In his second Junior Ryder Cup appearance, Anthony Paolucci, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, helped lead the United States to a 13 1/2-10 1/2 victory over the Europeans Sept. 28 at Gleneagles in Scotland. It was the first time the U.S. team won on European soil since the event became official in 2002, and it evened the overall series at 2-2-1. Paolucci, 17, a USC commit from Del Mar, Calif., spoke with Golfweek from Wales, where he played the nine-hole Friendship Bowl at Celtic Manor:
What was it like playing the Twenty Ten Course the day before the Ryder Cup?
There were so many spectators, and they were winding around all the fairways and tee boxes. It got to a point where you wondered if I hit a bad shot here, will I hit somebody? But the course was a beast. To play that kind of course, with all those people watching you and the roars, it was great. The only difference (from 2008, when the Ryder Cup was staged at Valhalla) was that nobody was rooting for you. You’d some hit really good tee shots, and there will be polite applause. But the guys from Europe, they were getting roars.
How was this experience different from the 2008 matches (when the U.S. team won 22-2 at Valhalla)?
This time, I obviously was looked at as more of a leader because I played two years ago. Back then I was one of the youngest guys on the team and I didn’t get picked (he earned an automatic spot by virtue of his 2008 Junior PGA victory), so I was kind of the big unknown. This year, I was the one talking in the team meetings, and I took on more of a leadership role with Jordan Spieth. Everyone looked up to us, especially with all the girls being new this year. After we won the first match, we’d go back out there and root for the rest of the team.
How much interaction did you have with the U.S. Ryder Cup team?
It was surreal. We went to the opening concert (Sept. 29) and were in our suite, three rows from where the team was sitting. So we kept looking back and probably creeped them out a little bit. We shook some of the guys’ hands, and it was great to get that close to them, and we saw how they were mingling with the guys and wives. They’re just like us, really.
What will you take away from this experience?
It’s just so different playing over here, with the golf courses and conditions. We were playing in fog, and you have to hit your shot if you could see the outline of the fairway. You couldn’t see the flag and green, and could barely make out the people in the fairway. We played an entire afternoon round like that. You’ll never experience that in the States. But to represent the U.S., it’s one of the best things you can do in any level of golf. Just shouting “USA!” on the course, it gives you chills.