U.S. surges to 9-3 lead after Day One of Junior Presidents Cup

Adam Schupak/Golfweek

U.S. surges to 9-3 lead after Day One of Junior Presidents Cup

2019 Presidents Cup

U.S. surges to 9-3 lead after Day One of Junior Presidents Cup

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MELBOURNE – In 2011, Karl Vilips lived 10 minutes from Royal Melbourne and remembers attending the Presidents Cup on a rainy day to trek after Tiger Woods. Seven years later, Vilips, 18 and ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Boys Junior Rankings, who was born in Jakarta to an Indonesian mother and Australian father and raised by his dad, Paul, in Perth, is back representing his country in the Junior Presidents Cup.

“This is really an unbelievable experience to come home and play here with the grandstands just days before the competition,” said Vilips, who has spent the past seven years developing his game in the U.S and is a Stanford University commit.

The only thing that could have made it better was winning two points on Day One of the Junior Presidents Cup, but that was not to be. The Australian tandem of Vilips and Joshua Greer lost both of their Sunday matches 2 and 1, including in the afternoon session when American Benjamin James (pictured above) buried a 60-foot birdie putt on 17 to seal the deal.

“Not much you can do about that,” Vilips said.

The U.S. side won four of six morning Four-Ball matches and claimed five of the six afternoon Foursomes matches to surge to a 9-3 lead. Seven of the 12 matches concluded at the 17th hole, with the U.S. team winning five of them. Four American players won both their matches Sunday: James, Vishnu Sadagopan, Maxwell Moldovan and Preston Summerhays.

Team USA celebrates after Maxwell Moldovan and Brett Roberts secured a full point at 18 for a 9-3 lead. (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)

The U.S. rallied to flip several matches, including halving two of the final three matches of the morning session after being 2 down with four holes to play. Canon Claycomb and Jackson Van Paris combined to birdie three of the last four holes to halve their match.

“That’s really the difference,” said Justin Leonard, the five-time Presidents Cup U.S. team member and 12-time PGA Tour winner who is serving as U.S. captain.

In the afternoon, Moldovan and Brett Roberts teamed to win 1-up over South Africa’s Jayden Schaper and Martin Vorster after trailing 2 down with 4 to go.

This is becoming old hat for Moldovan, the AJGA’s Rolex Player of the Year, who has been tabbed the Matchplay Ninja, and for good reason. He won the Polo Golf Junior Classic and went undefeated at the Wyndham Cup, which are both contested at math play, advanced to the Round of 16 in the U.S. Junior and knocked off Stewart Hagestad at the U.S. Amateur before falling to eventual champion Andy Ogletree in 19 holes. What makes him so tough in a match-play format?

“He’s always in play, never gets out position and makes a lot of putts and he gets in guys’ heads,” said Roberts.

When Moldovan made a 10-foot birdie putt on 15 to cut the deficit to 1 down, it breathed new life into the American duo.

“One down with 3 to go on this course a lot can happen,” Roberts said.

Moldovan knocked his approach to five feet at No. 17 to tie that match and the U.S. secured the full point when Vorster drove into trouble at 18 and the International team had to take an unplayable lie.

It took a search committee to find Martin Vorster’s drive at 18, but it was all for naught as they lost the hole and the match to the Americans. (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)

There are 12 Singles matches on Monday; it takes 12.5 points to win the Junior Presidents Cup. Leonard knows there is work still to be done for his team to retain the trophy, but he was more caught up in the experience these young competitors will always treasure.

“How do these kids go from this, playing one of the best golf courses in the world, to that next high school or junior tournament? It is going to be a little bit of a letdown,” he said. “The only difference between this and the actual Presidents Cup is that the grandstands aren’t full. Christmas for these 24 kids started on Dec. 6 in Melbourne and it’s been going on for four days now.”

Moldovan echoed that sentiment. “It’s been the best experience of my life, for sure,” he said.

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