It is not every day a 16-year-old youngster is compared to Sandy Lyle, but that is exactly what happened when this year’s Walker Cup debutant Ben Schmidt burst onto the British amateur scene in 2019.
Schmidt had won the Lee Westwood Trophy and the English Boys’ Champion of Champions in 2018, but still caused a major surprise the following June when he pitched up at Alwoodley Golf Club, Leeds, and promptly claimed a five-shot victory in the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship (Brabazon Trophy).
That victory meant Schmidt had eclipsed major winners Lyle and Charl Schwartzel, both of whom had been 17 when they won the Brabazon Trophy in 1975 and 2002, respectively. The following month Schmidt matched another of Lyle’s records when he won the English Boys’ Under-18 Open Stroke Play Championship (Carris Trophy) at Moor Park to become just the fourth player after Patrick Hines (1949), Lyle (1975) and Peter Baker (1985) to claim both prestigious titles in the same calendar year.
Schmidt also won the Henry Cooper Junior Masters that summer and then, after playing his part in England’s victory in the men’s Home Internationals at Lahinch in Ireland, went on to claim a landslide 15-shot victory in the Justin Rose Daily Telegraph Junior Golf Championship. He then travelled to Australia early in 2020 and won the New South Wales Amateur and was second in the Avondale Amateur.
“It was crazy,” Schmidt admitted in a recent interview for England Golf’s new podcast.
“I don’t think it was a surprise because I’d put a lot of practice and hard work in. The year before I also had some good finishes and I felt like it was getting there, but after the win at the Brabazon everything just seemed to flow.”
That is a view England Golf’s men’s performance manager Stephen
shares. He saw firsthand much of what Schmidt accomplished.
“Ben was making steady progress in the Yorkshire regional squad during the winter programmes of 2016-17 and 2017-18 when suddenly he just caught fire,”
said. “It’s amazing the confidence one good result at the right time can give a player, and he was pretty much unstoppable for the next year or two after that.
“It took a worldwide pandemic to slow him down.”
“Ben thoroughly deserves his Walker Cup call-up. He’s been a fantastic asset to England teams and he’s a great character to have around the squads."
was not in the least surprised that Schmidt reeled of such an impressive run of results during 2019 and early 2020, nor that the now 18-year-old from Rotherham has now been catapulted into the GB&I Walker Cup team for this week’s match at Seminole Golf Club in Florida.
“Ben thoroughly deserves his Walker Cup call-up,” he said. “He’s been a fantastic asset to England teams and he’s a great character to have around the squads.
“He’s a credit to his family. He works diligently and he’s an all-rounder as far as his game is concerned. He has no obvious weaknesses.
“There’s still a lot for him to learn at such a young age, but he has shown he can cope with whatever has been thrown at him and there’s nothing to stop his meteoric rise in golf if he continues to adopt the same work ethic and ambition he has shown in his amateur career.”
Schmidt has needed that resilience to cope with the disruptions caused by COVID-19, but the good news for GB&I fans is that he has not been nearly as inactive as his tournament schedule suggests.
During this winter’s lockdown in the UK, he used his status as an elite athlete to travel to Spain, Dubai and the Caribbean to practise. That was clearly a factor in his 11th-place finish in his sole competitive outing of the season in February’s Jones Cup Invitational at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Georgia.
“It’s been hard for the past year and a half with COVID but (last summer) my golf was decent in the few events I played, and I feel as if my game is still in a pretty good place.
“My practice this winter is going to be a massive part of what I can achieve this year. I got to spend some time in Spain before Christmas and then in Dubai before the Jones Cup.
“I got a real feel for where my game was at and was able to practise whatever I felt I needed to. I couldn’t have done that (in England) where the courses were closed, it was freezing cold and you’d have five layers on.”
Schmidt got the chance to visit Seminole while in the United States for the Jones Cup, which was more than enough to whet his appetite for this week’s clash against the Americans.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve done quite a lot in the amateur game but it’s the pinnacle to get into the Walker Cup team and be part of that experience.
“The GB&I team is really strong,” he added. “I think we’ll all get on well. We’ll all bond and we’re all great players. I think if we turn up and all have the right mindset there is no reason why GB&I can’t win this year. I one hundred percent believe that.”