IN this game of fine margins, the small details can make a big difference. Paul McGinley, for instance, had a tank of yellow and blue fish plonked in the European team room during his ultimately glorious Ryder Cup captaincy at Gleneagles in 2014 while a picture of a rock being lashed in a tempest, accompanied by the message, ‘we will be the rock when the storm arrives’, was held up as a coup de maitre in the arts of nurturing passion, focus and resilience.

Had Europe lost, of course, McGinley could’ve been a laughing stock in the sobering clear up. “Should we just flush these fish doon the toilet Mr McGinley? And what aboot this thing wi’ the rock?”

Stuart Wilson, the GB&I Walker Cup captain from Forfar, is not going to have any fish or images of rocks as part of his preparation for next week’s biennial tussle with the USA at Seminole in Florida but he’s hoping McGinley can be an inspirational weapon in the armoury.

“If the team loses, the captain gets it and if the team wins, the captain gets heralded,” said Wilson. “It’s a fine line between madness and genius.”

McGinley himself played in the amateur showpiece 30 years ago and he will pop in – socially distanced of course – to give the GB&I boys a pep talk as Wilson strives to become the first visiting Walker Cup skipper to triumph on US soil since the celebrated Peter McEvoy in 2001. In fact, GB&I have only won twice in America since the event’s inception back in 1922.

“It will be great to draw on Paul’s experience,” said Wilson, who will also have pearls of wisdom passed on from Ryder Cup player Matt Fitzpatrick. “Both Paul and Matt played in the Walker Cup, they still hold the match close to their hearts. It’s good for the current guys to see just what it means. There have been plenty of Ryder Cup players down the years who will talk about how their own Walker Cup experiences helped prepare them for bigger things in their professional careers.”


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Wilson’s preparation for the biggest team event in the unpaid game has been about as plain sailing as a journey across the River Styx. The coronavirus wiped out much of the amateur calendar last year and his 10-man side have been fairly lightly-raced in terms of competitive action.

The injury enforced withdrawal from the team a couple of weeks ago of Nairn’s Sandy Scott, meanwhile, was an untimely dunt. “As the highest GB&I player on the world rankings, he was the first man on the team sheet,” said Wilson, the 2004 Amateur champion. “It was a blow, but hats off to him for the early call. It wasn’t easy for him but he gave us time to get our team in order again.”

The build-up to next weekend’s match, like everything in these pandemic-plagued times, will be a bit different than normal. “We are in the bubble so all we see is the hotel, Seminole, the hotel,” Wilson said. “It’s rinse and repeat. When I played in the Walker Cup in 2003 at Ganton, we went to Fulford to practice for a day just to get away from the venue. It was a long week but you could mix it up. This week we can’t get away but at least we’ll know Seminole well. And it’s a course you need to know.

“They may be allowed about 1800 spectators each day but nothing like what we are used to for a Walker Cup. Ganton was packed when I played. It’s a shame as it does take away something from the experience.”


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The honour of being Walker Cup captain can’t be diminished though. The well-kent Sandy Saddler was another Forfar man to hold the position back in 1977. “For a wee club like Forfar to have two Walker Cup captains is something to be proud of,” added Wilson.

Saddler’s own captaincy in that 1977 duel at Shinnecock Hills ended in a hefty 16-8 defeat with the US heading into the closing singles needing just one point to win the cup.

The last transatlantic tussle in 2019, meanwhile, saw GB&I hold a narrow one point lead at Hoylake but they were routed 8-2 in the singles as the US mounted the kind of charge that just about featured fixed bayonets.

“All we want is to go into the closing singles with everything to play for,” said Wilson. “If it gets like that, then it will be edge of the seat stuff.”