The American team at Royal Melbourne GC (Adam Schupak/Golfweek photo)
The United States Team surged to a commanding 9-3 lead after the first day of the Junior Presidents Cup at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club on Sunday.
Captained by five-time Presidents Cup U.S. Team member and 12-time PGA TOUR winner Justin Leonard, the American juniors won the morning’s Four-Ball session 4-2 and then held the International Team at bay in the afternoon’s Foursomes session by winning five of the six alternate shot matches to enjoy a repeat of the opening day’s score two years ago.
With 12 singles matches on Monday, the U.S. Team needs 3.5 points to retain the Junior Presidents Cup, which serves as a prelude to the Presidents Cup which begins at Royal Melbourne on Thursday.
Leonard said: “We managed to get some good Four-Ball teams and Foursomes teams out. Midway through the (morning) round, there were a lot of Internationals on the board and the guys gutted it out and played well towards the end. We made some birdies and managed to flip some matches around. It seems like we managed to bring the momentum into the afternoon session.”
He has seen enough comebacks in team golf to know that his 12 boys will need to keep their focus on the task ahead on Monday. “We’re excited about tomorrow. Athletes at this level, even when they are amateurs or junior golfers, these kids they want to win points. I don’t think it’ll be an issue (to keep them grounded).”
Maxwell Moldovan, Vishnu Sadagopan, Benjamin James and Preston Summerhays, who is the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, will be out to maintain their 100-percent winning record after securing two wins each.
Moldovan, the 2019 Rolex Junior Player of the Year, and Brett Roberts gave the U.S. Team the final point of the afternoon with a stirring fightback in their Foursomes match against South Africa’s Martin Vorster and Jayden Schaper. They were 2-down through 14 holes but won the 15th and 17th holes with birdies and then closed out their match 1-up with a par on 18.
“We knew that if we stick to our game plan and execute the shots down the stretch and a couple of putts fall in, we are going to end up where we want to be. And the putts went in the last few holes for us,” said Moldovan.
“We’re going to be ready for tomorrow. It’s been the best experience so far. To play where the guys will play next week is unbelievable ... It’s an awesome place.”
Sadagopan, a Rolex Junior All-American, and Ian Siebers were 1-down at the turn to Jang Hyun Lee and Jordan Duminy but won the last two holes for a 2-up victory. “We knew there were some holes which suited us and we managed to complete it in the end. It’s amazing just to be amongst 11 other best players from the U.S. and competing on a great venue. Mr. Leonard has been a great captain and he’s taught us a lot and I’m sure we’ll learn more.”
International Team captain Stuart Appleby retained his six pairings for both sessions and now faces an uphill task in trying to overcome a six-point gap. “The first three hours of the day, you kind of see the tone of the matches and you see a few matches coming in and we just didn’t get enough wins in the Four-Ball. And the Americans just carried the momentum into the afternoon,” said the Australian, who is a five-time Presidents Cup International Team member.
“It just didn’t work out. The Americans just played too good. I’ll tell the boys to move on and think about what they could have done differently. I’ve asked for them to be committed even if they made mistakes. We’ve got 12 matches tomorrow and we’ve got to have to be resilient and make a run at it. The Americans are playing well and they are doing the right things at the right time. Justin has some class acts on his team.”
The International Team’s lone Foursomes win was delivered by China’s Bo Jin and Chuan-Tai Lin of Chinese Taipei who prevailed 2 and 1 over Stephen Campbell Jr. and Jack Heath. “It’s a special week to play in the Junior Presidents Cup. I’ve never played in a tournament like this and against the best junior players in the world,” said Lin.
Jin, who has committed to Oklahoma State University, added: “We lost in the morning and made some mistakes. We talked during lunch on what we had to improve and played much better in the afternoon. Tomorrow is important … there are 12 points remaining and everything needs to happen. We’ve got to try and turn this around and it’s important to just play our own games. Stuart is a great captain and he’s asking us to stay calm even though we’re losing.”
ABOUT THE Junior Presidents Cup
The Junior Presidents Cup features two days of
match play with 12 of the best players from the
States and 12 players from the rest of the world
the exception of Europe. The event kicks off Presidents
Cup week, at the end of which the professional teams
compete at the same venue.
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