Golf: Pyman anchors youth against experience: Britain and Ireland confident of improving their dismal record in the Walker Cup

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The Independent Online
IF COCKINESS proves to be as valuable as balance and experience in Walker Cup play, then the young amateurs in the Britain and Ireland team may be able to better their sorry record today and tomorrow at the Interlachen club here.

The United States' record in the biennial cup stands at 29 wins and three losses, with one match tied, and according to one member of the visiting team, the 20-year-old Englishman, Stuart Cage, 'the attitude of this team is that we've only won three times before, so we better start settling some scores pretty soon'.

The age span of the British and Irish team runs between 19 and 24, and their only Walker Cup veteran is the 22-year-old Padraig Harrington. By contrast, the Americans' youngest player is the 21-year-old US amateur champion, Justin Leonard. Four are in their forties, including the twice US amateur champion, Jay Sigel, who at 49 is older than all his opponents, including George Macgregor, the Britain and Ireland team captain.

Sigel is playing in his ninth Walker Cup and also has the most wins at 16. He remained an amateur because of an injury, at 19, to his left wrist. 'It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If I had turned pro, I probably would have been an average player. Back then purses weren't as big and my lifestyle might not be as good as it is today.'

The anchor of the visiting side is Iain Pyman, the amateur champion who had a record score of 281 at the Open Championship in Sandwich last month, and, at 20, is considered the strongest player among the British and Irish. Macgregor said yesterday: 'Iain has shown that he is able to play his game in a very tense atmosphere.'

The atmosphere at the Walker Cup may become tense once the matches begin today, but in practice, the young team played with an odd hybrid of relaxed excitement. Dean Robertson, the Scottish player born in Canada, said: 'This team is very laid back. You could say that we're slightly arrogant. I don't think any of us would be here if we didn't think we could win.'

The United States are going to be formidable opponents. Most of their players are veterans of past Walker Cups or the mighty college golf system, or both. But Macgregor said his youthful team can prevail. 'These guys are all so enthusiastic, it's got to rub off on the captain. So I am optimistic - these lads are very, very positive.'

WALKER CUP TEAMS: United States: D Berganio (Sylmar, California, age 24), T Demsey (Rancho Sante Fe, California, 21), A Doyle (La Grange, Georgia, 45), B Gay (Daleville, Alabama, 22), J Harris (Edina, Minnesota, 41), T Herron (Wayzata, Minnesota, 23), J Leonard (Dallas, Texas, 21), K Mitchum (Southern Pines, North Carolina, 22), J Sigel (Collegeville, Pennsylvania, 49), D Yates (Atlanta, Georgia, 43). Non-playing captain: V Giles.

Great Britain and Ireland: R Burns (Banbridge, N Ireland, 19), S Cage (Sand Moor, England, 20), B Dredge (Bryn Meadows, Wales, 20), P Harrington (Stackstown, Ireland, 22), P Page (Dartford, England, 22), V Phillips (Stoke Poges, England, 21), I Pyman (Sand Moor, England, 20), D Robertson (Cochrane Castle, Scotland, 23), R Russell (Longniddry, Scotland, 21), M Stanford (Saltford, England, 24). Non-playing captain: G Macgregor.