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Golf News (posted 22nd November 1998)

Great Britain/Ireland roll to World Amateur title

Santiago, Chile - Gary Wolstenholme, the 38-year-old former British Amateur champion, made four birdies and no bogeys in a pressure-packed final round Sunday to lead Great Britain & Ireland's golfers to a 4-stroke victory in the 21st World Amateur Team Championship.

Wolstenholme's 4-under-par 67 at Club de Golf Los Leones pushed GB&I to a round of 5-under 208, a last-day score bettered only by sixth-place finisher Sweden. GB&I completed 72 holes at 6-under 852, passing a faltering Finland over the closing nine holes and outpacing runner-up Australia (856).

The triumph brought a unique honour to Peter McEvoy of GB&I, a five-time participant who became the first man to play on a winning team (1988) and captain a triumphant squad.

"Peter kept saying during this week, 'I have a feeling we're going to win this,'" Wolstenholme said. "He kept saying it, and kept saying it. And I think we started to believe it."

GB&I nearly did not compete in the event over concerns with the evolving court proceedings in London concerning former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet. The GB&I women's team skipped the previous week's 18th Women's World Amateur Team Championship, but the men elected to make the journey.

It was, in the end, the right choice. GB&I began the last day in a three-way tie for second with the United States and defending champion Australia. They were clumped three shots behind Finland, which had never placed higher than fifth in the biennial event and was looking to become the eighth nation to claim the Eisenhower Trophy. Finland began the day unsteadily, though, making two bogeys at the first hole before settling down and protecting its lead.

"I think it was the nervousness of leading the last two days," Finland captain Mika Wikstrom said of his team's combined 11 bogeys, double bogey and triple bogey over the incoming nine. "They are not just yet ready to be winners, but they are improving."

GB&I drew even with Finland about the time it reached the turn, then burst clear on the strength of a birdie at the ninth by Lorne Kelly, birdies at the 11th and 12th by Wolstenholme and birdies by Luke Donaldand Paddy Gribben at the 15th.

GB&I posted its total before the pairings of Finland, Australia and the U.S. completed their round, and the trailing teams could not match the effort. Chinese Taipei (858), playing in that penultimate pairing with GB&I, took third, one stroke ahead of Japan (859). Finland dropped to fifth (860), followed by Sweden (861), which posted the day's best round of 207 on another afternoon of hot temperatures and gusting winds.

The U.S. for the third straight day did not have an individual break par and limped home in 221, totaling 865 and standing seventh. It was the second-worst finish for the 10-time champions, who two years ago were ninth in Manila, Philippines. The best score for the day was a 73 by Matt Kuchar, the former U.S. Amateur winner from Lake Mary, Fla., who bogeyed the last hole.

"When one of the best amateurs in the world doesn't make a birdie until the 17th hole, you know your team is in trouble," U.S. captain Reg Murphy said in reference to reigning U.S. Amateur champ Hank Kuehne, who shot a 78 that was discarded in the play-four-count-three format. "They gave it their best effort. In fact, they may have tried too hard."

Germany, which will host the championship in 2000 in Berlin, tied for eighth at 868 with Spain, while South Africa placed 10th at 870. The host team struggled to a 226 on the day and totaled 884, good for 23rd.

The victory was the fourth for GB&I, but its first outside of a European venue. It triumphed in 1964 in Rome, Italy; in 1976 in Algarve, Portugal; and in 1988 in Stockholm, Sweden. In that latter victory McEvoy was the low individual at 4-under 284.

While tournament officials do not recognize an individual winner, the low total belonged to Kim Felton of Australia, who had 11-under 275 for two rounds over Los Leones and two rounds over the other host course, Club de Golf La Dehesa. Mikko Ilonen of Finland was next a 9-under 277. Two GB&I players were among the top six, Donald in a tie for third at 6-under 280 and Wolstenholme solo sixth at 4-under 282.

Kuchar and Kuehne were best for the U.S., tied for 20th at 4-over 290. The World Amateur Team Championship is conducted by the World Amateur Golf Council, which comprises the national governing bodies of golf in 85 countries. The WAGC is the golfing body officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The winning team will gain possession for two years of the mammoth Eisenhower Trophy, named after former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who received world golf delegates at the White House in 1958.

Final Scores