Down just a single point entering Sunday singles, GB&I hope to earn title of Walker Cup spoilers
JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Angus Flanagan has several nicknames. In high school he was called “Gus.” In college, his teammates, to avoid confusion with another Minnesota player named Gus Minkin, referred to him as “Ang” or “Angy.” And he’s known to his father, Steve, as “Wee Man.”
“He’s 6-foot-3 and Scottish, so everything is wee in his terms,” Flanagan said.
On Sunday morning at Seminole, Flanagan came up huge for Great Britain and Ireland. The Englishman from Woking teamed with countryman Ben Schmidt in foursomes and earned a hard-fought, come-from-behind tie with All-America standouts Cole Hammer and Davis Thompson. That half-point ensure that the visitors would enter Sunday afternoon’s singles down by just one point, 9.5-7.5.
“This is what we wanted,” said Flanagan, his team now arguably with the slight momentum, “just to have a chance.”
Irishmen Mark Power and John Murphy earned a foursomes point for Wilson in the leadoff match, starting birdie-birdie-eagle and holding on to edge Pierceson Coody and John Pak, 1 up, and England’s Matty Lamb and Jack Dyer dispatched Stewart Hagestad and Ty Strafaci, 6 and 5.
Power enters singles a perfect 3-0, as does American Ricky Castillo, who along with William Mouw clawed back from 1 down with three holes to play to beat Alex Fitzpatrick and Barclay Brown. Castillo, who admittedly is playing some of the best golf of his career this weekend, hit an aggressive drive at the 408-yard, par-4 16th hole and left Mouw about 50 yards to a tough back pin. Mouw gave Castillo a 12-foot birdie look, and after a good teach from Brown, Castillo rolled in the match-tying putt.
“That was a momentum-changer,” said Castillo, who then watched as Mouw sank a crucial par putt on the par-3 17th to take the lead for good.
It was an important point, as Hammer, who went undefeated on Saturday, and Thompson surrendered a 4-up lead after eight holes. They were 3 up with four to play, too, before Flanagan and Schmidt won three of the final four holes, including the par-4 finisher, where Hammer drove it into a tough lie a left fairway bunker.
After asking for relief because of a nearby animal hole and being denied, Thompson decided to hit 7-iron from an awkward stance. With one foot out of the trap, Thompson barely advanced the ball and Hammer then found the right greenside bunker with their third shot.
Flanagan, meanwhile, knew the 18th hole didn’t fit his fade off the tee, especially with the wind howling off the ocean and left. So, just like he had done Saturday morning, he aimed for the driving range. Schmidt didn’t hit as good a shot as Jake Bolton did in the opening session, his approach coming up short and rolling back down the hill to about 75 yards, but Flanagan hit a beautiful, low pitch to 15 feet, and a two-putt ended up good enough for the tie after Hammer missed an 8-foot bogey save.
“It's Mr. Toad's wild ride today I guess you could say,” U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby said. “We lost that half-point there at the very end. We thought we were going to
get a full point. Lost the last two holes to a couple of tragic lies there on 17 and 18 that Davis Thompson and Cole Hammer got. The points came in slow this morning. It's only four points, and this afternoon we've got a full 10. It'll be like a waterfall, and we'll hope to win some matches and see where it comes out. But it's going to be nip and tuck. That's for certain.”
Down by just a single point with 10 matches on tap Sunday afternoon, Great Britain and Ireland are attempting to win on foreign soil for just the third time in 48 tries. Only the 1989 squad (at Peachtree) and 2001 team (at Ocean Forest) won a Walker Cup in the U.S.
Flanagan and teammates are hoping to earn some new nicknames by Sunday evening: Spoilers.