Junior Ryder Cup spots up for grabs
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Denny McCarthy was lounging around his family’s house last month when his brother stumbled upon some potentially life-changing news on the Internet.
“If you play well in the U.S. Junior Amateur,” Ryan McCarthy said, “you can go to Scotland.”
Until that moment, the Junior Ryder Cup was merely a pipe dream to McCarthy. After all, he had moved into the national spotlight only after breakout performances this summer at the Thunderbird International (second) and Junior Amateur, where he lost in the semifinals.
Intrigued by the prospect of traveling overseas, he pulled up a chair and researched the event further, and, indeed, noticed he was inside the top 10 in the Junior Ryder Cup points standings (the top six make the team). “It looked pretty sweet, to be able to travel to Scotland,” said McCarthy, 17, of Burtonsville, Md., “and it’s a little something extra to play for.”
Captain M.G. Orender, a former president of the PGA of America, is expected to finalize the U.S. team Thursday, after the completion of the 35th Junior PGA Championship. It will be the culmination of a 13-month search to identify the juniors who will represent their country at Gleneagles Resort in Perthshire, Scotland, in late September. The European team was announced last week.
The possible scenarios are numerous, but exemptions are granted to: the 2010 Junior PGA champ and runner-up in both divisions; U.S. Junior Amateur champ (Jim Liu); U.S. Girls’ Junior champ (Doris Chen); and the top boy and girl from the Junior Ryder Cup points list. To qualify, a player must be a 2011 high school graduate or younger and an American citizen.
Entering the Junior PGA, the standings read like this:
• Boys: Anthony Paolucci (2,350 points), Justin Thomas (2,210), Jordan Spieth (2,080), Liu (1,467), Patrick Rodgers (1,195) and McCarthy (1,190). Oliver Schniederjans, Ryan Zech, Tanner Kesterson and Gavin Hall are within 320 points of the final spot.
• Girls: Alison Lee (1,145), Chen (1,045), Juliet Vongphoumy (1,020), Kristen Park (845), Shelby Phillips (825) and Kendall Martindale (645). Erynne Lee, Tiffany Lim, Shelby Martinek and Ginger Howard need a high finish this week to pass one of the players inside the top 6.
Obviously, much depends upon the final leaderboard at the Junior PGA. Schniederjans, for example, is seventh in the Junior Ryder Cup standings but is in second place entering Round 2 at Sycamore Hills. If he finishes runner-up here, he earns a spot on the team.
Perhaps that explains Schniederjans’ sense of urgency after the opening round. He’s not ready to make other plans this fall.
“I’ve been playing well in a couple of events this year, solid golf, but I haven’t done as well mentally to get the job done,” he said.
Only Spieth, Paolucci and Lee are in line to play in consecutive Junior Ryder Cups. Paolucci made the ’08 team after winning the Junior PGA, and helped Team USA romp to a 22-2 victory over the Europeans at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky.
Emma Talley walked outside the ropes at Olde Stone, some two hours from her home in Princeton, Ky. It was there that she saw the camaraderie, the passion, the competition.
That’s why she was lamenting her triple bogey at the 18th hole in the opening round at Sycamore Hills, which sent her to a 1-over 73, three shots back of the lead.
“I’ve been wanting to make the team for quite some time now,” said Talley, 16. “I’ve been looking at this since I was little and first started playing golf. . . . I hope I can make it, because it’d be a blast.”
Though she’s not in the top 10 in the Junior Ryder Cup points standings, Talley (No. 7 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings) would be tough to overlook. Same goes for Casie Cathrea and Lindsey Weaver, both of whom are in contention this week at the Junior PGA.
Cathrea, 14, of Livermore, Calif., already has made two LPGA starts, and last week finished fourth at the Canadian Women’s Amateur. She shot a first-round 71 at the Junior PGA and was one back of Kyle Roig and Mariah Stackhouse.
Weaver, who last week competed in the AJGA’s Canon Cup in Massachusetts, shot 74 in Round 1 and is a possible captain’s pick.
“It’d mean a lot because I never thought I’d be able to get into it,” said Weaver, 16, of Scottsdale, Ariz. “Knowing that a Ryder Cup berth is on the line, it definitely puts more pressure on you.”
Perhaps even more so after the announcement Tuesday that the tournament will be shortened to 54 holes because of weather, with a cut to be made after the second round for the top 35 players and ties.
Five shots separate second and third place in the boys’ division. That gap could force players such as Rodgers and Kesterson, both of whom shot 70 in Round 1, to play more aggressively, knowing there’s more at stake than just the Junior PGA title.
The girls’ race? It’s far more unpredictable.
“This is a very big deal,” Talley said. “That’s what we’re all talking about. This is huge, and everybody is here to see if they can make the team.”