Walker Cup: Belfast amateur Matthew McClean aiming to top off 'perfect year' at St Andrews

Matthew McClean in action during a practice round at St Andrews
Matthew McClean in action during a practice round at St Andrews

Northern Ireland amateur Matthew McClean is aiming to top off his "perfect year" as part of the Great Britain and Ireland team which will face the United States at St Andrews.

The 30-year-old has competed in two of men's golf's professional majors this year, The Masters at Augusta in April and the US Open in Los Angeles in June.

This weekend he will be part of a 10-man team playing over the Old Course.

"As an overall experience it's been unbelievable," McClean told BBC Sport.

"To play in the Masters and then the US Open and then to top it off with the Walker Cup at St Andrews is pretty much what the perfect year planned out at the start," said the Belfast golfer.

"To win the Walker Cup now would be even better."

McClean, an optometrist by trade, is one of four Irish golfers selected for the GB&I team, alongside Alex Maguire, Liam Nolan and Mark Power - who played in the 2021 matches.

He is the only player above the age of 24 selected by the hosts to contest the event, which is regarded as the pinnacle of the amateur game.

The Walker Cup is a biennial match contested between the leading amateurs from GB&I and the US across 18 singles and eight foursomes.

The US, which leads the overall series 38-9 with one halved match, have won the last three contests as well as seven of the last nine.

The showpiece competition is being staged at the 'Home of Golf' on 2 and 3 September, marking 100 years since it was first played.

GB&I last defeated USA in 2015 and are rank outsiders again this year with all of the opposition's 10 players inside the top 20 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

'We'll need our best golf'

At 30 years old McClean is the oldest player in the GB&I team
At 30 years old McClean is the oldest player in the GB&I team

"To make the team is very special and to be able to say you have played one Walker Cup is something I'll be able to say forever now," enthused McClean.

"Having four Irish guys there will be great. We'll try to come together as a group of 10 and we'll need our best golf to compete against the Americans.

"On a links course hopefully a bit of wind gets up and we'll give it a go.

"I like team events and I like matchplay. Over the years I've probably done better in team events than individual ones.

"I enjoy the team atmosphere and when you're playing in a team you can maybe play a bit freer and go out and enjoy it.

"This is a big task but with the group of guys that we have hopefully we'll give it a good shot and be successful."

The Malone Golf Club member was a young spectator when Rory McIlroy was part of the GB&I team which participated in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down in his native Northern Ireland.

"Having watched the likes of Rory in 2007 but now to be on the other side of the ropes and be able to play 16 years later is going to be special.

"The names on the teams over the years are unbelievable. Pretty much everyone who has done anything in golf, bar a few, have played in the Walker Cup.

"It's great to wear the same jersey that those guys have over the years."

'As good as I could have planned'

Matthew McClean in action at The Masters at Augusta in April
Matthew McClean in action at The Masters at Augusta in April

McClean qualified to play in two of this year's majors by winning the US Mid-Amateur tournament last September, the first Irishman to win it.

His Masters experience included playing practice rounds with fellow Irish players Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Seamus Power.

"It was an unbelievable week, pretty much as good as I could have planned it to be, apart from making the cut, but that's tough to do, first time round especially.

"The experience of playing with those guys, feeding off some of their traits on the golf course, seeing how relaxed they are and how they approach the game has helped me over the last few months.

"If you can do it off the first at The Masters at Augusta you can hit pretty much any tee shot then."