cotland’s ST. ANDREWS – It goes without saying that the Americans are the overwhelming favorites to win the 49th Walker Cup trophy in St. Andrews, despite their lack of familiarity with the Old Course.
Eight of the top ten amateur players in the world are on the U.S. team (nine, if Stanford’s Michael Thorbjornsen hadn’t withdrew due to injury), and all but one are ranked higher than the top player from Great Britain and Ireland, John Gough, who is ranked No. 14 in the world. While GB&I’s average World Amateur Golf Ranking is 88.6, the United States’ is 8.2. It makes sense why betting companies across the nation list the host team as underdogs, typically around -250.
Walker Cups, however, aren’t decided by the numbers, and when it comes to expertise in the Home of Golf, GB&I is the team with the most winning experience.
Let’s start with the GB&I team’s captain, Scotland’s Stuart Wilson, who is guiding the team for the second Cup in a consecutive after his previous squad lost by a razor-thin margin at Seminole two years ago. Several decades ago, Wilson, now 46, was a skilled amateur who won low amateur honors at the 2004 Open Championship, which he entered after winning the British Amateur at St. Andrews earlier that summer.
Wilson said, “20 years, yes. “I appreciate you bringing that up. I required a reminder. Of course, it was also a unique week. Right up there with what’s going on this week, and it was also the 250th anniversary of the R&A, so there was a lot going on that week, just like there is this week since it’s the 100th anniversary of the first game played at St. Andrews. I’d like to think that even if the men are hitting into somewhat different spots and playing off slightly different tees than I used to, we can still draw from those pleasant memories and the understanding of how to navigate the Old Course and put it to good use this week.
Wilson defeated Lee Corfield in the championship match, 4 and 3, but his most notable victory that week came against Francesco Molinari in the quarterfinals, 3 and 1.
Francesco was perhaps the best player in Europe at the time, according to Wilson, and we were well acquainted thanks to our previous matches and team experiences. It was a good match to advance, and maybe, sure, that was the level of play necessary at the moment to make the semifinal and final conceivable.
GB&I Walker Cup captain Stuart Wilson won The Amateur in 2004 at St. Andrews, beating Lee Corfield, 4 and 3, in the final. Also took down Paul Waring and Francesco Molinari, among others, on way to title. pic.twitter.com/TUDdc8JloZ
— Brentley Romine (@BrentleyGC) August 30, 2023
The 22-year-old Irish rookie for the Walker Cup, Alex Maguire, has also posed at the Old Course with some impressive medals after winning the St. Andrew Links Trophy earlier this summer. Maguire not only won, but he won handily as well, carding scores of 66-66-64 over the course of three rounds on the Old Course to win by five shots. This dominant victory probably ensured Maguire’s spot on the GB&I team even before he advanced to the quarterfinals of this year’s British Am or qualified for The Open at Royal Liverpool.
“Winning here was probably the best weekend of my life,” claimed Maguire. “Again, that photo taken a few months ago on Swilcan Bridge will never be topped, but I believe that whether I won or lost, returning to St Andrews is so special, as Calum said. You take for granted as players getting to play the Links Trophy, you take for granted how cool it is here and how like people all over the world want to come here and play a round of golf, and we’re allowed to do it for free this week and represent our home country.”
But if GB&I manages to pull off the enormous upset, Maguire probably needs to reconsider where he places his own golfing accomplishments in terms of importance.
But how exactly did that significant commotion occur?
The winner, in my opinion, will be the person or team who sinks the most putts, stated Maguire. “I firmly believe that our team can compete with the Americans in sports. Everything here will be decided on the greens. Practice putting since that’s the one thing it’ll come down to, Stuart texted there last week. I believe you’ll be astonished at how similar our games are to the Americans’.
“The rankings don’t frighten us. They are all undoubtedly excellent golfers and are ranked highly because of this, but in the end, it will come down to who can hole the most 10-footers and 5-footers. That’s essentially what it will boil down to.
Wilson and Maguire would be aware. Whether or not they are underdogs this week, GB&I has at least one advantage, which is local expertise.