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Walker Cup: James Ashfield relishes chance to fly Wales flag at St Andrews

James Ashfield practising at St Andrews ahead of the Walker Cup
James Ashfield was this week named in the Wales team for the 2023 World Amateur Team Championship

James Ashfield is relishing the chance to fly the flag for Wales as part of the Great Britain and Ireland team looking to win the Walker Cup for the first time since 2015.

Ashfield, 22, is part of the 10-man home side facing the USA at St Andrews on Saturday and Sunday.

The Walker Cup is a biennial showpiece event in amateur golf.

"If you are from Great Britain and Ireland or America, this is what you want to play," Ashfield said.

"This is as big as it gets really. It's been a long time coming for me - I can't wait."

The Walker Cup is contested between the leading amateurs from GB&I and the US and involves 18 singles and eight foursomes matches.

Ashfield, who was born in Cheshire but grew up across the border in Wales, is the first Welsh player involved since David Boote and Jack Davidson were selected in 2017.

"There have been a few years without a Welsh player, so it's good to be flying the flag. I am proud," he told BBC Sport Wales.

"My dad grew up in Wales - his family lived in Wales their whole lives.

"I grew up in Wales. I lived in Rossett, near Wrexham. Wales is where I started playing my golf. I started at Wrexham Golf Club - I went for a few lessons there as a kid. Then I went on to Clays Golf Club and [worked with] my coach, Gareth James, who I am still with now.

"It's always been Wales."

The Walker Cup is being staged at St Andrews' Old Course to mark 100 years since it was first played at 'the home of golf'.

Ashfield is joined in the home side by four Irishmen, three Englishmen and two Scottish players.

Many of golf's biggest names - including Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy - have featured in the Walker Cup.

Ashfield's long-term goal is to turn professional but the immediate focus is on trying to find a way past a USA side he views as favourites.

"By far it's my biggest week [in golf], but this is what I have been building up to, this is what I want," he said.

"Obviously I want to be on tour at some point and you have thousands of people watching you then. This is just the start of it.

"I am definitely going to be nervous on that first tee, but it's about turning those nerves into excitement.

"There are going to be quite a few people watching, but I am just looking forward to getting out there."

Ashfield says he was driven to land a place on captain Stuart Wilson's team having served as first reserve for the St Andrews Trophy - in which GB&I take on the rest of Europe - last year.

James Ashfield practising at St Andrews ahead of the Walker Cup
James Ashfield practising at St Andrews ahead of the Walker Cup

He has secured a place having finished runner-up this year in the European Amateur Championship and the Lytham Trophy and tied-third in the Sotogrande Cup, having won the Welsh Amateur in 2022.

Ashfield believes low scoring is possible at St Andrews, where the contest begins with four foursomes matches on Saturday morning.

There are eight singles matches later in the day, before another four foursomes matches and 10 singles matches on day two.

"It's the home of golf - the history, everything around it, everyone up here loves golf," Ashfield said.

"I like the Old Course a lot. It's quite forgiving off the tee at the moment. The rough is not really up so you can hit driver everywhere really.

"Then as long as you get the putter hot, you can get it going low."