The 2023 Walker Cup will be played at St. Andrews, but another question remains: Who will captain the Great Britain & Ireland team in the 49th match? That seems to be the bigger issue emanating from Monday’s news.
GB&I is fast running out of captaincy candidates.
The Home of Golf will stage the match for the ninth time, the most visited venue in Walker Cup history. A U.S. team featuring future major winners Curtis Strange, Craig Stadler and Jerry Pate won the last match at St. Andrews, 15½-8½. GB&I won the 1971 and 1938 matches at the Old Course, but the U.S. holds a 6-2 advantage at St. Andrews and an overall 36-9-1 series lead.
Recent history suggests the U.S. won’t have as easy a time five years hence. Home teams have won 10 of the last 12 matches.
GB&I will hope to win back the cup at Royal Liverpool next year after suffering a comprehensive 19-7 defeat at Los Angeles Country Club in 2017. Scotland’s Craig Watson will captain the team after giving up the 2017 captaincy due to a family illness. Watson may also get a crack at the 2021 match at Seminole since the R&A traditionally appoints captains on a two-match basis.
Who assumes the captaincy after Watson is anyone’s guess.
While the U.S. seems to have an endless list of former players to draw on, GB&I has a supply problem because most recent players are now in the professional ranks.
Former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson has considered using tour pros who had played in the match, names like Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington.
“We have a problem going forward since so few Walker Cup players remain amateur,” Dawson told Golfweek.
Ireland’s Jody Fanagan and Scotland’s Stuart Wilson are two possible candidates. Fanagan was a member of the 1995 GB&I team that defeated a Tiger Woods-led U.S. team at Royal Porthcawl. Wilson, the 2004 British Amateur champion, appeared in the victorious 2003 GB&I team at Ganton.
While Montgomerie, McGinley or Harrington would raise the match’s profile, expect the R&A to go with either Wilson or Fanagan, with the latter the more likely candidate since Garth McGimpsey in 2005 was the last Irish captain.