Akshay Bhatia leads final 5 players to earn spots on 2018 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLA. – The 2018 United States Junior Ryder Cup Team roster has been finalized, with some of the country's top junior golfers clinching the final five spots on the 12-player co-ed team.
The 11th Junior Ryder Cup will be contested between the U.S. and Europe at Disneyland Paris, Sept. 24-25. The U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team will feature six boys and six girls who are U.S. citizens and members of the high school graduating class of 2019, or younger.
The final five members earning a spot on the team include: 2017 and 2018 Boys Junior PGA Champion Akshay Bhatia of North Carolina, Kentucky's Canon Claycomb, California's Ricky Castillo, Texas' William Moll and Utah's Cole Ponich.
They join Massachusetts' Michael Thorbjornsen; California's Lucy Li, Yealimi Noh and Rose Zhang; Tennessee's Rachel Heck; Indiana's Erica Shepherd; and Florida's Alexa Pano.
Among the Junior Ryder Cup alumni are major champions, PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players including: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hunter Mahan, Tony Finau, Lexi Thompson, Alison Lee and Brittany Altomare of the United States; and Rory McIllroy, Sergio Garcia, Nicolas Colsaerts, Suzann Pettersen, Emily Pedersen and Carlota Ciganda of Europe.
The 12 players who have earned spots on the 11th United States Junior Ryder Cup Team include:
- Akshay Bhatia, 16, of Wake Forest, North Carolina - In addition to being named to the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team, Bhatia became the first player ever Friday to win back-to-back Boys Junior PGA Championships. He holds the Championship's all-time record for lowest 18-hole score (61), lowest 54-hole score (199) and lowest 72-hole score (22-under par 266). Bhatia also won the prestigious 2018 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley and smashed event records at the 2018 AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic. He was a member of the 2017 U.S. Junior Presidents Cup Team and earned the most points in the Boys Junior Ryder Cup Standings.
- Canon Claycomb, 16, Bowling Green, Kentucky - Claycomb is the 2017 PING Invitational champion and a member of the 2017 Junior Presidents Cup Team. He competed in the 2018 Australian Amateur. Claycomb is committed to the University of Alabama for the Class of 2020. He finished second in the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Standings and was 3rd at the 2018 Boys Junior PGA Championship.
- Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Massachusetts - Thorbjornsen captured the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club, which clinched an automatic spot on the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. With the win, he also earned exemptions into the 2018 U.S. Amateur and 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. A contestant in the 2018 Wyndham Cup, he also finished T-5 in the 2017 Rolex Tournament of Champions. Thorbjornsen also won his age group (14-15) at the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club. Thorbjornsen finished third in the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Points Standings.
- Ricky Castillo, 17, Yorba Linda, California - Castillo entered the 2018 Boys Junior PGA Championship as the No. 1 ranked boy overall and is the 2018 AJGA Heather Farr Champion. In 2017, he advanced to the round of 32 in the U.S. Amateur; and the round of 16 in the U.S. Junior Amateur. Castillo finished fourth in the 2018 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup standings. He is a University of Florida commit.
- William Moll, 17, Houston - Moll is the 2017 Jones Cup Junior Invitational Champion. He finished in second place in the 2017 UIL 6A Texas High School State Championship. He also had a 5th place finish at the 2018 Texas Amateur. Moll finished fifth in the 2018 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup standings.
- Cole Ponich, 18, Farmington, Utah - A 2017 Rolex Junior All-American 2nd Team Member, Ponich has won both the 2018 Utah State Junior Amateur Match Play and the 2017 Bobby Chapman Invitational. He recorded a hole-in-one at the 2018 Boys Junior PGA Championship during the final round. He finished sixth in the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup standings and was selected as a Captain's Pick by PGA Past President and United States Junior Ryder Cup Captain Allen Wronowski.
- Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, California -- By earning the most points on the girls side of the 2018 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Standings, Li will be playing on her second U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. She was the youngest player ever to play in the U.S. Women's Open, when she competed at age 11. She was also the youngest competitor in the 2018 U.S. Women's Open at age 15. In 2017, Li won the ANA Junior Inspiration, PING Invitational and Rolex Tournament of Champions. She was the first 15-year old named to the Curtis Cup Team since Lexi Thompson. The 2016 Girls Junior PGA Champion, Li also won the 10-11 age group at the 2014 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club.
- Yealimi Noh, 16, of Concord, California -- Noh followed up her record-setting victory in the 2018 Girls Junior PGA Championship by winning the 2018 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship last weekend. Her Girls Junior PGA Championship title clinched an automatic bid on the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. The 2018 AJGA Hana Bank Se Ri Pak Championship winner, she also won both the AJGA Girls Championship and Joanna Winter Arizona Silver Bell Championship in 2017. Noh finished second on the Junior Ryder Cup girls points list.
- Rose Zhang, 15, of Irvine, California -- The 2017 Girls Junior PGA Champion, Zhang was runner-up in 2018 to Noh. With her second place finish in the 2018 Girls Junior PGA Championship, Zhang clinched an automatic bid on the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. The winner of the 2018 ANA Junior Inspiration, Zhang was also a 2017 First Team Rolex Junior All-American. As well, she made the cut in the 2018 ANA Inspiration. Zhang was third on the points list.
- Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tennessee -- The 2018 Kathy Whitworth Invitational winner also won the 2017 Rolex Junior Girls Championship and all three matches in the 2017 PING Junior Solheim Cup. She made the cut at the 2017 U.S. Women's Open, while paired with Lexi Thompson. Heck was fourth on the points list. She is committed to Stanford University.
- Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Indiana -- Shepherd won the 2017 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship. She was also a member of the 2017 Ping Junior Solheim Cup. In 2018, she was a semifinalist in the U.S. Women's Four-Ball. Shepherd was fifth on the points list. She is committed to Duke University.
- Alexa Pano, 14, of Lake Worth, Florida -- Pano was selected as a Captain's pick to the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup Team by PGA Past President and Team Captain Allen Wronowski. Pano was runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship and competed in both the 2018 LPGA Thornberry Creek Classic and 2018 Symetra Tour Four Winds Invitational. A two-time Drive, Chip & Putt Championship age group winner, Pano was also featured in the golf documentary "The Short Game," after competing in the 7-8 year old division of the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst Resort. The film was produced by Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
2018 United States Junior Ryder Cup Team
Official Boys Point Standings
|Bhatia*||Akshay||2020||Wake Forest, N.C.||3895|
|Claycomb*||Canon||2020||Bowling Green, Ky.||1375|
|Castillo*||Ricky||2019||Yorba Linda, Calif.||1095|
|Wotnosky||Grayson||2020||Wake Forest, N.C.||595|
2018 United States Junior Ryder Cup Team
Official Girls Point Standings
|Li*||Lucy||2020||Redwood Shores, Calif.||3775|
|Pano**||Alexa||2022||Lake Worth, Fla.||1715|
|Seay||Brooke||2019||Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.||1130|
*Clinched exempt position on 2018 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team
**Captain's Pick selected by U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team Captain Allen Wronowski, PGA.
For complete U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team qualification rules and official qualifying events, please click here.
The United States captured the 2016 Junior Ryder Cup at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota, 15 1/2 to 8 1/2. A total of 10 players from the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Team are slated to be on NCAA Division I college golf rosters for the 2018-19 school year. Meanwhile, 2016 U.S. Team Member Norman Xiong, who received the Jack Nicklaus Award as 2018 NCAA Division I National Player of the Year, just turned professional.
The idea for the Junior Ryder Cup came about in 1995, when a team of Europeans played an informal exhibition match against the Central New York PGA Section and area juniors. Two years later, the Junior Ryder Cup was formally introduced as an event in its own right, while played at Alcaidesa Links Golf Course, in Cadiz, Spain, and won by America, 9-7.