Walker Cup skipper Nigel Edwards is expecting big things from Irish pair Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar at Royal Aberdeen next month.
The Ulster duo were named in the Welsh skipper’s 10-man side which will be bidding to deny a formidable USA squad its fourth successive victory in the competition when they meet over the Balgownie Links from September 10-11.
Cutler, 22, was a shoe in to make side but Edwards had no hesitation in picking Rathmore man Dunbar, 21, (ahead of Aberdeen’s David Law) despite a roller-coaster season.
Edwards said: “Alan is a mercurial player. He can be great and other times not so great. But you need different people in the make up of any winning team and I have every confidence that Alan will do well.
“He has played extremely well when we have gone to Aberdeen as part of our squad sessions and when he gets the bit between his teeth he is a tough guy to beat.”
Cutler won the Irish Close and West of Ireland titles this year before finishing a brilliant 21st in the Irish Open at Killarney earlier this month.
But while he was impressed by Cutler’s performance agains the professionals, Edwards is more interested in his skills as a match player for what is sure to be a tough task.
Edwards said: “Paul plays well in matchplay and this is a matchplay event. He plays well on links courses and this is on a links. He has been part of a European Team Championship winning team so he knows how to win and his performances this year have been extremely consistent.
He will contribute greatly to this team and I am sure that if you had asked anyone involved in amateur golf, he would have been on everyone’s list.
“He has played an important role for Ireland and will do a good job for us and I am sure he will play a big part in Aberdeen.”
Dunbar confessed that he was “happy and relieved” to make the side that features five Englishman, including Tom Lewis, the leading amateur at the Open, Steven Brown, Jack Senior, Andy Sullivan and Stiggy Hodgson.
Irish Amateur Open winner Rhys Pugh is the lone Welshman in a side that also features two Scots, James Byrne and Michael Stewart.
Edwards added: “We are looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead and I’m confident that we’ll do just fine. The American should be able to produce a strong team with the number of people they have to choose from but if we focus on our performance and not the performance of others and deliver to the standard we know we can produce, I believe we can be successful.”
The squad will meet on September 3 and play Kingsbarns, Royal Aberdeen and Carnoustie before returning to the match venue.
The United States squad will be led by Jim Holtgrieve, 63, of St. Louis, Mo., who was a playing member of the 1979, 1981 and 1983 USA Teams, as well as the 1981 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.
The US has named seven of its 10-man side (see bio’s here) with the previously named Patrick Cantlay, Harris English, Russell Henley and Peter Uihlein joined by Patrick Rodgers, Nathan Smith and Chris Williams 10 days ago.
The remaining three players will be named later this month.
Great Britain and Ireland
Steven Brown, 24, Wentworth, England
Brown made a late burst to get in the team with victory in the English Amateur Championship at Woburn. He also finished runner-up in the European Amateur Championship, losing the title in a three-hole playoff. He was third leading qualifier in this year’s Amateur Championship, and runner-up in the Scottish Stroke Play Championship.
James Byrne, 22, Banchory, Scotland
Byrne spent four years at Arizona State University. He was runner-up in last year’s Amateur Championship. He reached the semi-finals of this year’s Scottish Amateur Championship, and played well in the European Team Championships in Portugal, where he was undefeated. Local knowledge should help Byrne. He lives near Royal Aberdeen and knows the course well.
Paul Cutler, 22, Portstewart, Ireland
Cutler learnt the game on the links of Portstewart Golf Club, not far from Royal Portrush. Cutler first made a serious bid to be part of the team when he won last year’s Lytham Trophy. He won this year’s Irish Amateur Closed and West of Ireland Championships. He also played well in this year’s Irish Open on the European Tour, finishing 21st.
Alan Dunbar, 21, Rathmore, Ireland
Dunbar was a double winner last year when he won the Irish Amateur Open and the North of Ireland Amateur championships. His best finishes this season are second place in the Brabazon Trophy and runner-up in the West of Ireland Championship. He also had top 10 finishes in the Irish Amateur Open Championship (T9) and the East of Ireland Championship (T6).
Stiggy Hodgson, 21, Sunningdale, England
Hodgson is the only remaining GB&I player from the 2009 team at Merion. The diminutive Englishman was the star of the GB&I team then, winning two points out of four. He began this year by reaching the final of the Spanish Amateur. He finished fourth in the European Amateur Championship, reached the last 16 of the English Amateur and was fifth in the Brabazon Trophy.
Tom Lewis, 20, Welwyn Garden City, England
Lewis announced himself to the world of golf at Royal St George’s this July when he became the first amateur since Sir Michael Bonallack in 1968 to lead The Open Championship. Lewis compiled an opening 65 to share the lead with Thomas Bjorn, and went on to finish joint 30th to take the silver medal as leading amateur. He won the St Andrews Links Trophy in June. He finished 59th in the Dubai Desert Classic, his first European Tour event. He ended the 2010 season with two outstanding performances on the Australasian Tour, finishing 12th in the Australian Open and losing a playoff to Peter O’Malley in the New South Wales Open.
Rhys Pugh, 17, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales
Pugh is the youngest member of the team and the first Welshman to appear in the Walker Cup since Rhys Davies and Nigel Edwards in 2007. Pugh won the Peter McEvoy Trophy and Fairhaven Trophy last year and captained the GB & I Boys team at the Jacques Leglise Trophy. He holds the record as youngest player to represent Wales, an honour he achieved as a 15-year-old in the 2009 Home Internationals. He won this year’s Irish Amateur Open Championship, reached the final of the Welsh Amateur, and will attend East Tennessee State University.
Jack Senior, 23, Heysham, England
Senior won this year’s Lytham Trophy in appalling weather conditions, so he should be able to handle the wind that often sweeps over Royal Aberdeen. He began the season by winning the New South Wales Amateur Championship in Australia. Last year he won the South of England Championship. His regular foursomes partner in the England setup is Andrew Sullivan, and GB&I captain Nigel Edwards might look to the two Englishman as a possible pairing.
Michael Stewart, 21, Troon Welbeck, Scotland
Stewart underlined his match play credentials by reaching the final of this year’s Amateur Championship. He started the season by winning the South African Amateur Championship. He was a finalist in last year’s Scottish Amateur and is a former Scottish Boys champion. Stewart attended East Tennessee State University for two years and won two tournaments on the US college circuit.
Andy Sullivan, 24, Nuneaton, England
Sullivan won this year’s Scottish Stroke Play Championship. He finished 6th in the St Andrews Links Trophy and second in the Brabazon Trophy. He was the top English points earner in the recent Home Internationals, winning five matches with just one loss to help England win. Last year he won the 2010 Midland Amateur Championship, the Lagonda Trophy and the Hampshire Salver.
RESERVES: David Law, 20, Hazelhead; Ross Kellett, 23, Colville Park
CAPTAIN: Nigel Edwards, 43, Whitchurch (Cardiff)
2009 Merion, USA 16 ½ GB&I 9 ½
2007 Royal County Down, USA 12 ½ GB&I 11 ½
Dunbar’s selection ahead of David Law, a member of the home club, has been greeted with dismay in Scottish circles.
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait describes Law’s absence as controversial:
The 20-year-old has been omitted in favor of Ireland’s Alan Dunbar, even though Law sits 123 places above Dunbar in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Law is currently ranked 87th compared to Dunbar at No. 208…..All eyes will be on Dunbar over the two days. Expect much criticism of the GB&I selection procedure if he doesn’t play well.