Brotherly bonding as much as individual brilliance was the key to Irish golf securing an historic five-strong presence in the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side to face the United States at Royal Lytham and St Annes from September 12-13.
Greystones' Paul Dunne, Naas’ Jack Hume, West Waterford's Gary Hurley, The Island's Gavin Moynihan and Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin got the nod from the selectors and broke the record Irish Walker Cup presence of four set by Joe Carr, Cecil Ewing, Jimmy Bruen and Max McCready in the 12-man teams of 1949 and 1951.
The now famous five are joined by English trio Ashley Chesters, Jimmy Mullen and Sam Horsfield and Scotland’s Grant Forrest and Jack McDonald in what will be a difficult bid to win back the trophy after the USA romped to a 17-9 victory at the National Golf Links of America two years ago.
Yes, Dunne’s brilliant performances in the NCAAs, The Open and the US Amateur were important and so too was the Brabazon Trophy win by Sharvin, Moynihan’s second Irish Amateur Open win, Hurley’s European Amateur Championship runner up spot or Hume’s rock like consistency over the past two years and his role in Ireland’s second successive Home Internationals.
But in giving Irish golf half the places in the 10-man team, non-playing captain Nigel Edwards and his selectors have also clearly back the bond that this band of Irish brothers has forged amongst themselves and with the rest of the GB&I squad over the past few seasons.
“It’s a combination of both,” Edwards said yesterday. “If you look at their individual performances, they have done brilliantly. Yes, they have shone and they do play very well as a team but their individual performances have also been very good.
“That said, as a group, they have been doing it together for quite some time now. They have obviously built up a great camaraderie and each player’s individual success has fuelled the fire the others
“All of them have been around the Irish team for the last four years and that creates a great team bond.”
Scotland will be upset they got just two onto the team in the year in which they won the European Amateur Team Championship. However, they also lost to Ireland in the decisive Home Internationals encounter, where Hume may well have done enough to impress the selectors that he was worth a berth.
Ewen Ferguson's failure to make the cut in the US Amateur at Olympia Fields may have been significant while US-based Horsfield was always a players who was going to be attractive.
"The last couple of spots always cause the most discussion," Edwards said. "What I will say is the selection panel was unanimous in the whole team and the reserves.
There was a little bit of a wider discussion and each and every player was given really discussion by the selection panel, even players who are not named as reserves. We were unanimous."
Asked if the US Amateur affected selection, Edwards said: "Not really, no. Having said that, if a player who is not in the team had gone out and won the US Amateur, of course it would have. That is stating the obvious."
On Horsfield, who did not attend the squad session as he was only informed about it my email the week before, Edwards said: "Horsfield reached the quarters of the Western Amateur, he has won in America and he has performed. Okay, he hasn’t got the links experience but how many of the American team have got links experience?
"That doesn’t mean they are not going to be able to play. That question doesn’t really stack up. Of course people will be questioning players. But I am really happy with the team and looking forward to getting them together at Lytham and getting them to perform well."
Running through the Irish quintet, Edwards added: “I have known Paul for quite some time and I was going to these events and I was actually still playing when Paul was still on the radar as a junior and then going off to UAB.
"He is a great competitor and a great putter and his performances still summer have just added weight to his ability.
"He has formed a great partnership with Gary Hurley in foursomes both for Ireland and GB&I in the St Andrew Trophy. I have been aware of Paul for some time and he has developed very well. he is a good team player and he will be looking forward to it.
"After the Open, plenty of people will have been dangling carrots in front of Paul but I am glad he stuck to his goal of playing in the Walker Cup and now he’s realised that.
“I saw him the day after The Open and I asked him the question and there was no way he was going to pass up the opportunity of playing in the Walker Cup for the sake of six weeks."
On Hurley, he said: “Gary would have been under quite a bit of pressure from himself more than anyone to perform leading up the Walker Cup selection and he did that leading up to the European Amateur in Slovakia [finishing second] and he’s had a great foursome partnership with Paul for Ireland and Great Britain and Ireland [winning eight and a half out of nine].
“Jack [Hume] has been so consistent but yes, the recent Home Internationals absolutely played a role in his selection. And he’s a good competitor, a good team man, a wonderful putter and he makes plenty of birdies. So I’m sure he will continue to make plenty of birdies.
“Gavin is a wonderful player. He did well in America the last time. He’s won couple of Irish Strokeplays and Royal Lytham & St Annes will be right up his street. So I’ll be looking for some big performances from Gavin.
“And Cormac - he’s done great, second in the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Strokeplay and then topping it off with a win in the Brabazon Trophy was great. I am pleased for him. He has really progressed over the last couple of years.”
As for the Americans, they are led by recently crowned and somewhat eccentric US Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau,
DeChambeau beat Dunne 3 and 2 in the quarter-finals at Olympia Fields and confessed to writing “cursive backwards” to stay mentally sharp and testing the centre of gravity of his golf balls by floating them in Epson Salts.
“If I was still playing and I was drawn to play against him, I’d be looking forward to that challenge,” Edwards said.
“What we have to do is focus on us and not them. If we can take care of our game and do the basics brilliantly, we will do fine.”
The GB&I team:
- Ashley Chesters, 26, Hawkstone Park, England
- Paul Dunne, 22, Greystones, Ireland
- Grant Forrest, 22, Craigielaw, Scotland
- Sam Horsfield, 18, Davenport, Florida, USA
- Jack Hume, 21, Naas, Ireland
- Gary Hurley, 22, West Waterford, Ireland
- Jack McDonald, 22, Kilmarnock (Barassie), Scotland
- Gavin Moynihan, 20, The Island, Ireland
- Jimmy Mullen, 21, Royal North Devon, England
- Cormac Sharvin, 22, Ardglass, Ireland
Reserves: Ewen Ferguson, 19, Bearsden, Scotland; Bradley Moore, 17, Kedleston Park, England
Captain: Nigel Edwards, 47, Whitchurch, Wales