GANTON, England (AP) _ Britain-Ireland rallied to win the Walker Cup for an unprecedented third straight time, defeating the United States 12 1/2-11 1/2 in the closest match since 1989.

Britain-Ireland won five of the eight singles after trailing 7-5 following Saturday's play and 9-7 after Sunday's foursomes.

Its victory in the amateur event follows those at Nairn, Scotland, in 1999 and Ocean Forest, Ga., two years ago. Britain-Ireland has won four of the last five tournaments.

This also was the third time in a row the Americans had lost after leading halfway. Still, the Americans hold a 31-7 lead with one match tied. The victory margin was the smallest since Britain-Ireland won 12 1/2-11 1/2 in Atlanta in 1989.

First played in 1922, the biennial match is named after former USGA president George Herbert Walker, the great-grandfather of President Bush. The next Walker Cup is at the Chicago Golf Club in 2005.

Gary Wolstenholme started the comeback at Ganton Golf Club and became the first Britain-Ireland player to win four Walker Cups.

``I was a shattered man yesterday and not in my wildest dreams did I think we could pull it off,'' winning coach Garth McGimpsey said. ``They pulled everything out of the fire today.''

The Americans won Saturday's singles 6-2 but were beaten 5 1/2-2 1/2 on Sunday, repeatedly finding the deep rough and pot bunkers.

U.S. captain Bob Lewis, who won four Walker Cups as a player, paid tribute to his beaten players.

``It's just a game of golf. I'd love to have any of you guys on my team,'' he said. ``You just put your heart out there and that's what it's all about.''

After Wolstenholme had beaten 18-year-old American Casey Wittenberg 3 and 2, Oliver Wilson made a 7-foot putt at the last hole to edge Bill Haas by one hole and tie the match at 9-9.

Watching Haas from the crowd were father Jay Haas, who won the Walker Cup in 1975, and uncle Jerry Haas, who was on the winning American team in 1985.

Michael Skelton, the youngest player on the home team at 19, nudged Britain-Ireland ahead by beating Adam Rubinson 3 and 2, only for Matt Hendrix to make it 10-10. He needed just 14 holes for a 5 and 4 victory over Stuart Wilson.

Brock McKenzie regained the lead for the Americans with a 3 and 1 victory against Irishman Colm Moriarty. But it became 11-11 when David Inglis outplayed Ryan Moore 4 and 3.

Stuart Manley made sure the hosts retained the trophy by beating Trip Kuehne 3 and 2, and Nigel Edwards remained unbeaten in three matches by halving his match with Lee Williams to clinch the victory.

Edwards was 1 down to Williams when he chipped in from the rough at the 14th for a birdie. After the American edged ahead again, the Welshman rolled in a 60-foot putt from off the green at the 17th for a birdie-2 to go to the last hole even. By the time he drove the 18th, Manley's victory ended the Americans' chances.

In the earlier foursomes, Wolstenholme and Oliver Wilson romped to a 5 and 4 victory over the previously unbeaten U.S. duo of Haas and Kuehne. But the Americans regrouped when McKenzie and Hendrix outplayed Noel Fox and Colm Moriarty 6 and 5.

Adam Rubinson and Casey Wittenberg were 3 up with five to play against the Scottish pairing of Stuart Wilson and David Inglis but wound up even. The reverse happened in the final foursome when Lee Williams and 50-year-old Walker Cup rookie George Zahringer came from 3 down at the 14th to halve the match with Edwards and Manley.