GolfSixes exhibition puts junior Ryder Cup teams on center stage
PARIS, FRANCE (Sept. 26, 2018) -- The United States and European Junior Ryder Cup Teams put on a GolfSixes Exhibition Wednesday at Le Golf National, site of the 2018 Ryder Cup, which put on golf's center stage some of the world's best junior players, who had an opportunity to meet their idols.
On the practice range, Jordan Spieth gave several U.S. players some words of golf wisdom, while Akshay Bhatia, of Wake Forest, North Carolina; and Michael Thorbjornsen, of Wellsley, Massachusetts, received advice on practicing distance from Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed.
"He was telling us to think about how we use our wedges and clubs," said Bhatia, the only person to win the Boys Junior PGA Championship twice. "It is so cool that he was open to help us with our games."
Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka stopped on by speaking to Alexa Pano and her teammates. Pano and Koepka both live in the West Palm Beach, Florida area and have known each other for years. Utah’s Cole Ponich met with his home state hero Tony Finau for a chat as well.
“Today was so epic,” said Pano. “It was so loud on the first tee with all of the crowds supporting us, and I can’t even imagine what it is going to be like on Friday. I have enjoyed this week so much. The Junior Ryder Cup was the best event I ever played in and my teammates were the best I could have asked for.”
Both the United States and Junior Ryder Cup Teams then went down to the putting green where they had a surprise visit with Tiger Woods, who took particular interest in England's Robin Tiger Williams (whose middle name is indeed Tiger).
"I am kind of a loss for words how to describe it," said Williams. "When you watch TV and see them in person, it is such a weird feeling to know he was so open to speaking to you."
Thorbjornsen, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur Champion asked Woods if they could pair up in a practice round at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, for which Thorbjornsen earned an exemption.
"He said that he just qualified for it too," said Thorbjornsen.
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The players then had the golden opportunity to tee off in mixed co-ed teams in front of a raucous and fun crowd for Golf Sixes on the legendary First Tee at the Ryder Cup. Music played, fans clapped in unison, the GolfSixes mascot danced, and Bhatia even put on a display of the “Orange Justice” dance from Fortnite. The crowd roared and clapped throughout.
The Blue Team of Nicolai Hojgaard, Rachel Heck, Akshay Bhatia, Emilie Alba-Patrinieri, Eduard Rousaud Sabate, Rose Zhang, Cole Ponich, Emma Spitz, Robin Williams, Lucy Li, Canon Clayton and Amanda Linner came out on top 10-7 over the Pink Team.
Representing the Pink were William Moll, Alessia Nobilio, Rasmus Hojgaard, Yealimi Noh, Ricky Castillo, Ingrid Linlad, David Puig, Alexa Pano, Michael Thorbjornsen, Anabell Fuller, Conor Gough and Erica Shepherd.
The matches were played over six holes (Nos. 1, 2, 15, 16, 17, 18), in a Mixed Greensomes Match Play format. Each hole won was worth a point, and the pairing with the most points after six holes won the match. Each team earned three points for a win, one point for a tie, and no points for a draw, similar to soccer.
But the real winner was the game of golf, as its future is incredibly bright with the talent on display from both sides of the pond.
Nicolai Hojgaard (EUR) and Rachel Heck (USA) 4 beat William Moll (USA) and Alessia Nobilio (EUR) 1
Akshay Bhatia (USA) and Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) 1 drew with Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) and Yealimi Noh (USA) 1
Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) and Ricky Castillo (USA) 1 beat Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR) and Rose Zhang (USA) 0
Cole Ponich (USA) and Emma Spitz (EUR) 4 beat David Puig (EUR) and Alexa Pano (USA) 1
Robin Williams (EUR) and Lucy Li (USA) 2 beat Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) and Annabell Fuller (EUR) 1
Conor Gough (EUR) and Erica Shepherd (USA) 3 beat Canon Claycomb (USA) and Amanda Linner (EUR) 2
The 42nd Ryder Cup is being contested Sept. 28-30, at Le Golf National in Paris, France.