Kevin Phelan said goodbye to the amateur ranks with two wins on the final day but the United States of America still defeated Great Britain and Ireland, 17-9 to win the 44th Walker Cup Match at the National Golf Links of America.
Phelan and The Island’s Gavin Moynihan teamed up to win their foursomes in the morning, sensationally coming back from four down after six holes to beat Patrick Rodgers and Jordan Niebrugge 2 up thanks to six birdies in their last 12 holes and two in a row at the 17th and 18th to close out the match.
But GB&I still trailed 12-8 overall and never looked like overturing the deficit in the singles series, which the Americans eventually won 7-3.
Phelan ended the week with two wins from three - one in foursomes and one over Max Homa (despite the American’s hole in one) in singles. He will now join Chubby Chandler’s ISM group and head for Stage One of the European Tour Q-School in Portugal later this month. He is exempt into Stage Two of the US Q-School thanks to his US Open performance at Merion, where he made the cut.
As for playing partner Moynihan, who along with Phelan was one of the GB&I success stories, his singles defeat to Rodgers by one hole left him with two wins and two defeats from four starts as he begins US college life at the Univeristy of Alabama.
“It was a great week, and being on the team for ten days was excellent and I really enjoyed it,” Phelan said. “I’m sure I’ll remember it for a very long time.
“I just really enjoyed the week. It would have been nice to have been a bit closer today and give it a good run at the end, but we all did our very best and we came up a bit short, but it was a great week for all of us.”
Exonerating GB&I skipper Nigel Edwards from all blame for the heavy defeat, Phelan added: “Nigel has been an excellent captain.
“I thoroughly enjoyed playing under him. And I think I learned a lot from him, and I really appreciate the effort he put in, not just this week but the last couple of years in preparation. It was a joy to play under Nigel, and it’s by no means Nigel’s fault.”
Edwards was disappointed with the result but did not rule out another go at the captaincy, if asked by the R&, at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2015
“Naturally very disappointed,” the Welshman said. “We didn’t do the simple things well. We didn’t hole out well enough. We missed greens with wedges, which is very costly, especially when the punishment of shortsiding yourself was so severe.
“You know, the lads, they played their hearts out. It’s not that they haven’t tried. They have tried, and of course, we’re disappointed because they’ve had such success this year and in recent years that it makes it all the more disappointing.
“But we have to deal with that, and I’m sure that they will all learn from the experience and go forward and develop themselves into better players, whether it’s as a professional or continue as an amateur because quite a few of them are in college, and some of them are staying amateur and playing in the UK.”
On taking charge again, if asked, Edwards said: “Of course you’d do it. Wouldn’t anyone captain GB & I? I don’t really think I’m good enough now having lost by such a heavy margin today.
“I put my heart and soul into over the last four years into captaining the team, and it would have been lovely to have won here this week. Clearly it’s very disappointing, but I think it was only small margins, even though it was a big margin.
“That’s a bit of a contradiction in what I’m saying there, but there were a couple of games that went up the last yesterday afternoon in particular that had we won them instead of losing them when we were all square playing the last, it would have been very different or should have, would have, could haves don’t count, do they?
“It is small margins, but that’s the same in any team match play event or any stroke play event that you see week to week throughout the year.
“But yes, of course, if I was asked, I’d do it. Obviously I’d have to consult with my family because it’s such a huge commitment, and obviously with England Golf because I’ve got a very busy job there, although it does dove tail quite nicely.”
His opposite number, Jim Holtgrieve, was naturally delighted having lost in Aberdeen two years ago.
“It’s something I have been wanting for a long, long time, particularly after we lost in 2011,” Holtgrieve said. “I was hoping I would get a mulligan for ‘13 and when I knew it was going to be at National Golf Links, which is where it all started, I wanted so bad to come here. Yes. I wanted to win but I wanted to do something good for golf and this, to me, was truly good for golf.”
In winning seven of the 10 afternoon singles matches Sunday, the USA captured 13½ of the possible 18 points in the singles sessions over two days. The host team has won four of the last five Matches and has not been defeated on home soil since the USA lost in 2001.
Nathan Smith, 35, playing in his third Match, clinched the 14th point and the Match for the USA with a 4-and-3 win over Nathan Kimsey. He is one of two mid-amateur players (25 years and older) on the USA Team and has won four U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships and played in four Masters Tournaments.
“This ranks at the top of the list,” said Smith of winning the clinching point. “I never wanted a point so much in my life. This (Match) means the most. I’m happy for Jim (Holtgrieve). Nobody deserves it more than him and loves the game of golf and put more hard work into a team than him.”
Before Smith clinched the Cup victory, the other mid-amateur, 45-year-old high school teacher Todd White, won his match over Rhys Pugh, GB&I’s star in their 2011 victory in Scotland, for the team’s 13th point.
Bobby Wyatt, one of three USA Team members from the University of Alabama’s NCAA Division I championship squad, won his foursomes and singles matches on Sunday and was undefeated for the Match. He was the team’s top point-getter with 3½.
Also recording an undefeated mark for the USA was Michael Kim of the University of California-Berkeley, who was the low amateur at the 2013 U.S. Open Championship. Kim was 3-0 with two singles wins and one foursomes victory.
Wyatt and Alabama teammate Justin Thomas won the first two matches of the Sunday singles session handily as the USA captured four of the first five matches.
“They all focused together,” Holtgrieve said. “They all played together. They all worked together and they helped each other with their games. There were no individuals. It was a team.”
“They adapted to conditions a little bit better – the greens changed and there were very, very severe pin positions,” GB&I captain Edwards said of the USA. “They holed out a little bit better and I would say the short shots into the green, the distance control, that’s where they outdid us. When they did hit it over the back they got up and down and we didn’t.”
The morning foursomes (alternate-shot) matches were split at 2-2 for a 10-6 USA lead entering the afternoon singles and the Americans needing just 3½ more points to clinch victory.
University of Alabama teammates Wyatt and Cory Whitsett snagged one of the morning foursomes points with a 2-and-1 win over Kimsey and Max Orrin.
The other USA foursomes win was by Max Homa and Kim, who edged Pugh and Garrick Porteus, 1 up.
The GB&I wins came from the teams of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick and U.S. Amateur co-medalist Neil Raymond, and Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan.
Fitzpatrick and Raymond topped Michael Weaver and White, 3 and 2. Moynihan and Phelan beat Patrick Rodgers and Jordan Niebrugge, 2 up, recovering from a 4-down deficit with 11 holes to play.
Fitzpatrick finished as the top scorer for GB&I with a 3-1 record.
The USA is a perfect 6-0 in Matches held in New York state and holds a 35-8-1 lead in the series.
The Walker Cup Match is a men’s amateur team competition played every other year, with one squad from the USA and the other representing England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The 45th Walker Cup Match will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England, Sept. 12-13, 2015.
Southampton, N.Y — Results from Sunday’s foursomes and singles matches at the 44th Walker Cup Match at the National Golf Links of America (6,995 yards, par 72):
USA 17, Great Britain & Ireland 9
Saturday Morning Foursomes (US names first)
Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt halved with Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin
Jordan Niebrugge and Nathan Smith lost to Matthew Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond 1 up
Michael Weaver and Todd White lost to Garrick Porteous and Rhys Pugh 3 and 1
Patrick Rodgers and Justin Thomas, USA, bt Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan 2 and 1
USA 1 1/2, Great Britain and Ireland 2 1/2
Bobby Wyatt bt Neil Raymond 2 up
Max Homa bt Max Orrin 5 and 3
Michael Kim bt Callum Shinkwin 2 and 1
Cory Whitsett bt. Jordan Smith 1 up
Michael Weaver bt Matthew Fitzpatrick 3 and 1
Jordan Niebrugge bt Garrick Porteous 1 up
Justin Thomas halved with Nathan Kimsey
Patrick Rodgers lost to Gavin Moynihan 2 and 1
USA 6 1/2 GB&I 1 1/2
Overall Saturday, USA 8, Great Britain and Ireland 4
Sunday Morning Foursomes
Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett, USA, def. Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin, GB&I, 2 and 1
Matthew Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond, GB&I, def. Michael Weaver and Todd White, USA, 3 and 2
Max Homa and Michael Kim, USA, def. Garrick Porteous and Rhys Pugh, GB&I, 1 up
Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan, GB&I, def. Patrick Rodgers and Jordan Niebrugge, USA, 2 up
Foursomes, USA 2, GB&I 2
Overall: USA 10, GB&I 6
Sunday Afternoon Singles
Bobby Wyatt, USA, def. Neil Raymond, GB&I, 4 and 3
Justin Thomas, USA, def. Max Orrin, GB&I, 6 and 4
Matthew Fitzpatrick, GB&I, def. Michael Weaver, USA, 3 and 2
Todd White, USA, def. Rhys Pugh, GB&I, 4 and 3
Nathan Smith, USA, def. Nathan Kimsey, GB&I, 4 and 3
Callum Shinkwin, GB&I, def. Cory Whitsett, USA, 2 up
Michael Kim, USA, def. Garrick Porteous, GB&I, 4 and 2
Kevin Phelan, GB&I, def. Max Homa, USA, 2 and 1
Jordan Niebrugge, USA, def. Jordan Smith, GB&I, 6 and 5
Patrick Rodgers, USA, def. Gavin Moynihan, GB&I, 1 up
Singles, USA 7, GB& I 3
Overall USA 17, GB&I 9