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Len Ziehm On Golf

Roger Warren will be back for Junior Ryder Cup at Olympia Fields

The first in a long line of upcoming Ryder Cup announcements is coming up on Aug. 7. That’s when Roger Warren will announce the six boys and six girls on the U.S. team for the Junior Ryder Cup.

This is just one of many events surrounding the big show coming to Medinah Sept. 25-30. The PGA of America bills the Junior Ryder Cup as “an international showcase of golf’s next generation.’’

Warren is captain of the U.S. team, a duty that generally goes to an outgoing president of the PGA of America. For him it’s also a homecoming. Warren was a high school teacher and coach before entering the golf business at Village Links of Glen Ellyn in 1986. He’s come a long, long way since then but the Junior Ryder Cup will bring him back to Chicago, since the competition will be on Olympia Fields’ South course.

After leaving The Links in 1991 Warren directed the operation at Seven Bridges in Woodridge from 1991-2003 and then headed for the famed Kiawah Resort near Charleston, S.C. He became the president there in 2005 and was concurrently the president of the PGA of America through 2006 and the PGA’s honorary president in 2008.

As PGA president twice removed, Warren is the Junior Ryder Cup captain while also preparing for Kiawah to host the year’s last major, the PGA Championship, from Aug. 9-12.

“I’ve got my hands full,’’ admitted Warren, “but I couldn’t be more excited about the Junior Ryder Cup. I’m looking forward to it because of my background in high school coaching and because of the quality of the junior golfers who will be on the team. They’ll all be great players and good people.’’

Before going into the golf business Warren was the basketball and golf coach, as well as a teacher, at Dundee Crown High School and the U.S. Math and Science Academy. His duties with the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team will cover just one intense week after the selection process is completed. Warren will be helped out on that end of other PGA staffers.

The actual event at Olympia starts with practice rounds Sept. 21-23. Opening ceremonies will also be on the 23rd with matches following on Sept. 24-25. The Junior Ryder Cup experience ends on Sept. 26 at Medinah, when the two teams participate in the Friendship Bowl, a nine-hole competition on Nos. 1-3 and 12-18 on Medinah’s No. 3 course while the pro teams from the U.S. and Europe are finishing preparations for the main event.

M.G. Orender was a past PGA president who captained the last U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team, which defeated its European counterparts 13 ½-10 ½ in Scotland two years ago. He knows what Warren can expect.

“In my time as a PGA professional I don’t know of a better experience I’ve had,’’ Orender said. “I was so thrilled for those kids. They played their hearts out.’’

That was the third U.S. win in the seven previous competitions, the others coming in 1997 in Spain and 2008 in Bowling Green, Ky. Europe won in 1999, 2002 and 2004 and the 2006 competition in Wales was halved, so the Junior Ryder Cup series is all even at 3-3-1 going into the Olympia Fields shootout.

Each team has had one blowout win in the competition. Europe dominated in 1999 in Boston, winning 10 ½ – ½, and the U.S. romped 22-2 in Bowling Green, Ky. Most of the matches, though, have been hard-fought affairs.

“It’s an exciting event, and very competitive,’’ said Warren, “and it gives these kids a taste of what could happen if they take up a career in golf.’’

Competition involves foursome, mixed four-ball and singles matches. The U.S. players must be members of high school graduating classes of 2013 to be eligible for selection. Europe requires its players be no older than 16 on the final day of the competition.

The U.S. Junior Amateur champion and U.S. Junior Girls champion are given automatic invitations to play on the U.S. team. Those competitions concluded July 21.

Exemptions will also go to the champion and runner-up at the 37th PGA Junior Championship, which concludes Aug. 3 at Sycamore Hills in Fort Wayne, Ind. The top boy and girl from the US. Junior Ryder Cup point standings, which is based on competitions going back to 2011, will also earn spots on the team.

Warren will then make his captain’s picks to fill out the roster. It’ll be an honor to play for the U.S.. Jordan Spieth, now at the University of Texas, went 3-0 in his matches for the U.S. at both the 2008 and 2010 Junior Ryder Cups.

“Really unbelievable,’’ Spieth said of the experience. “The 2010 team was even stronger than our 2008 team, but the European team was better, too.’’

The team he’ll lead is very much a part of the wide-ranging activities surrounding the 39th Ryder Cup matches coming to Medinah on Sept. 25-30.

The Ryder Cup is much more than the intensely patriotic three-day competition played biennially between the top touring pros from the U.S. and Europe. There are plenty of events around the big one, and the Junior Ryder Cup is one of the most important.

Olympia Fields will host the Junior event on its South course. This will be the eighth time high school-aged teams from the U.S. and Europe collide as part of a Ryder Cup.

Category: Features