THE last Lothians golfer to figure on a winning Walker Cup team is hoping Grant Forrest can follow in his footsteps this weekend.
David Inglis, the 2000 British Boys champion from Glencorse, describes being part of a triumphant Great Britain & Ireland team at Ganton 12 years ago as the “highlight of my playing career”.
The victory on that occasion was secured by Welshman Nigel Edwards, who now has Craigielaw star Forrest among his charges for a third stint as captain in the biennial bout at Royal Lytham.
“My experience in 2003 was fantastic,” admitted Inglis as he recalled being part of a team that included two fellow Scots, Graham Gordon and Stuart Wilson.
“I played great in the final-day singles, beating Ryan Moore, but I think more important than that was the fact Stuart Wilson and I teamed up for one-and-a-half points from our two foursomes after being three and four down.
“We really just stayed patient and clawed our way back into the matches with a lot of solid pars. It’s pretty easy being Stuart’s partner since he never misses a fairway or putt under ten feet!”
Inglis, who is the head coach at Northwestern University in Chicago these days, added: “We had huge crowds at Ganton and that was a big advantage.
“I was at the last match in New York watching then freshman at Northwestern Matt Fitzpatrick and compared to when the Walker Cup is staged in the US the GB&I crowds must be at least double the numbers. Hopefully we get another big turnout at Lytham.”
As was the case for Inglis, Forrest has two compatriots for company in the event’s 45th staging in Lancashire – Barassie’s Jack McDonald and Ewen Ferguson from Bearsden.
“I think it’s great to see three Scots in the team, especially after there were none in 2013, and I think it’s deserved given the individual performances this season as well as Scotland winning the European Team Championship.
“I saw Grant earlier this year when we were paired in San Diego in a tournament. I chatted to him mainly about whether he would be available for the Palmer Cup this summer in Chicago and he said he would likely take his name out of the running for that since it was the same week as the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie.
“He really wanted to play in that, which was very understandable given it was in Scotland and a Walker Cup. It turns out it was a great decision as he reached the final at Carnoustie and earned his spot in the team.
“I don’t know Jack at all but again through being a Palmer Cup selector the last few years I am familiar with his record and I know (Stirling University coach) Dean Robertson rates him very highly. From what I know, Lytham will be a great fit for Jack.
“I’ve watched Ewen a few times in the past couple of years at the European Boys and British Boys and again he has a very impressive game.
“He’s got a fantastic match-play record on links courses and may be the most up for it of anyone on the team, having been named a reserve originally.”
Edwards got off to a winning start as GB&I captain with a 14-12 victory at Royal Aberdeen before seeing his side go down 17-10 at the National Golf Links outside New York two years ago. “I spoke to Nigel recently at the US Amateur and he was really excited about the way the team was shaping up,” said Inglis. “He’ll have the boys ready to go.
“A lot of the GB&I guys have already experienced playing against the American players in college golf, the Palmer Cup and in the recent US Am, so they will know what to expect and should feel comfortable playing against them.”
This weekend’s match is taking place against a changing background in amateur golf, with more players than ever making the switch to the paid ranks.
“I can certainly see why some people feel like the amateur game is losing some of its lustre given the increased number of professional opportunities the top amateurs are getting,” noted Inglis, who is currently in Scotland for a pre-season tour with his Northwestern University players.
“There’s never been more exemptions into tour events for amateurs and it really helps them prepare for professional golf.
“But, it’s a pity when you see some of the best players turning professional just a couple of months before the Walker Cup as Ollie Schniederjans did this year. It’s hard to blame him for the decision given the exemptions he got and no doubt it was worth it to him financially.
“I’m just not sure there’s anything that can be done with how much money can be made in golf now. That temptation is only going to get stronger.”