Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Home advantage will be crucial for Bangor lad when Cald upon

Walker Cup

Jonathan Caldwell, arriving at George Best City Airport yesterday, is excited at the prospect of playing against America in the Walker Cup this weekend

Boarding a flight to Scotland is a strange way to get to Royal County Down from Bangor - but Jonathan Caldwell is getting used to the strange quirks of being a Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup player.

The Clandeboye golfer's inclusion alongside Rory McIlroy for this week's match against the Americans might not have been widely predicted, but no-one doubts the merits of his inclusion.

And if he will get his fair share of attention in the build-up to this weekend's match against the Americans, the level-headed 23-year-old is well equipped to handle it.

Certainly he took it all in his stride as he arrived at the City airport alongside his nine new teammates last evening.

"It's been great so far, just an incredible experience," he said.

" We had dinner at the Royal and Ancient headquarters in St Andrew's last night and I'd never been there before.

"It was great to look out down the first and 18th because you feel you know it so well.

" It is a long build-up but the whole thing is an experience and you want to enjoy all of it. You just need to take it one step, one day at a time."

Caldwell did indeed fly out on Sunday, along with McIlroy, for the purposes of meeting up with the rest of the team in Scotland before they flew back to Belfast yesterday.

And it will be a busy week with practise during the day, functions to attend in the evenings - and then the serious business of the Walker Cup itself starting on Saturday morning.

Caldwell is something of a secret weapon for team captain Colin Dalgliesh. McIlroy will relish being squarely in the limelight but it's the Bangor man who has the greater experience of playing Royal County Down.

"Knowing it will make a difference and hopefully I will be able to use that to my advantage," he said.

Certainly Dalgleish believes the venue gives his side quite a head start.

"It's difficult to pick one side or the other as favourites, but we've made a point of brining our players over to play it as much as possible during the year," he said.

"The aim was to know it as well as we possibly can and that's what we have done."

Dalgleish says that McIlroy adds a little extra sparkle to the team.

"Having someone of his undoubted talent is a boost to everyone," he said.

"But it's a team event and we have ten hugely talented guys on the team.

"There will be pressure on Rory to perform well but it is a team event and the pressure has to be handled equally throughout the players."

This is only the second time that the Walker Cup has been staged in Ireland and the first time for Northern Ireland as the previous competition was at Portmarnock in 1991.

The last two events have been shared, the Americans winning back the trophy two years ago on home soil after the British and Irish win in 2003 at Ganton in England.

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