Aberdeen, Scotland – It may officially have been Great Britain & Ireland against the United States in all four matches, but one match was more a case of the Emerald Isle against the world.
Continuing a hugely successful year for Northern Irish golf, Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar paired up in the third tie against the experienced Nathan Smith and the University of Auburn’s Blayne Barber. While big names Tom Lewis and Peter Uihlein were drawing most of the attention up ahead, the unassuming Irishmen were busy recording a convincing 5-and-4 victory.
However, their win was nowhere near as plain sailing as it sounds. Rushing into a quick two-hole lead, the pair found themselves 1 down after six, with Dunbar missing a couple of makeable putts. A big birdie putt fell for them at the seventh and the pair never looked back.
If the controversy surrounding his selection - which was questioned in some quarters - had been on his mind, Dunbar certainly didn’t let it show. Neither did the growing crowd gathered as they made their way across the Balgownie Links.
“It’s unbelievable to be honest,” confessed the 21-year-old Rathmore native and product of the Darren Clarke Foundation.
“It’s a great start for us. We were two up early on and then lost three holes in a row and then we had a good putt on seven which kick-started us and got us more up for it. [We] won eight and then never really looked back from there.”
He was convinced that playing with a fellow countryman made a difference.
The 2010 Irish Amateur Open champion explained: “It’s great. We live close together at home but we’ve only been paired together once before and that was two or three years ago, but it’s great to play with a good friend. It makes a difference.”
Cutler, the first player since Rory McIlroy to lift the West of Ireland and Irish Amateur titles in the same year, was not short of motivation in facing Smith, a member of the 2009 USA Walker Cup Team, and Barber, and was sure where he would find it.
“My aim was to get a point for him and give the whole team a boost,” the 22-year-old said. “This weekend we’re just going to try and use the crowd as much as possible. They have been great in getting behind us and if we use them it will really lift us when it’s getting tough out there.”
John Robertson is a media and editorial manager for The R&A. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.