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.

Five Compelling Storylines from The Open

Author: Henry Hyde @ Toonaripost

With the recent conclusion of The 140thBritish Open Championship, there are many storylines that the can be focused on.  Some of theses storylines include, the Success of Chubby Chandler, the wave of success that golfers from Northern Ireland have enjoyed and the struggles of Rory McIlroy, but more importantly the triumph of McIlroy’s fellow countryman, Darren Clarke, who was able to win his first major championship.

Luck of the Irish

It is the luck and fortune of Northern Ireland that is catching the golf world by surprise. With Darren Clarke’s recent British Open win, Northern Ireland has, “more of golf’s recent major champions than anyplace on Earth.” Speaking of Northern Ireland’s recent success, Clarke, a native of Northern Ireland himself, says, “We have fantastic golf courses, we have fantastic facilities. But to have three major champions from a little small place in a short period of time, it’s just incredible.”

The win by Clarke gives Northern a reason to boast; he is “Northern Ireland’s third major champion in the past 13 months” and cements the small country of Northern Ireland as the home to “three of the last six major winners.”

What makes Northern Ireland’s recent success and triumphs all the more amazing is the countries small size and population. As Jeff Shain, of the Orlando Sentinel, pointedly writes, “Statistically speaking, Northern Ireland covers about the same amount of land as Connecticut and boasts a population equivalent to metropolitan Charlotte.”

Rory McIlroy

Obviously, one major storyline coming into this British Open was how Rory McIlroy would fair, especially after coming off a phenomenal performance at the U.S. Open back in June. After shooting a dazzling total of 16 under par, though four days at the U.S. Open, McIlroy was rightly favored to win going into the British Open championship.

Compared to the caliber of play he showed he is capable of during the U.S. Open, McIlroy couldn’t muster up anything close to the same performance during this championship; McIlroy finished at a dismal seven over par through four days.   Even more horrendous was the fact that McIlroy finished the tournament tied for 25th on the leader board. The fact is he put up a very ugly and lackluster performance.

Darren Clarke

This British Open was Clarke’s 54th major of his career and his first major win; there is no doubt the guy has been around the block. Despite the 42-year-old Clarke not being as well recognized as the Tiger Woods’s and Rory McIlroy’s of the world, his win at the British Open cannot but be admired, especially considering his past.

The guy has gone through adversity. “Clarke lost his wife, Heather, to [breast] cancer in 2006”. Despite this devastating loss, Clarke has rebounded from this solemn past. Clarke’s turnaround from this heartbreaking tragedy is a story that defines perseverance; one would be hard pressed not to feel happy for the guy.

As BBC Sports reporter and blogger Rob Hodgetts eloquently states about Clarkes triumph at the Open championship “this is the vindication for a man who has weathered his share of life’s storms, but kept his eye on the prize and not lost his belief ”.  Before the Open trophy, Clarke was quoted saying, “I always believed I would get myself back up here…I always believed I had enough talent to challenge and win one.”

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that everyone who knows Clarke gets along with him. He is liked by many of his piers on the PGA Tour quite possibly because of his genuine and easygoing personality.  In reference to Clarke, Hodgetts says, “The man from Dungannon [Northern Ireland] had always been popular, with the public and fellow pros alike.

A man the fans could identify with, not a gym-obsessed robot. A man who liked a drink and a smoke and carried a bit of weight. Downing a pint of Guinness on the K Club balcony in celebration only served to reinforce the image.” He’s a down to earth guy who doesn’t mind having a bit of fun.

Chubby Chandler

An equally compelling storyline at the recently played British Open, is Agent Chubby Chandler’s. Chandler represents some of golf’s biggest stars, including all three of the golfers that have won major championships this year. If Chandler ends up representing the winner of the PGA Championship this year, a new term might come of it; that term is the “Chubby Slam”. “This year Charl Schwartzel (who won US Masters in April), Rory McIlroy and Clarke make up three-parts of the “Chubby Slam”.

The term grand slam in golf means that a golfer has won all four major championships in the same year. These four majors are, the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Because he isn’t a golfer, Chubby Chandler isn’t technically qualified to win the grand slam.

However, if Chandler ends up representing the PGA champion, he would be an agent who has notched all four majors this year. If in fact Chandler does end up representing the winner for each of the four majors (this year), one could argue, it would be notionally the same as winning the grand slam.

Three Northern Irishmen: Three Competitors And Three Friends

Graeme McDowell, who was last year’s U.S. Open champion, relinquished this year’s U.S. Open trophy to his fellow countryman in Rory McIlroy. Following his outstanding performance at the U.S. Open (this year), McIlroy was heavily favored coming into the British Open (this year). However, like he beat Graeme McDowell (this year) Darren Clarke beat him in the British Open.

First, Graeme McDowell won a major, then, so did Rory McIlroy, and now Darren Clarke. These three fellow countrymen who are challengers on the golf course now share the bond of winning a major like the bond of friendship they share off the course. Despite their competitiveness on the golf course, all three have an unwavering unity for Northern Ireland and admiration and each other.

All three are known to be close friends.   Speaking of the relationship, Clarke says, There’s a huge rivalry between us all, but also a huge respect. We all get on great, otherwise we wouldn’t be in Chubby’s stable. We hang out and eat with each other a lot. But stepping on to the first tee, the competition is there and always has been.”

The Story starts with Clarke, who showed McDowell and McIlroy the path to success. As agent Chubby Chandler says, “Darren led them…Darren was the one who set the bar, went over [to the United States]. G-Mac’s followed him, and now Rory. It’s a great thing. They all look up to him.”

These guys all look up to one another and are truly supportive friends as well. This might be attributed to the fact that, “Northern Ireland is a very small place. It’s all a very close-knit community.” For example, it was Clarke who convinced McIlroy to sign with ISM’s (International Sports Management’s) agent, Chubby Chandler.

Now, these guys are tweeting each other and partying together after their big wins. After Clarke’s recent win at the British Open, McDowell tweeted, “Darren Clarke aiming to be the first Northern Irish golfer to win a major in almost four weeks!” McIlroy was equally excited by Clarke’s win tweeting “And the winner of the gold medal, the champion golfer of the year, from northern Ireland DARREN CLARKE!!!!!” In another tweet McIlroy proclaimed gleefully, “Northern Ireland…..Golf capital of the world!!” Since Clarkes win, MacIlroy has also tweeted, “@Theprincedc [Darren Clarke]” saying “you’ve made everyone proud!”

Despite the age difference between these guys, they still celebrate together too. There have been many parties taking place in Northern Ireland lately due to the success of these three guys. There was a “Party for G-Mac [last year] at Portrush and party for Rory a couple of weeks ago,” said Clarke.

“I’m sure they’ll have another one this week.” Clarke even skipped a tournament in Germany to join McIlroy in celebrating his US Open victory. The day after Clarke’s triumph McDowell tweeted,  he will, “probably [be] drinking a few pints with the 2011 Open Champ”. And how right he was; McDowell has since shared celebratory details of the three friends tweeting, “I won theGuinness pint-drinking contest (vs McIlroy & Clarke). That’s my first win of the season.”

Clarke said it all when he proclaimed, “We’re blessed to have obviously two fantastic players in Rory and Graeme and I’m just the old guy coming along behind them.” Clarke may be older but lest anyone forget, he is a core member of the fantastic trio from Northern Ireland that has taken the majors by storm, and he certainly enjoys a fresh pint of Guinness and a good celebration to boot, with his two fellow countrymen.

Compelling Enough?

I am sure that there are many people out there who will say this British Open wasn’t at all compelling, however I am not one of them. I was heartened to see 42-year-old Darren Clarke win a major. I am particularly heartened, because of the tumultuous hardship he must have gone through when his former wife passed away.

Now, Clarke can bask in the glory of what he has been dreaming since he was a young boy: winning the British Open. In the words of Clarke, it’s been a dream since I’ve been a kid to win the Open, like any kid’s dream is, and I’m able to do it, which just feels incredible.”

For me the Open was spectacular to watch. I was personally thrilled and enthralled seeing Darren Clarke accomplish this gratifying achievement and to see Clarke finally capture something he had been dreaming of, almost all his life. For a while the dream eluded Clarke; but, due to his perseverance, the dream finally came true.

View From the Spire: Alex Hay 1933 – 2011

Alex Hay, a PGA professional for more than half a century, former Ryder Cup referee and celebrated TV commentator, died peacefully this morning following a short illness. He was 78.

Hay was born in Edinburgh in 1933 and joined Ben Sayers as an apprentice clubmaker before becoming an assistant at Potters Bar.
He qualified as a PGA professional in 1952 and had spells at East Herts, Dunham Forest and Ashridge golf clubs before moving to Woburn in 1977. Initially, the head PGA professional there, he became its managing director.
Hay also wrote several books on the techniques of the swing and played a key role in the drawings used in the PGA’s training manual.
However, it was his role as a commentator for the BBC from 1978 to 2004 that he is best known. He co-presented all the major tournaments with Peter Alliss and the pair were renowned for their wit, rapport, feeling and deep knowledge of the game.
Hay, who passed away with his family by his side, leaves a wife Ann, and two sons, Graham and David.

The Magic Number: the search for great par 3’s

Here are suggestions as we embark on our search for the Worlds Greatest Par Three hole? If you have any more suggestions to add to our list please leave them as a comment below.

Kingsbarns Golf Links, Scotland, Hole 15

Played around the rocky shores of St. Andrews Bay, the 15th hole is gaining a reputation as one of Scotland’s finest par 3s. The 15th is a 185 yard par 3 that can’t help but be compared to Cypress Point’s glorious 16th. It is certainly one of the most beautiful holes in Fife, which can derail a good ride anytime. Depending on the pin location and the wind, it can be every bit as difficult. The hole is laid out with the North Sea to its right. Except for the extreme left, there is no fairway, rather, the tee shot must carry over water and rocks.

Punta Mita Club de Golf (Pacifico Course), Mexico, Hole 3B

The course has two 3rd holes. 3A is used in case the tide is too high, or the waves are too big, or the wind is too strong to cross.

Set on a natural rock outcropping known as a site for whale watching, the signature island hole, “The Tail of the Whale,” features the added challenge of an oceanside tee on the beach, with an undulating green designed in the shape of a whale’s tail, situated 199 yards off the coast. A tee box is based on the mainland, while the putting green is set on the idyllic natural offshore island. This hole is the only natural island green in the world.

Legends Golf and Safari Resort, South Africa, Hole 19

The course’s so-called “Xtreme 19th” hole is a par 3. A par 3 whose tee is atop a cliff on Hanglip Mountain, more than 1,400 feet above a green carved like the continent of Africa. You’ve got to take a helicopter to get to the tee box, and from there it’s more than 630 yards to the pin. Once you tee off, it takes nearly 30 seconds for the ball to hit the ground.

Should you manage to drill a hole-in-one on the 19th, congratulations — you’ve just won yourself a million bucks, and the right to call yourself the most Xtreme golfer on Earth!

If you know of any world beating Par 3 holes – let me know and Ill be sure to add them to future posts on the Magic Number.

Spain Prepares for Ballesteros Funeral

The funeral of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros will take place today (Wednesday) in his home village of Pedrena, Cantabria in Spain.

The ceremony will be at the San Pedro parish church at 1200 BST.

Seve Ballesteros

Image courtesy of Action Images

Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance are among a few of golf’s biggest names that are expected to attend.

Ballesteros died aged 54 in the early hours of Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer.

“Seve will be cremated at a ceremony that will be as intimate as possible and at a place that nobody will know,” said the Ballesteros family.

“That was his express wish. His ashes will remain at his estate, at his home in Pedrena.”

Seve’s brother Baldomero Ballesteros was quoted as saying:

“The funeral rites will be as simple as those for any neighbour from the village. He was born here and here he will remain.”

Miguel Angel Revilla, head of the local Cantabria government, said the region will observe three days of official mourning.

At the Players Championship in Florida this week, the Spanish flag will fly in honour of Ballesteros until Sunday.

Normally, the previous year’s winner has his national flag flying over the Circle of Champions but the South African flag marking Tim Clark’s victory last May has been replaced.

Such was his legend across the sporting fraternity but his passing has been marked across the world, with silences being held at the European Tour’s Spanish Open, the Barcelona – Madrid game, the Madrid Open Tennis Championships and at the Wells Fargo Championship in America over the weekend.