16-Year Old Tennessee Golf Sensation Rachel Heck Clinches with Critical Half-Point ...
Editor's Note: Click here for complete coverage of the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup.
In what will certainly go down as one of the most dramatic of the biennial competition, Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tennessee, clinched the winning half-point on Hole No. 18 with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved the match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England, and sent the U.S. players into a joyous celebration.
"It's incredible to have the team be right on the green," said Heck, who made the cut last week in her second major on the LPGA Tour at the Evian Masters. Keep in mind, Heck, a Stanford commit, is still a high school student. "It was the most incredible experience of my life. It is so nice to be in Paris playing with my best friends."
Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellseley, Massachusetts, set up Heck with a 315-yard drive to the green, within five feet of the No. 18 pin. His eagle putt on the par 4 generated a 2-up win over 15-year old Spaniard David Puig. The late game heroics ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion only needs a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.
Thobrjornsen called over Captain Allen Wronowski, PGA, of Bel Air, Maryland, prior to his tee shot to make sure he made the right choice in driver. Wronowski asked him what would he play if everything was on the line? Thorbjornsen answered driver. "Well, there's your answer," said Wronowski.
Their strategy quickly proved to be right.
"I knew that the shot was not into the wind, and I could easily reach the green," said Thorbjornsen, the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur Champion. "I just wanted to make sure its O.K. with him. I didn't want to be the person who plays driver when they shouldn't have played driver, but he gave me the green light to do so. It was just spectacular knowing 12 of the best junior golfers from our country are playing against 12 of the best from Europe."
Heck's ensuing half-point ensured the U.S. would also be declared 2018 Junior Ryder Cup Champions.
“I feel so proud of this group of people. We buckled down and won on a tough final day," said Wronowski. "Europe had no stop, they’re great players, and it went down to every match, and it was very exciting. I couldn’t be prouder of every one of these players. The opportunity to not only experience a great country, different foods and a different culture has been priceless. These are memories that these players will take with them for the rest of their lives.”
With Europe mourning the passing of the father of Captain Maitena Alsugeren overnight, its team bravely stood toe-to-toe with the Americans to rally back from a 3-point deficit entering Tuesday's Singles to make it a back-and-forth match.
Twin brothers Rasmus and Nicolai Hojgaard each cinched early victories over Americans William Moll, of Houston, Texas (1-up) and Cannon Claycomb, of Bowling Green, Kentucky (4&2), in order to get the running start that Europe clearly needed to make the finish a nailbiter.
“Everyone expects the Junior Ryder Cup to be something special, and it really proved to be that this year," said European Vice-Captain Richard Heath, who filled in for Alsuguren on Tuesday. "The players have been really enthusiastic, they have been doing everything right, and we really tried to go after the Americans today – I am really proud of how they played.
"I feel for our team as they wanted to win this for their Captain. It’s very difficult for us as we wanted to do this for Maïtena but I think she will really appreciate the effort the team put in for her today.”
Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, California, got the U.S. out of the blocks in the day's opening match, with a solid 4&3 victory over Amanda Linner, of Sweden.
From there, an absolutely beautiful day of golf earned the United States the title of Junior Ryder Cup Champion for the seventh time in 11 tries.
Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) defeats Amanda Linner (EUR) 4&3
Match 2 - Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) defeats William Moll (USA) 1 UP
Match 3 - Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) HALVED Rose Zhang (USA)
Match 4 - Nicolai Hojgaard (EUR) defeats Canon Claycomb (USA) 4&2
Match 5 - Yealimi Noh (USA) defeats Emma Spitz (EUR) 3&2
Match 6 - Ricky Castillo (USA) defeats Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR) 3&1
Match 7 - Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) defeats Erica Shepherd (USA) 2 UP
Match 8 - Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) defeats David Puig (EUR) 2 UP
Match 9 - Alessia Nobilio (EUR) defeats Alexa Pano (USA) 2&1
Match 10 - Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) defeats Cole Ponich (USA) 2&1
Match 11 - Annabell Fuller (EUR) HALVED Rachel Heck (USA)
Match 12 - Conor Gough (EUR) defeats Akshay Bhatia (USA) 1 UP
The server encountered an error processing the request.