In month 3 of our Spirit 18 for 18 Series, we continue our journey by diving into our flagship International Amateur Championship: The Spirit.
Conceived by founder Corby Robertson, the idea was to create the “Olympics for Golf” in Trinity, Texas. After all, if you were going to build a world-class golf course in the piney woods of east Texas, it makes sense to build it around a world-class event.
The first championship in 2001 got off to a rough start. It was scheduled to occur in October, just weeks after the worst terrorist attack on US soil: 9/11. A few countries pulled out with the ongoing threat of travel, but the majority of the countries came and the Championship prevailed. The “Spirit” of golf began and was un-waivered by tragic world events.
A rising star from Mexico, Lorena Ochoa, led her team to victory and The Spirit International was well on it’s way to international notoriety and fame.
Of course, there have been 7 Championships since then and an amazing list of alumni all captivated by this unique event.
We will spend the month of June detailing more specifics stories of the Spirit, but will start with a focus on 2013 and all the amazing things that happened in our most recent championship.
TRINITY, Texas—The first round of play had yet to be concluded as darkness fell on Whispering Pines during the second day of The Spirit International. Fierce storms brought more than 6½ of rain between Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and when play resumed after a 25½-hour interruption, the U.S. Team wasted little time in taking control of the tournament.
The U.S. Women had three holes left to play and the U.S. Men had four remaining in the first round when play was called Thursday due to darkness. The U.S. leads the International Team Division at 16-under par. Sweden, one of the few teams that finished play in the first round, is 11-under par and is tied with Malaysia for second place. Malaysia on Friday will have two holes to play to complete its first round.
South Africa sits in fourth place at 10-under overall. Belgium is fifth at 7-under. (For complete results, visit www.thespiritgolf.com).
Play was called because of darkness just before 7 p.m. The players will return to their positions at 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning. The second round is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.
The U.S., which has won gold in the International Team competition in each of the past two Spirits, were paced Thursday by reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion Scottie Scheffler and Oklahoma State sophomore Jordan Niebrugge. They combined to shoot 10-under par through 14 holes. Niebrugge, who represented the U.S. earlier this year at the Walker Cup, was 5-under par. He poured in seven birdies, including a stretch of five birdies in six holes as played concluded.
The U.S. Women combined to shoot 6-under par. Clemson freshman Ashlan Ramsey, who already this year has won two collegiate events in just four starts, birdied the second and third holes. She finished with three birdies through 15 holes. Her teammate Ally McDonald birdied four holes.
“We played really well,” said McDonald, winner of the 2013 North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst. “It was important to get out to a strong start. We know that you can’t win the tournament on the first day, but you can lose it. We’re in good shape so far.”
Ireland, one of the first teams out on Wednesday morning, finished 5-under and is tied for sixth place. The Irish players had slogged through seven holes in the rain before play was suspended at 10:33 a.m. Wednesday.
“We played yesterday in that torrential rain,” said Leona McGuire, who failed record a birdie in the first round. “It was very wet out there, but it started drying out as play went on today. We had a lot of chances, but we were a bit unlucky. Lisa (Leona’s twin sister) hit the pin on 14 and the ball ricocheted 10 yards off the green.”
One of the unique aspects of The Spirit is the five separate competitions that are contested simultaneously. In addition to the International Team Division, there are Men’s and Women’s Team Divisions and an Individual Division for the Men and Women.
Niebrugge and Scheffler lead the Men’s Division at 10-under par. Sweden and Malaysia are tied for second at 8-under. The U.S. also leads the Women’s Division; McDonald and Ramsey are 6-under. South Africa is a shot back at 5-under, and Ireland and Belgium are tied for third place at 4-under.
Niebrugge, who caught fire at the end of the day with three straight birdies on his final three holes, leads the Men’s Individual Division with seven total birdies. South Africa’s Kim Williams, who is playing in The Spirit for a record fourth time, leads the Women’s Individual Division with six birdies.
TRINTY, Texas—Heavy rains washed out play in the first round of the Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship.
Play began at 8:30 a.m. at Whispering Pines Golf Club. By 10:33 a.m., the competitors were pulled off the course for the first of several lengthy delays. Not another shot was played on Wednesday and at 2:45 p.m., Tournament Director Eric Fredricksen announced the first round would be suspended until Thursday morning.
“There’s at least one more major storm cell headed this way,” Fredricksen said. “We’re going to play it safe and send everyone back to Camp Olympia. We’ll re-start tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. if the weather allows.”
One of the first teams out, Sweden got off to a fast start and leads at 4-under par through five holes. Swedes Pontus Gad and Frida Gustafsson-Sprang were 2-under and teammate Linnea Johansson was 1-under.
France and Belgium were tied for second place at 3-under when play was called. Spain and Italy currently sit at 2-under. The U.S. Team’s Ally McDonald birdied the first hole, but the delay occurred before the U.S. Men’s Team could finish the first hole.
The biennial Spirit International is a co-ed 72-hole team best ball event contested by the top 20 golfing countries in the golf as determined by the combined men’s and women’s results from the 2012 World Team Amateur Championships. Each participating country sends its top two men and women amateurs along with a captain to represent it at The Spirit.
The players simultaneously compete in five separate events. Gold, silver and bronze medals are at stake in the International Team Division, as well as the Men’s and Women’s Divisions. The Men’s and Women’s Individual champions are determined by the players with the most strokes under par for the championship. The winner of the Men’s Individual competition will receive a sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour’s 2014 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
For live scoring and more information, please visit www.thespiritgolf.com.
TRINTY, Texas—Anytime 80 of the best amateur golfers in the world congregate in the same place, there’s bound to be record-breakers in the group.
The fact is every player in The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship, the seventh playing of which begins Wednesday at Whispering Pines Golf Club, has accomplished major feats in their careers. This year the biennial 72-hole, team best ball event features 74 national champions or No. 1-ranked players in their respective countries.
There’s one young lady from the United Kingdom, however, whose achievement might trump them all.
Earlier this year, 20-year-old Alexandra Peters from Shifnal, England, broke a 90-year gender barrier when she became the first woman to play in the prestigious Halford Hewitt championship.
Every year since 1923, Britain’s top 64 private high schools send teams of 10 boys to vie for the prestigious Halford Hewitt.
Until this year, that is.
Like all the schools involved, Wellington College—a private institute for high school juniors and seniors—sent its best 10 players, which this year included Peters.
“It was very odd because I had to play the men’s tees…well, that and I was the only female around the whole event,” said Peters, who won the 2012 English Ladies Amateur Championship. “It was very different. It’s always been boys who played golf. Not many women have played, but my school gives golf scholarships and I got one of them.”
Wellington College advanced to the third round of the Halford Hewitt, regarded as a success by Peters.
“Yes, I thought we got along very well,” said Peters, who joins Meghan MacLaren, Nick Marsh and Paul Howard to comprise the English Team at The Spirit International. England won consecutive International Team gold medals at the 2005 and ’07 Spirits.
While it likely was a bit lonely for Peters at the Halford Hewitt, things were at least a little more comfortable back at Wellington College. Peters played on the “mixed golf team” along with her friend Heidi Baek. The two were the only women on the team.
Peters, who plans to turn professional after The Spirit, said she was proud of breaking the Halford Hewitt gender barrier. But she’s more interested in being known as a successful golfer. Her hot start at the 2012 Ricoh Women’s British Open stands to help her in that regard.
Through 12 holes in the first round at Royal Liverpool, Peters found herself alone at the top of the leaderboard in the major championship.
“Karrie Webb was a hole ahead of me, and on 13 she made a bogey,” Peters said. “I made a birdie on 12 and was in the lead at 2-under par.”
She finished the round with a 1-over 73 and eventually missed the cut. Peters said she and her teammates have enjoyed their practice rounds at Whispering Pines and likes their chances to earn England its third team gold medal when play begins Wednesday.
For more information on The Spirit International, please visit www.thespiritgolf.com.
As we get closer and closer to the 2013 Spirit International Championship, we are wrapping up our Team of the Month program with the United States.
As champions to the last 2 Spirit Internationals, the team (led by Captain Paige MacKenzie), has a tall challenge in front of them to repeat. The field is set and the competition has never been better. The US Team is young and talented, but so are all of the other 19 international teams.
As the country that is host to one of the greatest International Amateur events, the United States is rich in history and tradition with golf. Take a look at our quick video recap of the United States.
See you at Whispering Pines on October 30th!