Golf: McEvoy's Walker Cup wonders

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The Independent Online
GREAT BRITAIN and Ireland made history here yesterday by winning the Walker Cup from the United States by the score of 15 to 9, the biggest margin of victory over the Americans since the match began 77 years ago.

The Britain and Ireland captain Peter McEvoy was positive he had the team to defeat the Americans, even after trailing the visitors by two points heading into the last day. Yesterday his players proved him right as the home side took 10 of the 12 points available, winning the match for only the fifth time, against 31 wins by the United States and one halved match. The last win for Britain and Ireland came in 1995 at Royal Porthcawl (14-10). The other victories were in 1989 at Peachtree in Atlanta (121/2-111/2), 1971 at St Andrews (13-11) and 1938 at St Andrews (71/2-41/2).

In front of huge crowds over an immaculately prepared Nairn course, the home team was led by Luke Donald and Paul Casey, the current NCAA champion and English amateur champion respectively. The pair became only the second and third Britain and Ireland men, after Andrew Oldcorn in 1983, to win four points out of four.

McEvoy was an inspirational captain. Even after his side trailed the United States by seven points to five following Saturday's play, McEvoy refused to alter his game plan. Eyebrows were raised when he paired Graham Rankin and Graeme Storm together in yesterday's foursomes. The two had lost their match the day before, then lost in singles play as well. Yet McEvoy put them out first yesterday. It proved an astute move as they easily defeated Edward Loar and Tom McNight by 4 and 3.

It was part of a tremendous comeback from the home side as they won the morning foursomes three points to one to draw level with the United States on eight points each.

So strongly did McEvoy believe in Rankin that he put him out first in the singles yesterday. The 33 year-old labourer rewarded his captain's faith by drawing the first blood of the afternoon, defeating Steve Scott by one hole with two birdies on the final two holes.

It soon became apparent in the afternoon that a Britain and Ireland win was looking more like a formality. By the time Rankin reached the 14th hole, the home side were up in seven of the eight matches on the course. It stayed that way as they won the singles by seven matches to one, another Britain and Ireland record.

After Rankin's point, Casey and Donald chipped in with wins of their own. So when Graeme Storm holed out for a win on the 18th in his match against Jonathan Byrd, it meant Britain and Ireland could not lose the Walker Cup.

The coup de grace was left to Ireland's Paddy Gribben, who defeated Hunter Haas, America's best player, by a score of 3 and 2.

The margin of victory was bigger than McEvoy thought, but the win did not surprise him. "I said all along we had a great team and I think they proved that today," he said. "They really are a special team. I just couldn't be more proud of them. It is the proudest moment of my golfing life.

"I've never seen a Walker Cup like this for crowd size and participation, that amount of television coverage and everything was set up and run like an Open championship. I don't think you could have anticipated winning the final day 10-2 but the great thing was when we woke up on Sunday morning it was upbeat. That's basically what this team is like. I think this will be an enormous boost for golf as a whole in this country."

Casey, from Weybridge in Surrey, who defeated John Miller 3 and 2 in the singles, added: "I still don't know what to think. Just to play in a Walker Cup is fantastic but to win four points is something else. I thought about it at the start and it's a dream come true. I didn't play very well this morning but Luke carried me round and I think we just played the golf we know we can and the team spirit was fantastic."

Both Casey and Donald paid tribute to McEvoy's inspirational leadership but the man himself insisted: "I don't think you should overstate captaincy, I really don't."

The US captain, Danny Yates, said: "We tried real hard. We had the same plan but they played exceptionally well and didn't give us a chance. We played hard and fought hard but they scored better, took it to us and outplayed us, it was that simple.