Before the Americans and Europeans duel at Medinah, the world’s best junior players will compete at the eighth annual Junior Ryder Cup on Sept. 24-25 at Olympia Fields (Ill.). Representing the U.S. at the biennial competition, to be held Monday and Tuesday of Ryder Cup week, has become one of the driving forces for many elite players as they fill out their summer schedules. Captained by Roger Warren, a former PGA president and current president at Kiawah Island, the 12-player team (six boys, six girls) will be finalized Aug. 7. The overall series is tied, 3-3-1. Golfweek spoke recently with Chris Childers, the PGA of America’s junior-golf manager, to discuss the upcoming Junior Ryder Cup:
How is this year’s team shaping up?
Roger has a great opportunity on his hands. The game is just very deep right now and in a great place: Jim Liu, Gavin Hall, Connor Black, Alison Lee, Karen Chung. The cream always tends to rise to the top.
How will Olympia Fields be set up?
It’ll be a very stern test of match-play golf. We’re fiddling with yardages, but it’ll be somewhere around 6,900-7,000 yards for the boys, and in the same ballpark as it was for the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior, at 6,200-6,300.
How has this event grown in stature over the years?
This is arguably the biggest event in junior golf now. In 2008, when we switched to the Ryder Cup format to include foursomes and singles, that really intrigued everybody. I think Jordan Spieth said it best, when he got to the first tee in ’08: ‘Wow, I’m representing the United States of America.’ That’s pretty cool to think about.
Why is this such a special experience?
When the day is done, it’s all about building international friendships. They play a nine-hole friendship match at Medinah on Wednesday of Ryder Cup week; there’s not another event in junior golf that provides that kind of access. This is the pinnacle. We’re looking into taking the kids to a baseball game, possibly a concert at Tinley Park, the Shedd Aquarium. It’s just a great week.