09 Dec 2019 | Amateur golf |

Teens lap up Appleby's presidential lessons

by Mark Hayes

Josh Greer, Stuart Appleby and Karl Vilips savour the Presidents Cup fan experience in the Melbourne CBD tonight.
Josh Greer, Stuart Appleby and Karl Vilips savour the Presidents Cup fan experience in the Melbourne CBD tonight.

Stuart Appleby knows the payoff might take a while, but he's confident it will be worth the wait.

Appleby, a rookie on the 1998 squad that remains the only International team to win the Presidents Cup, has watched his career come almost full circle this week.

The 48-year-old took the reins as International team captain at this week's Junior Presidents Cup, watching on proudly today as his young charges pushed their American counterparts hard, eventually falling by two matches at Royal Melbourne.

In truth, the damage had been done a day earlier when the Americans won both fourball and foursomes sessions to take what ultimately proved an unassailable 9-3 lead after day one.

Despite a stern International challenge that briefly had the teams on projected to finish square, the Americans hung on for a 13-11 win, sealed when Michael Thorbjornsen birdied the 15th beat Australian Karl Vilips 4&3 with a birdie on the 15th hole of their match, the ninth of day two.

His fellow West Australian, Josh Greer, pushed American Vishnu Sadagopan to the final hole in match eight, but conceded the hole for a 2-down loss.

The Aussie pair had combined for two losses on day one, but both were justifiably proud of their efforts.

"Of course we wanted to win, but I felt like we did well today as a team," Vilips said.

"We were in trouble after day one, but Stuart was great - he gave us a great talk and we all played much better today.

"I don't feel like I play my best in match play yet, I'm (better) suited to stroke play, but I'm learning ... hopefully I'll be better in college," said Vilips, who will soon relocate from Florida to California to start his university career at Stanford.

"We're going to have a great team and the guy who beat me today (Thorbjornsen) is actually one of my best friends and we'll be there together, so it's a good learning experience with him, too, I guess."

Greer, already a polished match play exponent in Perth, was clearly disappointed to have not hung for what could have been a key point after leading through 10 but suffering two late three-putts.

"I played a lot better today than I have been, but it's a tough one," the Scottish-born Greer said.

"But it's been an amazing experience already and I'm sure in a month or so I won't remember losing and just all the awesome things that are going on.

"The course has been amazing, I've loved meeting the guys in our team and all the Americans, and to get to watch this week coming will be amazing ... and we got loads of goodies, which always helps," he said with a giggle.

"(But) I think mostly it will be good to see how much better those top guys are (later) this week (in the "senior" Presidents Cup).

"That's where I want to be (in the future) and now to be able to make that direct comparison with them is very cool. Just to learn from them, see what they've got that I don't and then go and get it."

It's that very attitude that brings Appleby a distinct sense of pride.

As flat as his team - also including players from China, South Africa, Taiwan, Korea and India - was after their loss, many were quickly back on to the practice green after their post-round lunch today, clearly eager to explore their new bonds and also to soak up access to Royal Melbourne.

"That's youth and that's great, they just love it; they're hungry for that," Appleby said.

"I told them that they'll spend about 99.9 percent of their professional life playing average golf and you're just looking for that 0.1 per cent where you get to hold a trophy and you hope it's a major.

"The media will write about one per cent of your golf, but the 99 per cent of your golf is going to be you on the range by yourself, doing your thing.

"Holding a trophy lasts for 10-15 minutes, but there's the thousands and thousands of minutes before that where you're going to have to dive into deeply to even have a chance at holding that trophy for 10 minutes.”

Appleby said his squad had been "pretty gutted" after day one, citing similarities to previous "senior" teams.

"As it seems to happen in every Cup, you've got to convert that last four or five holes to turn a 1-up into a 2-up and shut the game out, but we went to losing matches that weren't looking loseable and before you know it, we're in a big hole.

"I said to them last night that they were going to have to focus on the golf course. You might have a handful of holes where your opponent is going to test you, but the course is going to dominate proceedings, so just think of the course.

"And they did, but it got to be a bigger and bigger monster today, even bigger than I even thought it could be. I thought it might be breezy, but it got really windy and they just gutsed it out. I was really proud of them, the way they all hit back, all the boys, even those who didn't win.

"It was great to see these young, bright-eyed kids and tell them they're not far from doing great things, but that they just need to be super resilient ... talent is nice, but resilience is something you have to nurture and even grow."

Appleby said he'd loved the experience and was clearly confident he'd been on the ground floor of something big into the future.

"There'd be many of these guys that if we have another Presidents Cup in Australian in 10 or 12 years, I'd be surprised if there weren't two or three or even four of them on that team and maybe that's being conservative.

"The key for them here was to have had fun ... and I think today's comeback gels them a little closer together.

"Because when they go and see each other at AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) events in the future, they're going to have a closer connection ... through this experience.

"That's going to be huge. I told them golf is ultimately about relationships. You might think it's all about trophies, but it's relationships that stands out in 50 years. Even though you don't think about that now, that will become true."

And what of that 2035 Presidents Cup for Appleby?

"This event is really important,” he said with clear purpose.

"The Americans have got such a physical, spiritual and geographic advantage - even the language of how to celebrate, which we just don't have ... and that's part of our senior team's problem, too.

"But I loved how our team, who didn't really know a lot of each other previously - not quite a hotch-potch, but pretty close to it - did what they did.

"Yeah, I'd love to see them out there in a few years kicking butt and I'll be on my rocking chair saying, `That's my boy'.

“If they can take away all the lessons they’ve learnt this week, I’m sure it’s going to be possible (to turn the tables on the Americans).”

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