reports from Porthcawl
Great Britain and Ireland completed a resounding victory over the United States in the 35th Walker Cup match yesterday. It was made all the sweeter for its rarity value. This was only the fourth time, since the competition began in 1922, that GB and Ireland had beaten the Americans and they struck a great blow for that unfashionable concept, amateur sport.
It was the first time the match had been held in Wales and if it is an exaggeration to say they were singing in the valleys, they were certainly rejoicing on the links at Royal Porthcawl where not even driving rain that poured in mercilessly from the Bristol Channel could dampen the enthusiasm of a large crowd.
GB and Ireland, who were massacred 19-5 in Minnesota two years ago, went into the final session of singles yesterday afternoon needing three and a half points out of eight to secure victory and it was achieved with the minimum of fuss. Clive Brown, the captain and a Welshman, perhaps deserves as much credit as his team. Brown, the only captain never to have played in the Walker Cup, came up with the perfect batting order in the singles.
Gordon Sherry, David Howell, Stephen Gallacher and Jody Fanagan, who were making their debuts in the competition, went out in that order and all four won, thus making victory watertight. Downing Gray, the US captain, played two of his aces, John Harris and Tiger Woods, at seven and eight and although both won, the game, by then, was already up.
Sherry, the amateur champion who will turn professional following the Masters at Augusta next April, was involved in a high-class match with Chris Riley.
Riley made four birdies, won the 14th and 15th holes to make it all square but then the 6ft 8in Sherry overpowered him with a deadly finish. The Scotsman won the 17th with a birdie and after he had put his approach shot to within four feet of the flag at the 18th Riley was forced to acknowledge defeat.
Howell, the 20-year-old from Swindon, had a splendid day. A winner in the morning, he took the first four holes against the native American Notah Begay before emerging the winner by 2 and 1. Gallacher, the nephew of Europe's Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher, and Fanagan defeated Trip Kuehne and Jerry Courville respectively 3 and 2 and that was sufficient to give GB and Ireland an unassailable lead with 13 points. The final margin was 14-10. Howell, who secured victory with a birdie putt on the penultimate hole, said: "It was the biggest putt I have ever made, by far, by far. Brilliant. I can't believe it. The whole weekend has been marvellous... just incredible... the highlight of my life."
Fanagan, a 30-year-old Dubliner who works for the family funeral business, preserved a 100 per cent record: played three, won three. "I'm a rugby player really," Fanagan, who played stand-off and full- back for Irish Universities, said. "I should not be playing this stupid game. It's putting years on me."
GB and Ireland stymied the Americans in the morning's foursomes. Leading 7-5 after the first day, the home side protected their advantage by sharing the foursomes 2-2.
Brown was forced to change his original line-up when Graham Rankin, who would have partnered Lee James, withdrew on doctor's orders. Rankin tore a tendon in his left wrist while practising on Saturday evening and his place was taken by Saturday's hero Gary Wolstenholme. Wolstenholme and James were soundly beaten but the status quo was maintained by Howell and Mark Foster, who defeated Kris Cox and Kuehne 3 and 2, and by the inspired Irish partnership of Fanagan and Padraig Harrington, who gained a hugely impressive 2 and 1 victory over America's top pair, Woods and Harris.
At the 15th, 16th and 17th holes the Americans scored 5 (bogey), 5 (bogey), 6 (bogey). It was a dismal finish and Woods, one of the longest hitters in golf, amateur or professional, did not have much of an appetite for lunch. He has been suffering from an upset stomach and during the course of his re-match with Wolstenholme yesterday afternoon he was compelled to consult a doctor.
A few days ago Porthcawl received spot-on intelligence from the European Centre for medium range weather forecasts in Reading. Martin Miller, the man responsible, happens to be a member at Porthcawl and his forecast for yesterday was simple: "a wet Sunday." The rain was torrential and relentless but, despite the conditions, a crowd of 9,500 came out in their wet suits to witness an historic occasion. Like Max Boyce, they would be able to say: "I was there."
SCORES FROM ROYAL PORTHCAWL
(GB and Irl names first)
G Sherry and S Gallacher lost to J Harris and T Woods 4 and 3
M Foster and D Howell halved with A Bratton and C Riley
G Rankin and B Howard lost to N Begay and T Jackson 4 and 3
P Harrington and J Fanagan bt K Cox and T Kuehne 5 and 3
Foursomes result: Great Britain and Ireland 11/2 United States 21/2
Sherry bt Begay 3 and 2
L James lost to Cox 1 hole
Foster bt B Marucci 4 and 3
Gallacher bt Jackson 4 and 3
Harrington bt J Courville 2 holes
Howard halved with Bratton
Rankin lost to Harris 1 hole
G Wolstenholme bt Woods 1 hole
Singles result: Great Britain and Ireland 51/2 United States 21/2.
(GB and Ireland led 7-5 after first day)
G Sherry and S Gallacher lost to A Bratton and C Riley 4 and 2
D Howell and M Foster bt K Cox and T Kuehne 3 and 2
G Wolstenholme and L James lost to B Marucci and J Courville 6 and 5
P Harrington and J Fanagan bt J Harris and T Woods 2 and 1
Foursomes result: Great Britain and Ireland 2 United States 2.
Sherry bt Riley 2 holes
Howell bt N Begay 2 and 1
Gallacher bt Kuehne 3 and 2
Fanagan bt Courville 3 and 2
B Howard halved with T Jackson
Foster halved with Marucci
Harrington lost to Harris 3 and 2
Wolstenholme lost to Woods 4 and 3
Singles result: Great Britain and Ireland 5 United States 3.
Match result: Great Britain and Ireland 14 United States 10.