GB&I Team Press Conference (Thursday)


By The R&A
September 8, 2011

LYNN WALLACE:  Nigel, you've played a few courses this week.  How has that helped in your preparation?

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, we came up in May and in July, and we just thought we'd treat the boys to some special golf courses.  They all know the golf course here very well, and it's been a formula that's worked in the past, so we'll continue that winning formula.

THE MODERATOR:  Jack, you had a great performance at the U.S. Amateur, reaching the semifinals.  How do you think that prepared you for coming here this week?

JACK SENIOR:  Yeah, I mean, it was great match play there, and I think my game was in shape out there, so hopefully continue the success this week.

THE MODERATOR:  James, do you feel that your local connections are an advantage to you this week?

JAMES BYRNE:  I think it could be.  There are going to be a lot of people from Banchory coming out to watch and from the northeast, so I think with the added support, it'll help us a little bit.

Q.  What does it mean to you guys to have the red lion on your shirt?  

JACK SENIOR:  Yeah, it's going to be a great experience.  I feel that's what you're playing for.  You're playing for what's gone on in the past and also what's going to happen in the future in terms of the red lion on your shirt.  It's a great buzz and it's going to be a great atmosphere out there this weekend.

Q.  What contact have you had with the Americans so far? 

JAMES BYRNE:  We had dinner with them last night.  An American menu was set up.  But no, it was good, we got to meet the guys and speak with them a little bit.

Q.  And what was the conversation mostly? 

JAMES BYRNE:  Just getting to know each other, asking about backgrounds and just small talk, really, nothing too much.  But it was good to meet the guys and have sort of a lighthearted dinner.

Q.  Jack, did you enjoy your evening? 

JACK SENIOR:  Yeah, it was great.  It was nice to chat with the team from America and basically just small talk like James does really, what they thought of the golf course and just things like that really.

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Yeah, it was a good evening.  It was good to meet the guys from America.  I sat next to Jim, and we had a great time, related some experiences to some of the players from the past and reiterated what a great honour it is to represent your country in the Walker Cup.

Q.  Did you have any particularly amusing recollection, either of you?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I had a couple, but probably not printable.

Q.  James and Jack, on paper, the Americans look quite intimidating, World Rankings, Nationwide Tour winner.  Does that make them favourites, but the at the same time does that make you raise your game and make you want to beat them even more?  

JACK SENIOR:  Yeah, I think they have to be favourites, given their achievements that they've had and the World Ranking.  But our guys are on form, they're playing well.  Pretty much everyone had a good summer and played well the last few months.  Especially with this golf course when it's probably going to be windy, maybe conditions they're not used to, there's no condition we can't compete, and like I said, they'll be favourites, but that doesn't mean we'll be scared of them.

Q.  (No microphone.) 

JAMES BYRNE:  Yeah, my performance in the U.S. Amateur has shown that these guys can be beat.  What they've done is in the past now.  This is this week, and sort of go out there and be determined to win, and I think the lads are really determined to win this week, and I think that's the way we're going to look at it.

Q.  Nigel, the forecast is not great for the weekend.  Is that good news or bad news for your team?  And have you had any input in the way the golf course has been prepared for the match?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, I'll answer the second question first.  No input into the golf course.  I think the golf course, though, has been set up fairly, and let's be fair, everybody out there is in agreement that it is in fantastic condition, a great links course.  I guess most people would have expected it to be playing a little faster, but with the weather that this area has received just recently, then I suppose the conditions are what we've been expecting.

The weather conditions don't look ‑‑ look as if there could be strong winds Saturday afternoon.  I haven't seen Sunday's forecast yet.  But yeah, we'd like a little breeze, of course, because we've been playing in strong winds all year, and the boys have dealt with it very well from the Lytham Trophy right through to very recently at the Home Internationals at County Sligo.  It poured down at Sligo and blew a gale.  What it is is what it is, and we'll be prepared for whatever the weather.

Q.  I wonder if I ask you, James, much has been made in the questioning, even with the American team as well as you guys, about the conditions.  That's something that's in play here a lot.  Will they matter all that much to the Americans?  

JAMES BYRNE:  I think it's going to be different for them.  Obviously it's windy in the States, as well, and I spent four years in Arizona and many tournaments were played in strong winds.  But when it comes to links golf courses and the conditions, the wind is supposed to be up, maybe a bit of rain, and it's just a little bit different.  It's a colder wind and the ball doesn't travel as much, and there's a big focus on being able to shape the ball and control the ball, just a little bit different for them.  And they wear waterproofs, which is different for them, as well.

Q.  I mean, little things like that, Nigel, do they make a big difference?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I mean, they're all good players that are here, and at the end of the day it'll come down to the putting, and our boys are putting pretty well, so looking forward to us having a good week.

The weather conditions may dictate what happens.  Let's hope it doesn't become so windy that it becomes unplayable because that wouldn't be great for either team or for the event.  You know, naturally we've been playing in windy conditions since May, so our guys are probably a little more used to it, and links golf courses.

Q.  Nigel, you've been around the Walker Cup for a fair number of years.  What have you gleaned most from who you're playing with or coming in connection with the event? 

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, obviously Peter McEvoy because he was captain and chairman of selectors in 2001 and 2003 and 2005; Gary Wolstenholme; and my own experiences.  When you step on that first tee, it's very, very different to what you're used to.  I mean, some of the lads would have experienced big crowds, TV, stands, the media, playing in major championships, and for some of them playing in Tour events.  But when you're playing for your country, it is very different, and all of a sudden there are like 10,000 people there.  But those people probably have influenced some of my thoughts.

Q.  You've played against a pretty special team in 2007 at Royal County Down.  How do you find this American team compares to that one going into the match?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, obviously they're very strong.  You know, there's no doubt about that.  All you have to do is look at their performances and the World Rankings.  Thankfully the match isn't played on paper, and our boys are used to playing match play, are good match players, and are relishing the prospect of the Walker Cup matches.  But yet that team in 2007 was pretty special.  I think eight of them are on the PGA Tour now and having successful careers.  The team in 2001 was pretty good, as well.  But yeah, that 2007 team ‑‑ comparing them, it's difficult to compare because you don't know how people will take to professional golf.  I don't think anyone has got the magic or crystal ball to see who is going to be successful, but to say with what they've done there's a few of them that are likely to be very successful as a professional golfer, assuming they turn professional.

Q.  What's it like being a captain as opposed to a player, being on the sidelines?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Do you know it's very different, but at the same time it's very similar, because I've built up a relationship with all these lads over the last ‑‑ well, just not the last couple of years, since I've been appointed.  We would chat, and I was playing James in the Home Internationals, I can never remember which year it was and whether it was in singles or foursomes.  But you build up a great relationship with them, and you want them to perform for themselves, for their country, and for the Walker Cup.

You know, from my experiences I always dreamt of winning easily 6 & 5, and the matches came down to the last and seemed to come down to me, but I was really pleased with how I dealt with the stipulation.  It was all visualisation and believing in yourself to be successful.  I'd like to think that I'm helping the lads somewhere along the line.  At the end of the day, when the gun goes, they're the ones who are going to be hitting the shots, and perhaps I can say the right thing at the right time which will help them perform.

Q.  How much, if any, can the galleries play a role here? 

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Gosh, if they come out in force and get behind the team, you've seen from Ryder Cups and previous Walker Cups how much ‑‑ it quite does fill you with emotion and gives you a real fill‑up.  It's pretty special playing in matches coming down the closing holes and everybody is cheering for you.  Well, you know, you've got a big stand on the first tee.  The lads will have a great ovation, and they should embrace it and enjoy it.  It will be a challenge, but embrace it, embrace the challenge, look forward to the challenge, and let's do the business.

Q.  Nigel, you were at the Ryder Cup last year.  It's a different arena here.  Did you take anything in particular from that match in one way or another?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  I was actually there watching, so you're not watching the whole thing, although I watched the DVD, which was great, seeing how the European team bonded and jelled so well together.  But I think I probably looked at how much they didn't overdo things in the week leading up to the actual play of the matches.  They were very relaxed in practice, but they knew when the gun went that they had to play, and as with anything, the short game is where it's at, and when you watched the professionals practise, that's the key part of their preparation that week, which is what we've been doing this week.

Q.  Have you done anything special with your short game, putting, chipping more than usual?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Well, certainly not for the Welsh teams.  I try to get the Welsh teams doing as much short game as they can, and I'm sure the English, the Scots and Irish do similar things.  But we've trying to make it fun.  We've tried to make it competitive.  We've made it enjoyable, and only time will tell whether it has been really good preparation.  But I feel it has, because it's not about ball beating, it's about getting the ball in the hole on and around the greens from all my experiences.

Q.  Will we expect to see an all‑Scottish pairing over the next two days?  

NIGEL EDWARDS:  Maybe.

Q.  James, what highlights stand out to you from practice this week?  

JAMES BYRNE:  The schedule this week has been fairly relaxing.  Stayed in the hotel the last weekend and just been chilling out using the usual stuff.  So it is one of the days, and it's not been too stressful, just playing some nice courses, played at Kingsbarns, Carnoustie.  Carnoustie was great.  And just getting with the guys having a good time.  It's been a good week, and I think everyone is ready to get started.

LYNN WALLACE:  Thanks very much.  Thanks for joining us.