Time To Walk The Walk

Some of the best amateur golfers on the planet will be thrust into the spotlight this weekend as the Great Britain & Ireland team chase a slice of golfing history at the Walker Cup.

Often seen as the springboard to golfing stardom, the event is littered with players who have gone on to establish themselves among the biggest names in the sport.

In the past 10 years, the Walker Cup has provided the platform for some bright talents to become household names as they went on to make a huge impact on the professional ranks.

In 2007, Rory McIlroy (below) and Danny Willett up were up against Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, while two years later Fowler returned and faced Tommy Fleetwood. The next generation of 2011 saw Jordan Spieth and Andy Sullivan on opposing sides, while in 2013 Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick were representing their teams.

It's fair to suggest that not all of the Walker Cup players will go on to enjoy the same success in the pro ranks. But there are almost always some who come through to challenge for the biggest tournaments in the world in subsequent years.

Perhaps though, success shouldn't always be judged on their earnings.

At TRENDYGOLF we believe The Walker Cup is pure in the sense that these players are not yet chasing a big pay-day - they are simply trying to beat their opponents for their team and respective countries.

The event which dates back to 1922, arguably takes precedence over an average week on the European Tour with more drama, passion and pride on show.

And it will undoubtedly act as inspiration to youngsters to get involved in taking up the sport with Sky Sports showing full coverage.

It makes us wonder whether televising more elite amateur golf would be positive to growing the game.

After the success on home turf two years ago at Royal Lytham, the GB&I team will attempt to defend their crown by becoming only the third visiting team to beat the USA on home soil in the competition’s 95-year history at Los Angeles Country Club.

Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Marc Warren and Nick Dougherty were among the side which achieved the feat the last time it happened – in 2001 at Ocean Forest.

But although the new generation is entirely made up of debutants in their 20s, there is some Major tournament experience to call upon in the shape of Scott Gregory, Harry Ellis and Alfie Plant.

Gregory, from Portsmouth in Hampshire and a member at Corhampton Golf Club, played in both the Masters and the US Open this year after becoming British Amateur champion in 2016 – a victory which also earned him a start in The Open Championship in 2016.

His former Hampshire team-mate Harry Ellis of Meon Valley, then followed his lead this year and was in the field at Royal Birkdale and can also look forward to adding to that experience at Augusta in April 2018.

Meanwhile, Alfie Plant, the senior member of the team at just 25 years old, took the coveted Silver Medal at The Open last month after a stellar 18 months, which has seen him win the Lytham Trophy last year and the European Amateur crown at Walton Heath.

Jack Singh Brar (Remedy Oak), Matthew Jordan (Royal Liverpool), Robert MacIntyre (Glencruitten), Connor Syme (Drumoig), David Boote (Walton Heath), Jack Davidson (Llanwern) and Paul McBride (The Island) complete the line-up for the GB&I team.

Meanwhile, the USA boast one player with prior experience of the event in Maverick McNealy, who was also in the field at Royal Birkdale, while the highly-rated Cameron Champ finished in a remarkable tie for 32nd place at the US Open.

Compatriot Stewart Hagestad impressed similarly at Augusta earlier this year in taking the low amateur prize at Augusta as he claimed a tie for 36th place.

Several members of both teams have already expressed their intentions to turn professional soon after the event. Perhaps it will be our final glimpse at the biggest future stars in golf before financial gains become more important than sporting rewards?