When 19-year old Kevin Phelan qualified for the US Open at Pebble Beach this summer, the GB&I Walker Cup skipper Nigel Edwards wanted details.
Why isn’t this guy playing for Ireland? What’s his background? When will we see him?
Just a few weeks later, the Irish selectors obliged and dual Irish and US citizen Phelan made his debut for in the senior Home Internationals at Ashburnham, despite the fact that the Irish captain had never seen him hit a ball.
And that’s fair enough. After all, the lad with Waterford roots but now living and studying in Florida, had reached the semi-finals of the US Amateur Public Links Championship July and was one of the highest ranked Irish players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (click here for the current Irish pecking order). He lost the eventual champion Lion Kim in the US Public Links but he had a great year and went on to play for Ireland alongside Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar in the Eisenhower Trophy in Argentina last week, helping the side finish sixth.
Now Phelan, Dunbar and Cutler have been named on the initial 23-man Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup squad that has been selected ahead of the first training session at Portmarnock Golf Club in December.
The final team of ten players to face the USA in the 43rd Walker Cup Match at Royal Aberdeen next year will be announced in August.
What are the chances of Ireland having three men in the side for the first time since 1991 when Garth McGimpsey, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington played on the losing side at Portmarnock? Slim, no doubt, but time will tell.
Here’s the R&A announcement and the squad:
Included in the squad is 2010 Amateur Championship runner-up James Byrne. The 21-year-old Scot lost out to eventual Open Championship Silver Medallist Jin Jeong in the final at Muirfield in June. English squad members Laurie Canter and Tyrrell Hatton joined Jeong at St Andrews, having earned their Major Championship debuts at Local Final Qualifying.
2009 Boys Amateur Champion Tom Lewis, along with the finalist he defeated at Royal St George’s, Eddie Pepperell, has earned his place in the 23. As have Northern Ireland’s 2010 Lytham Trophy Champion, Paul Cutler, and this year’s Scottish Amateur Champion Michael Stewart.
21-year-old Stiggy Hodgson, who secured two points for GB&I in the 2009 encounter at Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania, is the only player in the squad with previous Walker Cup experience. Many of those picked, however, recently represented GB&I in the St Andrews Trophy Match against the Continent of Europe at Castelconturbia Golf Club, Italy, while others, including Chris Lloyd and 2010 Jacques Leglise Trophy Captain Rhys Pugh, have played for GB&I at boys level.
“I have no doubt that every one of the 23 players we have selected could acquit themselves well in next year’s match,” said GB&I Walker Cup Captain, Nigel Edwards. “But it is up to them to show that they are ready for the challenge that the USA will present by performing with distinction and backing up their most recent performances during the season to come.
“Players from this group will form the majority of the 10-man team, however, GB&I selectors will be at all major amateur events next year, so there is every chance that someone, not included in this initial 23, could play their way into the side,” added Edwards.
All 12 of the players who recently represented GB&I’s constituent countries at the World Amateur Team Championships in Argentina are included in the squad. Defending champions Scotland, comprising James Byrne, Michael Stewart and Ross Kellett, finished in fifth place, while Ireland, a team consisting of Paul Cutler, Alan Dunbar and Kevin Phelan, were three strokes back in sixth. Byrne was the best-performing of the 12, finishing tied-fourth in the individual standings, alongside the American world number one, Peter Uihlein.
The 2011 Walker Cup will take place at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, Scotland, on 10 & 11 September. Founded in 1780, the Club, which moved to its present location on Balgownie Links in 1888, is the world’s sixth-oldest active golf club.
Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Squad
James Byrne (Banchory)
Laurie Canter (Saltford)
Paul Cutler (Portstewart)
Alan Dunbar (Rathmore)
Rhys Enoch (Truro)
Oliver Farr (Ludlow)
Tyrrell Hatton (Harleyford)
Billy Hemstock (Teignmouth)
Stiggy Hodgson (Sunningdale)
Alastair Jones (Radyr)
Ross Kellett (Colville Park)
Tom Lewis (Welwyn Garden City)
Chris Lloyd (The Kendleshire)
Kris Nicol (Fraserburgh)
Matthew Nixon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Eddie Pepperell (Drayton Park)
Kevin Phelan (University of North Florida)
Rhys Pugh (Vale of Glamorgan)
Jack Senior (Heysham)
Matthew Southgate (Thorpe Hall)
Michael Stewart (Troon Welbeck)
Andy Sullivan (Nuneaton)
Darren Wright (Rowlands Castle)