Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards was asked if someone had offered his side a two-point advantage prior to Saturday’s 12 matches at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, would he have accepted the proposition.
“Yeah, absolutely,” said Edwards. “You'd take 7-5. Also [I’d] have taken 12-nil. But any lead is good.”
He didn’t get a shutout, but GB&I has the edge over the USA leading into Sunday’s final 14 matches – four morning foursomes and 10 singles contests.
Momentum is a precious commodity in match-play team events, and the ebbs and flows were on full display Saturday. At one time, it appeared GB&I might run away with the matches and a few minutes later, the storyline flipped. In the end, the margin remained the same from the morning foursomes.
So given the positive results from foursomes, Edwards maintained the same foursomes pairings for Sunday’s opening session, and in the same order. Leading off are the English duo of Ashley Chesters, No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, and Jimmy Mullen. Irishmen Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley bat second, followed by Cormac Sharvin, of Northern Ireland, and Jack McDonald, of Scotland. Irishmen Jack Hume and Gavin Moynihan are scheduled for the anchor match.
Edwards didn’t appear too concerned about Dunne, who shared the 54-hole lead at The Open Championship in July, or Hurley, despite their foursomes defeat. It’s a pairing that has registered 8½ points over their last 10 matches.
“That’s a pretty impressive record,” said Edwards. “Paul and Gary have done pretty well not getting the points.
“We'll carry on doing what we're doing and look after ourselves. We won't worry about anyone else. If we play as well in the foursomes [on Sunday] morning as we have done [on Saturday] then the lads will do just fine.”
Edwards planned to discuss his decision in a private team meeting Saturday night. His foursomes pairings meant Grant Forrest, the runner-up in this year’s Amateur Championship at Carnoustie, and Ewen Ferguson – both from Scotland – would only compete in singles. Ferguson, a 19-year-old who was a late substitute when English-born Sam Horsfield, of Florida, withdrew for personal reasons, gave GB&I a major boost on Saturday with a 1-up win over McNealy, the 2015 Nicklaus and Haskins Award recipient for being the U.S. college player of the year.
“He's a great player, British Boys Champion, GB&I Boys Captain, won twice in Scotland, a host of [good] performances,” said Edwards. “So I was willing him to win this afternoon.”
USA captain John “Spider” Miller took a different tactic with his Sunday pairings. Going into the two-day competition, he told his team that everyone would play at least three of the four sessions, and four would go in all four.
One of those four was going to be reigning U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau, No. 4 in the WAGR. But DeChambeau, of Clovis, Calif., has been suffering from neck pain since his arrival in England, and he asked to sit out Saturday’s foursomes session. The 21-year-old Southern Methodist University senior has received treatment from a chiropractor and a masseuse the past five days and told Miller he could go 36 on Sunday. He’ll play in the anchor foursomes match with partner Robby Shelton, of Wilmer, Ala.
“He says he's fine now and I take him at his word,” said Miller. “He's raring to go and he can't wait to play two tomorrow.”
The only repeat foursomes pairing for the USA was the team of Beau Hossler and Denny McCarthy, the duo who produced the lone point on Saturday. Hossler, of Mission Viejo, Calif., and a three-time U.S. Open qualifier, posted a team-best 2-0 mark on Saturday after he rallied to defeat Jack Hume in his singles match, 1 up.
Miller also paired his two mid-amateurs together: Mike McCoy, 52, of Des Moines, Iowa, and Scott Harvey, 37, of Greensboro, N.C. Hunter Stewart, of Lexington, Ky., will team with Lee McCoy, of Athens, Ga., in the third foursomes match.
Sitting out are Jordan Niebrugge, of Mequon, Wis., the low amateur in this year’s Open Championship, and world No. 2 Maverick McNealy, of Portola Valley, Calif., who struggled on Saturday.
“I will tell you that I have made some changes, and it wasn't necessarily because of my displeasure with the way everybody played,” said Miller. “It was more necessitated by my desire to live up to the word I had given players before they were even selected.
“The math works that six players will play three times, four players will play four times. I'm not going to only play a player two times. So given my math requirements, yeah, I made a few changes and that's the way it will end up.”
Added McCarthy: “We’ve only played 12 points out of 26. We still have plenty of golf left tomorrow. We’re not worried.”
The scene is set for a Sunday showdown over this demanding venue on the Lancashire coast. May the best team win.