Stephen Gallacher 'chuffed' to captain Europe in 2023 Junior Ryder Cup

Stephen Gallacher is set to add another chapter to his family’s remarkable Ryder Cup story after being appointed as Europe’s captain for the Junior Ryder Cup in Rome next year.

Stephen Gallacher has been named captain of the European Junior Ryder Cup team.
Stephen Gallacher has been named captain of the European Junior Ryder Cup team.

The four-time DP World Tour winner has been handed the reins through a combination of playing in a Ryder Cup himself at Gleneagles in 2014 and showing a passion for junior golf through the Stephen Gallacher Foundation.

His uncle, Bernard, was a three-time Ryder Cup captain, including a win at Oak Hill in 1995, after playing in the event eight times then serving as Tony Jacklin’s assistant at a time when the tide was finally turned in the biennial event.

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“It’s a great honour and I’m chuffed to bits about it,” Gallacher, speaking exclusively to The Scotsman, said of his appointment for an event that will take place on 26-28 September in the Italian capital.

Stephen Gallacher poses with the Ryder Cup after being part of a winning team under Paul McGinley at Gleneagles in 2014. Picture: Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

“It was Guy Kinnings, the Ryder Cup director, who gave me a call to ask if I’d do the job and, to be honest, I only needed to think about it for a millisecond.

“The Ryder Cup is obviously something that’s close to my family and it also ticks a box on the junior side as I love to give something back to the game through my foundation. It just fitted perfectly.”

In an exciting first for the event, the opening two days of the Junior Ryder Cup will be held at Golf Nazionale before the last-day singles take place at the Ryder Cup venue, Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, on the eve of the 44th edition of the biennial contest between Europe and the United States.

“Listening to Guy, they are trying to elevate the Junior Ryder Cup and make it part of Ryder Cup week and there is no finer way to do it than the kids playing on the Ryder Cup course on the Thursday,” added Gallacher. “I think that is unbelievable and what a treat that is going to be for the kids who’ve earned the right to be here.

Stephen Gallacher in action during a practice round for the 2014 Ryder Cup on the PGA Centenary Course at the Gleneagles Hotel. Picture: Harry How/Getty Images.

“In 2014, we didn’t have much involvement with the Junior Ryder Cup when it was staged on all three days at Blairgowrie. You were there to do your own thing and your final prep, but, with this one, the kids are going to get a feel for what the Ryder Cup is all about as the crowds will be there and I’m sure a few of the players will be milling about as well.”

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Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who was recently named by Luke Donald as one of his assistants for the main match in Rome, played in the inaugural Junior Ryder Cup in 1997, while Rory McIlroy was also on a winning European team in 2004.

American players who used the junior event as a springboard to become Ryder Cup players include Tony Finau and Jordan Spieth, both of whom made two appearances, as well as Justin Thomas and Cameron Young.

It’s a mixed event and, on the women’s side, past Junior Ryder Cup players include current Solheim Cup captain Suzann Pettersen, as well as LPGA Tour winners Lexi Thompson and Leona Maguire.

Stephen Gallacher, second left in back row, celebrates with his team-mates and captain Paul McGinley afrer their 2014 Ryder Cup win on Scottish soil. Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
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“What an experience it will be for them and it’s something that could kick start careers,” continued Gallacher of the opportunity awaiting the ‘Class of 2023’. “I just think it is a phenomenal thing. Some of these youngsters are going to be playing in the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup somewhere down the line.”

Gallacher’s team will comprise six boys and six girls, with a selection process for the event’s first staging since 2018 - Paul Lawrie was scheduled to captain Europe in 2020 before it was postponed for a year then cancelled due to the Covid pandemic - having been confirmed by Ryder Cup Europe and the European Golf Association.

The automatic boys’ spots will be determined by points garnered from the Portuguese Amateur (8-11 February), Spanish Amateur (28 February-5 March), French Boys (6-10 April), German Boys (1-3 June), Amateur Championship (19-24 June), European Amateur (28 June-1 July), European Boys’ Team (11-15 July), European Men’s Team (11-15 July) and Boys’ Amateur (14-20 August).

The girls’ automatic berths, meanwhile, will be based on performances in the Portuguese Amateur (25-28 January), Spanish Amateur (28 February-5 March), French Girls (6-10 April), German Girls (1-3 June), Women’s Amateur (13-18 June), ANNIKA Invitational Europe (13-15 June), European Girls’ Team (11-15 July), European Women’s Team (11-15 July) and Girls’ Amateur (14-20 August).

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Blairgowrie’s Connor Graham, the R&A Junior Open champion, will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of clubmate Bradley Neil, who played in 2014, while other Scottish contenders could include R&A Girls’ Under-16 champion Grace Crawford from North Berwick and Royal Troon’s Freya Russell, who is one of the Stephen Gallacher Foundation ambassadors.

“You never know, there might be someone who has come through my foundation could even be playing in it. That would be something, would it not?” declared Gallacher, who intends to use junior golf experts like Scott Knowles, his foundation manager, to give Europe the best possible chance of ending a run of six straight wins in the match.

“I’ll definitely be leaning on Knowlsey a lot and bringing him into my council as he’s been around a lot of these players for a while,” he said. “I want to make the most of my six picks, soI’ll be asking a lot of people for advice because, ultimately, we want to win it.

“Marco Simone is a brilliant golf course and the atmosphere will be great. After playing in the junior event, the kids get to stay on for the Ryder Cup, so it’s a great opportunity and I’m proud to be part of it.”

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With Lawrie missing out, unfortunately, after his appoinment, Gallacher will become just the second Scot to serve in the post after Stuart Wilson was at the helm in both 2012 and 2014.