Golf: Players regard McEvoy as the perfect captain

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The Independent Online
PETER McEVOY is hoping to be named Walker Cup captain for the 2001 match at Ocean Forest in Sea Island, Georgia. If the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews had any sense at all, it would give McEvoy the job for as long as he wants it.

While the victorious 1999 Walker Cup team was one of the finest squads ever assembled - perhaps the best ever - it was McEvoy's inspirational leadership that allowed Great Britain and Ireland to record the biggest margin of victory over the Americans in the 77 years of the match's history.

After the impressive 15-9 win over the United States at Nairn, Luke Donald and Paul Casey, the outstanding players of the Great Britain and Ireland side, praised McEvoy for his leadership abilities.

"I think Peter is just a great captain," said Casey. "He's a great motivator and gets us in the right frame of mind all the time. We knew we had the capability and Peter just kept telling us we did."

Donald agreed. "Peter certainly made me think about who I was playing for," the 21-year-old said. "We've had a lot of sessions and he's really made us think we're representing our country."

McEvoy has two British Amateur titles to his name. He has also played five Walker Cups and represented England more times than any other player. He knew it was important to instil in his side a sense that they were the best amateur golfers in the world. That is why he insisted his players be treated first-class. So the team wore cashmere and their clubs were carried in leather bags. It was a trick Tony Jacklin used when he first became Ryder Cup captain in 1983 - he insisted his European team fly Concorde and stay in five-star hotels.

Besides the cosmetic touches, though, McEvoy seemed to be there for his players when it mattered. Countless times over the two days McEvoy was on hand to offer a word of advice here, a hand around the shoulder there. His presence was definitely more obvious than that of Danny Yates, the American captain.

Finally, McEvoy proved he has the most canny mind in the amateur game by the way he handled Graham Rankin. Nairn was the 33-year-old Scotsman's third Walker Cup. In the previous two he had gone pointless and appeared to be heading that way this year when he failed to record one on the opening day.

No one would have been surprised had McEvoy sat Rankin out on Sunday. However, the captain knew Rankin had the game to win and trusted instinct over logic by putting him out twice on Sunday. It was the right move: Rankin won both his matches.

Make no mistake, McEvoy will captain the 2001 side. If he performs like he did at Nairn, he may also be the captain in 2003 and 2005, and well into the next century.