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GB&I's Lewis says Walker Cup is worth wait

September 09, 2011

__ABERDEEN, Scotland--__It's hard to envision a way the Great Britain & Ireland team pulls out a victory this weekend in the Walker Cup without its top-ranked player playing a key role.

Listening to Tom Lewis, the low amateur at this year's British Open, he sounds ready to oblige.

"I feel confident coming into this week," Lewis said Friday on the eve of the two-day competition. "I'm playing well. So there's no real excuses why I can't perform with some of the top boys from America."

The 20-year-old Englishman is making his amateur swan song this weekend, having lined up sponsor's exemptions to play professionally in the European Tour's Austrian Open and the Dunhill Links at St. Andrews later this month.

The 2009 British Boys champion's talents became known beyond the British Isles this summer when he posted a sparking 65 during the first round of the Open at Royal St. George's, becoming the first amateur to hold a share of the lead at the championship since Michael Bonallack in 1968. The impressive play had Lewis flirting with the notion of turning pro immediately, but it was his performance over the final 54 holes (rounds of 74-76-74, a T-30 spot on the leader board) that returned him to his original time table

"I thought about it, definitely, because I was playing well," Lewis said. "But then I only had one good round, and that's not where I should have finished. Obviously it shows that I need to improve in certain areas.

"I'm happy I stayed [amateur]," Lewis continued. "I had a struggle a couple of weeks after the Open. So I'm pleased I stayed, because if I turned pro, then I would have made a big mistake. I'm just happy to be here and that's where the focus is going to be."

GB&I captain Nigel Edwards can only hope. Edwards got a first-hand glimpse of how anticipation of the future can hurt concentration on the present four years ago at Royal County Down. There, Rory McIlroy was coming off a big splash of earning low amateur honors at the British Open at Carnoustie and similarly was using the Walker Cup in his home country as a finale for his amateur career. Yet the Ulsterman struggled, posting only a 1-2-1 record as the GB&I side lost by a narrow 12.5-11.5 margin.

"I know he will perform very well," Edwards said of Lewis. "He's not frightened of anyone."