performance to finish runner-up to Gregory in last year’s British Amateur. Syme qualified for the Open Championship but missed the cut. He was unbeaten in the European Team Championships.
Expect David Boote to make the GB&I team. The former Stanford player is currently 37th on the WAGR table after a string of good results this year. He narrowly missed out on qualifying for the U.S. and British Open Championships, and was fourth in the St Andrews Links Trophy and seventh in the Brabazon.
Fellow Welshman Jack Davidson looks a good bet to join Boote. He’s won three times this year at the Welsh Amateur, the Spanish Amateur and European Nations Cup, where he was the low individual. He would also be a natural partner for Boote.
Ireland features a natural foursomes pairing in Stuart Grehan and Paul McBride. They looked formidable in defeating the strong Italian pair of Stefano Mazzoli and Luca Cianchetti 2&1 in the quarterfinals of the European Team Championship. McBride seems a better bet to make the GB&I team than Grehan, since as a Wake Forest player he’ll be more at ease with the conditions of LA Country Club.
GB&I Walker Cup teams aren’t always the strongest teams assembled due to the inner politics of British amateur golf. The team always has to be at least slightly representative of the other nations, even if that means taking a slightly weaker side.
On this occasion, there is good strength from Scotland, Ireland and Wales to complement the normally strong English contingent.
GB&I will be the underdogs not only because the United States are a stronger team, but because home teams have won 10 of the last 12 matches. The 2007 U.S. team which defeated the Rory McIlroy-led GB&I side at Royal Country Down was the last visiting team to triumph.
The U.S. holds a 35-9 series lead with one match tied. However, the teams are even with seven wins apiece over the last 14 contests.
Projected GB&I team
David Boote, Wales
Jack Davidson, Wales
Harry Ellis, England
Scott Gregory, England
Matthew Jordan, England
Paul McBride, Ireland
Robert McIntyre, Scotland
Alfie Plant, England
Jack Singh Brar, England
Connor Syme, Scotland