Walker Cup: "I will do my best and try to be a good version of myself"

Walker Cup: "I will do my best and try to be a good version of myself"
The GB&I Team (left to right) Tom Sloman, Caolan Rafferty, James Sugrue, Conor Purcell, Harry Hall, Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team captain Craig Watson, Thomas Plumb, Alex Fitzpatrick, Euan Walker, Conor Gough and Sandy Scott during the flag raising ceremony at the 2019 Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (Copyright USGA/Chris Keane)

The GB&I Team (left to right) Tom Sloman, Caolan Rafferty, James Sugrue, Conor Purcell, Harry Hall, Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team captain Craig Watson, Thomas Plumb, Alex Fitzpatrick, Euan Walker, Conor Gough and Sandy Scott during the flag raising ceremony at the 2019 Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (Copyright USGA/Chris Keane)

There were tears of pride from some of the Mallow contingent as the tricolour was raised and the strains of "Amhrán na bhFiann" wafted across the hallowed links of Royal Liverpool ahead of the 47th Walker Cup.

As the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Brass Ensemble played on, it mattered little that Mallow's Amateur champion James Sugrue and Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty were the two men left out of the foursomes line up for the tomorrow's opening exchanges by Great Britain and Ireland skipper Craig Watson.

After all, Watson's American counterpart Nathaniel Crosby opted to sit world amateur number one Cole Hammer and No 10 Steven Fisk, who was runner up to the latest PGA Tour hotshot, Matthew Wolff, in the NCAAs in May.

Far from looking disappointed, Sugrue and Rafferty insisted the would be on the first tee to support Portmarnock's Conor Purcell and England's Alex Fitzpatrick as they take on US amateur champion Andy Ogletree and runner-up John Augenstein and then step into the breach when required.

"I have only been playing alright and I have a small tweak in my back so it could be better and it could be worse," Sugrue revealed, adding that he was proud that around 100 members of Mallow would be on the Wirral to support the team.

"We will be down on that first tee to support all the lads and hopefully we will be out there soon."

It's unlikely that Watson will sit Sugrue and Rafferty all day having insisted in the build-up that "it would be unfair to keep anybody out until Sunday."

But Sugrue is adamant that no matter what results he achieves this week, it is all about winning back that trophy and clinching a third successive home success for Great Britain and Ireland and a sixth from the last seven home matches.

I will do my best and try to be a good version of myself, as Neil Manchip always tells us.
— Caolan Rafferty

"I don't care if I get no points as long as we win the trophy," Sugrue said. "Making the team is fantastic, but we are here to do a job. It takes away from it if you lose. So we want to win back that cup. It is probably the most impressive trophy I have ever seen.

"I thought the Amateur Championship trophy was class but this is bigger and better. Our plan is to go out on Sunday night with that trophy and celebrate."

Rafferty was equally philosophical about his early omission, adding: "We are a team; we are ten and we will be there to support Conor and Alex on that first tee tomorrow morning.

"A win is a win, even if you are not playing. But hopefully we'll get the clubs out tomorrow."

Then with a grin, he added: "We'll give them a wash anyway.

"It is a great honour just to be here in the first place. I will do my best and try to be a good version of myself, as Neil Manchip always tells us. If you can do that, you will be alright."

Portmarnock star Purcell has been rooming all week with Fitzpatrick, younger brother of Ryder Cup player Matthew.

"We have become closer as the week has gone on," said Purcell, 22, the reigning Australian Amateur champion.

"We are ready to lead the pack. We love foursomes and have tee shots we like. I don't know much about the American lads but they must be playing well to reach the final of the US Amateur. But we will take them on."

Sugrue admits that the pressure this week is possibly greater than anything he felt in the Amateur Championship or even in The Open, given that it’s a team event of huge prestige.

"I have played in front of bigger crowds at The Open but the team element makes this different," the 22-year old said. "There more to play for, especially playing with lads who you know but you don't know a very long time. There is just a will to win.

"This is probably more pressure than The Open, where it was more a case of whatever happens, happens."

A steady 15mph northwesterly wind and Hoylake’s treacherous rough will prove testing for the hotly fancied Americans but for Purcell, this week offers him an opportunity to showcase his talents to the world before he eventually sits down to plot out a career in the professional ranks.

“I think as your amateur career progresses, you go through stages and winning tournaments obviously builds up your CV," Purcell said. "I guess Walker Cup is kind of adding another thing on to that CV.

"It's the top of our amateur game. It's the biggest team competition we can play in, and I guess if you turn pro or whatever the case may be, I think someone who's looking to help you, whether it's management or sponsorship, I think having said you've played in a Walker Cup can help."

47th Walker Cup, Royal Liverpool, Hoylake

Day 1 - Foursomes (US names first)

  1. 08:30 John Augenstein & Andy Ogletree v Alex Fitzpatrick (Eng) & Conor Purcell (Irl);

  2. 08:40 John Pak & Isaiah Salinda v Sandy Scott (Sco) & Euan Walker (Sco);

  3. 08:50 Stewart Hagestad & Akshay Bhatia v Harry Hall (Eng) & Conor Gough (Eng);

  4. 09:00 Brandon Wu & Alex Smalley v Tom Skoman (Eng) & Thomas Plumb (Eng).

Afternoon - Eight singles