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France wins Spirit Int'l, but USA doesn't leave empty-handed
- Spirit Golf Association/Hugh Hargrave photo
- Spirit Golf Association/Hugh Hargrave photo

TRINITY, Texas (November 9, 2019) — With a flurry of seven birdies on its final eight holes, France won its first-ever Combined International Championship on Saturday at The 2019 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship with a three-day total of 37-under-par 395.

The French team led the championship that features five separate competitions played simultaneously after Thursday’s first round. France then fell four shots behind the Republic of Korea after the second round. A balanced attack from the French players Saturday allowed them to catch and pass Korea on Whispering Pines Golf Club’s dramatic finishing stretch of holes.

“We lost the lead, but who cares? They were just doing their job, playing one shot at a time and enjoying the moments with their friends,” French captain Patricia Meunier LeBouc said. “And it works. That’s what happened today. It was our turn, and we took it from everyone else. I’m so very proud of my team.”


It was a total group effort, too. Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, a South Carolina freshman and the seventh-ranked women’s amateur in the world, made four birdies in the final round. Candice Mahe, a Georgia commitment, made four of her own. Julien Sale, a senior at Arkansas State, rolled in three birdies. Adrien Pendaries, a Duke junior and the top-ranked collegiate player in the U.S., also made three birdies.

“This is the first time I’ve won a gold medal with the Men’s National Team,” said Pendaries, whose father Marc Pendaries captained the 2011 French team at The Spirit. “We had an unbelievable week. The girls were great, and my partner Julien was outstanding. My dad’s team finished fourth eight years ago, so I get to give him a hard time about it.”

Korea and Norway tied for second place at 35-under 397 and received silver medals. New Zealand took home the silver medal with a final score of 31-under 401.

Outside of France’s come-from-behind victory, the most compelling storyline of the week was the play of 12-year-old Jeong Hyun Lee of Korea. She was the youngest competitor in the 76-player field, but no one performed better or more consistently than she did. With 17 birdies in three rounds, Lee won the Women’s Individual Championship and became the youngest Spirit competitor to do so. Lee, who turns 13 on Nov. 15, also tied the all-time 54-hole record set by Mexico’s Maria Fassi in 2015.

“I’ll never forget this tournament. It was so fun,” said Lee, who along with her teammate Yoon Ina also won the gold medal for the Women’s Championship at 22-under 194. “This was the first time I’ve played the four-ball format. It was very fun playing with Ina. It was an honor to represent my country in this great championship.”

Renate Grimstad of Norway, in her second appearance at The Spirit, won the silver medal in the Women’s Individual Championship with 15 birdies. Korea’s Ina took the bronze medal with 14 birdies.

“I’d like to give all the credit to Jeong Hyun because she did really well,” Ina said. “Playing with her made me feel so comfortable, and that’s why we were able to play so well.”

France’s Roussin-Bouchard and Mahe won silver in the Women’s Championship with a 54-hole score of 21-under 195. Norway’s Grimstad and teammate Dorthea Forbrigd received the bronze medal at 19-under 197.

Team USA’s Cole Hammer and Andy Ogletree rallied late to win the Men’s Championship. Hammer, the third-ranked men’s amateur in the world and a sophomore at Texas, caught fire down the stretch and jarred five birdies in the team’s final eight holes to finish at 22-under 194. Hammer, who grew up about 80 miles south of Whispering Pines in Houston, also finished second and received a silver medal in the Men’s Individual Championship with 16 total birdies.


“It was an incredible week,” Hammer said. “We didn’t have our best stuff the first couple of days, but we kept ourselves in it. On the back nine today we started rolling, and it was fun to have some momentum.”

South Africa and Sweden tied for second place and took home silver medals in the Men’s Championship at 20-under 196. Australia and New Zealand received bronze with scores of 18-under 198.

Australia’s Jack Trent won the Men’s Individual Championship with 18 birdies and an eagle. That tied the all-time Spirit International record set by Korea’s Bumgeun Chae in 2009. Trent, a UNLV junior playing in his first event with the Australian National Team, said the best-ball format allowed him to aggressively pursue birdies. The speed of the greens helped, too.

“The greens are really quick, really good,” Trent said. “Once I got on the greens, I felt like I could make anything. The format helped me a lot. When my teammate was in for par, I was really trying to make it for birdie. More often than not, I did.”

Three players received silver medals in the Men’s Individual Championship with 16 birdies, including Hammer, Italy’s Pietro Bovari and Colombia’s Ivan Camilo Ramirez. South Africa’s Martin Vorster won bronze with 15 birdies.

Regardless of which players won medals, all the competitors left Whispering Pines with new friends and lifelong memories. That’s the real goal of The Spirit International, one which Spirit Golf Association founder Corby Robertson keeps front and center at all times.

“We’re so delighted that we had such an excellent field coming from every corner of the world,” Robertson said. “The kids had the times of their lives. They’re all extraordinary players, and we were just thrilled to see them have such a wonderful time. The course was set up beautifully, the weather smiled on us and we couldn’t have had more fun.”


AWARD-WINNING VENUE

As always, The Spirit International was played at Whispering Pines Golf Club, the 7,480-yard Chet Williams-designed masterpiece. Consistently recognized as the No. 1 course in Texas since it opened in 2000 and currently ranked No. 54 in the country by Golf Digest, Whispering Pines rests on 400 acres of East Texas piney woods, just a chip shot from the Sam Houston National Forest. Set against the shores Lake Livingston, the spectacular course is framed by towering hardwoods and bounded by creeks.

Set up daily for The Spirit by the Texas Golf Association, the course challenges the best players in the world with all manners of risks, rewards and scoring opportunities. Founded by philanthropist Corby Robertson, the club offers a superior golf experience, promotes amateur golf and supports charitable causes on local, national and international levels.

BEARKAT MARKERS

U.S. Amateur semifinalist Will Holcomb and reigning Texas Women’s Amateur champion Hannah Alberto, along with some of their Sam Houston State teammates, played as markers this week at the 2019 Spirit International.

Nineteen countries are represented at Whispering Pines, which left one team spot open. The Bearkats players filed the vacancy after their coach, Brandt Kieschnick, accepted the playing perk invitation from the Spirit Golf Association. The Sam Houston State Men’s and Women’s teams regularly practice at Whispering Pines.

“We’re very grateful to Whispering Pines, the Spirit Golf Association and Corby Robertson for everything they’ve done to support Sam Houston State over the years,” Kieschnick said.

ABOUT THE The Spirit International Amateur

The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship is world class golf event played every other year. It features the world’s best amateur men and amateur women golfers as they represent their respective country in team and individual competitions. The 96 participants enjoy an Olympic-like experience from the Opening/Closing Ceremonies, international village and competing for gold medals.

The World Health & Golf Association and Texas Golf Association invite 24 countries from six continents to participate. Established in 2001, The Spirit is a biennial event that alternates tournament years with the World Amateur Team Championships.

Part of the uniqueness of the Spirit International are the five simultaneous competitions: Combined International Championship, Men’s Team Championship, Women’s Team Championship, Men’s Individual and Women’s Individual.

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