IN these times of razzmatazz and look-at-me hyperbole, when even the most basic human endeavour is championed as the greatest thing in the history of mankind, there is something quite reassuringly charming about a quiet couple of days at the British seaside.

Being a man of fairly simple pleasures, this is exactly what one enjoyed last week. And what’s not to like about it? A gentle amble along a tidy promenade, a prolonged, reflective lean on some railings which leads to a mildly sunburnt neck, an informative gaze at a variety of stoic, maritime monuments and a spontaneous blether with a fusty old seadog who is as salty as Captain Birdseye’s shirt collar and can croak out a vast repertoire of ribald, nod-and-a-wink shanties that should be accompanied by a warning on the shipping forecast.

And what, pray tell, has all this coastal cobblers got to do with golf? Not a lot really. But you’ve got to start the column somehow. And with that, we move seamlessly into this week’s Walker Cup. The GB&I boys have travelled to Los Angeles in confident mood even though the build-up has, sadly, been overshadowed by the last-minute change in captaincy after Craig Watson, the hugely popular and highly respected Glasgow man, had to stand down from his position due to a serious illness in his family.

In that sobering respect, the old sporting motto “it’s only a game” should be very much to the fore in this competitive yet respectful clash but the visitors will no doubt have an extra incentive to perform and do a job for Watson, a true career amateur and a man who, in many ways, embodies the Walker Cup ideal.

From the days when this transatlantic tussle was often as lop-sided as Long John Silver after a bottle of rum and the US dominance led to the event being re-christened the Walkover Cup, the biennial battle continues to be an evenly fought affair. In the nine matches since the aforementioned Watson played in it back in 1997, GB&I have five wins to the USA’s four. The most recent success for GB&I, of course, came at Royal Lytham in 2015 when they romped to a commanding 16½ - 9½ victory. The challenge now is to do something that hasn’t happened much down the years. Namely, win on American soil.

Since the inception of the event 95 years ago, GB&I have won only twice in the US, in 1989 and 2001. The USA side for this week’s contest features seven players from the top 12 of the world amateur rankings but all those statistics and figures tend to fly out of the window in the matchplay arena.

In team golf, though, everything can be pounced upon in an effort to seize some kind of psychological advantage. Fife’s GB&I debutant Connor Syme, for instance, will no doubt be drawing on the fact that he beat the highly-rated world No.2, Maverick McNealy, in last month’s US Amateur Championship.

In a largely staple diet of 72-hole strokeplay competition across the golfing board, the serving up of some team fare at any level is always greeted with relish. One aspect of the team game which does grate with some of the more harrumphing observers, however, is the need for handholding when it comes to foursomes play. Whether it’s a Ryder Cup or a Walker Cup, the sight of both pairings going to the tee for an elaborate committee meeting remains a constant, time-consuming irritation. In a more sprightly age, of course, the player not hitting the tee-shot would wander forward up the fairway and wait for their partner’s clatter to land before cracking on with the second shot as their team-mate marched down from the tee. In an ideal world on a par-four, for example, the driver of the ball would not stop walking until they reached the green. Alas, the foursomes format nowadays can be a frightful fouter.

But let’s not be too grumpy. If GB&I’s amateurs end up drinking the celebratory champagne in the US, we won’t mind how they got the cork out of the bottle.


An article in a newspaper last week about the sporting summer on the female front was positively gushing in its praise and plaudits.

The metaphorical bunting was hung out as the piece heaped sodden lumps of acclaim onto a series of stand-out UK performances in women’s tennis, cricket, football, hockey and rugby union. There was not one mention of golf, however, despite English duo Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Georgia Hall finishing second and third respectively in August’s Women’s British Open at Kinsgbarns.

The profile of women’s sport is slowly growing but female golf continues to be a very poor relation.