Edwards hails Phelan and Moynihan - Ireland's silent assassins

Cool as ice. Kevin Phelan will be one of Nigel Edwards’ trump cards in New York. Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards wants Ireland’s Kevin Phelan and Gavin Moynihan to be his silent assassins.

The Irish duo got the call up to the 10-man side to do battle at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York from September 7-8.

And while the side has an average age of just 20, many of whom are the quiet, silent type, the Welsh skipper knows he has some serious talent in his team.

“Kevin’s won on the college circuit in America, did well at the NCAAs and qualified for the US Open twice and in particular this year, he did very well in making the cut,” Edwards said. “He’s got strong credentials and done very well this year.

“Gavin has progressed for a number of years in Boys golf and he’s a great competitor and will do very well in this environment. He’s got a great short game and we’re delighted to have him in the team and I’m sure he’ll look forward to the challenge of a Walker Cup.”

Waterford Castle star Phelan (22) and The Island’s Moynihan (18) are laid back individuals who are seen rather than heard. But Edwards has no worries on that score.

“We have a few quiet lads in the team but you can be the silent assassin type and that’s fine by me,” Edwards said with a chuckle.

“Kevin is in that mould and Gavin is a great competitor and done well at all levels he has played at. When he has been a junior player on men’s teams and in men’s competitions he has proved himself.”

Gavin’s got his gun. Moynihan is good off the tee but it’s his short game that makes his dangerous in matchplay. Edwards’ 10-man team is dominated by England with newly crowned US Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick part of a seven-strong English contingent alongside the Irish duo and Welshman Rhys Pugh, the only survivor from the winning 2011 side.

For the first time since 1949 and only the second time ever, there will no Scots in the side to defend the trophy Great Britain and Ireland won in dramatic fashion at Royal Aberdeen in 2011.

Edwards said: “There are probably a few players who are disappointed to miss out but there were some very strong performances by Matt Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond at the US Amateur. It is a very strong team.”

Spanish Amateur winner Reeve Whitson and Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, who won six points out of six in the recent Home Internationals, were amongst the unlucky ones to miss out.

“Dermot had a great Home Internationals and did well in the European Individual and there were a lot of players in contention when you look at the reserves,” Edwards said.

“Dermot probably needed a little more consistency over the last two years but he’s a very good match player and as long as he stays amateur, he will challenge for a  spot on the 2015 team.

“We’d just like to see him have a bit more consistency with his game and he’ll challenge for a spot in two years time.”

Moynihan’s performance in the Home International, where he won five and lost just one of his six matches, may have proved crucial in is selection.

“It’s great,” he said from Tuscaloosa, where he had just checked in to the University of Alabama for his orientation day. “I was delighted when I got the call from Nigel. I thought it was 50-50 but I had good Europeans and a good Home Internationals so I thought I had a good chance, but it was great to get that call.”

The National Golf Links of America clubhouse. Ironically, the US Walker Cup team will feature three of his college team mates in Robbie Wyatt, Justin Thomas and Cory Whitest, who were the backbone of the NCAA winning University of Alabama side this year.

As for his selection, he realises that the R&A could have picked 12 or 15 players and believes his 2 & 1 Home Internationals win over Scotland’s Graeme Robertson may have tipped the balance in his favour and inadvertently left the Scots without a representative for the first time since 1949.

“I thought there might be a chance of three Irish myself but I am surprised there are no Scots,” he said. “A lot of the R&A selectors were watching me against Graeme Robertson and whoever won that might have decided who got on.

“All I want now is to put in a good performance. It is a bonus to be on the team so I will just go and enjoy it, try and have three or four good rounds and see if it’s good enough.

“The American are a really great side though, so it will be tough. But every single one of the guys on our team are playing great too so it will be a great experience.”

Jacksonville-based Phelan, who plans to turn professional straight after the Walker Cup, was considered a certainty to make the side following his impressive performance in the US Open at Merion, where he made the cut and finished 62nd.

But he says he tried hard to put all thoughts of being an automatic starter out of his mind.

“I was delighted when they rang me,” Phelan said. “I honestly tried not to think about it too much. I figured I had a decent chance but tried to just push it aside and focus on what I was doing instead of worrying about what the results would do.”

Having Moynihan in the side is a boost considering they formed an unbeaten foursomes partnership in the Home Internationals last year.

“I am thrilled for Gavin because I thought he had a good chance with his matchplay record and his singles record, which has been impeccable for the last couple of years,” Phelan said.

“He is obviously a great player and has one of the best short games I’ve ever seen. So I’m delighted he’s on the team. And we played foursomes together last year so let’s see how it goes.

“He’s got three US Walker Cup players in college with him now in Alabama - to have four players from the one university is amazing -so I am sure there will be a little bit of banter going on with them for the next few weeks, getting ready.

“It’s a very good US team. They have a very strong team and one of my team mates at the University of North Florida for the last few years, Sean Dale, is the second reserve. It is a US team full of great players  and it will be a tough match but we will give it everything.

“The venue could be good for us. Visually it looks somewhat like a links but the greens will be lightning fast, I’m sure, but with eight or nine days in New York we will get adjusted to that and get used to the greens and the conditions.”

As for the Irish players to miss out, Phelan felt for McElroy, who won all six matches at the Home Internationals, three of them as his foursomes partner.

“Dermot was great,” Phelan said. “And Reeve Whitson had an excellent year with the Spanish Amateur win. Other years they would have had a really good chance as well but there is such a strong English contingent this year.

“I don’t think anyone was lucky to get on the team this year. Everyone on it deserves to be there and one or two others were deserving as well but there are only 10 places.

“Graeme Robertson was there with a great chance and a couple of others too. I’m glad I wasn’t picking the team. Gavin played Graeme in the singles too and that could have been an important result for Gavin but you never know what is going through the selectors’ heads.”

Skipper Edwards believes he has a strong squad of proven international winners capable of following in the footsteps of the European Solheim Cup team by winning on US soil.

“It was fantastic the way the European team won the Solheim Cup last night and it was throughly deserved from the off and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do too,” Edwards said.

“What they did is definitely an inspiration and it says a lot about what European countries are going in golf with lots of new players coming through.

“It’s great to see Europe pressing forward and our players haven’t done well just in Britain and Ireland but all over the world as we saw with Matt Fitzpatrick winning the US Amateur on Sunday. They have won in Australia, South Africa, the United States and all across Europe.

“It goes to show that we can compete anywhere in the world with the very best players in the world and we’re looking forward to a couple of weeks’ time.”

Only Welshman Rhys Pugh remains from the winning 2011 side but Edwards understands the temptation of young players to turn professional.

Yet he believes that the likes of McElroy might do well to remain amateur for another two years having come close to Walker Cup selection this year.

“It’s disappointing for me that players are turning pro so early and we have just one player from the 2011 team,” he said. “Players go pro when they feel they are ready when some might not be ready, and it’s a big challenge to get them to stay amateur.

“It’s not easy [to lose so many players from 2011] but when I have a team like the one I have this year, considering how strong they are, it’s easier to take.”

GB&I Walker Cup team: Matthew Fitzpatrick, 18, England; Nathan Kimsey, 20, England; Gavin Moynihan, 18, Ireland; Max Orrin, 19, England; Kevin Phelan, 22, Ireland; Garrick Porteous, 23, England; Rhys Pugh, 19, Wales; Neil Raymond, 27, England; Callum Shinkwin, 20, England; Jordan Smith, 20, England.
Reserves: Greg Eason, 21, England; Ryan Evans, 26, England. Captain: Nigel Edwards, 45, Wales.

USA: Max Homa, 22, Calif.; Michael Kim, 20, Calif.; Patrick Rodgers, 21, Ind,; Justin Thomas, 20, Ky.; Cory Whitsett, 21, Texas; Jordan Niebrugge, 20, Wis.; Nathan Smith, 35, Pa.; Michael Weaver, 22, , Calif.; Todd White, 45, S.C.; Bobby Wyatt, 21, Ala.
Captain: Jim Holtgrieve.