Golf: Britain found wanting by parochial attitude

Andy Farrell believes that another defeat in golf's Walker Cup might be avoided by bringing Europe on board
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The Independent Online
At the opening ceremony of the 36th Walker Cup, the Union Flag got stuck at half-mast and that is where it should have stayed for the weekend. The history of the event is for those on the eastern side of the Atlantic to indulge in the very occasional almighty celebration party, or quietly forget all about it. Last weekend's match followed the general trend.

Two wonderful highs of victory, at Peachtree in 1989, for the only time on American soil, and at Royal Porthcawl two years ago, almost shed the match of its undesired sobriquet of the Walkover Cup. But the last two visits by Great Britain and Ireland to the United States have produced the two biggest thrashings in a long list of one-sided affairs. At Interlachen in 1993, the US won 19-5 and at Quaker Ridge this time it was 18-6.

As well as the Americans played, they were not led by a major new talent as they have been in the last three matches: Phil Mickelson in 1991, Justin Leonard in 1993 and Tiger Woods, albeit in a losing effort, in 1995. In a search for a star, you have to look to John Harris, who won all four of his matches and, as at Interlachen, secured the winning point.

In three Walker Cups, Harris now has the superb record of 10 wins and one loss, while he is unbeaten in six singles matches, the best record in the competition's history.

The visitors never recovered from losing the first morning foursomes 4-0, and they won only one foursome on Sunday morning - which at least kept the match alive going into the final session. However, it was over as a contest barely 20 minutes into NBC's coverage of the final afternoon. If the network executives were less than impressed, so were the citizens of Westchester County and New York City.

Limited galleries of maybe 3,000 people each day watched the event, while others were put off by the high ticket prices. At $55 (pounds 35) a day, they did not compare favourably with a season ticket of $225 for seven days at this week's USPGA Championship at nearby Winged Foot watching Woods, Leonard, Ernie Els et al.

When a media official of the United States Golf Association tumbles to the anachronism of trying to run a major international event as a garden party, you know sense can penetrate the deepest reaches. But the match will continue in accordance with the traditions of 75 years of history.

The USGA have profits they do not know what to do with from their contract with NBC for the US Open, a deal which also requires the network to cover its amateur events.

The Royal and Ancient of St Andrews do their duty to the world by running the Open superbly, but they have never acknowledged past calls for Europe to be brought into the match. It took Jack Nicklaus to revive the Ryder Cup, but difficulties of selection have always been stated as a reason not to bring in the best Continental amateurs.

Jose-Maria Olazabal and Per-Ulrik Johansson are just two who could have graced past matches, while Spain are the current European amateur team champions. The R&A are the governing body for every country in the world bar northern America, so why stop at the boundaries of Great Britain and Ireland?

"I'm a traditionalist and I don't want to think about that," the Britain and Ireland captain, Clive Brown, said. "This is more than just a golf match. It's a celebration of the relationship between the USGA and the R&A, who between them govern world golf."

There was at least hope for the future in the form of Justin Rose, who a week after his 17th birthday came out of the match with two points. Only Steven Young could match him, while the amateur champion, Craig Watson, claimed one and a half points. "Justin has done himself a great deal of credit," Brown said. "He will be a star to watch in the future."

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