Yorkshire golf: Jamie Bower and James Walker prepare for French with White Rose assignment

Meltham GC's Jamie Bower, left, and James Walker, of the Oaks GC (Pictures: Chris Stratford).
Meltham GC's Jamie Bower, left, and James Walker, of the Oaks GC (Pictures: Chris Stratford).

INTERNATIONAL duty is imminent for Meltham GC's Jamie Bower and James Walker, of The Oaks GC, but first they will look to get Yorkshire's Northern Counties title defence off to a winning start against Cumbria.

Bower's selection to face France the weekend after next was anticipated following his two victories in South Africa while Walker's was hoped for by everyone with White Rose connections after his superb start to the year.

But before they tackle the French at Formby GC, Bower and Walker will head to Seascale GC as part of Darryl Berry's 12-man team to compete against a Cumbrian line-up forced to switch venues after Eden GC suffered severe flood damage through the winter.

Walker, winner of the Selborne Salver and a semi-finalist at the Spanish amateur championship, shot the lowest round of the tournament - four-under-par 66 - at last weekend's Lytham Trophy where he placed fifth after leading at halfway.

His appearance against France will be his first international representative honour, and he is understandably elated.

"It is nice to be able to say you're an international and hopefully it will help further down the line," said Walker, son of England lead coach Graham, who hopes to follow his father into golf's professional ranks.

"I was with the regional boys' squad a few years back, but this will be the first time I've played for England. It's obviously a great honour and I know mum and dad are thrilled."

Yorkshire champion Bower won both the Gauteng North Amateur and the Southern Cape Open during a six-week tour of South Africa with England Golf men's squad at the start of the year.

The results helped him rise into the top 50 of the world amateur rankings and his exclusion from the Formby line-up would have been a big surprise - not that he took his selection for granted.

"It was nice for it to be confirmed," he said. "I thought I'd done enough to be selected, but I don't think there was anyone guaranteed to be in it - it's pretty much a case of who's playing well at the time.

"If everyone in the elite squad was playing poorly, I guess they'd pick people from the A squad."

Fortunately for Bower, Walker - and Yorkshire - both men are in good shape as Berry looks for a maximum return from their opening Northern Counties League match.

However, Bower has some fine-tuning to do as he was dissatisfied with his putting at Lytham, his first competitive golf after a lengthy stay in Australia visiting his girlfriend Olivia.

He finished in a tie for 18th place and commented: "My putting was poor, which was unusual for me because I've been putting really well this season.

"I really struggled on the greens at Lytham. I missed quite a few short putts in all of the rounds and that really stopped me having at least one or two decent rounds around par. But, all in all, it was not too bad a result."

Bower's competitive golf in 2016 had been exclusively on the very different putting surfaces to be found in South Africa, but he refused to cite trying to reacclimatise to UK greens as a mitigating factor.

"I'm not going to use that as an excuse," he said. "I can pretty much gauge the speed and how the greens are playing from a practice round, really.

"I have played a lot of links golf, so it wasn't to do with that. It was just poor mechanics of my stroke, and I hit a few pulled and pushed ones. I can't blame the difference in greens.

"I'm seeing my putting coach (Mike Kanski, of Formby Hall) on Thursday, and hopefully he'll have a few words that might help. He can usually spot what's going on pretty quickly so it shouldn't be too much of an issue."

Walker, by contract, attributed his excellent Lytham showing, in part, to a good display on the greens, although in his bogey-free 66 all facets of his game worked well, as was evidenced by his hitting 16 greens in regulation.

"The 66 was good," he said with modest understatement. "Lytham's just a hard course, just hard from start to finish. There's not really one easy hole on it.

"I holed out really nicely, from eight foot, 10 foot and in. But I hit it really nice too.

"It was my first time ever at Lytham, I had never seen the golf course. The first time I'd seen it was the practice round, and I only played five holes because I couldn't get round so I had to play it blind in the competition.

"To be honest, I thought if I made the cut it would be a nice result."

Although he was unable to push on to victory after being joint leader after 36 of the 72 holes, he commented: "You look at the result on the Monday and I'd have took it at the start of the week."

Playing for Yorkshire has meant Walker has had to renege on his plan to caddy for girlfriend Megan Lockett as she begins the defence of her Yorkshire ladies title on her home course of Huddersfield GC on Friday.

"I was supposed to be caddying on the Friday, but I'll be up on the way to Cumbria," he said.

He is looking forward to being able to wear the White Rose for, as he moves deeper into the season his individual commitments are likely to preclude his involvement.

Likewise Bower, who said he will enjoy catching up with his team-mates again having not seen them for some while because of time spent in South Africa and Australia.

Yorkshire's team on Saturday will be: Bower, Walker, Ben Brewster and Kealan Lowe (Wheatley GC), Dan Brown (Bedale GC), Martin Brown (Pike Hills GC), James Cass (Fulford GC), Jamie Harrison (Rotherham GC), Ben Hutchinson (Howley Hall GC), Jack Lampkin (Ilkley GC), Luke Robinson (Hornsea GC) and Will Whiteoak (Shipley GC).