SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Their good walk was foiled more than spoiled Saturday morning at the National Golf Links of America, but Irishmen Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan were far from despondent over dropping their foursomes match to the USA’s Justin Thomas and Patrick Rodgers, 2 and 1, in the 44th Walker Cup Match.
“They hit some shots at the end there that were very good; they deserved to win,” said Phelan, who hails from Waterford, Ireland. “All you can do is tip your cap to them and move on. We’d be keen to have another go tomorrow [in foursomes]. We like the pairing.”
Moynihan, 18, and Phelan, 22, have known each other for several years going through the ranks of amateur golf in Ireland. They recently played together in the Men’s Home Internationals at Ganton Golf Club in Yorkshire, England, and before that were teammates in the biennial World Amateur Team Championship, a global team event run by the International Golf Federation.
When the two were added to the Great Britain & Ireland team, Phelan tweeted: “Delighted about making the Walker Cup team with nipster extraordinaire Gavin Moynihan. Should be a great week in NY.”
Phelan, as the senior member of the duo, can make the “nipster” joke, being on the other side of the college golf experience. He recently completed his psychology studies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, and played this summer for Europe in the Palmer Cup. Moynihan, who competed in the Junior Ryder Cup, is an incoming freshman at the University of Alabama.
“I’ve got a bit of a ways to go with the studies and all compared to Kevin,” said Moynihan, a native of Dublin, with a slight smile.
But make no mistake, they are on equal ground as teammates.
“We’ve all watched how strong a player Gavin has become, how much he’s grown and improved,” said Henry Collier, president of The Island Golf Club, in Dublin, where Moynihan plays. Collier made the trip to the National with about a dozen club members. “Kevin and Gavin make a nice complement to each other. They have proved themselves in the bigger events, and they are comfortable with each other because of that.”
The two youngsters have, indeed, proved themselves on “bigger” stages.
Phelan, who intends to turn pro following the Walker Cup, competed in June in his second U.S. Open and made the cut at Merion Golf Club, eventually finishing 62nd. Moynihan became the youngest player to compete in the Irish Open after becoming, at 17, the youngest player to win the Irish Amateur last year. He also was able to put a positive spin on his day by being the only GB&I player to win a singles match in the afternoon session, turning the tables on Rodgers, 2 and 1.
“They’re very good lads,” said GB&I captain Nigel Edwards. “They get along with everyone, but our whole team gets along very well. They are probably the most quiet of the group, similar in personality, but they are determined, and they wanted to play together.”
“We get on very well from the standpoint of similar games, hitting it a similar distance, similar approach, perhaps, to short game,” said Phelan, who sat out the afternoon singles. “We’ve traveled around together for a few years, know each other’s games.”
Phelan and Moynihan did not put their heads together on every shot they faced Saturday morning, only when there was some doubt in their minds. This is a product of their preternatural reserve, but it can also be construed as a sign of trust, a notion Moynihan didn’t dismiss.
“We call each other in [to talk about strategy or club selection] when necessary,” he said. “We know what the other guy is capable of. We just like to get on with it and play. Unfortunately, we probably didn’t play our best today. We let some chances slip by, and they [USA] did what they needed to do. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance tomorrow to get that point back. It would be fun.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.