Colin Montgomerie, of Scotland, an eight-time winner of the European Tour’s Order of Merit and a three-time runner-up in the U.S. Open who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May, competed on in the 1985 and 1987 Walker Cups for Great Britain and Ireland, posting an overall record of 2-5-1. GB&I lost narrowly at Pine Valley (13-11) in 1985 and lost handily in 1987 (16½-7½) at Sunningdale. He went on to shine in the Ryder Cup, helping Europe to victory five times as a player and in 2010 as non-playing captain.
You played in two Walker Cups on the GB&I side, coming up against some players who would later play against in your pro career.
Montgomerie: Indeed I did. Davis Love, Billy Andrade, Duffy Waldorf, there were some good players. There always are on these Walker Cup teams; it’s a great event, the Walker Cup.
Also the first time you played in it, you came very close to breaking a 12-year streak, didn’t you?
Montgomerie: We did. I came up against Scott Verplank, who had just won the Western Open – as an amateur. And I came up against him and lost, and that was all my fault [smiling], but never mind, we came very close. We didn’t do so well in ’87, unfortunately, at Sunningdale. Fred Ridley, I believe, was the captain of the U.S. team and they had a great team. They beat us well there, but we got much closer at Pine Valley. It amazing that here we are 25 years on, I always thought that Pine Valley was the best golf course in the world and it remains that way in my book.
You also had on both sides several career amateurs… that’s a bit of a dying breed, isn’t it?
Montgomerie: Yes, there was Bob Lewis, Jay Sigel… Peter McEvoy on our side. They were career amateurs, people with jobs; these are the guys that played with me on both of these teams… It seems to be a dying breed now where they used to go into the family business and they didn’t have to play professional golf. It’s a shame because the career amateur was how it was all based, Bobby Jones, that type of idea, and it’s a shame that it hasn’t taken forward … it seems that the allure of the almighty dollar has taken its effect.
Looking back now more than 20 years, along with the people who you played with and against, what do you take away from the Walker Cup? Did it set up your career in any way?
Montgomerie: It was important to make the team and it was important to do well on it… I won both my singles at Sunningdale, and then I turned professional. It was just the feeling of being a team member and being part of Britain – it’s a big place really, with a lot of golfers, and to be in that top 10 was a delight. I always look back on the Walker Cup with a big smile on my face to be honest with you, because it was a very good starting point in anyone’s career … and if you move on, fine, if you don’t, great. Once a Walker Cup player, always a Walker Cup player. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience.
It’s hard to imagine a player topping your success in the Ryder Cup, what you’ve done over the years. Did your experience in the Walker Cup prepare you for that in any way?
Montgomerie: You’d love to think that it did, but I think the Ryder Cup is a different animal altogether – the pressures involved, the expectations, going out and trying to gain your point… The Walker Cup, although good, isn’t to that intensity and I’m glad it’s not, to be honest. It’s an amateur game and it shouldn’t be.
Do you foresee the format ever changing to include Europe?
Montgomerie: Well, the way Britain and Ireland are going now… The reason we had to change the Ryder Cup was because we kept on losing. The British and Irish team is doing OK right now, so there’s no need to change that format. They’re doing a wonderful job.