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Walker Cup showdown set

(Photo: Anthony Powter)
This weekend the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen gets underway where Britain and Ireland's amateurs go up against an American line-up, that on paper and almost certainly in fact, looks one of the strongest US sides ever assembled for the biennial encounter.

After suffering three successive defeats for the first time in the competition's history the United States have hit back recently with a hat-trick of wins of their own and it will be considered a huge upset back home if they do not make it four in a row on Sunday.

The Americans have five of the leading six world ranked amateurs playing and they present a formidable force to reckon with.

From the top Patrick Cantlay, who shot 60 on the PGA Tour in June, Jordan Spieth, a two-time US Junior champion, fellow teenager Patrick Rodgers, long-time number world number one Peter Uihlein, who scored a maximum four points two years ago, and Harris English, who like team-mate Russell Henley has already won on the Nationwide Tour.

Then again one should never discount the GB&I team.

It's a team that includes a number of players that dominated the Australian 2010&11 summer of amateur golf and taught our own a lesson in competitive golf and where the Australians currently sit on the international stage, namely in need of improvement.

The home team will be calling upon Tom Lewis, the 20-year-old from Welwyn Garden City whose brilliant 65 at Sandwich in July not only gave him a share of the Open Championship lead, but was the lowest round ever by an amateur in the event.

Lewis this week announced that he'll be turning professional on Monday and would like nothing better than to bow out of his amateur career with the Walker Cup trophy. This week all the media attention, both local and international have focused upon Lewis as the key for a pending upset.

With many favouring towards a US team victory, it would be foolish not to recognise there is more to the GB&I team than Tom Lewis.

Add to the mix Jack Senior, winner of the NSW Amateur championship, the 2011 Lytham Trophy and a semi-finalist at this year's US Amateur, Andy Sullivan who's a tenacious match play exponent and Stiggy Hodgson, the only member of the 2009 GB&I Walker Cup team, the home team packs a punch.

On paper sure the US team boast an impressive line up of talent, yet in the heat of battle Senior, Sullivan and Hodgson are all capable of defeating any player in the world. That's what intriguing with the GB&I team line up, their depth is as strong as the US team irrespective of their player's world rankings when compared the the US team.

For many golf purists, the Walker Cup is amateur golf at its very best.

It is then interesting that for years not many golf fans paid much attention to the Walker Cup, the international competition between the top amateurs from the United States and Great Britain & Ireland that's based on the same format as the Ryder Cup.

American dominance of the event had something to do with that.

The inaugural Walker Cup Match took place in 1922 at National Golf Links of America in Southampton. The US won that one and the next eight as well. In fact, of the first 31 competitions, America won 28, lost two and tied one.

In 1989, a significant event unfolded with the competition. It was at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, USA and the visitors scored a 12 1/2 to 11 1/2 victory. It as the first time GB&I won on American soil and it would mark a turning point in the competition.

Since 1989 GB&I has won five of the last 11 matchups, including three in a row from 1999-2003.

The Americans have since made their return charge and have captured the last three, two by a single point and the last one in 2009 at Merion Golf Club by a 16 1/2 to 9 1/2 score.

Over the weekend we are sure to witness more stunning encounters as the he 10-man US team will be out to make it four in a row as the two sides play four foursomes and eight singles matches on Saturday and four foursomes and 10 singles matches on Sunday.

I've no issue in saying the Walker Cup is amateur golf at its best, even though I'm Australian and from our perspective it's an event separate to our amateur system and that we play no part in it.

We are bound to witness history one way or the other in the making as tomorrow's PGA Tour stars do battle, for not only national pride, but to ensure they leave their mark on amateur golf history before entering their next stage of progression.

Let then the games commence.

Even as outsiders this is one tournament to watch and we certainly will not be disappointed with the outcome, irrespective which side claims the 2012 Walker Cup.

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