Walker Cup hero fears a windy St Andrews

Andy Sullivan believes the Euro Tour should increase variety by visiting more links courses. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Andy Sullivan believes the Euro Tour should increase variety by visiting more links courses. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Andy Sullivan helped Great Britain & Ireland pull off a stunning Walker Cup victory over an American “Dream Team” in tough conditions at Royal Aberdeen in 2011.

He’d prefer, though, to have an easier test at St Andrews this week for The Open after being turned “soft” since leaving the amateur ranks.

“The conditions were tough that week and I relished conditions like that at the time,” recalled Sullivan of his Walker Cup appearance in the Granite City, where the hosts came out on top in the biennial bout for the first time in eight years with a 14-12 success.

“But I’ve been treated to too much good weather since I started to play on the European Tour, I think. I’m not sure I’d want it that windy now.”

It’s not surprising that Sullivan, a 28-year-old from Nuneaton, is licking his lips at the prospect of playing on Scottish soil again. The home of golf has proved to be a happy hunting ground after all, because he also triumphed in the Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Blairgowrie the same year as that Walker Cup win.

“I had a good start to 2011, winning abroad a few times, but it was definitely nice to then taste victory in an event like the Scottish Stroke Play,” he said. “The manner I did it, too, was nice, bouncing back from a 77 in the third round to close with a 69.

“Scotland has always been good to me, so it’s great to be back. It was also great to play in the Scottish Open at Gullane; I don’t feel we play enough links golf on Tour.”

Being on a losing Walker Cup side in Scotland didn’t seem to affect the preparation of that American ‘Class of 2011’ as it included Masters champion Jordan Spieth, as well as the likes of Patrick Cantlay, Russell Henley, Harris English, Patrick Rodgers and Peter Uihlein.

“We were getting written off all week,” recalled Sullivan, who had two Scots, Banchory’s James Byrne and Michael Stewart from Troon Welbeck, among his team-mates. “In the press room, they were telling us how many points the Americans were going to beat us by. So for us to prove them wrong was huge. To see what so many of the Americans have gone and achieved since then shows what a good side it was and what a great achievement it was by us to beat them.”

Tom Lewis was the first player in the 2011 GB&I side to make a mark as a professional when the Englishman won the Portugal Masters in only his third start in the paid ranks, but only Sullivan, a two-times European Tour winner this season, has managed to make any real long-term headway.

“Hopefully we will see some more of the boys from our team starting to come to prominence in the next year or so,” he said. “It is a tough school out here. There’s 110 players keep their card each season on the European Tour, yet there are so many really good golfers all around the world. The Challenge Tour is tough to get through, as is the Qualifying School. You need a little bit of luck, but I am pretty sure that both James and Michael will be out here at some point in their careers.”

Sullivan’s successes this season have come in South Africa, having landed the South 
African Open and then the Joburg Open to complete a notable double. “It would be massive if I could now win a pro event in the UK as it’s great playing in front of your own crowds,” he admitted.