Gary Player: Future is bright at Junior Presidents Cup

The spirit in which the Junior Presidents Cup was played was as inspiring as the performances out on the course and I was very pleased to meet Dubai-based Indian Rayhan Thomas at Plainfield Country Club in New York.

Having had the pleasure of attending the Junior Presidents Cup with Jack Nicklaus as Honourary Captains for the International team and the USA team respectively, at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey, it struck me what a great idea it was to stage this two-day event in the week of the Presidents Cup to promote junior golf.

With 12 players on each team, captained by Trevor Immelman for the International team, and David Toms for the USA, the standard of golf was remarkable. Eight different countries were represented in the International team with four South Africans in our side. It was good to meet the International Team on the opening morning on the course overlooking the Statue of Liberty, and particularly Rayhan Thomas, who I had heard so much about.

The USA team took a 5-1 lead in the first session but the Internationals rallied back to end the day 9-3 down. Despite the scoreline, the International team took the USA to the 17th and 18th on most of the matches. Dubai-based Rayhan, who is currently 31st on the World Amateur Golf Rankings, had an excellent first day. Playing alongside Garrick Higgo from South Africa in their fourball match against reigning America Junior Golf Association Rolex Junior Player of the Year, Noah Goodwin, and Cole Hammer, the young Indian birdied the 18th hole to halve the match.

Biggest sporting occasion

In the Afternoon foursomes session Thomas and Higgo were again pitted against Goodwin and Hammer with the Americans winning 4&3. Our International Team put up a spirited fightback in the final day singles but despite their efforts the Americans emerged 14-10 winners. Atiruj Winaicharoenchai was our top performer, beating Noah Goodwin 3&1. South Africans Garrick Higgo and Luca Filippi both had convincing victories.

The undefeated Garrett Barber clinched the winning point for the Americans defeating Fred Lee of Australia. The scores may look a little one-sided but remember that up until the 1980s, The Ryder Cup was little more than a series of exhibition matches beause of the dominant Americans. Now it’s hugely competitive and has become one of the biggest sporting occasions on the world sporting calendar. With the emergence of so many good youngsters from countries all over the world, I can see the Presidents Cup going the same way.

Even in these days of sky-high prize money, I found it hard to believe that one player could amass more than $15million in winnings in a single season. Justin Thomas has had five wins on the US PGA Tour this season and he clinched the FedExCup with a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship to beat Jordan Spieth to the title and the $10m bonus. Thomas won the CIMB Classic, the SBS Tournament of Champions, the Sony Open in Hawaii (where he shot a 59), the US PGA Championship for his first career Major, and the Dell Technologies Championship. He became the fourth player in history to win five PGA Tour titles in one season before reaching the age of 25, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Jordan Spieth.