The 45th Walker Cup match, between teams from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland, begins on Saturday with four foursomes (alternate-shot) matches in the morning and eight singles matches in the afternoon.
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club will host the Walker Cup for the first time. The match has been highly competitive since 1989, with the USA holding a narrow 7-6 advantage. GB&I has claimed four of the last five matches held in the United Kingdom, including a 14-12 decision in 2011.
Foursomes are the traditional start to this two-day international competition, and they present intriguing choices for the two captains, who must decide who to pair together and which two players will sit out the first session.
“The boys are all playing very nicely, so they have given me a hard task in who to play and who not play, which is great,” said Nigel Edwards, the GB&I captain for a third time. “Quite often you come to the Walker Cup and not everybody has got their game. But this is a totally different challenge for me.”
“I want each player to vest in the process,” said USA captain John “Spider” Miller about selecting the USA pairings. “I’m listening to them. We’ve had pretty much consensus agreement on everything.”
In Match No. 1, Maverick McNealy and Hunter Stewart (USA) are paired against Ashley Chesters and Jimmy Mullen (GB&I). McNealy and Stewart are Nos. 2 and 5 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR)™, respectively. McNealy, who is a junior at Stanford University, received the Jack Nicklaus Award as NCAA Division I’s top college player in 2014-15, while Stewart was an All-American at Vanderbilt University. Chesters, the eldest player on the GB&I Walker Cup Team at age 26, and Mullen are both from England. Chesters tied for 12th at this year’s Open Championship at St Andrews. Mullen made the 36-hole cut at the 2013 Open Championship, finishing in a tie for 75th at Muirfield.
Two players from the Republic of Ireland, Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley, will meet Beau Hossler and Denny McCarthy (USA) in Match No. 2. Dunne became the first amateur to hold the 54-hole lead at The Open Championship since Bobby Jones in 1927 with a third-round 66. Hurley has been the runner-up at two consecutive European Amateurs. Hossler and McCarthy, who are top U.S. collegians, have both found success at U.S. Opens. Hossler, who has played in three U.S. Opens, became the youngest player (age 17) to make the 36-hole cut in 2012. McCarthy tied for 42nd in this year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
In Match No. 3, Jordan Niebrugge and Robby Shelton (USA) square off against Cormac Sharvin and Jack McDonald (GB&I). Niebrugge, the lone USA team holdover from 2013, should be recognizable to golf fans in Great Britain after his brilliant performance in The Open two months ago, as he finished tied for sixth place at 11-under 277, the best 72-hole total by an amateur in the event’s 144-year history. Shelton nearly won a PGA Tour event when he tied for third in the Barbasol Championship in Auburn, Ala., the same week as The Open. McDonald and Sharvin each have enjoyed a successful summer; the former advancing to the semifinals of the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie and the later claiming the Brabazon Trophy English Open at 7-under 281.
“It's just an honor to play for your country out there,” said Niebrugge, who will be seeking his first foursomes victory after posting two singles wins in the 2013 match. “I've been fortunate enough to do it before and fortunate enough to do it again this year.”
Lee McCoy and Mike McCoy (USA), who are not related, will tangle with Jack Hume and Gavin Moynihan (GB&I), both of Ireland, in Match No. 4. Lee McCoy and Moynihan should know each other’s game, having competed as collegians two years ago when McCoy was a University of Georgia sophomore and Moynihan a freshman at the University of Alabama. Mike McCoy is nearly as old as the other three golfers in this foursomes match combined. At 52 years 9 months, he will become the third-oldest to ever compete in the Walker Cup. Moynihan is the lone GB&I holdover from the 2013 Match, where he posted a 2-2 record. Hume advanced to match play in this year’s Amateur Championship at Carnoustie and was a quarterfinalist in the Spanish International Amateur.
“[I] just tell the lads just to enjoy it, like I enjoyed it two years ago, and I actually played pretty nice,” said Moynihan on advice he’s given to nine teammates. “I think we've all done that. I think everyone has enjoyed the week so far and looking forward to getting going [on Saturday]. We are all playing well. [It would] be nice to get the trophy back and that is the main goal.”