Paolucci headlines U.S. Jr. Ryder Cup team

Anthony Paolucci and Kristen Park

Anthony Paolucci and Kristen Park

The U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team was finalized Saturday, with nine of the top 20 juniors in Golfweek’s rankings scheduled to make the trip to Scotland for the biannual event

Top-ranked Anthony Paolucci headlines the boys team, which includes Jim Liu, Denny McCarthy, Oliver Schniederjans, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Kristen Park, Doris Chen, Ginger Howard, Cassy Isagawa, Alison Lee and Emma Talley comprise the girls squad. 

The event will be played Sept. 27-28 at Gleneagles Resort in Perthshire, Scotland. 

“It’s going to be unbelievable,” said McCarthy, who earned an automatic spot on the team by virtue of his victory at the Junior PGA Championship. The winner and runner-up at the Junior PGA received automatic bids, as did the winners of the U.S. Junior Amateur and Girls’ Junior – Liu and Chen. 

photo

Jim Liu became the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur champion in history with a win over Justin Thomas.

U.S. team captain M.G. Orender, a past president of the PGA of America, filled in the rest of the roster with captain’s picks, based primarily on points accrued during a 13-month period that ended with last week’s Junior PGA. 

“It was a dream for me to make this team,” Isagawa said. “I can’t wait to go to Scotland and compete against the best junior players from Europe.” 

Paolucci and Spieth helped the U.S. team defeat the Europeans, 22-2, in 2008 at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky. 

Much has happened since: 

• Paolucci, of Del Mar, Calif., has won two AJGA invitationals this year, and posted a runner-up finish at the Junior PGA. 

• Spieth, of Dallas, made the cut at the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship in May. He also won the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur. 

• Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y., became the youngest Junior Amateur champ in history last month, when he defeated Thomas in the 36-hole final match. Liu topped Tiger Woods’ record by more than seven months. 

• McCarthy, of Burtonsville, Md., had three top-6 finishes in his last three national junior events before finally breaking through at the Junior PGA

• Schniederjans, of Powder Springs, Ga., was the 36-hole leader at the Junior PGA, but stumbled to a final-round 76 at Sycamore Hills to tie for third, his best finish of 2010. He also won the Polo Junior in November.

• Thomas, of Goshen, Ky., who last year became the third-youngest player to make the cut at the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, was runner-up at the U.S. Junior. 

As for the girls ... 

• Park, of Buena Park, Calif., won the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions in July, her biggest victory since her triumph at the 2007 U.S. Girls’ Junior. 

• Chen, of Bradenton, Fla., broke through at this year’s Girls’ Junior, beating Katelyn Dambaugh in the 36-hole final match. 

photo

Doris Chen celebrates with her caddie after winning the U.S. Girls' Junior.

• Howard, of Bradenton, Fla., put together a solid performance at the Junior PGA, earning a runner-up finish after losing to Isagawa on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff. Howard burst onto the national scene when she won the 2008 Trusted Choice “Big I” National Championship.

• Lee, of Valencia, Calif., won twice on the AJGA circuit this spring, at the Heather Farr Classic and ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior. 

• Talley, of Princeton, Ky., has ascended to No. 7 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings. She has won two AJGA events this year, including an eye-opening performance at the Huntsville Junior, where she shot rounds of 67-66-65 to shatter the 54-hole scoring record for girls, and also claim the record for largest margin of victory. 

“I am extremely excited about this year’s team,” Orender said. “They are all very talented and this will be one of the best experiences of their lives.” 

Participants in the 2010 Junior Ryder Cup will play a “friendship” match the day prior to the start of the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales. 

Information from the PGA of America was used in this report.

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