Walker Cup countdown

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TWO years on from representing Great Britain and Ireland at the Walker Cup and the first tee nerves are every bit as vivid for Matthew Jordan.

The then 21-year-old had come through late on the rails to grab a place in the team for the biennial showdown with their American counterparts.

GB&I were defending the trophy at the Los Angeles Country Club, but found themselves on a course stretched to suit the home team’s strengths and test the visitors’ resolve.

Ultimately America proved irresistible as they romped to a thumping 19-7 victory and Jordan was left without a win in his three outings.

But September sees GB&I attempt to wrestle back the trophy and the match is taking place in Jordan’s own backyard.

Royal Liverpool will mark its 150thanniversary by staging the 47thWalker Cup and host club member Jordan, who lives just a few roads from the course in Hoylake, believes the players are in for a unique occasion and an important part of their golfing education.

The Walker Cup has long proved a stepping stone into the paid ranks, a well-worn path taken by the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, and our own Tommy Fleetwood and Nick Dougherty.

Jordan, himself, waited a further year after his Walker Cup appearance and now plys his trade on the European Challenge Tour, but that experience in Los Angeles – although ultimately chastening in terms of the result – provided him with another invaluable golfing lesson.

“Playing in the Walker Cup is the pinnacle of the amateur scene,” he said. “I remember being so nervous on the first tee. There was that extra pressure of playing as one of 10 in a team and wanting to make every shot count for them as well as yourself.

“The trip was certainly no jolly, but we were also able to enjoy something of the Los Angeles experience by going to Universal Studios and the Late, Late Show with James Corden.”

Jordan had not been included in the initial training squad for the match, but the summer of 2017 spun the form book on its head as he reeled off a string of impressive performances.

“I had been part of the England set-up since 2016, but things turned for me at the Lytham Trophy,” he recalled. “I made a 12 or 13 foot putt on the 18thjust to make the cut, but then played well over the weekend to finish seventh. From there I was fourth in the Irish and fifth in the Brabazon and I was hoping to get into contention. Then I finished second in Scotland before winning the St Andrews Links.

“That five-week stretch got me into the England squad for the European Championships and I finished sixth. It was all a massive help for my confidence that I could perform at the highest level.”

Recalling his late arrival into the team, Jordan said: “They tell you in person that you are in the team a few weeks before but then ask you to keep it quiet, which is the hardest bit because you want the world to know! It is a fantastic feeling to be recognised as one of the top ten players in GB&I at that time to get your place. And there was a lot of pride in being selected; it felt like a real accomplishment.

“When it came to playing you obviously want to do well for the team, for your family and friends but I tried not to think about the fact that I was representing GB&I as that would have just put too much pressure on myself.”

From a golfing perspective, the Americans had made sure there was plenty of pressure on the visitors.

“I had never played that kind of golf course before; the green speed was different, for example, it was a long course and the Walker Cup was being used like a trial for the US Open so the course was set up as it would be for that event. I felt par would be a good score.

“As well as those first tee nerves, the shot I remember best was a two iron from 230 yards that I needed to get close after I driven into a bush and had to take a drop from the unplayable lie. I got it to 15 feet and to do that under pressure was a good feeling.”

Jordan is hoping the Merseyside sporting public take the chance to catch up with some of the sport’s brightest talents from the unique vantage point a Walker Cup affords.

“At an Open, the spectators are behind the ropes but by being able to walk the fairways with the players this is a chance to get up close, feel involved as the match unfolds and see every shot from close quarters.

“The quality of the amateur game at this level is like the pro game – players do what the professional players do in terms of preparing and practising. This is a great chance to see how high that standard is.”

Tickets are now on sale for the match, which takes place on September 7/8, with the Americans looking for their first win on this side of the Pond since 2007. An adult weekend ticket costs just £40, a day ticket £25 while children under 16 are free with discounted tickets for 16-24 year-olds.

Tickets are available at www.randa.org/walkercuptickets

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