Golf: McEvoy inspires troops to level best

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The Independent Online
IF GREAT BRITAIN & Ireland lose the Walker Cup to the United States at Nairn today, it won't be because of Peter McEvoy's captaincy. The team veteran Gary Wolstenholme called McEvoy's leadership "inspirational" before the 37th match started, and so it proved yesterday.

McEvoy's involvement in the morning's foursomes was evident for all to see. The former two-time British Amateur champion seemed to appear at just the right time in each match. For example, when Paul Casey hit a wedge shot through the back of the 10th green in the match featuring Casey and Luke Donald against Jonathan Byrd and Steve Scott, McEvoy was there to put a reassuring hand on the 22-year-old's shoulder. The GB & I pair promptly halved the hole to maintain their two-up advantage.

Not that this particular twosome need much encouragement. Donald attends North- western University in Chicago, while Casey plays golf for Arizona State. Donald is the reigning NCAA champion, and the highest-ranked amateur player in the US, while Casey won this year's English Amateur Championship and is the 16th best amateur golfer in America.

McEvoy made a wise choice in putting the two together in the morning foursomes, because the pair drew first blood for the home side by easily winning their match 5 and 3. They were five under par for the 14 holes they played.

Afterwards McEvoy only got one of his pairings wrong as the two sides battled to a 2-2 draw in foursomes play. Ireland's Paddy Gribben and Lorne Kelly of Scotland were no match for Tim Jackson and David Gossett, the present US Amateur champion. The home side lost 3 and 1, a scoreline that was not helped by Kelly missing a couple of short putts at the 4th and 7th to give the visitors those holes.

The pairing of Graeme Storm, the present British Amateur Champion, and Graham Rankin, playing his third Walker Cup, were two up after two holes against Hunter Haas and John "Spider" Miller. But the Americans fought back. When Rankin hit into the whins on the 18th hole, rendering the ball unplayable, the visitors had gained a point they didn't really deserve, winning one up.

Perhaps McEvoy's most astute pairing was putting the 39-year-old Wolstenholme alongside the 20-year-old Philip Rowe, the youngest member of the home side. The pair stormed out of the blocks to a three-hole lead over Bryce Moulder and the 1997 US Amateur champion Matt Kuchar by the ninth. Again the Americans fought back, to all square by the 17th, but Rowe clinched the match when he holed a 15ft birdie putt to ensure that GB & I levelled the morning session.

For McEvoy it was an important psychological blow. "Strangely enough, even though we're level I think the way it's happened leaves us upbeat," he said. If he continues to inspire his side today as he did yesterday, then he should be lifting the Walker Cup by the close of play today.