THOSE of you who keep a keen eye on the amateur game will no doubt be aware of Connor Graham. By plenty of accounts, the 16-year-old from Blairgowrie is the best thing since some bloke took a knife through a loaf and started dishing out slices to the awe-struck, slackjawed masses.

As the managing secretary at Blairgowrie Golf Club, Stuart Wilson is well aware of Graham’s abundant talents. Wilson is also the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captain, so we are presuming that if he doesn’t pick Graham for September’s match against the USA at the Old Course, he’ll get chased down Blairgowrie High Street by a rampaging mob of furious local members brandishing 5-irons and pitch forks. “There will be no nepotism,” chuckled Wilson.

Graham was included in the initial training squad from which the majority of the 10-man team will be chosen. His victory in last year’s R&A Junior Open underlined his considerable potential but Wilson knows that there is plenty of golf to be played before we can start getting all giddy about him becoming the youngest ever Walker Cupper.

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“There’s a great buzz around Connor,” noted Wilson. “He’s had three or four good years on the bounce and you forget he’s only 16. It’s great to have someone like that at our club and nice for me that he’s vying for a place on the team. But we all know what golf can be like. It can vary from year to year. It can be hard after a very good season to replicate that but that’s the challenge for Connor as the season unfolds. It’s a big ask to get into a Walker Cup team but he’s certainly given himself every chance.”

The current 19-man GB&I training squad features seven players aged 18 or under. While that pool also includes 41-year-old Irish veteran Peter O’Keefe, the general youth movement highlights the changing face of the amateur game. “Boy’s golf is fast becoming men’s golf,” said Wilson of the rapid development of the young ‘uns which was demonstrated by Graham last season when he finished second in the Lytham Trophy and seventh in the St Andrews Links Trophy.

HeraldScotland:

“There’s real crossover now where there used to be a distinct difference. It used to be the case that young players stepping up to the men’s scene would often take a couple of years to find their feet. Not now. They are all coming out and playing with no fear.

“It’s great that we have that youthful talent in a Walker Cup training squad but I don’t think you’ll get a serial Walker Cup player again. You’re dealing with a new crop frequently as they move on and turn pro so quickly. Players seem to be getting younger and younger. Or are we just getting older?”

Wilson’s first stint as Walker Cup captain in 2021 ended in a spirited 14-12 defeat to the USA at Seminole in Florida. It was the closest scoreline since 2011 and, in an event where home advantage counts for a heck of a lot, it gave Wilson optimism that GB&I can arrest a run of three successive losses in the biennial battle. “It was only when I watched the highlights that I fully appreciated how close we got to winning,” said Wilson of that previous encounter.

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“The big thing for me was that our guys believed they could win. And the US got to a point where they thought they could lose. We gave them a right good fright in their own backyard.”

The 2021 contest was played out with Covid measures and restrictions still very much in place. This autumn’s meeting, though, will see a return to all the bells and whistles as it marks 100 years since St Andrews staged its first Walker Cup back in 1923.

It’s almost 20 years, meanwhile, since Wilson savoured his finest moment when he won the Amateur Championship over the Old Course in 2004. Here in 2023, the 45-year-old is hoping his GB&I team will be the talk of the Auld Grey Toun. “As a Scottish captain, it doesn’t get much better than a Walker Cup at St Andrews,” he said. “If we could pull it off, it would be right up there with any of my achievements.”

As for getting master Graham on his team? Well, you’ll just have to watch this space …