Ivan Morris Column - My mixed feelings on Walker Cup team

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris
IN conjunction with the PGA, the University of Limerick has applied for planning permission to develop a purpose-built amenity with accredited academic programmes and golf-oriented external courses and training facilities at its campus in Plassey.

IN conjunction with the PGA, the University of Limerick has applied for planning permission to develop a purpose-built amenity with accredited academic programmes and golf-oriented external courses and training facilities at its campus in Plassey.

UL has identified golf performance as a growing and emerging interdisciplinary area within sporting activities and human performance and is seeking to provide research evidence in biomechanics, psychology, and physiology of the golf player, materials science of the equipment, as well as development of the game for social and physical activity benefits.

It’s an indigestible mouthful but it could help to put Limerick ahead of the curve in developing the next generation of Irish Walker Cup players and touring professionals.

There are so many youngsters with high expectations demanding golfing fame and fortune these days, top amateurs bristling with ambition and high expectations treating the game as a means to an end. If you study the records, a place on the Walker Cup team is the best indicator (without guarantees) of what may lie in store.

The Walker Cup is the crowning pinnacle of an amateur career particularly for the few who never turn professional but, in reality, it’s more like a launching pad into professionalism.

It’s unprecedented to have five Irish on the GB&I Walker Cup team taking on the USA at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s next week. Sadly, I have mixed feelings about it. I have never seen any of these lads hit a shot and feel disconnected from them.

I should be over the moon but I feel no passion or bond. They play all over the world but not enough at home.

For the last few years, the famous five’s mission was to amass world-ranking points here, there and everywhere because our Irish golf calendar is arranged in such a way that all of our domestic championships are somewhat deficient in precious points.

A win in the Irish Close or South of Ireland last year was worth less than some scores that failed to make the cut in The Amateur Championship.

The proven formula up to now has always been that to be a successful pro one has to be a dominant amateur first. That’s the route Harrington, Clarke, McGinley, McDowell, McIlroy and Lowry trod; winning provincial championships and scratch cups.

Time has moved on and it may now be better preparation for a pro career to eschew ‘unpredictable’ match play events and play overseas in 72-holes stroke-play tournaments in Europe, Australia, South Africa and the United States.

It could be that we may never see our best amateurs in action here again because they’ll all be chasing WAGR points overseas. Kevin LeBlanc seems to have already taken steps in that direction by playing much of his golf in Europe this year where the haul of points is more bounteous; resulting in his climb from No. 3995 to No. 488, thus opening up a whole range of opportunities next year whether the GUI selects him to represent them or not.

I am far from convinced that the WAGR system will produce better-prepared entrants to the pro game. How the famous five fares in the next few years will tell us a lot but either way amateur golf will be the poorer.

It was obvious for sometime that ex-Walker Cupper, Jordan Spieth would be Rory McIlroy’s closest challenger for ‘the best golfer in the world’ title. Now, that Jordan is officially the No. 1 for how long will Rory stomach this new state of ‘affairs’ before he wrestles it back?

Meanwhile, Spieth makes no secret of the fact that his main focus is ensuring that he stays ahead in the rankings. Could it be because far fewer golfers have been number one than have won majors?

Being the No. 1 golfer is all very well but wouldn’t McIlroy or Spieth rather to have won The Open Championship or PGA? What could this fascination with the No. 1 spot be?

Would anybody really trade being No. 1 for a major championship? Even allowing for the fact that a relatively indifferent golfer can win a major but that could never be true of being the No. 1. Or, that being No. 1 requires consistency over a longer period than the four days it usually takes to win a major.

Whilst people may argue over who the best player not to have won a major might be, I’ve never heard an argument over who the best player not to have been No. 1?

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood were both No. 1s without winning a major. I’m guessing they would swap in a flash. Dustin Johnson has the potential to be a No. 1 but I bet he is mighty irritated that he has let a few majors slip away but the idea of being No. 1 would hardly exercise him.

It’s a quirk of modern living that people are obsessed with ranking lists. Everyone wants to know who is the No. 1 at this or that. Ironically, the rankings are more important down the line. Being in the top-50 gets you into all of the majors.

Being in the top-115 keeps you on Tour etc. The real value of the rankings is automatic entry into the big events. Rankings may have reached such a stage of sophistication that entry to the big amateur events should be decided by them rather than handicap.