GB&I takes Saturday morning lead
__ABERDEEN, Scotland--__If you believe in omens, consider this: Not since 2003 has Great Britain & Ireland held the lead after Saturday morning foursomes at the Walker Cup. That was the same year the GB&I side was last victorious in the biennial event.
The home side took advantage of prickly weather and a few costly American mistakes during the morning foursomes session at Royal Aberdeen GC, winning three of the four matches to take a 3-1 lead.
"It was a tremendous morning," said GB&I captain Nigel Edwards. "I thought out boys did a great job."
GB&I's Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart went out first and secured a 2-and-1 victory over Peter Uihlein and Harris English despite an auspicious start to competition. Hitting their opening tee ball under cloudy skies that would bring with them wind and the occasion band of rain, Lewis pulled his shot into a gorse bush left of the first fairway. The ball was never found, requiring Stewart to go back to the tee and hit their third shot. The duo bogeyed the hole to fall 1 down.
"It was a bit embarrassing," Lewis said, who claimed it wasn't pressure but a failure to acknowledge how hard the wind was blowing. "I was much more nervous at the Open on the first day."
He and Stewart didn't let the mistake get to them, returning the match to all square after four holes before losing the fifth and seventh holes. But then Lewis and Stewart began to take the momentum, winning the eighth when Lewis holed a birdie putt to go 1 down and squaring the match on the 10th when Stewart rolled in a birdie putt.
GB&I took its first lead on the par-3 11th hole with a conceded birdie when Uihlein hit his tee shot on the 167-yard hole out of bounds right.
"It was a shank," Uihlein said. "A solid shank. It wasn't a good shot."
Still 1 down on the 16th tee, it was English whose poor tee shot cost the U.S. side, hit wayward drive to the right also being lost in the gorse. Unable to get up and down from the fairway for par after Uihlein hit a provisional off the tee, the GB&I side won the hole with a par to go 2 up. Lewis and Stewart then closed things out on the par-3 17th when Stewart hit a chip to inches to give them a conceded par and English missed a 20-foot birdie try.
"Hats off to them, they played well," Uihlein said. "I don't think we played poorly at all. We just had the hiccups. They had one hiccup, we had two."
GB&I's other two victories weren't quite so dramatic but were equally satisfying. Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar defeated the American pair of Nathan Smith and Blayne Barber, 5 and 4. Smith and Barber failed to make a birdie during the match while posting six bogeys.
Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan, meanwhile, defeated__Russell Henley__ and Kelly Kraft, 2 and 1, a match that came with some post-round controversy. Senior was using his older brother, Joe, a golf pro, as his caddie. Under Walker Cup's conditions of competition, pros are prohibited from caddieing in any match. It wasn't until after the match, however, that a question arose about any potential problem with having him on the bag. Since it was not discovered until after the match had finished, it was deemed by both officials from the R&A and the USGA that the match's result would stand.
The lone American point was secured by Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams, who cruised to a 5-and-3 victory over__Steven Brown__ and Stiggy Hodgson. The U.S. duo made four birdies over the first nine holes--including three straight on Nos. 7-9-- to take a 5-up lead at the turn.
"We're a good team," said Williams, a junior at Washington. "We get along really well together. We haven't known each other for that long, but once we met and got to know each other, we knew we would be a good team. It was kind of a given after a while that we would play together."
"I told them we have a long way to go," said U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve on addressing the team prior to singles matches. "There are still three significant rounds of golf to be played. They are just in good spirits. They are still fired up and ready to play hard."
Indeed, while the U.S. side might be disappointed with their start, there is a bright side as the team heads into the afternoon singles. Not since 1995 have the Americans trailed after Saturday's play.
If you believe in omens, you might consider that too.
__SATURDAY MORNING FOURSOMES
__GB&I's Tom Lewis/Michael Stewart df. USA's Peter Uihlein/Harris English, 2 & 1
GB&I's Jack Senior/Andy Sullivan df. USA's Russell Henley/Kelly Kraft, 2 & 1
GB&I's Paul Cutler/Alan Dunbar df. USA's Nathan Smith/Blayne Barber, 5 & 4
USA's Patrick Cantlay/Chris Williams df. GB&I's Steven Brown/Stiggy Hodgson, 5 & 3
GB&I 3, USA 1