Ryder Cup Captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson led two teams of Italian Elite Team junior and disabled golfers in a special Captains’ Challenge today at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, the host venue of the 2023 Ryder Cup.
Donald and Johnson were joined by 12 members of the Federazione Italiana Golf’s (FIG) Elite National Under 18 team – six boys and six girls aged 15-18 – and four members of the Elite Disabled team for the four-hole match over the first, 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Marco Simone.
The friendly contest launched the Ryder Cup Year To Go celebrations, starting two days of activities in Rome to mark 12 months until the biennial contest visits Italy for the first time.
European Captain Donald and United States Captain Johnson are making their first joint appearances since their respective appointments earlier this year, with a number of activities scheduled around the historic city of Rome.
Approximately 300 local school children watched the Captains’ Challenge which fittingly ended in a tie, with the two teams sharing the trophy with two points each.
Team Donald featured Fillippo Marchi (16), Francesca Pompa (17), Alessio Scaramastra (17), Lorena Rossettin (17), Lorenzo Lombardozzi (17), Guilia Bellini (18) from the Italian Elite Junior Team and Bianciardi Riccardo and Gregorio Guglielminetti from the Italian Elite Disabled Team.
Team Johnson comprised Biagio Gagliardi (16), Francesca Fiorellini (17), Giorgio Celani (16), Ginevra Coppa (15), Leonardo Iacovitti (17) and Marta Spiazzi (18) from the Italian Elite Junior Team and Edoardo Biagi and Andrea Plachesi from the Italian Elite Disabled Team.
The two Captains watched each fourball better ball match tee off and then played the par three 17th hole with each group, before walking the final hole alongside Riccardo, Guglielminetti, Biagi and Plachesi, the four representatives from the Elite Disabled Team.
Donald said: “Legacy is a really important part of the Ryder Cup. Having the Ryder Cup here will hopefully garner new interest in the game and encourage a new generation to take up golf. We saw some amazing golf from the players today. It was a fantastic way to kick off this week.
“The Ryder Cup is a huge deal in golf. It is our biggest team event which brings in viewers who don’t even play golf because of the great rivalry and history. So today is a great way to start the Year To Go and tell people what an amazing event the Ryder Cup is.”
Johnson said “Today was fun. It was something different, something unique. I think the beauty of this game and the Ryder Cup is that a year in advance we can play golf with kids who love the game, and we can showcase it in a cool way.
“It was very special. I was little jealous of some of their swings and their youth. They all have big aspirations and they are competitors. They were fist pumping and helping each other read putts, so there was a great team atmosphere. It was great to see their big smiles.”
Franco Chimenti, President of the Federazione Italiana Golf, said: “This is the Italian golf festival, a truly exciting time. To see so many children present, with two world ambassadors like Luke Donald and Zach Johnson, is exciting. The Ryder Cup will definitely help promote golf in Italy and will bring great benefits to the country, not only in the immediate future but in the long term too.”
Gian Paolo Montali, General Manager of the Ryder Cup 2023 Project, said: “We are looking forward to Rome being the home of the Ryder Cup in 2023. Today was great to see the Captains giving advice to the talented Italian juniors. Everyone was enthusiastic about our organisation and the beauty of Rome. Golf is an educational sport with important values. Seeing our projects – related to schools and social inclusion – become reality makes us happy and proud.”
Marco Simone will host the 2023 Ryder Cup from September 26 to October 1, 2023, when Europe will try to regain the Ryder Cup following defeat at Whistling Straits last year.
For the first time, the Ryder Cup venue will also host the Singles matches of the Junior Ryder Cup, featuring 24 of the most promising junior amateur players from Europe and the United States. That will take place on Thursday September 28, on the eve of the Ryder Cup itself, with Golf Nazionale, the venue for the first two days of foursomes and fourballs between male and female juniors from on Tuesday September 26 and Wednesday September 27.
Fans can apply for tickets to be at Marco Simone for the Ryder Cup, including practice days, the Junior Ryder Cup and the three match days, via the Ryder Cup ballot which closes on October 16. Visit www.rydercup.com for further information and to enter the ballot.