Team International (L) & Team USA at the APC Opening Ceremony (Brayden Conover)
The Arnold Palmer Cup begins today. Fortunately, for us here at AmateurGolf.com, I was selected to be inside the bubble at the Presidents Cup-style event as part of the tournament staff.
Beginning in 1997, the APC has seen countless PGA Tour winners, major winners, and with the addition of women participants in 2018, now LPGA stars have graced the event.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 APC was to be held at Lahinch Golf Club, in Ireland back in July. Lockdowns forcing folks to stay within the States or wherever their home may be throughout the world made Lahinch an impossible place to host.
Enter Bay Hill. The home of Arnold and Winnie Palmer when they weren’t back in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Bay Hill is hosting the 2020 APC and quite frankly, it’s a perfect place to host a golf event during a pandemic.
The Internationals are looking to defend and retain the Cup on foreign soil. Capturing their first cup since the addition of female players in 2018, the Internationals took down the United States at The Alotian Club in Arkansas, 33.5 to 26.5.
Both teams have stacked lineups with the men having an advantage on the USA side while the advantage is matched by the International women, making for an intriguing match up with mixed matches set for Monday and Tuesday.
Obviousbly the best of the best are on property this week, but here are a handful of players to keep an eye on:
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Coming from Wake Forest, Arnie’s alma mater, Migliaccio becomes one of the two first women to make appearances in three APCs (Kaitlyn Papp). Although the Deamon Deacons were not active in the fall season due to ACC rules, Migliaccio is still a force as she led Wake Forest to a likely NCAA championship appearance before COVID-19 shut down the 2019-20 season. Also, Migliaccio is a match play beast at the APC. Prior to play this week, Migliaccio is just a half point off from tying the all-time scoring record as she looks to become the winningest player in APC history.
Coming off a low-am performance at the U.S. Women’s Open last week, Papp has to flip gears from stroke play to match play. Joining Migliaccio as a three-time participant, Papp has plenty of experience.
Despite not showing up big on collegiate scoreboards in the 2020 fall season, Papp made noise at the U.S. Women’s Open and has plenty of momentum heading into the matches while looking completely focused.
The freshman phenom from the abbreviated 2019-20 season is back. After a non headline worthy fall, Castillo looks to take his first step towards the spring to avoid the media whispers of a sophomore slump at Bay Hill. Not wasting any time, Castillo is the first out for Team USA as he is paired with fellow Gator, Addie Baggarly in the opening match on Monday in mixed fourball.
Coming off of Walker Cup practice at Bay Hill last week, Castillo, as well as a handful of Team USA men, have seen Arnie’s place plenty and often over the last week or so. Look for the Gator to have a big role if USA recaptures the cup.
The Florida State Seminole is one of the elites as his rankings show. No. 1 in the PGA Tour U rankings and top ten in nearly every other ranking out there, including a No. 4 ranking in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com rankings. Pak hashad a consistent year and nothing has happened that would point to a Pak kerplunk this week.
Paired with Wake Forest’s Rachel Kuehn, who had a remarkable run this year from the North & South to the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Pak will definitely have plenty of fire power on his side to help boost the Yanks early.
Perhaps the Americans best weapon is not even a collegiate golfer.
Augenstein turned pro earlier this month as the GCAA and the APC powers that be allowed exception to Augenstein and other potential players turning pro as part of dealing with the wild beast that is 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Augenstein has the experience but his play will be tested against some of the best of his now former peers.
Just as the US has veterans, so does Team International.
Arizona State senior and Ireland native is playing in her second APC (Evian, 2018) and has plenty of familiarity around her with three fellow Irish and three fellow Sun Devils littered throughout both rosters.
After a long competitive draught in part to the Pac-12’s disallowment of fall golf this semester, Mehaffey is most definitely chomping at the bit to get the blood pumping again. The last time she teed it up in an APC, the United States dominated her International squad, adding to Mehaffey’s competitive fire.
The Cowgirl from Sweden, Stark is coming off a great showing at a major, like a handful of women at this week’s event. Finishing in the top-20, Stark rolls in to Bay Hill looking to help set the tone early for the Internationals as she teams up with fellow countryman Ludvig Adberg against John Augenstein and Allyson Geer.
Out of New Mexico by way of South Korea, Choi made a run at the Maridoe Amateur earlier in Decmeber, so we know he’s swinging it good. Choi also picked up a win pre-COVID at the Southern Highlands Collegiate while grabbing a solo third at the Arizona Intercollegiate and a T-2 finish at the Patriot All-American in Deember of 2019.
Although the US men have the advantage on paper, look for Choi to help steal a point or two for the Internatioanls.
The 2019 U.S. Amateur champion and the 2020 runner up brings her talents as a late addition. Ruffles, aside from Kuehn, may be on one of the hottest streaks in the women’s amateur game.
After a heartbreaking runner up finish at the U.S. Women’s amateur, Ruffels licked her wounds and closed out the fall season with a T-15 at the ANA inspiration and a T-13 at the U.S. Women’s Open, two of the five LPGA majors.
Although she ahs been there before, she has not been here before. Obviously the game of golf is not played played on paper and rightfully so. Ruffels will definitely be playing with a target on her back as the Americans look to take her down in four potential matches.
The Arnold Palmer Cup will continue through Wednesday, December 23. Follow @Brayden_AG on Twitter and @AmateurGolf on Instagram for updates and behind the scenes looks throughout the week!