Walker Cup was highlight of golfing year

Great Britain and Ireland celebrate winning the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club
Great Britain and Ireland celebrate winning the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club
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There was one stand-out golfing event in Lancashire in 2016 – the Walker Cup in September.

Royal Lytham staged the transatlantic set-to which pitted the best amateurs of Great Britain and Ireland against the holders the United States.

The world-famous course had staged every other international competition in its long history, except the Walker Cup – but when it came it was well worth the wait.

There was some tremendous golf over the two days, and the added bonus of a home victory.

Great Britain and Ireland wrested the famous old trophy back from the grasp of the United States, stating their authority in an emphatic manner and adapting better to the unique demands of the Links Gate course.

GB and I, well marshalled throughout by the canny captaincy of Nigel Edwards, prevailed by 16.5-9.5, the decisive moment when the cup changed hands at the 18th in the singles match between Paul Dunne and Maverick McNealey.

Dunne, who had earlier in the summer been joint-leader of The Open going into the final day at St Andrews, secured the half-a-point required for victory.

GB and I had been in the box-seat from out outset.

The players had to go out and do the business, but skipper Edwards could justifiably lay claim to being a hugely important figure outside the ropes.

The victory at Lytham meant that Welshman Edwards had skippered GB and I to two wins in three attempts, the previous triumph being at Royal Aberdeen in 2011.

After cementing victory in the final afternoon singles, Edwards said: “The boys at the top of the order went out fast, as we needed them to do.

“There were tremendous performances in every session.

“There were some matches where the players had to dig really deep and they proved crucial.

“At the start of the week we wanted to do something very special and this is it.”

The contest was watched by a crowd more than 10,000 over the two days and they undoubtedly saw some star names of the future – on both teams.

Jimmy Mullen was a real hero for GB and I, ending the 2015 Walker Cup with the perfect record, though he was more concerned about what he contributed to the team as a whole.

The 21-year-old said: “It did not matter as long as the team won, but to win all my matches is the icing on the cake.”

Mullen became the first GB&I player to have a perfect 4-0 record since Paul Casey and Luke Donald at Nairn in 1999.

In what was a superb, all-round team effort, Chesters was also unbeaten, scoring three-and-a-half points out of four.

Dunne said that he said the Walker Cup was preferable to his 30th place finish in The Open.

Dunne, who had delayed his move to the professional ranks to play in the Walker Cup, stated: “I will take winning over 30th place every day.

“It’s so much better to do it as a team.

“Nigel has been a fantastic captain and inspired us from start to finish.”

Edwards’ American counterpart Spider Miller was out-flanked by Edwards and raised a few eyebrows by not sending out the United States amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau until last.

His match was rendered meaningless as he was still out in the country, far away on the 10th hole, when Dunne had grabbed the point needed on the final green.

Miller look more than slightly teary after what must have been a trying time.

He said: “I am very proud of everyone.

“They played hard and fought hard and lost with grace and dignity, and that’s not easy to do.

“Nigel and his boys outplayed us, simple as that. They earned it.”

Little did we realise it at the time, but the 2015 Walker Cup produced a landmark of a different kind.

It is the last live golf competition that the BBC will cover in this country.

Golf is one of the casualties of the £35m cut in sports rights that the Corporation is having to undertake.

They have ditched coverage of The Open championship one year early – as a result, Sky Sports will take up the contract to screen the Royal Troon Open in 2016, with only highlights on the BBC.

The next live golf on the BBC will be the 2016 Masters in Augusta and the re-introduction of golf at the Olympic Games in Rio.