Britain & Ireland regained the Walker Cup from the United States for the first time since 2003 on Sunday, holding off the Americans in the afternoon singles for a 14-12 victory.
The hosts needed 13 1/2 points to win the title and took an insurmountable lead after 17-year-old Welshman Rhys Pugh won his singles match against newly crowned U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft 2 and 1 and Steven Brown halved with Blayne Barber.
2011 WALKER CUP
The U.S. Walker Cup team is going for its fourth win a row after breaking a three-match winning streak by Britain-Ireland.
Paul Cutler than halved with American Patrick Cantlay in the final match of the biennial event between leading amateur players.
“I’m proud of all the boys,” said Britain & Ireland Captain Nigel Edwards. “They’ve all played their part in beating what is a very good American team.”
The U.S. team received a letter from former President George W. Bush on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was Bush’s great-grandfather, George Herbert Walker, who played an instrumental role in the start of the amateur showcase and who donated the cup that bears his name.
U.S. Captain Jim Holtgrieve read the letter to the team during its morning meeting.
“As you compete I hope you will reflect on the freedoms you enjoy as Americans,” Bush wrote in the letter. “Remember those who have defended your liberties and way of life. I know you will represent the United States with pride and honor.”
Holtgrieve said the letter served as inspiration for the team.
“It obviously meant a great deal to the guys in the team room this morning, especially on this day of all days,” he said.
But on the course, the home team was simply too strong, as Britain & Ireland wrested back the cup after three consecutive losses.
Britain & Ireland led by five points after the morning foursomes, but the Americans pulled closer after Russell Henley beat Tom Lewis 4 and 2 and Jordan Spieth defeated Andy Sullivan 3 and 2 in the first two singles.
Jack Senior then halved with American Nathan Smith before Michael Stewart earned a full point for the hosts by beating Patrick Rodgers 3 and 2.
Peter Uihlein, Chris Williams and Harris English then all earned points for the Americans, but it wasn’t enough as Pugh and Brown secured the victory.
Despite the loss, Spieth said the experience will help him.
“Any time you can represent your country, for me, it’s the biggest honor I’ve ever had,” Spieth said. “Being on this team is the biggest honor I’ve ever had playing golf. … The crowds, the emotions are higher. The format is different. Peter and I both hope that we can play on a Ryder Cup some day or multiple. I think it’s a great step towards it.”
One simple message from Edwards paid handsome dividends as Britain and Ireland's amateurs defied the odds. Against a line-up containing six of the world's top 10, Edwards told his side: "It's not played on paper".
The Britain-Ireland victory was its biggest margin since the 15-9 victory in 2001, when the team included current world No. 1 Luke Donald and last year's U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
What this team will go onto achieve remains to be seen, but they can be pretty sure they had got the better of some future stars -- amateur world No. 1 Cantlay has already had a 60 on the PGA Tour and Harris English has won a Nationwide Tour title.
After taking a 7-5 overnight lead, the gap became five with another outstanding performance in the four morning foursomes.
Having dropped just one point in the opening session, Edwards's men did even better and would have completed a whitewash if only Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart had not halved from 4 up with six to play against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers.
Lewis, of course, is the 20-year-old from Welwyn Garden who created British Open history with his 65 at Royal St. George’s in July. Many thought he had to be in similar form for the home team to win, yet he lost both his singles matches and they still triumphed.
A mere three points were needed from the 10 concluding games, but when Lewis lost to Henley and Andy Sullivan to teenager Spieth there was still work to be done.
Stewart, one of the two Scots, beat world No. 3 Rodgers 3&2, then Lancashire's Jack Senior, who two weeks ago reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur, sank a 35-foot putt on the final green for a half with Nathan Smith.
Pugh, who beat Rodgers on the first day, added the scalp of Kraft and the celebrations started when English champion Brown won his final hole for a half against Barber.
Cutler could argue he was the one who secured the win because he was already 4 up with four to play in the bottom game, but, spared the need to go through the agonies that compatriot McDowell did in last year's Ryder Cup, he lost them all to give Cantlay a half.
"I couldn't have dreamt of better,” Pugh said. “I've never felt anything like this before."
"I knew what I had to do and it meant a lot," added Stewart, who enjoyed having his father as his caddie. "He knows exactly what to say at the right time and keeps me cool."
Tom Lewis/Michael Stewart, BI, vs. Jordan Spieth/Patrick Rodgers, USA, halved
Jack Senior/Andy Sullivan, BI, def. Uihlein/Harris English, USA, 3 & 2
Paul Cutler/Alan Dunbar, BI, def. Kelly Kraft/Blayne Barber, USA, 2 & 1
James Byrne/Rhys Pugh, BI, def. Patrick Cantlay/Chris Williams, USA, 5 & 3
Russell Henley, USA, def. Tom Lewis, BI, 4 & 2
Jordan Spieth, USA, def. Andy Sullivan, BI, 3 & 2
Jack Senior, BI, vs. Nathan Smith, USA, halved
Michael Stewart/BI, def. Patrick Rodgers, USA, 3 & 2
Peter Uihlein, USA, def. Stiggy Hodgson, BI, 2 & 1
Steven Brown, BI, vs. Blayne Barber, USa, halved
Rhys Pugh, BI, def. Kelly Kraft, USA, 2 & 1
Chris Williams, USA, def. Alan Dunbar, BI, 1 hole
Harris English, USA, def. James Byrne, BI, 2 & 1
Paul Cutler, BI, vs. Patrick Cantlay, USA, halved