Teamwork and talent key for GB&I Walker Cup bid

Ben Schmidt believes a combination of talent and togetherness can help Great Britain and Ireland win the 2021 Walker Cup.

The 18-year-old is one of eight Englishmen in the GB&I team that will face the cream of American men’s amateur golf at Seminole Golf Club this weekend.

The home side are favourites to retain the trophy they won last time out in 2019 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

Only twice before in the biennial tournament’s 99-year history has the GB&I side won on US soil – in 1989 and 2001.

But according to Schmidt, the GB&I team, led by non-playing captain Stuart Wilson, has total belief in its ability to make it a hat-trick of successes on American turf.

“We all know each other, and we all get on really well which is important in a team event,” admitted the Yorkshireman pictured above left with team-mate Matty Lamb.

“There’s a good vibe which will help a lot.

“The GB&I team is strong and we got on well, bond and are all great players.

“If we have the right mindset and game, there is no reason why GB&I can’t win the Walker Cup. I believe that 100 per cent.

“It’s a really big point in my career.

“For me it’s a pinnacle to be part of this team and part of the experience.”

Seminole Golf Club in Florida is one of the top ranked courses in the world.

At nearly 7300 yards, with greens running at 14 on the stimp meter and almost always played with a stiff breeze whipping off the Atlantic, it promises to be a stern test for even the best amateur players in the game.

Schmidt was able to play the course in February this year during a training stint in Florida and has spent the past five days practising with his team-mates on the course near West Palm Beach.

And nothing he has seen in terms of the course layout and the conditions, dissuades him of the notion that it’s all to play for when the foursomes tee off on Saturday morning.

“The course is special in its own way,” added the 18-year-old.

“It’s got that factor behind it, but it almost plays in favour of both teams.

“Off the tee it’s wide and you can hit it far, but it’s next to the sea and there’s a 15-20mph wind.

“It’s a really good course and on and around the greens is its defence.”

Alongside Schmidt are seven other Englishmen – Barclay Brown, Jack Dyer Alex Fitzpatrick, Angus Flanagan, Ben Jones,  Lamb and Joe Long (pictured above).

Two Irishmen – Mark Power and John Murphy – complete the line-up with another two Englishmen, Jake Bolton and Joe Pagdin, travelling reserves.

Long has spent the past five weeks preparing for the Masters and then the Walker Cup. His game is in fine shape and lessons learned from two rounds with the evergreen Bernhard Langer at Augusta has taught him a few psychological lessons too.

“There was quite a few things I took from him,” confessed the 23-year-old.

“But I think more than anything it was his mindset and how much he wanted it still at his age.

“I think it was his 36th time at Augusta playing the Masters and his focus was amazing. I think if you can take that focus into any tournament, that’s great.”

Long has been in relaxed mood all week and his dry sense of humour is a hit in the team room. The reigning Amateur Champion is appreciative of this chance to shine.

“It’s a massive honour to represent GB&I,” he added.

“To be part of a special team is pretty amazing and it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my golfing career.”

There have been notable visitors to the GB&I camp this week – winning Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and Matt Fitzpatrick, elder brother of current Walker Cup member Alex.

Words of wisdom from both have gone down well, but the younger of the Fitzpatrick brothers (pictured above) has alluded to some key advice from McGinley, perhaps taken from Europe’s Ryder Cup win against the USA at Gleneagles in 2014.

“We had some interesting information from Paul…..hopefully we can act on it and bring a trophy home on Sunday,” said the Yorkshireman who played in a defeated GB&I side at Royal Liverpool in 2019.

Northumberland’s Lamb is  also eager to get going.

“It’s going to be fun,” said the England men’s squad player.

“In golf you don’t get much chance to play in a team environment.

“When you do, they are often among the best weeks you have.”

The man charged with putting out a winning side is team captain Wilson – himself a Walker Cup victor as a player in 2003 at Ganton.

And the Scot has complete faith in his side.

“Going over to America to win the Walker Cup – only two teams have succeeded before so we know how difficult it will be,” confirmed Wilson.

“The nice thing is that with two teams as forerunners it shows you it’s not impossible and it can happen and there’s no reason why it can’t happen for us.

“We will go in with a great attitude and look to bring back the Walker Cup.”

On Saturday, four matches of foursomes will be followed by eight singles matches.

On Sunday, four matches of foursomes will be followed by ten singles matches.

With 26 points up for grabs, GB&I need 13.5 points to win back the Walker Cup. USA need 13 points to retain the trophy.

 

You can watch live coverage of the event from 3pm on both days on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Mix and find updates on The R&A and England Golf Twitter feeds.

Photography credit: The R&A