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Ulster ace Sharvin is setting his sights on Walker joy

By Robert Jones

Rising star Cormac Sharvin says he is ready for the best America can bring as Great Britain and Ireland aim to regain the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham this weekend.

Sharvin, from Ardglass, is in a rich vein of form - he won this year's Brabazon trophy, finished runner-up at the Irish Amateur Open, tied for second at the Lytham Trophy and clinched third at the Scottish Open Stroke Play Championships.

Sharvin said: "Everyone's looking forward to what will be a big challenge, but we'll embrace that challenge.

"It will be my first experience of the Walker Cup and I'm really looking forward to getting out there, seeing the crowds and feeling the pressure.

"We're not really used to crowds on the amateur circuit - it only maybe happens for us once or twice a year - but it's something I really enjoy having.

"I didn't take up golf until I was 15 so to be sitting here on the eve of a championship like this… there aren't really words for it."

The British and Irish players are hoping that familiarity with links golf conditions will overcome the undoubted quality of the US tourists.

"I've played Lytham quite a few times," added Sharvin. "I've played the Lytham Trophy the last three years - so I know it quite well, but it plays different at this time of year than in May.

"I've also played Formby around here, this will be my first time at Birkdale, and hopefully our familiarity with links courses will help, but you also have to remember the quality of the US players - I think eight of their players are in the top 20 in the world and you have to respect that."

Sharvin's team-mate Gavin Moynihan believes home advantage will indeed be "huge" in the battle with America.

The USA have won 35, lost eight and halved one of the previous 44 biennial contests between the top amateur players from either side of the Atlantic, although their advantage is only 7-6 since 1989.

Great Britain and Ireland have also won four of the last five contests on home soil and Moynihan, one of a record five Irish players on the 10-man team, believes the fast, dry conditions will again benefit Nigel Edwards' young side.

"Home advantage is huge this week because the Americans have never seen Lytham like this ever," said the 20-year-old Irishman, who is the sole survivor from the side beaten 17-9 at National Golf Links in 2013.

"It was very firm at National, but it's a different level since we got here on Monday. It was green on Monday and now it's bronzy.

"You see the 18th, once you hit the fairway it's gone. I think that's a huge thing for us as we play in it a lot.

"A lot of tournaments over here are won with two, three over par and Americans are used to shooting four, five, six under. I think that type of golf suits us and we are in a better mindset."

Edwards, who is the first person in the modern era to serve as captain three times, revealed his side had received hundreds of good-luck messages, including letters from the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke.

The 47-year-old Welshman also brought in former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley to talk to his players this week, while opposite number John Miller has learnt lessons from the United States' defeat at Gleneagles.

Miller said: "I would say that my overall takeaway was that I wanted to make this competition more fun.

"I want each player to vest in the process. Each one of them has as much input as I have. Yes, there will be a hard decision or two to make, and I'll make it, but they are the ones that are doing the playing, and I'm listening."

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