TRINITY, Texas—The United States and Mexico on Tuesday made major moves up the leaderboard at the 2015 Spirit International. Paced by torrid play from both countries’ Men’s Teams, Mexico and the U.S. finished the second round tied for lead at 25-under-par 263 in the International Team competition, which is the marquee event at the biennial Four-Ball Stroke Play Amateur Championship.
After starting the day tied for seventh place, the U.S. Team began the second round on the back nine at scenic Whispering Pines. Philip Barbaree blitzed that side of the course with six birdies. For the second straight day teammate Will Zalatoris eagled the 501-yard, par-5 12th hole. He’s 4-under on the hole for two rounds.
“Not bad,” he said wryly.
A high school junior from Shreveport, La., Barbaree finished the second round with a total of nine birdies. Zalatoris, a sophomore at Wake Forest, added three more plus the eagle, as the U.S. Men shot a staggering 12-under 60. The two former U.S. Junior Amateur champions lead in the Men’s Team division at 18-under overall. Australia is in second place in the Men’s Team at 15-under. Barbaree leads the Men’s Individual race with 14 birdies (14-under par).
“The big thing today was Will and I didn’t make our birdies on the same hole,” said Barbaree, a 2017 commit to LSU. “That’s the key to Four-Ball play. We started out a little better today, and I started hitting it a lot closer and made a couple putts.”
The U.S. Women finished the day with a 4-under 68; they’re tied for seventh place in the Women’s Team event.
“Today we had four balls in play on almost every hole,” U.S. Captain Rob Addington said. “So we had a lot more looks at birdie. I’m looking for more of the same tomorrow and maybe make a few more putts.”
Mexico jumped up from sixth place in large part thanks to Raul Pereda’s seven birdies. His splendid play was a welcome relief to the 19 year old after he failed to make a birdie in the first round. He said he struggled a bit with the mercury-fast speed of Whispering Pines’ Bermuda grass greens until he finally got one to drop on the sixth hole.
“I just needed a little confidence,” Pereda said. “When I saw the first one go in, it fired me up. I was going for every pin and trying to be aggressive.”
Pereda’s captain, Santigo Casado, wasn’t happy with his team’s putting in the first round. So he gathered his squad on the practice putting green late Monday for a two-hour putting session.
“Yesterday we struggled with the speed,” Casado said. “(During the late Monday practice) we worked on feel and speed with a focus on the process and not the result. You can see the results today.”
Mexico leads the Women’s Team competition at 13-under 131. Maria Fassi and Ana Paula Valdez combined to shoot 5-under in the second round. With eight overall birdies and one eagle, Fassi is tied for the lead with Belgium’s Leslie Cloots in the Women’s Individual event at 10-under.
“We have great teamwork and communication,” Casado said. “You can see it on the course. Our players are supporting each other, smiling and helping each other.”
Wednesday’s final round will feature the U.S. Team, which has won the past three Spirit International Championships, and Mexico, which won the inaugural Spirit in 2001. Chasing them will be France (21-under overall), Finland (18-under) and Japan (18-under).
The French Men – Antoine Rozner and Gregoire Schoeb – teamed to shoot 7-under 65 in the second round. Their teammates Shannon Aubert and Mathilda Cappeliez finished at 5-under 67. With 18 holes to play, France sits alone third place, four strokes behind the U.S. and Mexico.
Finland and Japan share fourth place headed into the final round. Finland’s Kristian Kulorpi and Lauri Ruuska combined for six birdies and an eagle to shoot 7-under 65. Japan fell back from a tie, as their Men’s Team suffered three bogeys and finished at 1-under 71. The Japanese Women shot 4-under 68 and are tied with Belgium for second place in the Women’s Team competition at 11-under, two shots behind Mexico. Belgium’s Leslie Cloots added four birdies to bring her total to 10 overall. She’s tied with Fassi for the Women’s Individual race.
First round leader Norway fell back on Tuesday after the Men’s Team had to take a disastrous double-bogey 7 on the 576-yard, par-5 second hole. Norway’s even-par 72 sent them down to a tie for 10th place overall.
• South African Men DQed: After an unfortunate scoring error, the South African Team was disqualified from the International Team competition, as well as the Men’s Team event. The error occurred when the Men’s Team recorded a birdie on the 18th hole in the wrong player’s line on the official scorecard.
Teaghan Gauche made a birdie on the final hole, but the score was recorded for his teammate Matthew Spacey, who didn’t finish the hole. Once Gauche and Spacey signed the incorrect scorecard, tournament officials issued the disqualification per the Rules of Golf. Gauche and Spacey are still eligible for the Men’s Individual competition, and the South African Women were unaffected in the Women’s Team and Individual events.
• Reunited (and It Feels So Good): One of the most heart-warming and “Small World” stories at this year’s Spirit International involves Argentina’s Magdalena Simmermacher, 19, and her caddy John Bearrie, 46. Like Simmermacher, Bearrie is an elite competitive amateur with a world of talent. Bearrie was the Texas Golf Association’s 2010 Player of the Year, and he’s a two-time TGA North Texas Player of the Year as well. He’s won a slew of amateur tournaments, and in 2006 Bearrie represented the U.S. in the Tailhade Cup in Argentina.
While there, Bearrie established a friendship with the host family with which he stayed during the event. In particular, Bearrie befriended the family’s 10-year-old daughter, who followed Bearrie hole by hole during the Tailhade Cup.
That young girl was Simmermacher, who has grown up to become one of the best young golfers in the golf-rich country of Argentina. She’s a sophomore at Old Dominion and made the cut at this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur. Bearrie and Simmermacher kept in touch via texts and emails throughout the last nine years, and when she made the Argentine Team for The Spirit, she texted Bearrie to ask him be her caddy for the week.
“I literally hadn’t seen her since I drove away from their house nine years ago,” said Bearrie, who last caddied for Joel Edwards on the PGA Tour in 1991-92. “For me, the best part of all this is getting to see Maggie again and hang out with her.
“She’s grown up to be this awesome young woman who is a world-class golfer, which I take full credit for,” Bearrie joked.
• All-Time Gold Medal Count: As the three-time defending champions, the U.S. Team leads The Spirit International in the all-time gold medal count. The Red, White and Blue have won 33 gold medals since the prestigious event began in 2001. England, which won The Spirit in 2005 and ’07, has won 13 gold medals. Mexico won gold in the inaugural International Team event and has eight total gold medals over the past eight Spirit Internationals. Korea has six golds; France, Thailand and Germany each have won three. A total of 14 countries have won at least one gold medal.
• From Player to Coach: University of Arizona Women’s Golf Coach Laura Ianello (formerly Laura Myerscough) basked in a flood of happy memories while she attended The Spirit International on Monday and Tuesday. Back in 2001, Ianello played for the U.S. Team in the inaugural Spirit International. Now in her sixth year as coach at UA, she finally was able to come back to Whispering Pines to recruit for her alma mater.
“I’ve always wanted to come back, but we’ve had conflicts with fall tournaments,” Ianello said. “This year fell on a good date. It is so cool to see how things have changed. I remember some of the holes, and being here brings back so many good memories.”
In that first Spirit International, Ianello teamed with Meredith Duncan to shoot 16-under and finish fourth in the Women’s Team competition. But that’s not what Ianello remembers most.
“It was such a fun week,” she said. “The best part of the tournament was eating together with all the athletes and getting to know everyone from the other teams. That’s what makes The Spirit so special. It’s the relationships and friendships that come out of it.”
• About Whispering Pines: Located on shores of Lake Livingston, Whispering Pines Golf Club was designed by Chet Williams and showcases the beautiful piney woods of East Texas. It offers its philanthropic membership a secluded and first-class golf experience. Since opening in 2000, Whispering Pines has received national honors. Golf Digest listed Whispering Pines the “Third Best New Private Course in America”, the “Best in Texas” and 11th in America’s 50 Greatest Golf Retreats. In Texas, the Dallas Morning News –Texas Golf Course Rankings has named Whispering Pines as the #1 golf course in the state every year since 2006.
The Spirit Golf Association, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, is responsible for the Whispering Pines membership program and tournament management of The Spirit International. The Texas Golf Association is the governing association for The Spirit International.
• Final Round Tomorrow: The final round begins Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. For complete scoring across all five competitions, click here. For more information on The Spirit International, The Spirit Golf Association membership opportunities, click here or contact The Spirit Golf Association office at 281-298-2610.