Top News
USA Today Sports Images
Top News

USA

PGA Junior League golfers get up close with the Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup or the Stanley Cup?

Tyler Cunningham broke into a smile. He admitted that it would be a tough choice choosing which of the two would look good on his bedroom shelf.

The 13-year-old from Westmont loves hockey. But he's a golfer. And he was sitting within eyesight of one of the sport's most prestigious trophies Wednesday at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club.

Only one answer seemed appropriate.

RELATED: Photos from the Ryder Cup Trophy Tour | Trophy Tour Schedule

"I would probably say the Ryder Cup," Cunningham said, finally. "It's been going along for so long. So many players have won it. So many players have gotten to be on the team to play against the Europeans."

Any of the PGA Junior League golfers at the Ryder Cup Trophy Tour presentation would have agreed.

The Ryder Cup is a biennial event established in 1927 by English businessman Samuel Ryder. Two teams take part, one from America and the other from Europe. There are 12 golfers on each team.

It's a really unique golf event, from the team aspect to the fact that none of the players get paid.

The 2016 Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 27-Oct. 2 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. The United States will be trying to win for the first time since 2008.

As a buildup, the Ryder Cup trophy is being displayed at golf facilities and sporting events across the country. It will make a stop at Wrigley Field and also at a Notre Dame football game.

It stopped Wednesday at Cog Hill.

Amid bagpipe music, kids from the PGA Junior League waved mini-American flags as they paraded the cup from the pavilion to the clubhouse. Then it was put on display for an hour or so as the public was allowed to look at and pose with it.

It was an afternoon to remember for 12-year-old Paulius Malcius of Lemont.

"It means a lot to me," Malcius said. "It gives me a chance to see the (trophy) that represents all of the people from all over the world who play. I want to be like them when I grow up."

Cunningham and Malcius are members of the Cog Hill PGA Junior League, which is a youth recreation model for golf.

"You think of youth soccer, you think of Little League baseball... this is golf's version," PGA Reach senior director Scott Kmiec said. "It's kids playing on teams, wearing uniforms with numbers on the back just like any youth sport."

Youth golfers, Kmiec said, are one of the big reasons for the Ryder Cup Trophy Tour.

The month-long tour is part of the PGA's new "We Are 13" fan engagement initiative, to educate the public about the Ryder Cup and create enthusiasm in the weeks before the event takes place.

There were plenty of "We Are 13" players on hand Wednesday.

For Cunningham, it was his second chance to view the Ryder Cup. The first time was in 2012, when he attended a practice session before the tournament was held at Medinah Country Club.

"This is really exciting," Cunningham said. "This is the Stanley Cup of golf."

The cup itself is treated more like the Holy Grail of golf. Or at least it was on Wednesday, when PGA officials handled it wearing white gloves. Nobody in the audience was allowed to touch it.

"Without a doubt it is (the Holy Grail)," Kmiec said. "The history of the Ryder Cup really is unmatched. Knowing that this was the original team event (for golf), you see a pride in the players from both teams who represent their country. It's something special."

This article was written by Tony Baranek from The Daily Southtown, Tinley Park, Ill. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

WATCH BELOW: How Davis Love III will make his captain's picks