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GB & I Rolls to Victory in Walker Cup
The Great Britain and Ireland team took advantage of their mastery of foursomes (alternate-shot) and playing in inclement weather in the 43rd Walker Cup and cruised to a 14-12 victory over the USA. The biennial event that pits the best amateur golfers from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean was held at Aberdeen Golf Club in Scotland.
On Saturday and Sunday - with each morning foursome matches, the GB&I team totaled 6½ points, including 3 the first day and another 3½ Sunday.
In fact, the Americans never recovered after Saturday morning's foursomes, when they had a 3-1 deficit and were still two points down - 7-5 - at the end of the day. GB&I augmented those foursome points with 7½ points in the singles matches, despite the Americans winning six points in Sunday's singles.
GB&I needed 13½ points to wrest the Cup from the USA, which still leads the series, 34-8-1.
On Sunday morning, after GB&I's Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart halved their foursomes match with 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers, it was all GB&I in the next three bouts. Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan beat 2010 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein and Harris English 3 & 2; Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar edged 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft and Blayne Barber 2 & 1; and James Byrne and 17-year-old Rhys Pugh routed Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams 5 & 3.
Heading into the afternoon the Americans were down 10½ to 5½.
The Americans did much better in Sunday's singles; indeed 10½ points of their 12 total points came in these head-to-head competitions. Russell Henley beat Lewis 4 & 2; Spieth edged Sullivan 3 & 2; Senior and Nathan Smith halved; Uihlein beat Stiggy Hodgson 2 & 1; Steve Brown and Barber halved; Williams beat Dunbar 1-up; English nipped Byrne 2 & 1; and Cutler and Cantlay halved.
The only GB&I singles wins were by Stewart over Rodgers 3 & 2, and Pugh beating Kraft 2 & 1. GB&I reached its magical 13½ points when England's Brown halved his match with Barber.
Though the Americans came into the 2011 Walker Cup heavily favored with all their USGA champions, the GB&I team proved they weren't intimidated at all. "I don't think at any point we were underdogs no labeled? Not really," said Stewart.
"It didn't really make a difference to us. Didn't really pay much attention to what was written, and Nigel just let us go about our own business. We just focused on us and at the end of the week it paid off."
They were also better able to deal with the wet and windy weather encountered over the two days at Aberdeen. "We prepared for these conditions," said GB&I captain Nigel Edwards. "The boys have played in them all year. So there's nothing new to us. They have had to play in tough conditions, and they have dealt with it admirably all throughout the year, and today they were brilliant."
Despite the loss, American captain Jim Holtgrieve said the 2011 Walker Cup was rewarding. "This week has been just one of the greatest experiences of my life. Certainly it's been the biggest honor in the USGA that I've had and to be around these 10 young guys and obviously the 10 young guys from GB&I; to come to Scotland to play golf and to watch golf and to play golf. It's been an incredible week for me.
"Certainly (Sunday) was a tough day. I kind of thought that my guys would fight back, which they did. They did courageously. Even when we were down at lunch, they kept saying that, which I would never give up on, so that comment was never even in my vocabulary.
"But I knew it would be hard, particularly with the conditions. But these guys fought real hard. Peter Uihlein said to me when he was 2 down, he said to me, 'Don't worry, I got it.' And he did. It's just that I'm 63. I wish it would be a little easier on my heart. It was - you know, sure you want to win, but it's been an incredible journey."
Spieth was asked if he had mixed emotions after rallying in Sunday's singles but not being able to overcome GB&I's big lead. "Yeah, I'd say so. Our whole team would agree, we had an unbelievable time this week. Felt like we were here for a month, which was a great thing. We enjoyed our time. We were treated unbelievably well.
"You know, it's unfortunate it ended this way, but you know, the individual stuff doesn't matter in this kind of event. You know, there's a few of us that are going to be eligible for the one in two years and I'm going to work hard to try to make that team, because I've had an unbelievable time this week and I would love to be a part of another one."
For additional information and full scoring, visit http://www.usga.org/WalkerCup/ChampEventScore.aspx?id=2147495184.