GB&I Walker Cup captaincy process needs work

Andrew Coltart captained Europe's Palmer Cup team to a convincing win last week.

WALTON-ON-THE-HILL, England – The R&A could learn something from the Palmer Cup – consider Tour professionals for the GB&I Walker Cup captaincy.

Andrew Coltart captained Europe to Palmer Cup victory at Walton Heath, and would be a great candidate to captain a future GB&I Walker Cup team. He isn’t the only ex-Walker Cup player turned professional who could do a good job. In fact, there are more good candidates in the professional ranks than there are in the amateur game.

Here’s James Ross’s take on Coltart’s captaincy.

“He was an inspiration,” Ross said after Europe’s 18½–11½ victory. “He gave great team talks, he didn’t get down on us when we made bad shots and he was very comfortable with the team. We all looked up to him because he’s been there and done it. We all respect that.”

GB&I has a huge problem with the Walker Cup captaincy. There is a dearth of candidates. Nigel Edwards will captain the GB&I team at Royal Lytham next year, assuming the role for an unprecedented third time. Who succeeds Edwards after that is the £64,000 question.

Scots Stuart Wilson (2003), Craig Watson (1997) and Ireland’s Jody Fanagan (1995) are all potential candidates. These former Walker Cuppers have all remained amateur. They are the exception to the norm.

“The problem is that very few Walker Cup players these days stay amateur,” said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson. “Most turn professional after the Walker Cup. It is a problem that has to be looked at going forward.”

Problem solved. Two-time European Tour winner Coltart is an ex-Walker Cup player (1991) who is excellent captaincy material. Ditto for countryman Dean Robertson.

Robertson played in the 1993 Walker Cup and, like 1999 Ryder Cup player Coltart, had a successful European Tour career. The 1999 Italian Open winner captained the 2009 and 2010 European Palmer Cup teams, winning the match in his debut. He is currently director of coaching for the Stirling University golf team.

The list of potential candidates doesn’t stop there. The R&A can call on the likes of ex-Walker Cup players Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley, Nick Dougherty, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Bradley Dredge, Graeme McDowell and a host of others.

Imagine how inspired a future GB&I team would be if Rory McIlroy was GB&I captain?

I’m not saying the above would or should captain future teams while they are still playing full-time schedules. That doesn’t apply to Coltart or Robertson, and it won’t apply to the aforementioned as they wind down their careers.

No doubt purists within the R&A and amateur game will scoff at this idea, but it provides a ready solution to a problem that’s only going to get worse as more Walker Cup players jump straight into the pro ranks.

I know for a fact Montgomerie and Harrington’s names were bandied about within the R&A before Edwards was chosen for a third term. So maybe my idea isn’t as daft as it sounds.

“What we’re really looking for is someone who is a good leader of men,” Dawson said before Edwards was selected for a third term.

Enter Andrew Coltart, Dean Robertson and many other professionals who would be inspirational captains.

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