Saturday, 07 September 2013
The victorious 2001 GB & I Walker Cup team  (EuropeanTour)
The victorious 2001 GB & I Walker Cup team (EuropeanTour)

By Nick Totten for
From Pléneuf

As the great and good of the Challenge Tour tee it up over the weekend at the Open Blue Green Côtes d'Armor Bretagne, the amateur teams of Great Britain & Ireland and the United States will be doing battle once again in the 44th Walker Cup matches at the National Golf Links of America, New York from September 7-8, 2013.

This week at Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André there are 12 players who have featured in previous Walker Cup matches, and plenty of them were more than happy to share their experiences of what they will all admit was the pinnacle of their amateur careers.

            Nick Dougherty
38th Walker Cup
Ocean Forest Golf Club, Sea Island, Georgia, USA
August 11-12, 2001
Record: W 3 - L 1
Winning team: Great Britain & Ireland (15-9)

This was one of the strongest Great Britain & Ireland teams assembled, with the likes of European Tour winners Luke Donald, Michael Hoey, Graeme McDowell and Marc Warren all competing that year. Dougherty formed a strong partnership with Donald in the foursomes across the two days, as well as being formidable in the singles, and he is adamant that it is the best thing he did as an amateur.

“The Walker Cup was an amazing experience for me, definitely the pinnacle of my amateur career. We played in the States and we had an awesome team, when you look at the guys who played that year, a lot of great players, and we won there which was unheard of. It was an amazing experience, and is something that unless you’ve played it, you feel like you have not quite completed everything that you wanted to as an amateur. It was the last thing I did as well, as the very next day I turned professional, so it was kind of nice that the last thing you did was the best that you did as an amateur.

“There were a lot of people that year, there must have been 10,000 each day, and bearing in mind there were not many matches, it was more people than I had ever played in front of before.

"The intensity is good, the standard is amazing, and also when you turn pro off the back of it you do it oozing confidence, especially us as we won, and I played well too. I’m sure there are a few guys who will probably do the same as well off the back of this one, and hopefully they do well this week as it is about time we won again in the States.”

            Rhys Davies
40th & 41st Walker Cup 
Chicago Golf Club, Illinois, USA & Royal County Down Golf Club, Northern Ireland
August 13-14, 2005 & September 8-9, 2007
Overall record: W 4 - L 3 – H 1
Winning team: United States (both 12½ - 11½)

The Welshman compiled a winning record across two Walker Cup matches, home and away, that saw Davies play alongside two time Major Champion and former World Number One Rory McIlroy, and with European Tour winners Oliver Fisher, David Horsey, John Parry, Richie Ramsay and Danny Willett. He also competed against PGA Tour champions Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Kyle Stanley and US Open winner Webb Simpson too.

“I remember both experiences were great, really competitive matches, both were really tight and I think there was only a point in both of them. America was my first one and I remember the team really looking forward to it, being really up for it, and it was tougher being away from home.

"The crowd were definitely in to it, and so were the American players, who were very excitable and enthusiastic. I just remember really enjoying the whole thing, the first shot was always nerve wracking, but once you got over that it was just about getting stuck in really.”

            Luke Goddard
42nd Walker Cup
Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania, USA
September 12-13, 2009
Record: L 2
Winning team: United States (16½ - 9½)

Playing the venue for the 2013 US Open Championship, won by Justin Rose this June, was never going to be easy for the Great Britain & Ireland team and they were up against a formidable team on a tough course in 2009. In this instance Goddard was unable to pick up a point from two matches played, but regardless, it was still one of the best experiences of his career so far.

“The main thing I remember is the crowds, there must have been 2,000 people on the first tee, and speaking on behalf of all the players, they had probably never played in front of so many people before. That was a great buzz to play in front of so many.

“I’ve never been to a Ryder Cup, but there were cheers going on over the other side of the course, it was that kind of atmosphere, it was brilliant. I actually enjoyed it, obviously I was nervous, but I just couldn’t help smiling on the first tee, as I’d never played in front of so many people and it was just nice to have galleries. I personally feel like I play better when there are people watching too, so I really enjoyed it.

“I turned professional pretty much straight after that, and you go to a pro event and it doesn’t feel that big, as it doesn’t get bigger than the Walker Cup. It is great preparation for professional golf.

"If I had one piece of advice to the guys this weekend, it would just be to enjoy it.”

            Sam Hutsby
42nd Walker Cup
Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania, USA
September 12-13, 2009
Record: W 2 - L 2
Winning team: United States (16½ - 9½)

Merion proved an unhappy stomping ground for the GB & I team in 2009, but Hutsby picked up two points that week en route to a disappointing loss, but a fantastic experience that he will always cherish.

“I remember that we went over to America quite early, about ten or 12 days before, and their budget must have been pretty mega as we got treated so well. Business class flights, we got to play Pine Valley and another great course, so the whole thing was awesome.

“We prepared as good as we could, and it is a shame that it is only over two days really, as The Ryder Cup is three days, and it was over pretty quickly. We got beat pretty bad as well, but even though we got beaten up, I wouldn’t have changed anything about it over there. The crowds were huge, I think there were about 25,000 people, and I imagine there will be more in New York this week.

“Some of the pros from that US team are doing pretty well now, I played against Rickie Fowler, and he has gone on to do well, and you make new friends too that you meet again down the road. It was one of the best tournaments I have ever played in, and if I’m fortunate to play Ryder Cup in the future, then I can imagine that’s the only thing that will top it. So yeah, I wish them all the best and I hope they do a bit better than us!”

It is clearly a special experience for all those lucky enough to play in it, and it will be interesting to see which of the current crop taking to the American National Golf Links this weekend will be turning up on the Challenge Tour in the weeks, months and years to come as they make their way in the professional game after glittering amateur careers.

So there is really only one last thing to say: “Good luck boys!”

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