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Home Stretch for Walker Cup Hopefuls

There are some anxious-looking young men in the highest echelons of amateur golf in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales at present. Have they done enough to make the Walker Cup team against the U.S. at the National Golf Links early in September? If they haven’t, then what more must they do?
The team will be announced Aug. 19, and before that date there are three important events where significant performances could have a bearing on selection.
This is the week of the European Amateur at El Prat near Barcelona. Then come the traditional Home Internationals, which pit amateurs from the four home countries against one another.
At the same time as these tribal differences are going on, the U.S. Amateur takes place at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and Wales’ Rhys Pugh, who is studying at East Tennessee State University, will compete there rather than returning to play for his country in the four-cornered event at Ganton.
Pugh has his work cut out to earn a place in the team that will be captained by Nigel Edwards, who was such a doughty and tactically astute leader of the Great Britain and Ireland team that upset the more fancied U.S. team at Royal Aberdeen two years ago. Though Pugh won the Welsh Stroke Play championship earlier in the season, his form has dipped lately and he was beaten in the first round of the Welsh Amateur championship.
But if there is one striking aspect to this year’s GB&I Walker Cup team, it is that early on any number of players were clear candidates. Then some of them tied up slightly as the season wore on and into the frame came players whose names were known but not necessarily thought to be potential team members. The 2013 team could be unusual in that it might not contain either a Welsh or Scottish player. And goodness knows what the partisan in those countries will think of that.
England, winners of the European team championship, and the country of the four with the largest playing base and probably the most money and perhaps the most extensive coaching structure, should always have a large contingent of players and this year will be no exception. Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2012 British Boys’ champion, and a finalist in last week’s English Amateur, beaten by countryman Callum Shinkwin, is surely in the team as is Shinkwin.
Fitzpatrick, 18, came to notice by tying for 44th (with Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion among others) and thus winning the silver medal for the leading amateur at the Open. Jimmy Mullen, another English amateur, was 73rd equal with five other competitors.
Fitzpatrick’s caddie at Muirfield was impressed by his employer that week.
“Today quite early on he chipped weakly and three-putted and I thought, ‘Uh-uh, here we go,’ ” said Lorne Duncan, a longtime professional caddie on the European Tour, after the fourth round. “But he rallied beautifully. He had his lowest round today, a 72. How impressive is that? Is he any good? Definitely.”
The Walker Cup is one of those events that is underrated and misunderstood whereas some professional events are overrated and only too well understood. Most golfers, who believe the game is played only by Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and a few other men pros, will say, “The what?” when they hear of its name.
Their eyes glaze over on being told that it’s a really enjoyable match-play team event in golf, itself an unusual thing in an individual sport, that takes place every two years and has a reputation for sportsman- ship that is exceptional in this day and age.


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