GB&I has long, tough fight ahead

Stiggy Hodgson has been a spark plug for the GB&I side and they'll need his help tomorrow.

Stiggy Hodgson has been a spark plug for the GB&I side and they'll need his help tomorrow.

ARDMORE, Pa. — The lights aren’t out, the party isn’t over, but the band is playing an encore and the bartender has closed the bar.

This Walker Cup is one Great Britain & Ireland miracle away from a third straight American victory.

Colin Dalgleish faced the biggest test of his Walker Cup career so far as he and his team departed into the Merion night. Facing an overnight 8-4 deficit, GB&I has a mountain to climb.

It’s not quite Mount Everest without oxygen, but it’s a mammoth, uphill climb against an excellent U.S. team. Dalgleish was facing the speech of his life to perk up his British and Irish players.

It could have been worse. Much worse. At one point in the singles session, it looked like GB&I would suffer humiliation. A sea of red denoting U.S. advantages filled the board early in the singles. It seemed possible that the U.S. could emerge from the first day with an 11-1 lead.

“The morning obviously hurt us,” Dalgleish said. “What looked like all square ended up 2-down. At the end of the day we will take 8-4. We fought back well and are still very much in contention.”

U.S. captain Buddy Marucci would also have settled for 8-4 at the start of the day. “I am thrilled with being ahead 8-4,” Marucci said. “If you had told us that in the morning we would have stayed in bed.”

Dalgleish’s men looked like they failed to wake up for much of the day. The only player who really showed any spark was the smallest man on the GB&I side.

The visiting team could use nine more Stiggy Hodgsons. Maybe then they’d have a chance of winning this Walker Cup.

As it stands, they need the diminutive Hodgson to infuse the rest of the team with his bulldog spirit.

The pint-sized Hodgson was the only player to record a GB&I win in singles. In fact, he is the only GB&I player with two points. He won with Niall Kearney in the morning session. Then he came back from 2 down after nine holes to defeat Brendan Gielow, 2 and 1.

In the singles, Hodgson went into overdrive after losing the eighth and ninth holes. Birdies at the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th holes gave him a 2-up lead, which he turned into a win.

“My head is the strongest part of my game,” Hodgson said. “I knew there was a lot of birdies to be had on the back nine. I knew I wasn’t out of it.”

GB&I captain Colin Dalgleish had a big speech to give his troops after the opening day. He won’t need to fire up Stiggy.

“This is far from over,” Hodgson said. “A lot of matches have been tight and could have gone either way. My point could be vital. There’s still a lot of golf to be played.”

A lot of golf to be played and 14 points on offer, but GB&I need 9.5 of them to win the cup. Based on Day 1, they don’t look like they can overhaul Marucci’s men.

No wonder the lights were flickering on GB&I hopes as darkness descended on Merion.

The party is almost over.

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