Great Britain and Ireland leads the USA, 7-5, after the first day of the 45th Walker Cup Match at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club.
The home team got off to an excellent start in its bid to win back the trophy from the USA, who won the 2013 Match at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.
GB&I took a 3-1 lead after the morning foursomes and followed that up by splitting the afternoon singles matches 4-4, winning three and halving two.
“We'll carry on doing what we're doing and look after ourselves,” said GB&I captain Nigel Edwards. “We won't worry about anyone else. If we play as well in the foursomes tomorrow morning as we have done this morning, then the lads will do just fine.”
“It’s great to get the lead,” said Gavin Moynihan of GB&I. “There’s 14 points still tomorrow so it's not even near over. So, staying again in the same foursomes and getting at it tomorrow morning and kicking on from there. I can't wait for tomorrow to perform.”
In the opening singles match, England’s Ashley Chesters and the 2015 U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau were locked in a close struggle with neither having more than a one-hole lead. The 21-year-old DeChambeau, who sat out the morning foursomes, bounced back from losing the 15th hole to go one down by winning the next with a birdie and then bravely holing a 12-foot par putt on the last to halve the match.
“It felt like I won the match, honestly, the half-point there was pretty big,” said DeChambeau, who also won the 2015 NCAA Men’s Division I individual title. “I probably should have hit driver off the tee box but, unfortunately, I didn’t hit my best hybrid. I was fortunate to get it out (of the fairway bunker) and get it up and down from 140 yards.”
The USA took the next two matches as Hunter Stewart defeated Ireland’s Paul Dunne, 2 up, and Scott Harvey overcame Scotland’s Grant Forrest, 2 and 1.
“Given our start, I'm pleased where we are at this point after one day's play,” said USA captain John “Spider” Miller. “Our guys played hard. They reached down; they delivered on some matches when they needed to, so I'm very proud of them all.”
Stewart remarkably holed his 113-yard 9-iron approach for an eagle on the par-4 11th hole and then chipped in from the side of the green on the 14th for a birdie to win both holes. Dunne, the 54-hole joint leader in The Open Championship at St Andrews, responded by holing out from a greenside bunker on the 13th but his birdie putt lipped out on the 18th to seal Stewart’s win.
“It was a tough fought match this afternoon,” said Stewart. “It feels nice to win a point and grab some momentum for us. We needed that point badly and to win the 16th and 17th to go one up was big.”
England’s Jimmy Mullen performed strongly on the back nine, winning three consecutive holes from the 11th, to win his match with Denny McCarthy, 2 up, and notch his second point of the day. Ireland’s Gary Hurley and Robby Shelton of the USA halved their match before Beau Hossler clinched a 1-up win over Ireland’s Jack Hume.
Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson secured a 1-up victory against Maverick McNealy. The 19-year-old Ferguson sat out the morning foursomes and started in determined fashion to lead by two after four holes. The Scot led throughout the match but McNealy fought back strongly to take the match down the last and force Ferguson to hole a five-foot par putt to complete his win.
“I couldn't wait to get going,” Ferguson said. “I went out to watch this morning and it was electrifying and I just couldn't wait to get out. Then it was just a great atmosphere. It was awesome.”
GB&I secured another point when Ireland’s Moynihan defeated Jordan Niebrugge, the winner of the Silver Medal at The Open, 4 and 2. The 20-year-old Moynihan, who played in the 2013 Match, won the 7th, 8th and 10th holes to take control.
In the morning foursomes, GB&I won three matches. The English pairing of Chesters and Mullen never trailed in their match with McNealy and Stewart and won 3 and 2. They were quickly followed by Cormac Sharvin and Jack McDonald, who enjoyed an emphatic 5-and-4 victory over Niebrugge and Shelton.
Hossler and McCarthy put the first point on the board for the USA with a 3-and-1 win over the Irish pairing of Dunne and Hurley but their compatriots Hume and Moynihan rounded off a good session for GB&I with a 3-and-1 win over Mike McCoy and Lee McCoy.
Sunday's four foursomes start at 8.30 a.m. local time, with the first of 10 singles matches scheduled to being at 1:15 p.m.