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We gave them a hell of a game….

As GB&I’s finest amateurs prepare to take on the USA over the Old Course this weekend, Jon Davie spoke to Robert Dinwiddie about what it’s like to tee it up in the Walker Cup…
We gave them a hell of a game….

Getting selected for the Walker Cup is really special. Even when you go on to play on tour, only a small percentage of the guys have actually played in it, and it’s a real privilege and something that you’ll always share with your teammates.

I started the year [2005] on the outside looking in, but I was fortunate in that I won the Scottish Strokeplay at Royal Aberdeen in late May or early June, and then went down to the Welsh Strokeplay at Royal St Davids and managed to win that as well.  After winning both it would have been hard not to pick me, but I was still nervous when the selections were announced.

I got a phone call saying “congratulations, you’ve been selected to represent Great Britain and Ireland”, and then the next thing I remember was meeting at a hotel near Heathrow the night before we travelled. We were all told to report to a specific room, and there we got an enormous kit back with all your gear – a bag flight cover, all the waterproofs, all the shirts. I’ve still got the bag cover and the bag is sitting at my dad’s house with some clubs in it… I had my little name banner from the driving range with the Union Jack and Irish flag on it in my bedroom at home for years.

I knew most of the guys on the team reasonably well, as we were all playing in the same amateur events. Gary Lockerbie was my foresomes partner for the two days, and guys like Matt Richardson, Richie Ramsay and Lloyd Saltman I knew from playing international golf. I got to know Brian McElhinney during the week- he’s a really nice guy. Rhys Davies was an unbelievable putter – if you ever wanted a tip on putting, you’d talk to him. And then we had Nigel Edwards and Gary Wolstenholme, who were the older, more experienced guys on the team. I guess those guys must have been in their late thirties at the time, but the rest of us were all around 21 and the older guys were brilliant answering questions and helping everyone.

Ollie Fisher was the young phenomenon on our team – he was only 16 or so, but he was so in control of his ball. At dinner he seemed like a teenager, but on the golf course he was really mature, always making smart decisions and being clever with strategy. He was an extremely good player.

We knew that the American team were going to be bloody good. I think that every guy from that team went on to play PGA tour golf – they had Brian Harman, JB Holmes, Jeff Overton, Matt Every, Billy Hurley... in the practice rounds I remember playing the fifth hole, which is a short par four of maybe 320 yards. We were all hitting it up to about 40 yards short, and JB Holmes pitched a driver in the middle of the green – I had genuinely never seen anyone hit it that far. We knew we were really going to be up against it.

They were all great players, but Anthony Kim was the one that stood out – he just had a confidence and self-belief about him. There were big crowds and the fairways and greens weren’t fully roped off, so it was quite intimating, but you could tell was just really thriving in that environment.  Thank God I didn’t get drawn against him in the singles!

I was extremely nervous before walking to the first tee. I can picture being on the putting green waiting to tee off, and you know how much it means, and you really want to win. I was very, very nervous for the first two or three holes in each of the matches.

We gave them a hell of a game. I think we were a little bit behind after the first day [the USA led by 6.5 points to 5.5, and Robert and his partner Gary Lockerbie lost their foresomes match by a single hole]. We matched them in the second day foresomes, and going into the singles we made a bit of run – they had the upper hand coming down the last two or three holes but we were all fighting like crazy.

I chipped in on the last to half my match against Matt Every. We were all square going down 17 and he won the hole. I remember hitting a good drive down the last, and hitting a nine iron to a flag just over the bunker. I thought it was perfect but it came up just short on a little grassy bank about 15 feet from the hole, and I chipped it in to win the hole and halve the match.

Ollie Fisher holed a putt in front of me to get a half in his match, and it all ended up coming down to Nigel Edwards, who had a long putt on the last green to halve his match, which would have meant that we retained the cup. We all had our heads in our hands as it just missed… it went right to the very last shot.

After the big presentation we went back to our team rooms.  I don’t really remember us having loads of drinks together with the other team, but we certainly had a few beers and hung around outside the front of the club. It was a gorgeous evening - we all had American caddies, so it wasn’t just the two teams – there’s 20 players and 20 caddies as well, as we are all one big group.

We’re all still really good friends. It’s not like we keep in touch all the time, but we happen to see each other at an event we always stop and chat. I saw Richie [Ramsay] at The Open – I missed out at Final Qualifying this year, but he was playing really well which is great to see.

I’ve seen Matt [Every] a couple of times since – he always gives me a bunch of shit for holing that chip. And while I didn’t play against Brian Harman at any point in the match, I ran into him in a bar in Sea Island about six or seven years later. He was playing pool – I didn’t realise it was him at first, but I put a dollar down on the table and then we recognised one another. All of a sudden it felt like the world was on this game – I managed to get the win, so that was a little bit of revenge for Chicago. His performance [at The Open] was really gutsy – very impressive.

I never really played a team event after that. I stayed amateur for one more year but then went off to Q-school and left amateur golf behind – but it’s such a special memory and something that I’m very proud to have done.

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