Begay ready for colourful debut

Tim Glover, in Porthcawl, sees a GB and Ireland team primed for golf's Walker Cup
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The Independent Online
"No, it's not war-paint," Notah Begay III, said. "I'm not going to kill anybody." After the massacre in Minnesota two years ago, when Great Britain and Ireland were beaten 19-5 by the United States in the Walker Cup, this is reassuring news.

Begay, 22, from Albuquerque, is the first Red Indian, or Native American as the politically correct would have it, to play in the biennial match. He is also the first to apply make-up.

Today, Begay - his father is a Navajo, his mother a San Felipi Pueblo - will go into battle wearing red clay on his cheeks. "I always rub it on when I'm in competition," he said. "It was taught to me by my mother." He will also say a little prayer, a "personal expression to get focused."

Notah - the name means "almost there" - is an economics graduate of Stanford University, where last year he teamed with Eldrick "Tiger" Woods to win the National Championship. The two were not paired together for this morning's foursomes, but have been given key roles to play in the afternoon's singles. Begay will play Gordon Sherry in the first match, and Woods will play Gary Wolstenholme in the last.

Clive Brown, the GB and Ireland captain, has made Sherry his pathfinder. "I want him very much to lead the side," Brown said. Although the dream match of Sherry versus Woods has been avoided in the singles, they will face each other this morning in the foursomes. Brown, a Welshman, has gone for two Scottish pairings, one English and one Irish.

The first match, at the instigation of George Herbert Walker, George Bush's grandfather, was played in 1922 and the current score to America is 30-3, prompting the competition in some quarters to be renamed the Walkover Cup. The 1993 match was so one-sided it led to speculation that GB and Ireland should enlist the support of the rest of Europe, as happened in the Ryder Cup.

The other difference between Walker and Ryder is that the former is a bloodthirsty event played by amateurs who travel around in a coach, and the latter is for professionals who travel around in Concorde.

It is just possible that this weekend little old GB and Ireland will not need outside assistance, apart from a bracing westerly wind to spice up the links, to put one over on Tiger, Notah and Uncle Sam. This is the first time the match has been held in Wales, and it is appropriate that Royal Porthcawl, the jewel in the Principality's crown, should be the venue. No Welshmen in the side but a Welsh captain, and Brown was adamant that he had the 10 best players. "It is a more balanced, experienced side," he said.

There are other reasons for believing that this time the home team will not turn the other cheek, red clay or no red clay, and that they could win on British soil for the first time since 1971. The Royal and Ancient introduced a squad system this year, and no players have been more thoroughly prepared. In the past, the match was played in May and the switch to September has given the selectors the benefit of choosing a team on the form of a current full season.

In addition, GB and Ireland played Porthcawl 10 times before the practice rounds this week and they also enlisted the services of Bernard Gallacher, the Ryder Cup captain, particularly in relation to his experience of playing Americans. "Our whole approach has changed," Brown said. "We have worked on being more positive and tougher."

Indeed Brown, an accountant, seems to have taken a professional approach to the amateur game, even down to employing a firm of dieticians to advise the players on what to eat and drink.

"The Americans," Barclay Howard, at 42 the oldest member of the team, said, "are facing the Tiger Division." Yesterday, Tiger Woods was facing a sick bed after being forced to abandon practice after only three holes because of severe stomach cramps. Woods, who had an albatross two at the 511 yards 17th earlier in the week, was given medical treatment and will play. Perhaps he should have taken the advice of Brown's dieticians. Woods has been eating hamburgers since he arrived, but from this morning, the US team will take breakfast, cooked to the captain's instructions, in the splendid Porthcawl clubhouse.

WALKER CUP (Royal Porthcawl, Wal) Great Britain and Ireland v United States (Opening day, GB and Irl names first): Foursomes: G Sherry and S Gallacher v J Harris and T Woods; M Foster and D Howell v A Bratton and C Riley; G Rankin and B Howard v N Begay and T Jackson; P Harrington and J Fanagan v K Cox and T Kuehne. Singles: Sherry v Begay; L James v Cox; Foster v B Marucci; Gallacher v Jackson; Harrington v J Courville; Howard v Bratton; Rankin v Harris; G Wolstenholme v Woods.

WALKER CUP TEAMS

GB AND IRELAND

JODY FANAGAN Age: 30; Home: Dublin; Club: Milltown; Country: Ireland; uncapped

MARK FOSTER Age: 20; Home: Worksop; Club: Worksop; Country: England; uncapped

STEPHEN GALLACHER Age: 20; Home: Bathgate; Club: Bathgate; Country: Scotland; uncapped

PADRAIG HARRINGTON Age: 24; Home: Dublin; Club: Stackstown; Country: Ireland; capped 1991, 1993

BARCLAY HOWARD Age: 42; Home: Johnstone; Club: Cochrane Castle; Country: Scotland; uncapped

DAVID HOWELL Age: 20; Home: Swindon; Club: Broome Manor; Country: England; uncapped

LEE JAMES Age: 22; Home: Wimborne; Club: Broadstone; Country: England; uncapped

GRAHAM RANKIN Age: 29; Home: Airdrie; Club: Palacerigg; Country: Scotland; uncapped

GORDON SHERRY Age: 21; Home: Kilmarnock; Club: Kilmarnock Barassie; Country: Scotland; uncapped

GARY WOLSTENHOLME Age: 35; Home: Bristol; Club: Bristol and Clifton; Country: England; uncapped

UNITED STATES

NOTAH BEGAY Age: 22; Home: Albuquerque, New Mexico; College: Stanford; uncapped

ALAN BRATTON Age: 23; Home: College Station, Texas; College: Oklahoma State; uncapped

JERRY COURVILLE Jnr Age: 36; Home: Norwalk, Connecticut; uncapped

KRIS COX Age: 21; Home: San Antonio, Texas; College: Oklahoma State; uncapped

JOHN HARRIS Age: 43; Home: Edina, Minnesota; College: Minnesota; capped 1993

TIM JACKSON Age: 36; Home: Germantown, Tennessee; College: Tennessee; uncapped

TRIP KUEHNE Age: 23; Home: McKinney, Texas; College: Oklahoma State; uncapped

BUDDY MARUCCI Age: 43; Home: Berwyn, Pennsylvannia; College: Maryland; uncapped

CHRIS RILEY Age: 21; Home: San Diego, California; College: UNLV; uncapped

ELDRICK WOODS Age: 19; Home: Cypress, California; College: Stanford; uncapped

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