Roger Warren got his start in golf while living in the Chicago area. He went on to big things in the game, and now he's back.
Warren will captain the United States team in the Junior Ryder Cup competition, which got under way Sunday with opening ceremonies at Olympia Fields Country Club. After two days of matches on Olympia's South course today and Tuesday, the 12-player teams from the U.S. and Europe will shift to Medinah Country Club for a 2 p.m. friendship match on Wednesday over 10 holes of the No. 3 course that will host the full-blown Ryder Cup competition beginning Friday.
Warren became captain of the U.S. team for what the PGA of America bills as "an international showcase of golf's next generation," because he is the PGA president twice removed. It's an honor that is bestowed on past leaders of the 27,000-member organization.
For Warren, it's also a homecoming. He was a high school teacher as well as a basketball and golf coach at Dundee-Crown High School and the Illinois Math & Science Academy before entering the golf business at Village Links of Glen Ellyn in 1986.
He's come a long, long way since then.
After leaving The Links in 1991, Warren directed the operation at Seven Bridges in Woodridge from 1991-2003 and then headed for the famed Kiawah Island Resort near Charleston, S.C. He became the president there in 2005 and was concurrently the president of the PGA of America through 2006 and the PGA's honorary president in 2008.
With August's PGA Championship played at Kiawah, Warren served as general chairman of that event.
"I've had my hands full," admitted Warren, "but I couldn't be more excited about the Junior Ryder Cup. I'm looking forward to it because of my background in high school coaching and because of the quality of the junior golfers on the team."
The Junior Ryder Cup will be played for the eighth time on Olympia Fields' South course. The series is even at 3-3-1. Past participants have included Rory McIlroy and Nicolas Colsaerts, both members of the current European Ryder Cup squad. Other golf notables who have played in the event include Sergio Garcia, Suzann Pettersen, and Matteo Manassero for Europe and Hunter Mahan, Luke Guthrie, Bud Cauley and Jordan Spieth for the U.S.
Warren's U.S. squad is led by Robbie Shelton, of Wilmer, Ala. Shelton, 16, won both the Junior PGA Championship at Sycamore Hills in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and the Junior Players Championship at Florida's TPC Sawgrass this summer.
Each team has 12 players, six boys and six girls. The other boys include two talented Californians. Cameron Champ was runner-up in the Junior PGA and Beau Hossler, at 17, made the cut at the U.S. Open. Rounding out the boys contingent are Gavin Hall, of Pittsford, N.Y.; Jim Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y.; and Scottie Scheffler, of Dallas.
The U.S. girls are headed by Samantha Wagner, of Windemere, Fla., and Alison Lee, of Valencia, Calif. Wagner was runner-up in the Junior PGA and Lee was the leading point-getter in the Junior Ryder Cup standings.
Five members of the U.S. team earned automatic spots off the post lists. The other seven are Warren's captain's picks. Only 2013 high school graduates, or younger, were eligible.
Other girls on the U.S. squad are Cathy Cathrea, of Livermore, Calif.; Karen Chung, Livingstone, N.J.; Casey Danielson, Osceola, Wis.; and Esther Lee, Los Alamitos, Calif.
"Their experience and quality of play is tremendous," said Warren. "They are all great young players. I know they will perform well. This event is very competitive, and it gives these kids a taste of what could happen if they take up a career in golf."
There'll be six foursome matches on Monday morning (three boys and three girls), and six mixed ball matches in the afternoon. Twelve singles matches, involving all the players on both sides, are on tap for Tuesday.
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