Memories of Medinah? U.S. takes big lead into last day of Palmer Cup

Beau Hossler vowed even before the Palmer Cup matches began that he wouldn’t be looking ahead to his title defense in August’s Western Amateur. Both competitions are being played at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.

The Palmer Cup is a 19-year old team event pitting the college stars of the U.S. against their counterparts from Europe. The Western Amateur is 112 years old and has been won by some of golf’s greatest names – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Curtis Strange, Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus. Very few have won it back-to-back (the last was Justin Leonard in 1992-93), and Hossler has a chance to do that.

Still, the Western Amateur is more than a month away and Hossler has not only Sunday’s conclusion of the Palmer Cup but also next week’s U.S. Open before his title defense at Rich Harvest.

“One of the goals I’d set at the beginning of the year was to be here competing for my country,’’ said Hossler. “You know you’ve had a solid year if you make the Palmer Cup team. It’s a huge honor to play in this tournament. I’m not at all preparing for the Western.’’

And that showed on Saturday – a huge day for Hossler’s U.S. squad that was battered by the Europeans last year in England.

Hossler, from the University of Texas, had to stay focused. Trailing most of the match, he drilled the last putt of the day – a 12-footer for birdie – to take a 1-up victory over Austria’s Matthias Schwab and help the U.S. to a 13 ½-6 ½ lead. Hossler needed birdies on the last two holes to pull out the win and he was swarmed by his teammates after the last putt dropped.

Ten singles matches remain on Sunday, the first of which tees off at 8 a.m., and the U.S. needs just three wins to re-claim the cup. The U.S. leads the series 9-8-1.

The Europeans trailed 6-4 after Friday’s fourball and alternate shot matches and had little to cheer about on Saturday. Their brightest moment came in the first match where Thomas Detry, a Belgium native who was part of the University of Illinois’ NCAA semifinalists, demolished Georgia’s Lee McCoy 5 and 4.

After that Europe won only one of the remaining nine matches. Highlighting the U.S. charge was Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, who took out Jon Rahm 2 and 1. Rahm, from Spain and Arizona State, is No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. McCoy is No. 5, Hossler No. 6, Detry No. 11 and Schniederjans No. 13.