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Coltart To Lead By Example At Palmer Cup

by Colin Callander - May 13, 2013

Andrew Coltart is planning to take a leaf out of Sam Torrance’s book when he captains the European team against the USA at next month’s Palmer Cup at Wilmington Country Club in Oklahoma.

The Scot played under several captains while competing in the Walker Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Eisenhower Trophy, the Jacques Leglise Trophy, the St Andrews Trophy and the Home Internationals but it was his captain at the Dunhill Cup who left the most lasting impression.

“Sam was an incredible Captain at the Dunhill Cup,” said Coltart. “The optimism he exuded was incredible. He never had a single negative thought in his mind and his positivity spread to the rest of us.

“That’s the sort of atmosphere I want to establish when we get to Wilmington.”

Kevin Phelan

Coltart will be heading up a strong European team bidding to defend the trophy and to halve the series at 8-8. It consists of Frenchmen Julien Brun and Joel Stalter, Ireland’s Kevin Phelan and Gary Hurley, England’s Greg Eason and Ben Taylor, Sweden’s Pontus Widegren, Denmark’s Sebastian Cappelen, Spaniard Scott Fernandez and Portugal’s Pedro Figueiredo. Brun, Fernandez, Figueiredo, Wildgren, Eason and Stalter made the team as the top-six European players on the Palmer Cup ranking. Hurley owes his place to victory in last month’s R&A Foundation Scholars’ tournament in St Andrews, Cappelen was Coltart’s choice while Phelan and Taylor were committee picks.

The team can claim 14 victories between them on this season’s US collegiate circuit including three apiece from Brun and Taylor. Figueiredo is a former Portuguese, Irish and British Boys’ champion while Widegren becomes just the fifth player to play on four Palmer Cup teams. “I have to admit that I don’t know all that much about our side but that is where my assistant coach, Phil Rowe, and my fellow countryman, David Inglis, will come into their own,” Coltart said.

Rowe is the assistant coach at Stanford while Inglis holds a similar position at Northwestern University in Chicago. “Both know almost all the best players on the US collegiate circuit,” Coltart said. “They have already told me we’ve got a strong team but they have also said the Americans do, too.”

Coltart and Hurley will travel across the Atlantic on June 3 and then meet up with the rest of the side the following day. “That gives us a couple of days to get to know each other and to get used to the course before the match starts on June 7,” he said.

“It’s going to be great fun,” the Scot added. “It’s a great honour to be asked to captain the European team and it’s even more special because we’re playing for a trophy with Palmer’s name on it. That means an awful lot to me.

“I’m just going to try to keep the players happy and pass on the experience I have gained over the years.”

“I’m told that former Palmer Cup players have gone onto win 19 PGA Tour titles and that group includes Derek Ernst who won the recent Wells Fargo Championship. He played in the last match at Royal County Down but lost to Graeme Robertson in the final singles and it was one of the results that turned the match in Europe’s favour.”

Europe won all but one of the final singles that day to claim an improbable 13½ - 10½ against a formidable visiting side. Cappelen, Brun and Widegren all also won that afternoon and that sort of experience might prove vital in this year’s match on the other side of the Atlantic.

This year’s American team also includes three players with previous Palmer Cup experience in the shape of Patrick Rodgers, Alex Carpenter and Justin Thomas. They are joined by Michael Kim, Sean Dale, James Erkenbeck, Cory Whitsett, Michael Weaver, Daniel Berger and Bobby Wyatt.

Wyatt is currently No. 3 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) after six top-10 finishes on this season’s collegiate circuit. Ninth was his lowest finish in 11 events. Weaver was the runner-up at last year’s US Amateur while Rodgers has won three collegiate events this season and was a member of the US team at the 2011 Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen.

Brun is the highest-ranked player on the European team at No. 5 on the WAGR.

Ireland’s Jack Hume will be brimming with confidence when he tees up in this week’s Welsh Open Stroke Play Championship at Royal Porthcawl.

The 19-year-old from Rathsallagh came within a shot of winning last week’s Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham and St Annes and will be seeking to go one better at Porthcawl where he will be playing against a strong field comprising internationals from several different countries.

Hume was not among the most fancied Irish starters at Lytham but that did not stop him mounting a challenge that will have had both the Irish and Walker Cup selectors sitting up and taking note.

He was seven shots behind leader, Nathan Kimsey, at the halfway stage but then fired closing rounds of 70 and 68 to tie with Albert Eckhardt before losing to the Finnish player in a playoff. His closing 68 was the low round of the tournament, matched only by Kimsey in the opening round.

Hume is joined at Porthcawl by compatriot Reeve Whitson, the reigning Spanish amateur champion who finished fifth at Lytham, and by defending champion, Craig Hinton, who finished just outside the top 20 at Lytham despite taking an 8 in the first round when his ball bounced back off a bunker face, hit him and then buried itself in his foot print. Twelve months ago, the 23-year-old from The Oxfordshire was a convincing winner at Prestatyn, carding rounds of 69, 75, 70 and 67 to finish seven shots ahead of New Zealander Vaughan McCall.

This year, Hinton goes out first at 7.30 on Friday morning alongside Irish International Richard O’Donovan and Frenchman Ugo Coussaud. Other early starters include Ireland’s Brian Casey, Harry Diamond and Rory McNamara, English internationals Garrick Porteous, Callum Shinkwin, Jamie Rutherford, Harry Casey, Neil Raymond, Patrick Kelly and Jordan Smith and Welsh trio Ben Westgate, Rhys Pugh and Jason Shufflebotham.

All normally could expect to be watched at some time or another by current GB&I Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards, but, for the first two rounds at least, only Kelly and Shufflebotham will have that privilege because Edwards is playing with them.

“I’m going to dust down the clubs and see what happens,” said the veteran Welshman while watching the action at Lytham. “I’m not playing much but I hope I can put a couple of decent rounds together.”

England’s Marco Penge gave himself an early birthday present when he defeated Scotland’s Bradley Neil in a four-hole play-off at the recent Fairhaven Trophy at Fairhaven.

Fifteen-year-old Penge, from Worthing in Sussex, started the final round six shots adrift of the new Scottish Boys’ champion but carded a final round of 71 to tie Neil on 288 and then beat his rival with a birdie and three pars in extra time.

It was the latest in a long line of impressive performances from the Englishman who celebrated his 15th birthday last Friday. This season to date, he has also finished third at the Douglas Johns Trophy, fourth in the Bernard Darwin Salver and sixth at the Peter McEvoy Trophy.

Neil has also been in sparkling form and his closing 77 cost him the chance of a third successive victory, having begun that run by defeating Ewan Scott in the final of the Scottish Boys’ Championship at Monifieth and then coasting to an eight-shot triumph ahead of Dumfries & County’s Connor Syme at the opening Scottish Hydro SGU Junior Tour event at Arbroath.

Georgia Hall

At the start of the year Neil also teamed up with Scott, England’s Georgia Hall and Welsh girl Chloe Williams, to win a gold medal at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival at Royal Sydney.

“I just had a bad back nine in the final round,” confessed the 17-year-old from Blairgowrie. “I should have had a good lead walking down the last but I had four three-putts in the last 11 holes. It wasn’t good enough but these things happen.”

The girls’ tournament was won by 15-year-old Sophie Lamb, from nearby Clitheroe, who put together rounds of 78, 77, 75 and 72 to finish a single shot ahead of reigning Scottish Girls’ champion Lauren Whyte from St Andrews. However, Whyte and Neil did have the consolation of teaming up with Ewen Ferguson to claim the Nations Cup staged over the opening two rounds of the event.

Eilidh Briggs will be hoping to complete a family double when she tees up in this week’s Scottish Ladies’ (Close) Amateur Championship at Longniddry.

Older sister, Megan, won the 2009 title at Southerness and her younger sibling has high hopes of emulating that feat after finishing runner-up to Louise Kenney two years ago at Machrihanish and then losing to winner, Laura Murray, in the semifinals of the 2012 Championship at Tain.

Elderslie teenager, Alyson McKechin, also harbours high hopes of victory after finishing joint runner-up behind English international, Olivia Winning, at the recent Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship at Troon.

“I’ve been working hard with my coach, Kevin Craggs, over the winter. I’ve also concentrated on getting fitter and stronger and I’m sure that made the difference at Troon,” she said.

“I have never played Longniddry but I intend to have a few practice rounds and am really looking forward to the championship.”

Last year’s losing finalist, Jane Turner, from Craigielaw, will also start out among the favourites after a fine performance 12 months ago when she lead then qualifiers during the stroke play stage before losing on the final of last year’s final to Murray.

Another in-form player is Jess Meek, the former girls’ international from Carnoustie Ladies’, who currently leads the Order of Merit on the new Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Scottish Ladies Open Tour after a series of top-three finishes. Meek also finished tied fourth behind Curtis Cup player Amy Boulden at the Welsh Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship at Vale of Glamorgan.

Boulden completed an early season double when she beat English international Alex Peters into second place at the Welsh Ladies’ Open Stroke Play Championship at the Vale of Glamorgan.

A couple of weeks earlier, the Curtis Cup player from Conwy, had defended her title at the Leveret at Formby Ladies before finishing tied fourth at the Scottish Ladies’ Open Stroke Play Championship at Troon. She currently holds a commanding lead ahead of Samantha Birks and Becky Harries on the Ping Welsh Ladies’ Order of Merit.

The Welsh No 1’s next appearance comes when she defends the title at this week’s Welsh Ladies’ Close Championship at Nefyn & District where she has been drawn to play alongside rivals Harries and Williams in the first two rounds.

Boulden’s victory at the Vale of Glamorgan coincided with her Curtis Cup colleague, Leona Maguire, winning for the first time this season at the 42nd annual Hermitage Scratch Cup. The Slieve Russel teenager posted rounds of 70 and 73 to finish three shots ahead of Moate’s Amy Farrell and Mary Dowling from New Ross. Defending champion, Paula Grant, from Lisburn, was fourth.

Peters chases another national title when she starts among the favourites at this week’s English Women’s Amateur Championship at King’s Norton.

The reigning English Stroke Play champion is joined by British Stroke Play champion Sarah-Jane Boyd and internationals Gabriella Cowley and Amber Ratcliffe. Recent Scottish Women’s Open Stroke Play champion, Winning misses out because she is sitting her A-levels.

Last year’s champion was Kelly Tidy, who went on to help GB&I to win the Curtis Cup before turning professional.

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