The countdown to the 2016 Junior Ryder Cup began in earnest in Paris on Wednesday afternoon with the official send-off from Golf Disneyland, the host venue for the competition in two years’ time.
The 12 members of captain Maitena Alsuguren’s team gathered on a beautifully sunny day on the outskirts of the French capital ahead of the tenth edition of the Junior Ryder Cup, which takes place at Interlachen Country Club from September 26-27.
Team Europe’s six boys – Falko Hanisch, Matias Honkala, Marcus Svensson, Jonathan Goth-Rasmussen, Kristoffer Reitan and Adrien Pendaries – and six girls – Julia Engström, Emilie Alba Paltrinieri, Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, Frida Kinhult, Beatrice Wallin and Emma Spitz – will fly to Minnesota on Thursday morning ahead of the match, with Europe bidding to end a run of four successive defeats.
But with a supremely talented team at her disposal, which includes the winners of the 2016 Boys’ Amateur Championship and Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship in Hanisch and Engström respectively, Alsuguren is hopeful of ending America’s recent dominance.
She said: “I’m really looking forward to next week. It’s a great honour to be the captain, so I feel very proud to lead the team. We’ve got a very strong group – many of them have won big tournaments recently, so I’m sure they’re going to enjoy the week. We know the American team is very strong so it won’t be easy, but I have confidence in my players.
“I have a few ideas in mind for my pairings, but I will wait to see how it goes in practice this weekend before making a final decision for the matches. History is not on our side, because we have lost the last four Junior Ryder Cups, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
There was a cartoonish theme to the send-off, with Mickey Mouse and Goofy taking time out from entertaining youngsters at the nearby Disneyland Paris theme park to bid farewell – and dispense some golfing tips – to the 12 team members.
After receiving some putting advice from Goofy, in-form Frenchman Adrien Pendaries, who won four points out of a possible four in Europe’s victory in the Jacques Léglise Trophy last weekend, revealed his excitement at the prospect of representing his continent next week.
He said: “I’ve been playing well lately, so the Junior Ryder Cup is coming at the perfect time for me. I’ve studied the history of the tournament and seen some of the players who have competed in it before, so it’s an honour for me to be part of it.
“We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re ready for it. We’re all very motivated, so hopefully we can play some good golf and bring the trophy home with us. I’m also looking forward to meeting some of the Ryder Cup players, and seeing how they practice and prepare. It’s going to be a great learning experience for all of us.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Emma Spitz, who warmed up for her Junior Ryder Cup debut by competing in last week’s Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, in Mexico.
Spitz, who kicked off her 2016 season in style with a two-shot victory at the European Nations Cup (Ladies) in Spain, was one of Maitena’s three wildcard picks, and the Austrian is determined to justify the faith shown in her.
Spitz said: “I played in the Junior Solheim Cup last year, which was an amazing experience, and I’m sure the Junior Ryder Cup is going to be even better. It’s probably the most prestigious team tournament in amateur golf, so hopefully I can play well and pick up some points for the team.
“I’m sure the matches will be close, and hopefully we can come out on top. We narrowly lost the Solheim Cup, but I hope the result will be different in the Junior Ryder Cup.”
The Junior Ryder Cup gets underway on Monday September 26 with the opening morning foursomes, followed by a session of mixed fourballs in the afternoon.
The singles bring proceedings to a close the following day, with Europe needing to secure 12½ points to claim the Junior Ryder Cup, and America requiring 12 points to retain the trophy.