WALKER CUP 2019

Conor Purcell makes winning start

By Brian Keogh

Portmarnock's Conor Purcell felt "validated" after his winning partnership with Alex Fitzpatrick in the opening match helped Great Britain and Ireland share the Saturday morning foursomes 2-2 in the 47th Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool.

The Dubliner (22) was the strong man early on, making a few crucial putts help Great Britain and Ireland start with a 2&1 win over US Amateur champion Andy Ogletree and runner-up John Augenstein at a sunny Hoylake.

"It was good to get the first point," Purcell said. "We knew the start was important, so it was nice to get a win. You almost feel validated in a way. We gelled well too. You wouldn't have thought me and Alex would be together starting the week, but we have gelled well, and we have a good partnership."

The GB&I duo won the first when the Americans hit their approach out of bounds right from the rough down the left and quickly found themselves three down after five.

"I was calm throughout and didn't feet nervous," said Purcell, who made a 15 footer for birdie at the second to put GB&I 2-up, then matched the American birdie four at the third with another 15 footer. "I was more nervous getting ready to play, but once I got to the course, I was grand."

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Conor Purcell (GB&I) on the 3rd fairway. Photo by Fran Caffrey / Golffile.ie

Purcell had to tidy up from nearly three feet for a half par at the fourth to remain 2-up but when Augenstein chipped heavy-handedly at the fifth, and the US failed to save par, GB&I were three-up and cruising.

The home duo won the eighth to go four-up, and while they lost the 10th to a par, they won the 12th when Purcell played a fantastic chip from heavy rough over the green to salvage a par at the 12th, the American took three hacks to find the green from a similar position and took six to go four down again.

The visitors won the short 13th with a two and the 15th with a par to halve the deficit, Purcell hit a lovely pitch to the 16th to set up a half in birdie, the rifled his approach to the 16th straight over the pin after the American missed the green, setting up a winning par four.

"To make that putt for a half on the third was massive but it was nice to make a few early putts," Purcell said. "Going four up after eight means that in your head you are thinking, if we lose one or two, we are still in control.

"We just kept the foot down the whole way through. We looked comfortable over every shot we had and felt comfortable on the greens and holed some putts early."
 
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Conor Purcell (GB&I) on the 2nd tee, Photo Fran Caffrey / Golffile.ie

Sandy Scott and Euan Walker were one up after six holes against John Pak and Isiah Salinda but lost four holes in a five-hole stretch from the ninth in a 2&1 defeat.

Young guns Harry Hall and Conor Gough then made it 2-1 for GB&I with a 2&1 win over Stewart Hagestad and Wake Forest's talented left-hander Akshay Bhatia.

But the Americans levelled at lunch when Thomas Plumb and Tom Sloman fell 2&1 to Brandon Wu and Alex Smalley.

USA 2, GB&I 2 (USA names first)

John Augenstein Andy Ogletree lost to Alex Fitzpatrick & Conor Purcell 2&1

John Pak & Isiah Salinda bt Sandy Scott and Euan Walker, Euan 2&1

Stewart Hagestad & Aksay Bhatia lost to Harry Hall and Conor Gough 2&1

Brandon Wu & Alex Smalley bt Tom Sloman & Thomas Plumb 2& 1

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