GB&I golfers trying to win Walker Cup on US soil only thing more daunting than upcoming election vote

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The worst thing about the build up to any form of election is the tsunami of pamphlets, flyers and general bumf imploring you to vote for this, that or the other.

My modest vestibule in the house, for instance, now resembles the aftermath of a concentrated leaflet drop by a squadron of B-52s.

As the week goes on, I’m convinced I’ll trudge to my front door and find Nicola Sturgeon, Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar and all the others literally trying to squeeze themselves through my letterbox in a last-ditch charm offensive. 

Someone informed me the other day that they are voting tactically but, in the overwhelming mountain of political paraphernalia, I’ve yet to find any promotional paperwork from the Tactical Party. It’s got to be in the pile somewhere?

Perhaps one of the only things more daunting than guddling through all this gobbledydook of governance is the task GB&I’s golfers face in trying to win a Walker Cup on American soil. Now, there’s a sentence that will at least earn a majority vote for the most excruciatingly tenuous link in a column this week.

This cherished amateur showpiece takes place this weekend at Seminole in Florida with GB&I attempting to win on US turf for just the third time since the event’s inception back in 1922.

Stuart Wilson, the canny Scot from Forfar, will skipper GB&I and it will be a thrilling and well-deserved honour for a hugely respected golfing man who was one of Scotland’s finest amateurs in his playing pomp.

Upon his appointment back in early 2020, I had a chin-wag with him about Walker Cup captains of the future. It’s hardly an exhaustive list. “Are you saying they had nobody else to ask?,” said Wilson with a wry chuckle about his own appointment.

In an age when professionalism is king and the career amateur golfer is about as old-fangled as the stovepipe hat, the conversation about former Walker Cup players, who subsequently turned professional, possibly becoming a GB&I skipper has been doing the rounds for a while now.

That, of course, would open up a huge pool of potential candidates and glittering names, whether it be Padraig Harrington, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie or Paul McGinley to name just a few. 

Luke Donald, the former world No 1 who was part of the winning GB&I team at Nairn in 1999, recently expressed an enthusiastic interest if the opportunity ever arose. On the American side, meanwhile, what about a certain Mr Woods beetling about in the captain’s buggy during the foursomes?

Of course, to the sturdy traditionalists, the idea of a professional captain would be viewed as an act of heresy punishable by ritual drowning in the Swilcan Burn.

In terms of profile, though, such appointments would certainly help elevate this grand old occasion into new territory in a world that thrives on star attraction and celebrity. 

From the golden age, when amateur golf showpieces commanded back page coverage, the to-ings and fro-ings in the unpaid game now have to fight it out for the more niche nooks and crannies that are going spare. The aficionados will savour this weekend’s joust. The wider appeal is a different matter.

Gary Wolstenholme, GB&I’s all-time leading points scorer, was obvious captain material until he turned pro at 48 to pursue a career in the senior ranks over a decade ago. He remained a champion of the professional captain idea, though. “The interest in the Walker Cup would be through the roof,” Wolstenholme suggested.

Of course, any ‘big name’ couldn’t just hop on board to perform some ceremonial role. They would have to be invested in the event and put in the groundwork in the months leading up to it. If you’re going to do it, then you have to do it properly. The idea of good old Monty following an impressive prospect for a few holes during a Brabazon Trophy and scribbling down one or two notes may be a fanciful notion too far.

When some of the golf writers re-visited the captain situation with the R&A chief executive, Martin Slumbers, back in 2016, he was very keen to preserve the status quo.

“The way the game has evolved over the last 20 years, there’s a smaller and smaller pool of amateurs who are eligible to be captain,” Slumbers conceded. “As long as we can stay with suitably skilled and qualified amateurs, that’s the way we want to go. Padraig and Colin would be very good leaders of men, but I don’t think we need to go that far.”

You never say never, though. People probably thought you wouldn’t see a female member at the Royal & Ancient but that all changed in 2014. And who’s to say a woman of great golfing substance couldn’t be a future Walker Cup captain?

For the time being, though, the current skipper and his 10-man team will be focussing on the job in hand. The GB&I wins of 1989 and 2001 in America get more venerated as each year passes. The last close-run thing on US terrain was back in 2005 when GB&I were pipped by a point in Chicago.

If Wilson can mastermind a victory this weekend, they may just give him the captaincy for good.


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