by Alistair Tait
ABERDEEN, Scotland (Sept. 11, 2011) - It was close, but GB&I pulled it off. Just.
Great Britain & Ireland have reclaimed the Walker Cup after three straight losses - despite a magnificent U.S. comeback.
When 17-year-old Rhys Pugh closed out his match against U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft on the 17th green to win 2 and 1, it took the home team to 13 points. England’s Steven Brown took GB&I to everlasting glory by earning a half against Blayne Barber to take the home side to the magic 13.5 points and victory for the first time since 2003.
“These boys are a very special bunch of guys,” GB&I captain Nigel Edwards said. “I said to the boys at lunch time that we haven’t won, that we have to get on with it. I had a lot of faith in these boys.”
Asked what was the key to victory, Edwards said it came down to one key ingredient. “Our preparation.”
Despite being up against a supposedly stronger U.S. team containing the top four players in the world, five of the top six and six of the top 10, GB&I pulled it off.
“The match isn’t played on paper,” Edwards said.
U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve sent his team out in the final 10 singles hoping to get some points on the board early to over come a five-point deficit. Trailing Great Britain & Ireland 10.5-5.5, and needing to win 7.5 out of 10 points just to retain the cup and eight to win it outright, Holtgrieve wanted points on the board early to have any chance.
He got them. Russell Henley bounced back from being benched in the morning foursomes to defeat GB&I front man Tom Lewis 4 and 2. Jordan Spieth played his part, defeating Andy Sullivan 3 and 2 to take the U.S. to 7.5 points.
Nathan Smith, the eldest player on either team, did his bit by halving with Jack Senior. Smith would have won the match if not for Senior holing a 35 footer for birdie on the last green to win the hole.
The momentum stopped there.
Michael Stewart stopped the U.S. juggernaut by defeating Patrick Rodgers 3&2.
Peter Uihlein came back from two down to defeat Stiggy Hodgson, but it wasn’t enough.
Edwards won two and lost two Walker Cups as a player, and came here hoping to get his hands on a third. His dream came true. After three straight U.S. wins, the Walker Cup is back in GB&I hands.
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