Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards on selection process: "Good players are good players, you have to look at them"

Sam Horsfield watches his second shot on the 14th hole during the first round of match play of the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill. on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.  (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

Nigel Edwards won’t feel pressure when he sits down this weekend to draw up the Walker Cup team to face the USA.

When the 10 names are announced on Monday — and Ireland has high hopes of having five on the team — it will be the calls to those who didn’t get picked that will weigh heaviest on his mind.

High expectations and unbridled ambition are part and parcel of the story when it comes to top amateurs these days . The recent Open Championship at St Andrews, where Greystones’ Paul Dunne was co-leader with a round to go, and one of four amateurs in the top 30, is a prime example.

Some may say the Walker Cup has lost its cachet but they clearly don’t know the 20 or so hopefuls waiting for the nod.

“They all have a lot of confidence in themselves because performances generate confidence,” Edwards says at Olympia Fields clubhouse where he has spent the day watching the likes fo Dunne, Cormac Sharvin and Gary Hurley, not to mention another five English and Scottish players. "They expect to do well now.”

Dunne wasn’t the leading amateur at The Open as American Jordan Niebrugge tied sixth to win the Silver Medal ahead of England’s Ashley Chesters, who tied 12th with Ollie Schniederjans, who has since turned professional.

“Ashley finished 12th and asked me if he was in The Open next year,” Edwards says. “He was very disappointed when I told him he had to be Top 10. You could see the disappointment. His expectations, despite being a very quiet lad, are to do very well. And why wouldn’t he think that?

“And I know Paul was disappointed he didn’t better on the last day even after everything he did. That’s the way these kids think now.”

Edwards believes the Walker Cup is important for the game, especially for those who will never turn professional. 

And the affable Welshman is quietly confident as he counts down to the matches at Royal Lytham and St Annes from September 12-13 , despite the fact that the USA will send over another team of hotshots similar to 2007 when Rory McIlroy and Co lost to Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel and Colt Knost or 2011 when Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Russell Henley, Patrick Rodgers and Peter Uihlein were shocked 14-12 by the hosts.

“I think we will do just fine,” he said. “Why? Because we will have a very good team that will play passionately for each other. They want to be in it to win it and I think the golf course will suit us.”

When it comes to picking the side, Ireland has an advantage in that the heart of the team has been together for three years, winning back to back Home Internationals and contending regular for all the big titles. 

“Cormac’s played very well,” Edwards said. “His game has been in order… he has pushed forward and young Moynihan has been producing results for years. 

Likewise Paul has come on strong since he played in the St Andrews Trophy last year, likewise Gary Hurley and Jack Hume has been playing nicely. And Dermot is certainly much more consistent this year than he has been.”

In contrast, England has lost 20 squad players to the professional ranks since the 2013 Walker Cup alone. 

“It is a concern for the game,” said Edwards, who is also Director of Coaching for England Golf. “But the Walker Cup can give some many other people so much. For many as it was for, it is the pinnacle of their careers.”

With Gavin Moynihan, (the sole survivor from 2013) considered automatic, Ireland’s representation could be an all time record of five if Jack Hume or even Dermot McElroy get the nod when the 10-man team is named on Monday.

The result of this week’s US Amateur may not have a massive bearing on the decisions to be taken by Edwards or his three selectors —Welshman Andy Ingram, Scotland’s Gary Hay and Tramore’s Michael Burns — this weekend. But it’s not ruled out either.

And what of Sam Horsfield, who has not set foot in Europe for an official event this year? He dined with the GB&I squad members present at the US Amateur on Sunday and was watched by Edwards on Monday. He's also the third highest ranked GB&I player.

“Good players are good players,” Edwards said. “You have to look at them.”

Having seen some many major winners and top stars play Walker Cup in recent years and talk positively about their experiences, Edwards expects the event to continue to thrive even if the numbers turning professional every year are frightening.

“Jordan Spieth has just finished first-first-fourth-second in majors four years after playing a Walker Cup,” he said. “It can’t be all bad.” 

Whatever about the Irish presence in the Walker Cup side, there will be an Irish-American in the 2016 US Curtis Cup team in recently crowned US Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan.

That’s because she’s the granddaughter of the late Eleanor O’Sullivan (née Nunan) from Lattin, Cp Tipperary and John O’Sullivan of Kilmallock, Co Limerick, who emigrated to the USA in 1957. 

Hannah’s grand aunt, Pauline Daly, the former President of the Irish Lawn Tennis Association, still lives in Lattin and takes a keen interest in the rising talent of her grand-niece. 

Her Dad, Greg O’Sullivan, was brought up in San Francisco and the family now live in Chandler, Arizona. 

Greg met his wife Sarah, originally from Seoul in South Korea, when they were both working and living in Hong Kong.