Selectabet: The Walker Cup

Date:                     10th – 11th September 2011

Competition:     The Walker Cup

The Professional games impressive little amateur brother for the best players from the USA and Great Britain & Ireland. Contested by male amateur players in teams of not more than 10 players and a Captain. Much as the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup is contested every two years, alternately in the USA and Great Britain and Ireland.

Venue:                 Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, Aberdeen, Scotland

Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the sixth oldest golf club in existence. For the first 35 years, the club was known as The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen, with membership being determined by ballot. The Aberdeen Golf Club was formed in 1815 on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, and its members continued to play on the Queen’s Links, a strip of common land between the Don and Dee Rivers, until 1888 when they migrated to the current links at Balgownie.

More recently it has been Richie Ramsay’s training ground – a wild and windy frontline for whatever the North Sea wishes to throw at the Scottish mainland.

Yards:                   6,873 yards

Par:                        Par 70


The Americans look stronger on paper. But the Great Britain & Ireland have the home advantage. But the US are always favourites but….and it’s a huge but, the weather is set to be wet and windy. It’s a tough links and I know from recent personal experience that they have tightened the course in a little and while the greens are relatively slow for this standard, 10.5 (or so) on the stimp, they will most definitely be tough in these conditions.

Ones to watch:

Patrick Cantlay – Cantlay has had a stellar freshman season at UCLA, winning three events and being named Golfer of the Year, first-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-10. He was recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Award (NCAA Division I player of the year) and the Phil Mickelson Award, presented to the freshman of the year.

He was the low amateur at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, tying for 21st place. He shot 60 in the second round of the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, which set the record for the lowest round in a PGA Tour event by an amateur. He went on to finish 24th in the event. He also had a top-25 finish at PGA Tour’s AT&T National at Aronomink outside of Philadelphia and tied for ninth at the RBC Canadian Open. He claimed the 2011 Southern California Golf Association Amateur and was runner-up to Ethan Tracy at the Western Amateur, losing the final match, 1 down.

He currently is the top-ranked amateur, according to the World Amateur Golf.

Tom Lewis – Lewis announced himself to the world of golf at Royal St George’s this July when he became the first amateur since Sir Michael Bonallack in 1968 to lead The Open Championship. Lewis compiled an opening 65 to share the lead with Thomas Bjorn, and went on to finish joint 30th to take the silver medal as leading amateur. He won the St Andrews Links Trophy in June.

He finished 59th in the Dubai Desert Classic, his first European Tour event. He ended the 2010 season with two outstanding performances on the Australasian Tour, finishing 12th in the Australian Open and losing a playoff to Peter O’Malley in the New South Wales Open.

Ones to win:

As there are only three possible outcomes – it’s a surprisingly hard one to call. Essentially, its better “big event” ready players (US) versus the links friendly home advantaged. 

The available odds tell the full story: the US being offered at 8/15 with Betfair while Team GB & I, are at 9/4 with Ladbrokes and SkyBet.

The odds of a tie (where the US retain the trophy) are valued at 10/1 with practically everyone including William Hill, Stan James and BoyleSports.

I’m going with my gut instinct on this one and saying that Team GB & I will dominate (courtesy of the wind and rain) day one – much as the Europeans do in the Ryder Cup and while it will be a close call at the end, the Americans will eek out a vital win (again).

Jenks out.

View From the Spire: The Walker Cup

“The Walker Cup wont be won on paper”

Author: Stephen Gallacher, European Tour Pro @

The United States may be overwhelming  favourites for the Walker Cup this weekend, but don’t write off Great Britain and Irelands chances just yet. I am quietly confident our boys can overcome the odds and pull of a remarkable upset. The United States arriving as favourites in nothing new. They are always the favourites. This year their team looks particularly strong on paper, but what is it that they say about games never being won on paper? 

The GB&I team has got plenty of talent as well and there is also the Royal Aberdeen factor. The Balgownie links is a phenomenal course, one of my favourites, but it will be tricky for the Americans to master no matter how many rounds they have played this week.

It is a traditional links which our players will be used to playing. Most of the big amateur tournaments in this country are on the great links courses, so they are well schooled. It will be even better if there is a bit of a breeze. I know from experience how much of an advantage it can be to be at home.

There is nothing wrong with giving yourself an edge with the venue. The Americans do it when they are hosting, often taking the Walker Cup to the warmest parts of the country. No matter the location, the US team is generally regarded as the stronger. The United States were favourites when they pitched up at Porthcawl in Wales in 1995. They had a certain Eldrick Woods in their ranks, who at 19-years-old brought with him plenty of hype he would go on to justify. Not that we were overawed.

My enduring memory of the Walker Cup week was the laughs we had. Our team included Padraig Harrington, Mark Foster and David Howell. Had great camaraderie – which I believe is key to success. It is important to stay relaxed and stick to your own game. Most important is to enjoy it.

I take great pride in having the Walker Cup on my CV, and even more at being on the winning side. It is easy for it all to go past in a flash. I am sure the current crop will not be overawed in the slightest. These guys are more professional than amateur and are used being involved in big events.

When we played there were players in our team who still worked full time and were amateurs in the traditional sense. It is all changed now and everyone involved will be looking towards the professional ranks. The Walker Cup will be one the highlights of their careers, as it was for me. It will be even more so, if they can get their hands on the trophy on Sunday night.

View From the Spire: The Good, Bad, the Ugly

IMG Worldwide – the most global of giants, have defined cornering a market. In fact – not just one corner – it has fought in all available corners – and it seems that every market is one that they can lay claim to ruling.

Take the business of sport, they exist everywhere no matter what sport and no matter on what basis. From consulting, venue development, event management to talent representation, training/academies, sponsorship and media distribution – they do it all, they are very good at it and they are the undisputed world beaters at it. Then take the other industries involving celebrity, media, advertising and property development. They “own” all of these too.

If we look at almost any sporting event – and let us say golf. They “own”, through having developed, or managed, the golf courses and resorts. They deliver, and subsequently, manage many of the biggest and most high profile events using and promoting that venue. They manage, and therefore, bring the highest profile talent that plays in that event, to the course that they also promote. They manage, and therefore deliver the sponsors, gaining benefit from the profile and exposure their talent delivers by playing in their own events at the venue that they gain benefit from owning or managing!

IMG deliver the media relationships that drive the awareness and creates sponsorship that drives the talent that benefits the venue that bolsters their revenue to make them more powerful that drives the opportunities. And so the cycle continues. Endlessly. The cradle to grave delivery clearly delivers great revenue and creates some of most interesting and highly watched spectator sporting events the game of golf has.

So with that approach, is it good for a company to own and manage every element in a particular business vertical? I guess financially it is – if you are IMG. What could be bad about taking 20% out of every step in the process – and taking a sizeable consulting chunk on top where you can appropriately?

In golf, they also have a unique relationship with the European Tour and the PGA Tour, running many of their now global events – one might question be who is the governing body and which one tows the line in support? With IMG and the European Tour is it a question of the tail wagging the dog? Which one is really in control? Heaven forbid, is IMG powerful enough to have a bearing on who plays as picks in a competition like the Ryder Cup?

And what if you are high performing talent. Should you be with IMG as they will cut you the best and biggest deals and ensure your participation in the  biggest events. If not, what does it mean for you? (Though I guess Rory, GMac or Darren Clarke are not currently suffering with Chubby Chandlers ISM stable!)

In golf course design and management – read the IMG brochure, it is about creating the best golf courses in the world. To me – that’s a niche, but limited market. Not every course can be the best, not every course can host a top end tournament and not every course is a property development where multi million pound houses are suitable – especially in this financial market. Although is that where everyone else has tucked in behind IMG and found their own niche?

At a time when, barring the elite’s unique position, the golf industry is suffering, clubs and facilities are closing across the globe and the governing bodies should be exploring ways to develop the next generation of golfers – to support the facilities, the equipment and apparel manufacturers and to ensure a future for our sport. I would ask what are IMG doing in this regard? Where is its legacy for the sports it reigns supreme in?

However, does what makes Mark McCormacks (RIP) IMG commercially great at the elite level also make it bad as a business? Does it make it irrelevant? Out of touch? Too big to be flexible? Too inbred and set in its ways with its many departments, pigeon holes to adapt to the ever changing world we live in? Could it could be too corporate – and therefore really quite ugly and cumbersome?

And considering that, does it actually allow for the smaller, more nimble and ultimately cuter boutique organizations, like ISM, Bounce Sports Marketing, Braemar Golf or even G3k Consulting to cut their cloth, make their mark and work to corner that particular element of the market be it talent representation, events, course design and management or sponsorship and events underneath the might of the IMG brand?

Think Jerry McGuire’s fewer clients, better “management” and you might be almost there. Also look at Chubby Chandlers ISM stable that currently holds 3 of the 4 majors and you see it competing with the big, bad, ugly boys in real life!

Which ever way you look at it, IMG have done well, and others have positioned themselves to slip into their wake and so it just seems to work. Either way, there is an interesting series of questions that would have some interesting answers.