Miami Lakes’ Luke Clanton and Lake Worth’s Alexa Pano were both named to the 12-member, coed U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team.
Florida was the lone state with more than one representative.
The 17-year-olds were pleased with making the team, but both were disappointed they didn’t get a chance to play against their European counterparts in the match that was scheduled to be played in Wisconsin just ahead of the actual Ryder Cup because the junior matches against Europe were canceled because of ongoing travel issues for the European Junior Ryder Cup team.
“It was quite a shock,” Pano said. “There were other team events that Europe was coming over for, but after I found out how much the PGA was doing to make up and still give us an experience – I was really thankful.”
Pano was the only returnee from the winning U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team that competed in Paris in 2018.
“I still really wish we would have been able to compete because I felt we had a really good team,” Pano said. “I think it would have been amazing to defend our (2018) title. The fans from the one day that I was there were so supportive of the juniors, and Wisconsin is such a big sports area. We would have had a ton of American fans there supporting (us) that we didn’t have in Europe. The Junior Ryder Cup, to this day, is one of the best events I have ever played in.”
This year’s squad traveled to Whistling Straits Course and competed in an exhibition match Sept. 22. It also participated in the Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony and attend the first day of the competition, in addition to serving as caddies for a celebrity Pro-Am.
Their match would have been held at Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Wauwatosa, Wisc., Sept. 20-21.
“It was a blessing just to make the team,” said Clanton, a senior at American Heritage Plantation. “They pick the top six junior (boys) in the country and I was one. It is hard to even explain how hard that is. That was one of my biggest goals this year.
“It was cool to be on that team,” added Clanton, who won the Class 2A state high school championship last year for the second time in three years. He is a Florida State University commit.
“It is still an experience that I will never forget the rest of my life. We got to caddy for some celebrities, have a practice round, and all-in-all it was a fantastic experience.”
When Clanton found out he was selected, he didn’t know how to react.
“I was playing well this summer,” Clanton said. “I was at the U.S. Junior and got a call telling me I made it and I got a little emotional because the last couple of years have been tough. To make the USA team is an unbelievable experience.”
Some big-name alumni that have represented the U.S. in the Junior Ryder Cup through the years range from Lexi Thompson and Sierra Brooks to Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, and Justin Thomas.
Pano also competed on the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team in early September. The United States lost 13-11 to their European counterparts.
“They had Annika (Sörenstam) with them the whole week and I am so grateful to have played against her and to compete against her as a captain,” Pano said. “I am sure those girls got so much knowledge from her.
“It was still a really fun event,” added Pano, a senior taking online classes with Florida Virtual School.” It would have even been more fun if we had gotten the win. We still all enjoyed it just the same.”