Standing next to the 16th green at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club on Sunday afternoon, Jimmy Mullen was preparing to be interviewed by the BBC when a large cheer emanated from the crowd. On-course television reporter Maureen Madill informed everyone, including Mullen, that Great Britain and Ireland had just clinched the 45th Walker Cup Match.
Mullen, a 21-year-old from Devon, England, played a major role in the home team’s 16½-9½ victory, the largest margin ever by GB&I in the biennial competition. Mullen became only the fourth GB&I player to post a 4-0-0 record in a single Match, joining Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Andrew Oldcorn. Donald is a former world No. 1 and Casey and Oldcorn each own professional victories.
Mullen, No. 93 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), didn’t enter the two-day competition as the highest-ranked member of his team (Ashley Chesters) nor was he the first amateur in 88 years to share the 54-hole lead in The Open Championship (Paul Dunne) nor did he reach the final match of the 2015 Amateur Championship (Grant Forrest).
By flying under the proverbial radar, Mullen didn’t have the burden of excess expectations, so he could strictly focus on his game, specifically getting consistency from his driver. Some extra practice leading into the week at home seemed to work, as did playing many practice rounds and foursomes matches this summer with close friend Chesters, No. 7 in the WAGR. The two were foursomes partners in England’s annual match against Spain, the European Team Championships and the recent Home Internationals. Including their 2-0 mark in the Walker Cup, Mullen said they lost just once in 10 matches.
“Ashley is probably the closest friend I’ve got playing amateur golf,” said Mullen, who advanced to the Round of 16 of the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club and was one of two amateurs, along with 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, to play the weekend in the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. “Playing a lot with him this summer has helped my game.
“Ashley gives me a lot of [ribbing] for my driving when we play foursomes. I drove it really well. When I had the honor, I put them under a lot of pressure.”
At 6-foot-3 with blonde hair, the easygoing Mullen could pass as either a small forward in basketball or a surfer. Instead, Mullen rode the wave of the spectator support through all four sessions, a sense of confidence and purpose with each step. If he was feeling pressure, it was clearly internal.
“Obviously the home crowd helps a lot,” said the 2015 Welsh Open Stroke Play champion. “I think people underestimated how good our team was.”
Mullen briefly entertained thoughts of coming to the U.S. for college. Friends offered mixed reviews and he eventually decided that committing to four years of school wasn’t for him.
He offers no regrets about the choice. In a few weeks, he’ll enter European Tour Qualifying School with the hope of obtaining either a European Tour or European Challenge Tour card for 2016. As of now, he hasn’t procured any deals or picked a management company.
But he has etched himself in Walker Cup lore.
“I can pretty much guarantee it will be my last Walker Cup and I’ll have a 100 percent record,” said Mullen. “[And] to get the win is just fantastic.”