The Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captain, Nigel Edwards, has praised his players for their focus on preparation after a less than straightforward build-up to this weekend’s showdown on the eastern shore of New York’s Long Island.
Edwards, a veteran of four consecutive Walker Cup matches from 2001 through to 2007, had to return home earlier in the week after his father fell ill. However, having been assured by doctors that his dad was on the mend, Edwards flew back to New York to find his players fully concentrated on their task of retaining the historic trophy.
“I knew they’d be fine; they’re good lads, and they’d be very professional about preparing,” Edwards said. “I had a chat with a couple of the senior players. They’ll get on with it. The golf course is here and they know that they’ve got to focus on the short game because at the end of the day this week will be won with a putter.”
After leading GB&I to victory in Aberdeen two years ago, Edwards will be playing in his fifth Walker Cup, having made his debut in the same team as Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell in 2001. The amateur event returns to the National Golf Links of America, where the first Walker Cup was held in 1922, with GB & Ireland looking to end a two-match losing streak on US soil.
They will be led on the course by Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick, who became the first Englishman since 1911 to win the US Amateur Championship – propelling him to No 1 in the world amateur rankings – and also won the silver medal for best amateur at July’s Open Championship at Muirfield.
“We’ve got a great team and, of course, I can’t wait to get back with them,” said Edwards. “But we’re going to have to work very, very hard for it.”
Returning US captain Jim Holtgrieve has tried not to put too much pressure on his team as they bid for a 35th title having ended a run of three successive wins last time, at Royal Aberdeen in 2011.
“Everybody wants to win but that’s not the ultimate goal,” Holtgrieve said. “The ultimate goal is to do what we did in Scotland, which is to enjoy the experience of playing for our country and being a member of the Walker Cup team. We did not win the match, but let me tell you, afterwards I heard so many positive remarks about our American team and the way we handled ourselves. That was good for golf. How can you do any better than that?”