The Walker Cup tends to be held up as the epitome of the amateur ideal. It was certainly ideal Saturday as Great Britain & Ireland made hay in the St Andrews sun and moved into a 7 ½-4 ½ lead after the opening session of foursomes and singles on the Old Course. It turned out to be their biggest first-day advantage in the transatlantic tussle since 1989.
The overall scoreline, of course, can be deceptive in this skirmish of fine margins. Some of the ties were tighter than a Hollywood facelift and, with 14 points up for grabs on the final day, there will be a heck of a lot of twists, turns, birls and twirls to come in this fascinating, fluctuating fight.
“I’ve been saying from the off that this is going to be a tight match,” said the GB&I captain Stuart Wilson, who watched his Scottish compatriots, Calum Scott and Connor Graham, pitch in with a foursomes win before Scott added to his tally with a terrific singles conquest to bolster the home assault.
“The Americans came out strong in the afternoon and went up in a lot of matches through the front nine, but our guys showed grit and determination and kept fighting. We’re taking nothing for granted. A putt here and there can make such a big difference.”
There is something delightfully old school about this cherished golfing affair. The big scoreboard in the media center, for instance, is kept updated by a band of eager volunteers filling in the hole-by-hole of each match with numbered stickers peeled from an A4 sheet. In a whiz-bang age of gizmos, gadgets and gee-whiz contraptions, it’s almost as antiquated a process as shoving on a powdered wig. Funnily enough, some of the golf writers still wear such hairpieces.
There was plenty for us to write home about too. The morning foursomes provided considerable cheer for those of a GB&I persuasion as the hosts forged a 3-1 advantage. It was the first time they had won a foursomes session in the event since 2015. And the scoreline back then? Well, it was also 3-1 and GB&I went on to win the whole thing. They’ve not won it since. In the Walker Cup, we tend to cling to any good omen as strongly as a barnacle anchored to the hull of a galleon.
The home side certainly prospered on a balmy September day in the Auld Grey Toun. The alliance of Scott and Graham, who is the youngest ever Walker Cupper at just 16, dovetailed superbly against Ben James and Caleb Surrat and were 6 under in a fine 3-and-2 victory.