Alex Fitz in, Schmidt is omitted
BEN SCHMIDT’S omission from the ten-man 2019 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team to face America at Royal Liverpool has drawn mixed reactions.
Danny Willett’s caddie Sam Haywood, a fellow member of Schmidt’s at Rotherham Golf Club, hit out at the “baffling” decision by selectors to leave out one of the rising stars of English golf.
Haywood took to social media after the side was confirmed for the match, which will be played over the weekend of September 7 and 8.
Haywood’s message read: ‘Nothing quite like some Walker Cup drama every time it comes round it just baffles everyone cheers to the old boys that know their golf.”
The decision rather overshadowed the inclusion of Hallamshire’s Alex Fitzpatrick in the side, and how proud a moment it could have been to have two Yorkshire players walk out together to take on the Yanks.
When the team was named on August 19 Schmidt was the second highest GB&I player on the World Amateur Golf Rankings, sitting in eighth place, and the 17-year-old has had a hugely impressive season.
In June, while still 16, he became the youngest-ever winner of the Brabazon Trophy. He also won the Carris Trophy and Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters, finished third in the Fairhaven Trophy, and represented England in the European Boys’ Team Championship.
However, none of that was enough to earn a nod from Walker Cup selectors who, instead, picked him as first reserve, much to the disappointment of many.
He failed to make the matchplay stages of the US Amateur by a shot where Fitzpatrick made it through to the last 16, but some shrewd observers thought his name had already been inked on the team sheet by then.
And the word from Pinehurst during America’s most prestigious amateur event from the US team members was that they fully expected to be facing the precocious Rotherham youngster when they arrived in the UK.
GB&I captain Craig Watson said: “It has been a very difficult decision to select ten players for Great Britain and Ireland from a strong squad, but we have been very impressed with the results of those we have picked and we believe they will give us the best chance of regaining the Walker Cup against a strong American team.”
The ten chosen include The Amateur champion James Sugrue, the English Amateur champion Conor Gough, and Conor Purcell, who won the Australian Amateur Championship earlier this year.
Fitzpatrick, younger brother of Ryder Cup star Matt, was selected alongside Scotland’s Euan Walker, who finished runner-up in both The Amateur Championship and European Amateur Championship. The side is completed by Harry Hall, Thomas Plumb and Caolan Rafferty, as well as Tom Sloman and Sandy Scott.
One man who can offer a unique perspective is Yorkshire Union secretary Jonathan Plaxton. He narrowly missed out on a place in the 1982 team at the same venue Royal Liverpool and then went on to become Chairman of selectors for the Walker Cup from 2011-2105.
“I’m sure that if you asked Ben that he would be realistic about the decision and pleased to have been recognised by being named first reserve and don’t forget that first reserve Ewen Ferguson was called up when Sam Horsfield pulled out in 2015,” he said.
“I can sympathise with the selectors who have a very difficult job to do. Ben has achieved an awful lot in a very short space of time whilst the others have done it over a longer period.
“Some have drawn conclusions from Ben’s world ranking, but those who really understand the way the World Amateur Golf Rankings work know there are some weaknesses, and these may have been shown up.”
The R&A have already acknowledged that they plan to make “fundamental” changes to the way the WAGR is compiled from 2020.
“That’s why the R&A employ three individuals to watch a number of players over a long period of time and they have not had much time to watch Ben simply because of the short period of time his impressive wins and performances have come over.
“My understanding is that there has been some criticism because Ben did not go to the last squad get together at Royal Liverpool, but from what I know the R&A encouraged him to play in the Carris instead, which was at the same time, as it was felt he would benefit more from playing there.”
THREE players from Yorkshire will line up for England Golf in defence of its title at the Men’s Home Internationals, to be played at Lahinch in Ireland later this month.
Howley Hall’s Ben Hutchinson and Rotherham’s Ben Schmidt will make their debuts and join Lindrick’s Bailey Gill, who was part of the 2018 English Men’s Home International team that beat this year’s hosts Ireland in the deciding match 12 months ago at Conwy Golf Club in Wales.
The team for the annual event, which takes place from September 11-13, includes Harry Hall, Tom Sloman and Tom Plumb, who were all among the five Englishmen selected for the GB&I team for the forthcoming Walker Cup match at Royal Liverpool, as well as Schmidt and Ben Jones, who were listed as first and second reserves respectively for the biennial transatlantic fixture against the USA.
Malton &Norton’s David Hague was only named second reserve. His purple patch in August included winning the York Open, the Westwood Trophy and the Yorkshire Amateur.