Stars of the future on show as Europe target long-awaited Junior Ryder Cup win
When Europe begin their bid to regain the Junior Ryder Cup trophy for the first time since 2006, they will hope a blend of recent winning match play experience and headline amateur success stories help their cause.
The 12th official edition of the event, inspired by an exhibition in 1995 between the Central New York PGA Section and Europe’s finest junior players, once again brings together some of the best male and female junior golfers in the world.
In a change to the previous format, this year’s contest will be played over three days instead of two, with the competition moving from Golf Nazionale to the actual Ryder Cup course - the first time that has happened – at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club on Thursday.
Past Junior Ryder Cup players include four-time Major Champion Rory McIlroy, 2023 European Solheim Cup Captain Suzann Pettersen and Nicolai Højgaard, who played alongside his twin brother Rasmus at the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup.
On the U.S. team, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Sam Burns are also all Junior Ryder Cup products.
Ahead of this week’s event, 24 new future stars of the game await their chance to impress in Italy as they share some of the limelight of their golfing heroes.
Among those are six members of the victorious European Junior Solheim Cup team, including Italian home hope Francesca Fiorellini, who enjoyed a 100% record across her three matches as Europe won 15-9 at La Zagaleta in Spain.
Of the six female junior golfers in the hosts’ side, Helen Briem is the leading act as the lowest ranked player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
The World Number Seven from Germany won the R&A Girls Amateur Championship last month, an event previously won by Major Champions and Solheim Cup players such as Georgia Hall and Anna Nordqvist.
Briem, 18, is joined by Boys’ Amateur Champion Kris Kim, whose mother, Ji Hyun Suh, used to play on the LPGA Tour.
Englishman Kim won a play-off at Ganton Golf Club to continue a remarkable year of form on the amateur scene that has included wins at the prestigious Fairhaven Trophy and McGregor Trophy along with representing England in the European Team Championships.
Leading the European team this week is Captain Stephen Gallacher, whose stock of future talent doesn’t stop there.
The 2014 Ryder Cup member from Scotland also has countryman Connor Graham in his ranks, less than a month on from the 16-year-old becoming the youngest ever Walker Cup player at St Andrews.
Another name who has already hit the headlines early into his golfing journey is Lev Grinberg.
Last year, on his DP World Tour debut at the Soudal Open, the Ukrainian became the second-youngest player to make a cut in the Tour’s history at the age of 14 years, six months and six days.
He came close to repeating the feat in the same event on his home course – Rinkven International Golf Club – earlier this year, emphasising the potential he has.
But it is not just talent these players possess; they also have a belief they will be a success on the biggest of stages as their careers progress.
Such was the standard of play in the qualification events this year, Grinberg required a Captain’s pick from by Gallacher, who played alongside the 15-year-old at the Soudal Open earlier this season – his third DP World Tour start.
Speaking after his history-making exploits last year in Belgium, Grinberg said: “I want to win all four golf majors and play in the Ryder Cup.”
But for Grinberg and the rest of the European team this week, the only focus is on the here and now and that is the opportunity to write the latest chapter in the Junior Ryder Cup by ending the U.S. team’s stranglehold of the trophy.