Lewis stays on course for his fairytale ending


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The Independent Online

Tom Lewis's final day as an amateur could be his most enjoyable. Great Britain and Ireland hold a 7-5 lead over the mighty Americans and the chance of a Walker Cup shock looks so tantalising.

In bleak conditions, the old links bared its teeth and took chunks out of the US challenge. The experts say this is one of the strongest teams ever to have crossed the pond, but Royal Aberdeen may be their Kryptonite. They limited Lewis – the 20-year-old who made such a splash at The Open with an opening 65 – to one point, but they could not contain his team-mates. In team golf the unpredictable is predictable.

It is fair to say the day did not begin as Lewis intended. Going out first, he pulled his drive into the gorse and the ball was never located. "It was a bit embarrassing having to send Mikey [Stewart] back to the tee," he said. "But we managed to come away with a win."

Their 2 & 1 victory over the Americans' crack pairing of Peter Uihlein and Harris English set the tone for a foursomes flourish which took them into a 3-1 lead. But just as the smiles were beaming at their brightest, so the mood was deflated. Working as an analyst for the BBC, Paul Eales, the former European Tour professional, recognised the caddie of the home team's Jack Senior as a certified PGA professional and so the controversy started. Eales' colleague Maureen Nidal pulled out a copy of the match regulations which state that players aren't allowed to use caddies who are pros.

Senior's bagman happened to be his elder brother, Joe, so obviously he knew his status. But he didn't know the rule, neither it must be presumed did the team's management. As Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive pointed out, it was "amazing" nobody realised.

So how did Senior escape? Because the error was not spotted until the match had been finished and in matchplay that means the result stands. If it had come to light during play, the punishment would have been two holes. As Senior and Andy Sullivan beat Russell Henley and Kelly Kraft 2 & 1 it must be presumed the United States would have secured a half. Will that be costly?

To his credit, Jim Holtgrieve, the US captain, accepted the situation with good grace. "There was no argument from anyone whatsoever," reported a highly relieved Dawson. He vowed to repeal the rule which he called "a bit daft".

So much else about this match apes its professional equivalent. Momentum shifts like sweet wrappers in the wind and in the afternoon singles, the home team held it, lost it and regained it. Lewis, who will turn pro tomorrow, was soundly beaten 2 & 1 by Uihlein. "I just didn't play well," said Lewis. Fortunately, his pals at the bottom of the order managed to, especially the 17-year-old Rhys Pugh. The Welshman was three down through eight holes after Patrick Rodgers' six birdie burst. Pugh stood tall and came through 2 & 1. The huge hug from Nigel Edwards, his countryman and captain, said it all.