Aberdeen, Scotland – Great Britain and Ireland won the first three foursomes matches on Saturday morning to take a 3-1 lead midway through Day 1 of the 2011 Walker Cup Match at the par-70, 6,863-yard Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
“It was a tremendous morning,” said GB&I captain Nigel Edwards, “I thought our boys did a great job.”
It was the best first-session performance by GB&I since it took a 3-1 advantage at Ganton Golf Club in England eight years ago. That was also the last time GB&I won the biennial Match.
Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart of Great Britain and Ireland were 2 down through seven holes in the morning’s first match against Peter Uihlein and Harris English, but birdied the eighth, 10th and 11th holes to gain a 1-up advantage.
The Americans squared the match with a par on the par-4 13th but promptly lost the 14th with a bogey.
The critical turn came at the 16th when English lost his tee shot in the gorse on the right and GB&I made a fairway- and-green par to take a 2- up lead with two holes to play.
“It was huge,” said Stewart, who is from Troon, Scotland. “Once we got it to 1 up and managed to win 16, it put pressure on them on 17.”
“I was certainly hoping for that one,” USA captain Jim Holtgrieve said of the first match. “Peter told me they were two under par but Stewart and Lewis played great. I know in match play everything changes a little bit. We didn’t come out of the box real strong but we’ll see how our guys rebound and how they are going to take the pressure. We just have to be fired up this afternoon and tomorrow morning.”
Eight singles matches were scheduled for the afternoon session.
Lewis, the low amateur at the 2011 Open Championship, lost his ball on the first tee which gave No. 1 to the USA. “I didn’t realize how hard the wind was off the right side,” Lewis said. “I hit a good shot, it just took the wind.”
Untypically, two errant tee shots caused losses of holes for the USA on 11 and 16.
Uihlein, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion, summed it up succinctly. “They had one hiccup, we had two.”
In the second and third matches, respectively, Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan of GB&I defeated Russell Henley and Kelly Kraft, 2 and 1; and Irishmen Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar beat Nathan Smith and Blayne Barber, 5 and 4.
Senior and Sullivan’s match was under review because it was revealed after the match was declared official that Senior used a prohibited caddie. Senior’s brother caddied and is a professional, which is not allowed under the Conditions of the Competition but because it was learned after the result was official, the result stood, said Peter Dawson, the chief executive of The R&A.
Edwards also was happy to see the only two Irishmen on the team perform well.
“The Irish boys did well,” said Edwards. “I know they can putt. I know they love to play in the wind and the rain.”
Despite the morning results, Holtgrieve remained upbeat.
At least he salvaged a point when Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams defeated Steven Brown and Stiggy Hodgson, 5 and 3.
“It certainly was not the result but conditions were tough from what I heard talking to the team,” he said. “The guys from GB&I putted extremely well today. Nobody’s down. Everybody said they played pretty well. I think a couple of guys were nervous out of the box. I think we are fired up for the singles matches. I told them we have a long way to go. There are still three significant rounds of golf to be played. They are just in good spirits. They are still fired up and ready to play hard.”
Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.