U.S. gets off to a fast start in Palmer Cup

Just two weeks ago Thomas Detry was on the popular side, a key player in the University of Illinois’ drive to the semifinals of the NCAA golf tournament in Florida.

Now, as a member of the European team in the Palmer Cup matches at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, he’s trying to do in the U.S. squad. Last year the native of Belgium did a good job of it, winning three of his four matches as the European college stars won handily in England.

Arnold Palmer was on hand to get the Palmer Cup matches off to a rousing start.

In Friday’s opening fourball matches at Rich Harvest, however. Detry and partner Jon Rahm, an Arizona State player from Spain, were crushed 4 and 3 by Americans Lee McCoy, of Georgia, and Ollie Schniederjans of Georgia Tech in a match that started 40 minutes late because of lightning in the area.

Detry had better luck against the same opponents in the afternoon alternate shot matches with a new partner in Adrian Meronk, the first player from Poland to compete in the 19-year old Palmer Cup. They won 4 and 3 and helped the Europeans cut a 4-1 deficit after the morning matches. The U.S. leads 6-4 heading into the last two days of singles matches. They start at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“This is a big deal,’’ said Detry. “I’m very honored to be playing in the Palmer Cup. Last year was so much fun. Here it’s a different feeling.’’

The Palmer Cup was founded by Arnold Palmer in 1997, and he was on hand for the opening ceremony and first tee shots on Saturday

Friday’s matches started the latest in a series of big events at Rich Harvest. The Western Amateur will be played there in August, the LPGA International Crown in 2016 and the NCAA Championships in 2018.

“I love the golf course,’’ said Detry. “Jerry Rich did a great job designing it. Some didn’t like it, but it’s straight-forward course and a good challenge.’’

Detry was on the Illini team that won an NCAA regional tournament at Rich Harvest in 2014 but he didn’t try to qualify for next week’s U.S. Open and will skip the Western Amateur to compete in Europe after the Palmer Cup is over. He’ll enter his senior year at Illinois in the fall.