OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – International team competitions are often decided by the smallest of margins, leaving each side looking back at all the close calls that determined the outcome.
The Junior Ryder Cup’s opening match, of which U.S. Open star Beau Hossler was one of the four competitors, was one such result. And it was the reason the United States holds a slim 3 1/2-2 1/2 lead after the morning foursomes sessions at Olympia Fields Country Club.
Hossler and teammate Cameron Champ were 2 down with nine holes remaining in their match with Europe’s Toby Tree and Gavin Moynihan, but a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 18 by Champ gave the United States a halve, the only point scored by U.S. boys Monday morning.
The Junior Ryder Cup, played in the shadow of the Ryder Cup, features 12-person (six boys, six girls) teams from the United States and Europe. Monday afternoon will feature mixed four-balls, and the match will conclude with singles play Tuesday.
The United States’ three girls’ teams swept their matches Monday morning. Casie Cathrea and Samantha Wagner beat Bronte Law and Quirine Eijkenboom, 3 and 2. The Americans closed out the match when Cathrea’s tee shot rolled through the green on the 310-yard, par-4 16th.
Casey Danielson and Karen Chung beat Harang Lee and Covadonga Sanjuan, 2 amd 1. Alison Lee and Esther Lee were 4 up through 10, then lost the next three holes, but hung on for a 1-up victory over Linnea Strom and Emily Pedersen. “We were kind of freaking out for a second, but we hung in there,” Alison Lee said.
Europe’s Matthias Schwab, the world’s 11th-ranked amateur and runner-up at this year’s British Amateur, and Dominic Foos beat Scottie Scheffler and Robby Shelton IV, 5 and 4. Victor Tarnstrom and Renato Paratore beat Gavin Hall and Jim Liu, 3 and 2.
Hossler and Champ looked like they may go 3 down when Europe hit its second shot on the par-5 10th to 30 feet. Hossler nearly holed his chip from 10 yards short of the green, though, and Europe three-putted to lose the hole. The United States squared the match with a bogey at the par-3 12th. The Europeans needed four shots to reach the green after hitting their tee shot into a hazard left of the green.
With the match still all square, Champ hit a tough flop shot close on the par-3 14th to allow the Americans to halve the hole with par. Hossler holed a 7-foot par putt to halve the 15th. The United States lost the next hole on an unforced error, though. Champ hit his wedge approach shot over the green, while the Europeans had 30 feet remaining for birdie. The Europeans three-putted after Hossler chipped to 8 feet. The Americans, looking like they’d escape with an unlikely halve, responded by three-putting from 8 feet for double-bogey, though.
They won the 17th after Champ’s incredible up-and-down. Champ drove right of the fairway, and Hossler’s punch shot ran through the fairway into the trees. Champ had to play a low punch shot from 85 yards. The ball landed short of the green, then rolled off a slope to 3 feet. Europe, which was short and right of the green, failed to get up-and-down, missing an 8-foot par putt.
The United States reached the par-5 18th green in two, while Europe found a greenside bunker with its second shot. Europe hit its bunker shot about 8 feet by the hole, while Hossler rolled his long eagle putt 7 feet long. After Europe made its putt, Champ holed out for the halve.
“I knew I had to make it,” Champ said, “and to earn half a point was big.”
Every point counts, especially in international competition.