Management companies will be taking a great deal of interest in the progress of Paul Cutler at the European Tour Qualifying School next month following his huge contribution to Great Britain & Ireland’s first Walker Cup win for eight years.
Nigel Edwards’ charges upset a highly fancied USA side 14-12 at a wind-lashed Balgownie links at Royal Aberdeen with Cutler the top scorer on either side with three and a half points out of four. Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar won two points alongside Cutler but lost his singles to finish with two points out of three. He might be back for more but Cutler is now looking to the professional ranks and PQ1 at Frilford Heath from October 4-7.
“It was like a dream come true. I said on Friday this was how I wanted to end my amateur career and it’s worked out fine,” Cutler said.
To put Cutler’s three and a half points in perspective, Padraig Harrington took three Walker Cup appearances to win the same number of points. Jody Fanagan won three out of three in 1995 but the last player to win 3.5 out of 4 was Roddy Carr at St Andrews in 1971 - 40 years ago. Philip Walton won three of his four matches in both 1981 and 1983.
Great Britain and Ireland skipper Edwards added: “Paul has played brilliantly – he and Dunbar in the foursomes and then the singles performances. It is really fantastic.”
In fact, it could easily have been a 100 percent record for the 22-year old from Portstewart who was dormie four against world amateur No 1 Patrick Cantlay in the anchor match when Steven Brown’s half in the sixth match gave GB&I the 13.5 points they needed for victory.
Cantlay took advantage to win the last four holes with some superb golf but Cutler wasn’t bothered at that stage.
The West of Ireland and Irish Close champion was in superb form all weekend and he again partnered pal Dunbar to victory as they beat Kelly Kraft and Blayne Barber 2 and 1 in the morning foursomes.
That session was key to the GB&I win as Edwards’ charges won three matches and halved the other to extend their overnight lead from two points to five.
That meant they only needed three and a half points from the 10 singles to win the trophy and a USA squad that included six of the world’s top 10 amateurs hit back early, they had too much to do.
Edwards said: “I don’t know what to think at the moment, it’s just fantastic. The boys have been awesome all week. They’ve got a fantastic team spirit. We were not given much chance but I wasn’t going to let my team think that they didn’t have a chance.
“We always knew that this match wasn’t going to be played on paper but around this golf course. I felt that we had a really good group of guys who would do the job.”
The home side dominated throughout and held a 7-5 lead after Day 1. Wins in three of the four morning singles left them needing three points from the final 10 singles matches.
Despite the US winning the final session 6½-3½, GB&I held on to win. Edwards admitted to feeling the pressure but remained confident of victory.
“The Americans got off to a great start out there but our boys in the middle have done a great job all week. Yesterday afternoon when it looked a bit tough, they dug in and pulled out the stops. We’ve holed putts at the right time and we’ve manned up.
“We were close in Chicago in 2005 and then County Down in 2007, there was one point in it then which is one putt basically. It feels fantastic to win it back and we’re going to enjoy it.”
Speaking shortly after securing the winning half point, 24-year-old Brown said: “It’s unbelievable, I’m just so happy. I didn’t know it was coming down to me. I tried not to look because I didn’t want it to make any difference but just that we won. We were all happy that we got picked but we all wanted to be on a winning Walker Cup team. To win is just unbelievable.
“I didn’t just want to win myself. I didn’t care if I won four points or one point or no points if we won. That’s all that mattered. We’re a team. The team spirit has been unbelievable all week. We’ve been in it together and to actually win as a team is unbelievable.”
Speaking afterwards, GB&I players paid tribute to their captain. Jack Senior, who holed a long putt for a crucial half on 18, said: “Preparation was unbelievable. I mean, his comments and everything, he just makes you feel so special, and makes you want to go out there and win for him. You don’t want to go out there and win for yourself, you want to go out and win for your team. It’s an unbelievable experience.”
Michael Stewart, who won his afternoon singles match, added: “It’s just that we’ve got the respect for Nigel, he’s played in this event and he’s done so well. We hang on every word he says really. The motivation in the team room has been great. It’s just a pleasure playing with him as a captain.”
The next Walker Cup match is scheduled for 7-8 September 2013 at The National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York. Cutler won’t be there but Dunbar might remain amateur and try to qualify for that team.
Walker Cup 2011
Great Britain and Ireland (Nigel Edwards) 14, USA 12 (Jim Holtgrieve) Royal Aberdeen, 10-11 September 2011
Foursomes (GB&I, 3-1)
Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart (GB&I) bt Peter Uihlein and Harris English (USA), 2 and 1
Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan (GB&I) bt Russell Henley and Kelly Kraft (USA), 2 and 1
Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar (GB&I) bt Nathan Smith and Blayne Barber (USA), 5 and 4
Steven Brown and Stiggy Hodgson (GB&I) lost to Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams (USA) 5 and 3
Singles (GB&I and USA, 4-4)
Tom Lewis (GB&I) lost to Peter Uihlein (USA), 2 and 1
Jack Senior (GB&I) lost to Jordan Spieth (USA), 3 and 2
Andy Sullivan (GB&I) lost to Harris English (USA), 2 and 1
Rhys Pugh (GB&I) bt Patrick Rodgers (USA), 2 and 1
Steven Brown (GB&I) bt Russell Henley (USA), 1 up
James Byrne (GB&I) bt Nathan Smith (USA), 2 and 1
Paul Cutler (GB&I) bt Kelly Kraft (USA), 2 and 1
Michael Stewart (GB&I) lost to Patrick Cantlay (USA), 2 and 1
(GB&I leads 7-5)
Foursomes (GB&I, 3½-½)
Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart (GB&I) halved with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers (USA)
Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan (GB&I) bt Peter Uihlein and Harris English (USA), 3 and 2
Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar (GB&I) bt Kelly Kraft and Blayne Barber (USA), 2 and 1
James Byrne and Rhys Pugh (GB&I) bt Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams (USA), 5 and 3
(GB&I leads 10½-5½)
Singles (GB&I, 3½-6½)
Tom Lewis (GB&I) lost to Russell Henley (USA) 4 and 2
Andy Sullivan (GB&I) lost to Jordan Spieth (USA) 3 and 2
Jack Senior (GB&I) halved with Nathan Smith (USA)
Michael Stewart (GB&I) bt Patrick Rodgers (USA), 3 and 2
Stiggy Hodgson (GB&I) lost to Peter Uihlein (USA) 2 and 1
Steven Brown (GB&I) halved with Blayne Barber (USA)
Rhys Pugh (GB&I) bt Kelly Kraft (USA), 2 and 1
Alan Dunbar (GB&I), lost to Chris Williams (USA) 1 up
James Byrne (GB&I) lost to Harris English (USA) 2 and 1
Paul Cutler (GB&I) halved with Patrick Cantlay (USA).
Day 1 (GB&I 7, USA 5)
Day 2 (GB&I 7, USA 7)
Totals (GB&I 14, USA 12)