In the opening session of the 2015 Walker Cup match, Great Britain & Ireland took a 3-1 lead over the United States on a breezy, overcast morning at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.
Match 1: Ashley Chesters/Jimmy Mullen (GB&I) def. Maverick McNealy/Hunter Stewart (USA), 3 and 2
How They Won: Behind the strong iron play of Mullen and some key putts and recovery shots by Chesters, the two Englishmen shot the equivalent of one-under par over 16 holes, making just two bogeys.
First Blood: Great Britain and Ireland went ahead to stay when they won the 158-yard, par-3 ninth with a conceded 12-foot birdie putt. McNealy’s tee shot found the left greenside bunker and left the Americans with limited options.
Turning Point: With GB&I holding a 1-up lead following the outward nine, the Americans found trouble from the middle of the 10th fairway when McNealy’s approach missed the green right and ended up in the gorse. The result became an unplayable lie and Chesters’ 28-foot birdie putt from above the hole was conceded.
Clinching Moment: Mullen landed his short approach shot from the right rough on the par-4 16th to within three feet. After Stewart made a 7-foot birdie putt, Chesters calmly sank his putt to halve the hole and win the match.
Best Shot: McNealy, who is No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR)™, rifled his approach shot on the par-4 seventh to within 5 feet to set up a birdie by Stewart that squared the match.
Best Team Effort: Chesters, the lone mid-amateur on the GB&I team at age 26, was faced with awkward stance from the right greenside bunker at the par-4 fourth. He blasted his shot to within 3½ feet. Mullen completed the up-and-down for par and the match remained all square.
Winning Words: “I was more nervous hitting that one than I was at the Open (Championship),” said Mullen about striking the first shot of the match for Great Britain and Ireland at the par-3 first. “It was a horrible shot, I was just happy to get it down there. I made up with the (par) putt.”
Match 2: Beau Hossler and Denny McCarthy (USA) def. Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley (GB&I), 3 and 1
How They Won: The USA took a 2-up lead when McCarthy rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th. GB&I squared the match with wins on holes 10 and 11 but the USA responded by taking the 13th, 14th and 15th for a 3-up advantage.
First Blood: Facing a 220-yard shot into the wind on the par-4 second hole, Hossler drilled a 3-wood to 20 feet, which the USA converted into a par. Dunne missed an up-and-down saving putt from 20 feet.
Turning Point: Hossler drained a 40-foot birdie putt from just off the green on hole 13 as the USA regained the lead they had lost two holes earlier. GB&I’s bogey resulted from Dunne’s wayward drive, which landed in the left-side hazard.
Clinching Moment: Hossler hit the middle of the 17th fairway with his drive and McCarthy’s iron approach landed 20 feet from the hole. Dunne’s tee shot found a left fairway bunker and Hurley could only advance it 50 yards to another fairway bunker. Dunne’s approach was just long and Hurley’s aggressive pitch ran 15 feet past the hole, which resulted in a conceded match-winning par for the USA.
Best Shot: Hossler’s wind-cutting 3-wood to 20 feet on the second hole came after McCarthy’s drive hooked left but landed in a clean lie near the 16th tee. GB&I could not reach the green in regulation and then failed to convert an uphill par-saving putt.
Best Team Effort: Hurley’s drive finished in the greenside bunker but hole-high on the downwind, par-4 16th hole. Dunne adeptly splashed out to within concession distance for the winning birdie, which reduced the USA lead to 2 up.
Winning Words: “We saw we were the only red match on the board. We knew in our head that our match was going to be pretty important,” said McCarthy. “We played really steady golf today and we were under par for alternate shot in the wind, which is really good out here. It was a grind and Paul and Gary gave us a good fight. But we hit some really quality shots coming in to get the point.”
Match 3: Cormac Sharvin and Jack McDonald (GB&I) defeated Jordan Niebrugge and Robby Shelton (USA), 5&4
How They Won: Sharvin and McDonald won three of the first four holes with pars to take control of the match and a birdie on the par four 8th prevented Niebrugge and Shelton getting back into the match after they had reduced the deficit to two holes.
First Blood: Niebrugge and Shelton lost the first hole with a bogey four. A double bogey on the 3rd and a bogey on the 4th also proved costly as Sharvin and McDonald took a three-hole lead playing par golf.
Clinching Moment: On the par-3 12th, McDonald found the green with his tee shot but Shelton put his tee shot out of bounds to the right of the green. Niebrugge’s tee shot found a greenside bunker and when Shelton splashed out to 15 feet, the GB&I pair’s putt was conceded.
Best Shot: On the par-4 13th, McDonald holed a 20-foot par putt after Sharvin had splashed out of a greenside bunker. Despite finding the fringe of the green in two, the Americans lost the hole when Shelton failed to follow the Scot in from six feet.
Best Team Effort: GB&I escaped with a half in par on the 14th to win the match after finding a fairway bunker off the tee. McDonald’s gap wedge approach from 110 yards finished just off the green and Sharvin holed from 12 feet to seal the match.
Winning Words: “It was just an unbelievable experience. Cormac and I played awesome. We didn’t really miss a shot and we holed great putts at the right time to keep the momentum going,” said McDonald. “We were just right up for it. The way we were striking the ball it would have been difficult for anyone to beat us out there.”
Match 4: Jack Hume/Gavin Moynihan (GB&I) def. Lee McCoy/Mike McCoy (USA), 3 and 2
How They Won: Having never trailed the entire match, Hume put the finishing touches on Great Britain and Ireland’s third point of the session by holing a downhill 7-foot birdie on the 16th hole. It was the duo’s third birdie of the match.
First Blood: After missing two 8-footers that would have won Nos. 1 and 2, Moynihan, the only GB&I player with prior Walker Cup experience, lagged a birdie putt to within a foot on the third hole for a conceded par and a 1-up lead. The Americans bogeyed the hole when Lee McCoy missed a 25-footer for par.
Momentum Killer: After winning the difficult par-4 sixth hole to trim their deficit to 1 down, the Americans had a chance to square the match at the par-5 seventh when Lee McCoy’s 3-wood second shot rolled up an embankment behind the green. However, Mike McCoy mis-played the ensuing downhill chip across the green and the duo settled for a disappointing par and halved the hole.
Seizing Control: A two-putt par was good enough for the two Irishmen to win the eighth hole and Hume rolled in a 7-foot birdie on the par-5 11th for a 3-up lead.
Sign of the Times: After the match, an Irish fan held up a large sign with a photo of Moynihan and a hashtag that said #GMONEY. It was Moynihan’s third point in Walker Cup competition, having earned two victories in the 2013 defeat at National Golf Links of America.
Quotable: “We’ve played a lot of foursomes together. We played foursomes in the European Team Championships and Home Internationals three weeks ago, so we were just treating it like a normal day out there,” said Moynihan. “I was actually more nervous this time than last time. I was just happy to be there [in 2013] … but the first tee today, I was pretty nervous.”