WELSH TRIO PREPARES FOR WALKER CUP SHOWDOWN
7 Sep 2007
As Gareth Jenkins’ men prepare for their Rugby World Cup opener across the Channel, the Welsh Dragon will also be making its presence felt on the fairways in Northern Ireland as three Welshmen take to the greens as part of the Great Britain and Ireland team for the Walker Cup (September 8-9 2007).
The Royal County Down Golf Club in Newcastle this weekend welcomes the best of both the British and American amateur golfing fraternities to Irish shores as each side prepares to square off to claim the coveted Cup currently residing in American clutches.
Nigel Edwards from Caerphilly, Rhys Davies from Bridgend and the recently crowned Welsh Amateur Champion Llewellyn Matthews from Bridgend will help make the 2007 tournament a landmark event for golf in Wales, as it will be the first time that the Principality will have three representatives in the GB and Ireland set up.
The Americans escaped from the 2005 challenge with a narrow one point victory but Edwards, Davies and Matthews – together with their British stablemates - will be gunning for revenge this weekend. And they have the results and experience to back up their growing reputations.
US Open star Rhys Davies was enjoying the weekend sunshine at his Bridgend home when he heard that he would be enjoying Walker Cup team status once again after making his debut in 2005.
His stellar results for the Buccaneers during his time at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) – as well as his reputable US Open bow in June this year – most definitely counted as major steps towards selection.
His outstanding performances across the pond saw him quickly become a firm fixture on the leader-boards, breaking the school record as he cruised to ten individual tournament wins over his 50-tournament collegiate career and becoming the number one ranked individual player in the country. He was even considered by the local media as "the best player to ever play" at the college.
But Davies’ allegiances will be firmly rooted on this side of the pond when he faces the Americans this weekend.
"I’m thrilled to be included in the team again. To have three guys flying the flag for Wales in such a major event in the amateur game is fantastic. Every Welshman in the team is there entirely on merit as I think we’ve all proven our abilities over the last year."
The flagship event will be the 22-year old’s last tournament as an amateur as he prepares to take the professional route in September. Davies will enter into the pressure cooker of professional golf by plying his trade through the PGA European Tour Qualifying School.
Matthews thrust himself into the Walker Cup reckoning back in June when he completed a fine wire-to-wire win in the St Andrews Links Trophy with a record low aggregate of 15-under 273. He gave his season another lift when he came through local final qualifying for the Open Championship at Monifieth to take his place alongside the world's finest golfers.
Having beaten Davies to the Welsh Amateur title in 2006, Matthews retained his title at Royal St David's back in August which cemented his place in the GB&I line-up.
"This is the chance to cap off what has been a great summer for me," said Matthews, who spent last weekend with the team practising at Kingbarns Links in St Andrews before flying to Belfast out of RAF Leuchars in a private jet.
"I want to play in four matches and win them all.
"I have had a pretty good season so now I just want to keep that going through to the Walker Cup.
"I had a taste of what it’s like playing with big crowds up at Carnoustie.
"It is great to be playing with Rhys and Nigel because over the last couple of years they have spoken about their experiences and prepared me for what to expect.
"This is the chance to fly the flag for Welsh amateur golf again. I’m looking at this week in two ways.
"It’s like a friendly match against America that happens one weekend every two years, but on the other hand there’s going to be so much passion playing the USA in Ireland.
"This is the event every amateur golfer in Britain and Ireland wants to be a part of."
And best friends Davies and Matthews will be flanked by a man who knows only too well the challenge laid down by the Walker Cup.
Nigel Edwards, 40 will be making his fourth Walker Cup appearance since he made his debut at Ocean Forest in 2001. It was his halved match with Lee Williams at the subsequent 2003 series in Ganton that secured the retention of the Cup for the GB & Ireland team with a winning margin of 12 ½ - 11 ½.
And following the disappointment of missing out on retaining the trophy in 2005, the Caerphilly man – who is the Director of Player Development and Coaching at the Golf Union of Wales- will be looking to up the ante with his Welsh stablemates in Northern Ireland.
"To have three of us in the team in fantastic for Welsh golf as it demonstrates how much strength and depth we have in the amateur game in the country. We have to keep that going.
"I’m so pleased that Llew (Matthews) has got this opportunity. His performances over the last year have been great and Rhys’ selection has never been in question.
"We need to show that we’re not going there to make up the numbers. We want to make sure that Wales is remembered - not only for making up 30% of the team - but for being part of and making an important contribution to a team that successfully gets that trophy back."
For further information, please contact Lynette Evans at the Sports Council for Wales on /
NOTES TO EDITORS
WALKER CUP 2007 TEAM
Jonathan Caldwell 23 Clandeboye
Rhys Davies 22 Royal Porthcawl
Nigel Edwards 38 Whitchurch
David Horsey 22 Styal
Llewellyn Matthews 23 Southerndown
Rory McIlroy 18 Holywood
Jamie Moul 22 Stoke-by-Nayland
John Parry 20 Harrogate
Lloyd Saltman 24 Craigielaw
Daniel Willett 19 Rotherham
Gary Boyd 20 Cherwell Edge
Kevin McAlpine 23 Alyth
Colin Dalgleish 46 Helensburgh