European captain Stuart Wilson wants to get as many kids involved as possible.
EUROPEAN Junior Ryder Cup captain Stuart Wilson is looking forward to taking charge of the side in his native Scotland as the team looks to regain the trophy, that their American opponents won in Chicago in 2012.
The event, which is set to take place at Blairgowrie Golf Club the Monday and Tuesday of Ryder Cup week, proved a great success in 2012, and Forfar Golf Club’s managing secretary Wilson told Scottish Club Golfer he is delighted to be captain again for the Junior Ryder Cup.
His experience from the 2012 match will stand him in good stead and he says it is a great tournament for the players to be involved in.
“The USGA ran it really well at Olympia Fields in Chicago in 2012,” stated Wilson. “It was a very good golf course and they had it set up to tournament conditions, too. There were scoreboards all round the course, there were television cameras and it was all a pretty special event for the players.
“We were in America three days in advance to play some practice rounds, the tournament was played on the Monday and Tuesday, and then both teams got to play the Ryder Cup course at Medinah on what was the first official practice day for the main event. There were about 30,000 spectators in the grandstands, which was pretty cool for them.
“When we turned up at Medinah they all had lockers with their name on it and their lockers were all in the USA team room beside Tiger, Phil Mickelson and the rest. It’s a brilliant experience.”
Historically, the event was created for players under the age of 16 only, but that was recently extended to include players under 18 years of age.
The team itself is made up of six boys and six girls, with the winners of the boys’ section and girls section at the European Young Masters in July gaining automatic entry into the team. The team captains choose the other ten players.
“The onus kind of lies heavily on myself when it comes to choosing the team. Obviously, with the ten picks from 12 places, the vast majority of the team is chosen by myself.
“I have my vice-captain Kristin Gunhildrud from Denmark who is very insightful, especially when it comes to the girls. She keeps an eye on them constantly, while Fredrik Lindgren from the European Tour and Richard Heath also provide a bit of an input into the team that we pick at the end of July.”
Wilson, who won the Silver Medal as the leading amateur at the Open Championship in 2004, has also participated in the Walker Cup in 2003, as well as winning the British Amateur Championship in 2004 and representing Scotland on the international amateur stage.
As captain, he says his role will focus more on the strategy side of the tournament, as well as trying to keep the kids level-headed throughout the week.
“They don’t need too much motivation given the event itself. They’re all keen to be there and it’s all very exciting for them. Instead of building them up to compete you’ve got to keep them on an even keel.
“I’ll be there with Kristin and we’ll be doing the pairings and watching them intently during the practice rounds. We’ll also be having chats with the team and see who they want to be paired with and how their game is. Hopefully, we’ll be able to engineer it so everyone is in the right place in the team and give ourselves a good chance of winning.”
Wilson has already noticed that there is a lot more interest in the match than there was two years ago in Chicago, and he’s hoping that will carry through to the event in September.
“I think the set-up at Olympia Fields was really good and it did really well, but I think with the accessibility and the doors being open to the public, it didn’t get as many people watching it. It was mainly members and parents of the kids.
“When it comes to Blairgowrie, a lot more people there are taking an interest in watching, and the level of participation we’ll have in the schools, there’s going to be a lot of people there.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to come along and watch some great golf because the standard in 2012 was amazing. A lot of great golf was played, there were a lot of good shots and all the kids themselves had to play really well at both junior and senior level just to make the team.”
That increased level of interest is also an avenue Wilson has been hoping to exploit in order to get more youngsters along to watch and hopefully to get interested in playing golf as a whole.
“We’re trying hard to get some kids there,” he said. “We’re in touch with schools throughout Perth and Kinross, as well as Angus and Dundee. We’re trying to get as many as 1,200 kids there a day and give them the opportunity to get some coaching and to watch the golf. We’re really looking forward to that side of promoting the Junior Ryder Cup and golf itself to the juniors.”
LEAD ROLE Forfar GC’s Stuart Wilson will take charge of the European side on home soil when the event gets underway at Blairgowrie GC