Aberdeen, Scotland – Bounce-back ability.
It might not be correct English grammar, but a great sentiment nonetheless. It is a sound-bite that must have sprung to mind for Great Britain and Ireland Captain Nigel Edwards when he watched the performance of his second pairing on Sunday morning at Royal Aberdeen.
Andy Sullivan and Jack Senior, two of the brightest young stars of English golf, experienced the usual highs and lows of the Walker Cup, and a few new ones beside, on Day 1. It started so well with a convincing 2-and-1 victory over Russell Henley and U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft, both sinking several long putts.
However, the first storm clouds appeared at lunch when questions were raised about Senior’s caddie. It transpired that as a professional, his bagman, who also happens to be his brother, was ineligible to caddie for him at the Walker Cup by the Conditions of the Competition.
The morning result stood, but as he walked off the 16th green after a 3-and-2 afternoon singles defeat to Jordan Spieth he admitted the rumpus had knocked his game.
Meanwhile, Sullivan started brightly but three lost holes in a row in a 2-and-1 defeat at the hands of Harris English.
But if the pair had endured a sleepless night it did not show as they raced to a 5-up lead after just six holes against the much fancied pair that include Sullivan’s vanquisher English and Peter Uihlein, who went 4-0 in the 2009 Match and won the 2010 U.S. Amateur.
While the Amercians struggled to hole short putts in the wind and drove into bunkers on four and five, the Englishmen navigated their way through an even-par outward nine leaving the driver in the bag.
“Jack and I are best of friends and we are always going to keep each other going out there,” Sullivan explained. “To get off to a good start like that was really nice and to get in the comfort zone. We just tried to finish it off.”
That friendship also enabled the pair to regroup on Saturday night.
The 24-year-old from Nuneaton added: “For me personally, and I spoke to Jack last night as I room with him. I didn’t feel we played that bad yesterday. I think it was just because the Americans played really well. I wasn’t too disappointed coming into today. I felt good. I felt as good as I did yesterday morning.”
It was an intelligent performance from the pair. A prime example came on the 10th hole. As Uihlein put his approach out of-bounds, Sullivan calmly struck a club less to the safety of the bail-out area to the left of the green. A solid chip from Senior guaranteed at worst a bogey and the hole was won.
Unspectacular, but mission accomplished.
“Jack and I have been playing in this all year,” he said looking up at grey and windy skies. “It has been a windy year with Lytham and the Scottish [Amateur], lots of links golf, so the shots are there naturally almost. Rarely has the ball been hit in the air.
“We knew from the off it wasn’t going to be pretty golf today, that it was all going to be a grind and we just needed to grind out a result for the team.”
Senior also spoke warmly of teaming up with his good friend. He also had another welcome face on the Balgownie Links today. Dave Hutchison, a greenkeeper from Senior’s home course in Heysham, made the long journey north to Aberdeen last night to caddie for his friend.
“I had a bit of reflection last night about how I thought things went yesterday,” Senior explained.
“It’s great to have a familiar face on the bag. I think that makes a lot of difference. The caddie who did it for me yesterday [afternoon] did a great job but it’s good to have Dave here.”
He agreed that the wind suited the GB&I pairing: “You just have to get it on the fairway because it is going to be hard to hold the green wherever you hit it. I think we plotted our way round the golf course really well. On the back nine you just have to hold on. We had a great lead there after nine holes and just held on. Hit the middle of the fairway and then just try and hit the centre of the green.”
“They came back at us at the end there. I mean in this bad weather you are going to have a couple of bad holes and bad swings and the wind just exaggerates those. Overall we played really well.”
However, there will be no complacency from Sullivan going into the final session.
He said: “The thing with the Americans is that you know they are never going to give in. They will be there until the last shot. You’ve just got to get the point for your team whether you are 10 under or 10 over.”
John Peterson is a media and editorial manager for The R&A. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.