Read the small print on any financial product and it will say: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
The same could be said for the balance of power in Europe after the Continent of Europe claimed both the St Andrews Trophy and the Jacques Léglise Trophy on a day when the winds of change blew ominously for British and Irish golf at a magnificent Portmarnock.
The contest between the leading amateurs from the Home Nations and the best talent from the Continent has been going since 1958 with the St Andrews Trophy coming into existence in 1964.
But while the Continent had triumphed four times in the past, they made history at the north Dublin links yesterday, claiming a first ever victory on British or Irish soil by 11 ½ point to 12 ½.
While a southwest wind that gusted over 30 mph made it tough to score, the Continent had help in the shape of stunning late collapses by Great Britain and Ireland’s two leading players, British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar and recently crowned European Amateur champion Rhys Pugh.
Alex Godillot’s Continent of Europe side trailed 7-5 heading into the final day but won the morning foursomes 3-1 to level proceedings at 8-8 before edging a dramatic singles session 4½-3½ to secure overall victory for the second edition in a row.
How many of the nine-man GB&I side will be available for Walker Cup duty next year remains to be seen as both Dunbar and England’s Neil Raymond have entered this month’s first stage of the European Tour Qualifying School as amateurs.
However, a bitterly disappointed Great Britain and Ireland St Andrews Trophy captain, Nigel Edwards, believes that all amateurs hoping to make it as professionals must ask themselves some searching questions about their ability to grind it out.
Dunbar was one up with two to play against Sweden’s Robert Karlsson but drew poor lies after going through the back of the 17th (where he was forced to take an unplayable) and 18th holes, made double bogey sixes at each to lose by one hole. Crucially for GB&I hopes, Dunbar suffered defeat in all four of his matches at Portmarnock
GB&I were still in control overall with Welsh 18-year old Pugh three up with four to play against Spaniard Jacobo Pastor in the middle order.
However, the 18-year old US college star missed a three-foot par putt to close out the match on the 17th and then bogeyed the last as Pastor holed a 12-foot par putt to win the hole and snatch a crucial half point.
In between there were narrow wins for the English trio of Craig Hinton, Garrick Porteous and Neil Raymond but Europe countered with victories by Manuel Trappel and Edouard Espana to leave the overall outcome hinging on the final singles between Waterford Castle’s Kevin Phelan and Germany’s Moritz Lampert.
The Continent needed only a half to share the match 12-12 and retain the trophy. But Lampert was one up playing the 17th and he ended it there and then, holing a 20 footer from just off the green for dramatic winning birdie after Phelan had failed with his putt for a three from 25 feet.
Non-playing Edwards could not mask his disappointment after watching his side slip up at the finish:
Obviously very disappointed. If two of your best players finish like that you are not going to win, simple as. Can’t really say much more than that.
We didn’t have a very good morning, played okay this afternoon but we didn’t finish it. It was very much there to be won. When I left the 15th tee, Rhys was three up with four to play, Alan was one up with two to play. You’d fancy your chances with that, wouldn’t you? European Amateur champion and British Amateur champion, you’d have thought [that would be enough]. You can’t much better than that. We are disappointed. We came to win. We didn’t come here to lose that’s for sure.
But fair play to the Continentals, they played right to the wire and they holed the putts coming down the closing holes. So you’d have to say they deserved the victory because the match is over 18 holes, not 15 or whatever. Naturally I am very disappointed and I am sure the players are very disappointed. They tried very hard and we have to re-group and see where we go form here.
Walker Cup? We have got to start looking at that now. Who knows, we could have a number of them turning pro. They need to ask themselves certain questions if they are going to turn pro. That may be the right route for them. I guess they will go to tour school and you want them to do as well as they can. But if they don’t make it through tour school, hopefully they will be available because they are good players. We want to do well next year.
Q What kind of questions should they be asking themselves?
What kind of questions [do they need to ask themselves]? Well, it was a tough golf course, but it is tough for everyone. I guess Alan was unfortunate on 17 where his ball finished there, going over the back, because he seemed to hit a decent shot. That changed the whole match, I guess. It could have been a very different story. What sort of questions should the ask themselves? Well, I think the same questions as before we came here. You need to have a great short game at whatever level you play, whether it is the Open championship or your monthly medal. Usually the guy that wins is the guy that putts very well that week or that day. So short game, the way they practice and what they practice. We need to be short game experts if that’s the right terminology.
Look at the professionals, the players who are making money put it in play off the tee and have great short games. Everybody acknowledges that. I don’t think it is a question of what questions have they got to ask. They know what they have to do. They have to apply themselves and do it. Two years ago we lost [the St Andrews Trophy] in Castelconturbia and we won the Walker Cup. But this week was about the St Andrews Trophy and let’s give credit to the Europeans. They fought hard, they played with passion and fought for every point and they played right to the end. Good luck to them. They finished with a birdie on a hole where there had been a lot of big numbers during the week.
Continental captain Godillot was a member of the side beaten 20-10 by GB&I when the matches last visited Portmarnock in 1968. So it was no wonder he was delighted to lead the first side to win an away match
“I’m very happy and a bit surprised for we have never won on British (and Irish) territory,” said Godillot. “It was a great battle today to come back and win the foursomes after being two points behind. Then in the singles, either team could have won, it was so close and for once we had a bit more luck than the British and Irish, especially coming down the final few singles matches.
“I played here in 1968 but the score was not the same, 20-10. We have more good players and coaches than we did back then. Many of the good players now go to America and we are much more consistent. We are now a team with nine very good players. Ten years ago we had four or five very good players and the rest we’re not at the same level. Not now.”
The Continent of Europe also won back the Jacques Leglise Trophy for under 18s when they crushed GB&I 4-0 in the morning foursomes to go 11-5 in front, eventually cruising to 13.5 to a 10.5 victory.
Needing just two points to retain the trophy, they got them in the first two singles when the Castle’s Alex Gleeson lost 2&1 to Spain’s Mario Galiano and Italy’s Giulio Castagnara beat The Island’s Gavin Moynihan by one holes thanks to a glorious 213-yard two iron to around 12 feet at the last.
Although the contest was already decided there was a strong GB&I showing in the rest of the matches.
Max Orrin had been six up through eight holes but had to wait to the 17th to close out his match 2&1 against Renato Paratore. Toby Tree was a convincing 5&4 winner over Sweden’s Hannes Ronneblad, Boys Amateur Champion Matthew Fitzpatrick defeated Romain Langasque 2&1, while Ashton Turner dug deep to deny Austria’s Matthias Schwab at the 18th.
Scotland’s Bradley Neil turned his match around against Victor Tarnstrom to win by two holes and the bottom match between Harry Ellis and Dominic Foos was halved.
“I am happy that we finally made it. It was closer than we thought in the end,” said Stangl. “It was great that our first two guys won their points to get the job done. I’m really delighted and so happy for the team.”
“I am really delighted for the boys,” said non-playing captain Gary Stangl. “It is difficult to bring guys together from different countries who don’t speak the same language. The foursomes were key for us.”
The star performer for the Continent was the slightly built, 14-year old German Dominic Foos, who dropped just half a point in his four matches.
Losing captain Peter McEvoy said: “The boys tried very hard and played better golf in the singles but it was very disappointing this morning. I think they will be disappointed with how they played to be honest. The foursomes were crucial. We were up all day yesterday and lost them 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 and then 4-nil today. To carry that is very difficult. We would have edged the singles in total so disappointing because I think we had a team to win.”
St Andrews Trophy
Overall result: Great Britain & Ireland 11.5, Continent of Europe 12.5.
(GB&I Names First)
A Dunbar and N Raymond lost to E Espana and M Lampert 2&1.
C Hinton and B Taylor bt R Karlsson and T Sorensen 2&1.
R Pugh and G Porteous bt M Trappel and MSchneider 5&4.
N Kimsey and K Phelan lost to C Pigem and J Pastor 3&2
(Foursomes Result: GB&I 2; Continent of Europe 2).
R Pugh lost to M Trappel 3&2.
C Hinton bt J Pastor 4&2.
A Dunbar lost to E Espana 2 holes.
G Porteous bt T Pulkkanen 6&5.
G Robertson lost to C Pigem 3&2.
N Raymond bt M Schneider 3&1.
K Phelan bt M Lampert 1 hole.
B Taylor bt R Karlsson 2 holes.
(Singles Result: GB&I 5, Continent 3).
Day 1 overall: Great Britain & Ireland 7; Continent of Europe 5.
Saturday, Foursomes (GB&I names first)
R Pugh and G Porteous lost M Trappel and M Schneider 2 Holes
C Hinton and B Taylor lost to R Karlsson and T Sorensen 4&3
A Dunbar and N Raymond lost to E Espana and M Lampert 1 Hole
N Kimsey and K Phelan bt C Pigem and J Pastor 3&2
(Saturday, Foursomes result: GB&I 1, Continent of Europe 3)
Overall GB&I 8, Continent of Europe 8.
Saturday, Singles: (GB&I names first)
A Dunbar lost to R Karlsson 1 hole;
C Hinton bt M Schneider 1 hole;
G Porteous bt C Pigem 1 hole;
N Raymond bt T Sorensen 2&1;
R Pugh halved with J Pastor;
G Robertson lost to M Trappel 3&2;
N Kimsey lost to E Espana 3&2;
K Phelan lost to M Lampert 2&1.
(Singles result: GB&I 3.5, Continent 4.5)
Overall result: GB&I 11.5, Continent of Europe 12.5.
Jacques Leglise Trophy (GB&I Names First)
Overall: Great Britain & Ireland 10.5, Continent of Europe 13.5.
G Moynihan and A Gleeson bt K Subregis and Romain Langasque 5&3.
T Tree and M Orrin lost to V Tarnstrom and H Ronneblad 1 hole.
A Turner and P Kelly lost to M Schwab and D Foos 3&2.
H Ellis and M Fitzpatrick halved with M Galiano and G Castagnara
(Friday, Foursomes Result: GB&I 1.5; Continent 2.5).
G Moynihan halved with M Schwab.
N Bradley lost to H Ronneblad 4&2.
A Gleeson lost to D Foos 3&1.
T Tree lost to R Paratore 3&2.
M Orrin bt M Galiano 6&5.
A Turner bt K Subregis 4&3.
P Kelly lost to R Langasque 1 hole.
M Fitzpatrick bt V Tarnstrom 5&3.
(Singles Result: GB&I 3.5; Continent 4.5)
Day 1, Overall: GB&I 5; Continent 7.
Saturday, Foursomes (GB&I Names first)
G Moynihan & A Gleeson lost to G Castagnara & R Paratore 4&3
T Tree & M Orrin lost to M Schwab & D Foos 1 Hole
A Turner & P Kelly lost V Tarnstrom & H Ronneblad 2&1
H Ellis & M Fitzpatrick lost to R Langasque & K Subregis 2 Holes.
(Foursomes result: GB&I 0, Continent 4).
Overall GB&I 5, Continent 11.
G Moynihan lost to G Castagnara 1 hole;
A Gleeson lost to M Galiano 2&1;
M Orrin bt R Paratore 2&1;
T Tree bt H Ronneblad 5&4;
M Fitzpatrick bt R Langasque 2&1;
A Turner bt M Schwab 1 hole;
B Neil bt V Tarnstrom 2 holes;
H Ellis halved with D Foos.
(Singles result: GB&I 5.5, Continent 2.5)
Overall: GB&I 10.5, Continent of Europe 13.5.