TRINITY, Texas – Don’t worry about the next generation of golfers. They’ve got some game and some mad skills too.
Players from 20 different countries are competing in the Spirit International Amateur Championship, dubbed golf’s Olympics. Someday soon, many of them will be household names. Spirit alumni have gone on to win more than 650 professional titles, 25 major championships and have made 56 Olympic appearances. That group includes 16 PGA Tour winners, 27 European Tour winners, 24 LPGA winners and 23 Ladies European Tour winners.
Each country is represented by two female and two male amateur golfers, each of whom had to fill out a player bio questionnaire prior to their arrival at Whispering Pines. They are chock full of fun facts such as that one of the players is a world-champion rope skipper while another excelled at dog-sled racing. Who knew! One girl enjoys doing her makeup in her free time while many have exceptional taste in their favorite movies.
As for your intrepid reporter, he was pleasantly pleased to see that the No. 1 amateur in the world, Rose Zhang, enjoys reading in her spare time. Good to know that at least one young person still likes to read. Without further ado, here are 80 fun facts about the 80-person field.
Ela Anacona, 21, University of Arkansas: She’s already made eight aces and her career-low round is 66.
Valentina Rossi, 20, Michigan State: Won the 2019 Argentina Amateur and advanced to the semifinals of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Segundo Oliva Pinto, 22, University of Arkansas: Considers Angel Cabrera the greatest influence on his golf game. His favorite band is Queen and his favorite movie is Meet Joe Black.
Matteo Fernandez de Oliveira, 21, University of Arkansas: Won the Argentine Junior Championships at the Under 13 and Under 15 levels, and twice at the Under 18 level. Uses a coin with a hog emblem to mark his balls.
Rebecca Becht, 19, Stanford University: Won the 2019 Belgian National Junior Championship and will repeat her breakfast from any day that she plays well.
Elsie Verhoeven, 19, Old Dominion: Her favorite food is meatballs in tomato sauce with French fries.
Matthis Besard, 21, Southern Illinois University: His favorite musician is Martin Garrix and his favorite movie is Good Will Hunting.
Louis Theys, 23, Western Carolina: He is very superstitious about his daily routine during tournaments.
Four of America’s best amateur golfers Rose Zhang, Rachel Heck, Sam Bennett and James Piot showing off their off-the-course skills @thespiritgolf pic.twitter.com/XRwWPnS5O0
— Adam Schupak (@AdamSchupak) November 5, 2021
Savannah Grewal, 19, Clemson University: Diagnosed with a heart condition at age 14 and underwent successful surgery in November 2020. She won the 14-15 age division of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals in 2017, and her favorite food is her mom’s Swedish pancakes.
Noemie Pare, 24, Barry University: She can play the violin, piano, drums and guitar.
Henry Lee, 23, University of Washington: He began playing golf at age 6 after going with his dad to the driving range and likes to work out in his free time.
Johnny Travale, 20, University of Central Florida: The winner of the 2019 Tavistock Collegiate Invitational, Travale considers Tiger Woods the greatest influence on his golf game and lists Drake as a his favorite musician.
Team Chinese Taipei
Yi-Han Chang, 20, National Taiwan Sport University: She has earned entry into multiple professional events in Taiwan.
You-Chuan Sung, 20, National Taiwan Sport University: Learned the game from her father, who is a golf instructor in Taiwan, and also enjoys doing makeup in her free time.
Yi-Hsuan Wu, 16: He will not eat chicken before a competition, and his favorite food is tofu.
Yu-Yang Wu (Eddie), 17: He finished third at the Yeangder National Amateur Open in Taiwan, and posted a career-low 65 at the 2020 Spring Ranking National Championship in Taiwan.
Maria Bohorquez, 20: She earned three wins and nine top-10 finishes over the past two years to earn a ranking of No. 85 in WAGR. She also made the Round of 32 at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Valery Plata, 20, Michigan State: Reached the semifinals at the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur and was named 2020 Big Ten Player of the Year. She was Colombia’s Under 18 national champion in 2017.
Daniel Faccini, 23, Barry University: Likes to wear only blue when he plays golf, and his favorite movie is Ratatouille.
Juan Camilo Vesga Solano, 19, University of Arkansas: The top-ranked Colombian junior from 2018-2020, he always listens to the same music before each round.
Cecilie Finn-Ipsen, 23, Florida State: She won the Danish National Amateur in 2019.
Natacha Host Husted, 20, Ole Miss: She always uses the same divot repair tool and Mickey Mouse ball marker when she plays.
Alexander Frances, 24, University of Houston: His best memory in golf was watching Team Europe win the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. His father, a golf professional, introduced him to the game at a young age.
Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen, 22, Oklahoma State: Won back-to-back German International Amateur Championships in 2018-19. His favorite musicians are Ian Dior, Kid Laroi and Machine Gun Kelly.
Annabell Fuller, 19, University of Florida: Her most memorable experience in golf was playing Augusta National, where she finished 22nd at the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She also made the cut in the 2021 AIG Women’s British Open.
Amelia Williamson, 21, Florida State: She is a member of the English record-holding rowing team in the 100,000 meters, is an avid skier and enjoys cooking in her spare time.
Conor Gough, 19, UNC-Charlotte: Participated in the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup. His favorite meal is spaghetti Bolognese.
Joseph Pagdin, 19, University of Florida: The 2021 SEC Freshman of the Year also reached the semifinals of the 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur.
Daniella Barrett, 22, University of Miami: She began playing golf at age 9, and earned two top-10 finishes in Finnish professional events in 2020.
Krista Junkkari, 21, University of North Carolina: Her dad, who was the greatest influence on her golf game, died in 2017. Her favorite movies are Deadpool and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Elias Haavisto, 22, University of West Florida: She won the 2021 Gulf South Conference Championship and was named GCAA/Ping First Team All-America in 2020.
Veeti Mahonen, 21, Ole Miss: He won the 2017 Finnish Junior National Championship and said representing his country is the greatest honor for an amateur golfer.
Adela Cernousek, 18, Texas A&M: Her parents were professional volleyball players.
Justine Fournand, 21, University of South Carolina: Named Conference USA Player of the Year in 2021.
Bastien Amat, 19, University of New Mexico: His hobbies include learning about science and space and extreme sports, and he counts all of the Star Wars movies as her favorites.
Tom Gueant, 20, University of Oregon: Winner of the 2019 British Boys Championship. He only plays yellow golf balls and his favorite food is raclette.
Huida Clara Gestsdottir, University of Denver: Represented Iceland in the 2020 and ’21 European Ladies Team Championship.
Ragga Kristindottir, 24, Eastern Kentucky University: She only carries white tees and always carries exactly three. Her favorite musician is Morgan Wallen.
Lenny Bergsson, 22, University of North Texas: He won the Icelandic Under 18 Stroke Play Championship in 2015.
Dagbjartur Sigurbrandsson, 18, University of Missouri: His most memorable golf experience was his first win on the Icelandic Men’s Tour in 2019. His golfing heroes are Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods.
Sara Byrne, 20, University of Miami: She always plays golf wearing a necklace with a picture of her dog on it. Made a hole-in-one at Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland.
Aine Donegan, 19, Indiana University: She shot her career-low score, a 65 at Lahinch, earlier this year, and her favorite food is a cinnamon bun.
Paul Conroy, 21, University of Chattanooga: His most memorable golf experience is getting to play with former British Open champ Darren Clarke. His favorite food is steak and his favorite movie is Step Brothers.
Sam Murphy, 19, Grand Canyon University: Winner of both the Irish Under 18 Boys Amateur Close Championship and 2021 Kerry Scratch Cup, he also is an accomplished rugby player.
Alessia Nobilio, UCLA: She played in the 2018 Youth Olympics, and counts The Vampire Diaries as her favorite TV show and Tom Hanks as her favorite actor.
Anna Zanusso, 21, University of Denver: Placed 35th at the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She enjoys cooking and her favorite food is pizza.
Filippo Celli, 21, TCU: He finished second in the 2021 Italian Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
Lucas Fallotico, 18, Florida Gulf Coast University: He began playing golf at age 2 with his father, who is a professional. His favorite movie is Back to the Future.
Isabella Fierro, 20, Oklahoma State: She has overcome two wrist surgeries to continue her golf career. She shot 62 in Scotland when she was 11 years old.
Cory Lopez, 19, University of Arkansas: She began playing golf on the beach with plastic clubs. Her favorite band is the Jonas Brothers.
Luis Carrera, 21, University of Central Florida: Learned the game from his father at age 4. He made his only hole-in-one at age 6.
Alex Fierro, 16: He won the 2021 Mexican Junior Amateur, and his goal is to play at Augusta National someday. He has made two aces, one at TPC Scottsdale and the other at TPC Doral.
Julie Boysen Hillestad, 21, East Carolina University: She is a world champion sled-dog racer, along with her mom and brother. She gave it up to focus on golf at age 15. Her favorite food is Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Emilie Overas, 21, University of Alabama: She earned two top-11 finishes in Norwegian professional events in 2020.
Mats Ege, 21, East Tennessee State University: He won the 2020 Golfweek Moorpark Amateur. He played soccer, handball and golf in high school.
Baard Skogen, 20, Texas Tech University: He won the Norwegian Junior National Championship in 2017.
Carmen Griffiths, 17, University of Louisville: She calls winning the 2021 Scottish Girls Amateur Championship her most memorable experience in golf. Her favorite movie is Some Kind of Wonderful.
Katie Graham, 17, Iowa Western Community College: Her favorite musician is Post Malone and her favorite food is steak.
Eric McIntosh, 22, Northwestern University: His career-low score is 62 at Crail Golfing Society. His favorite musical group is U2 and his favorite food is Indian.
John Paterson, 21, University of Colorado: His hometown is St. Andrews; he finished fifth at the 2019 Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship.
Team South Africa
Caitlyn Macnab, 19, TCU: She played in her first tournament on her fifth birthday. Her favorite food is lasagna and her favorite movie is The Hunger Games.
Kaylah Williams, 19, Florida State: She began playing golf at age 3 with a plastic set of clubs. She won’t use a No. 3 golf ball.
Christo Lamprecht, 20, Georgia Tech: His most memorable golf experience is getting to compete at the 2017 and ’19 Junior Presidents Cup. He considers Louis Oosthuizen the greatest influence on his golf game.
Kieron Van Wyk, 19, College of Charleston: His most memorable experience was hitting balls with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods is the reason he began playing golf in the first place.
Carolina Lopez-Chacarra, 18, Wake Forest: She began playing golf to follow her grandparents; she considers her older brother the greatest influence on her golf game.
Teresa Toscano, 24, South Dakota State University: She won the 2021 Summit League Championship and reached the quarterfinals of the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Albert Boneta, New Mexico State University: His favorite professional athlete is Rafael Nadal, his favorite food is pizza and his favorite movie is Point Break.
Alvaro Muller Baumgart Lucena, 19, UCLA: An only child, he was born in Munich, Germany. He enjoys paddle, tennis and bowling in his free time.
Kajsa Arwefjall, 21, San Jose State University: Her dad is a former professional golfer and her mom an accomplished skier. Her brother plays hockey for Miami (OH). She is a former world champion rope skipper.
Andrea Lignell, 21, Ole Miss: Her most memorable golf experience was winning the 2021 NCAA women’s team title. Her superstition is she won’t play with a Titleist No. 4 ball. Her favorite movie is Slumdog Millionaire.
Albin Bergstrom, 22, University of South Florida: He won the 2021 American Conference Championship and helped Sweden win the 2019 European Amateur Team Championship.
Hugo Townsend, 22, Boise State University: He was named Mountain West Golfer of the Year in 2021. He qualified for match play at the last two U.S. Amateurs.
Carolina Sturdza, 18, Stanford University: She scored a career-best 65 at the Flumsberg Ladies Open in 2020. Her favorite place to visit is Key West.
Chiara Tamburlini, 21, Ole Miss: She is the winner of multiple Junior Swiss National Championships and counts being a member of the winning 2021 NCAA Championship as her most memorable experience in the game.
Loic Ettlin, 20, Mississippi State University: Enjoys walking his dogs, drawing and going to the beach in his spare time. His favorite food is sushi.
Ronan Kleu, 21, University of Iowa: His career-low round is a 61 at his home club in Switzerland. His favorite movie is Cars.
Rachel Heck, 20, Stanford University: She enjoys drawing and painting in her free time. Her favorite food is smoothies and her favorite movie is Shawshank Redemption.
Rose Zhang, 18, Stanford University: She also speaks Mandarin in addition to English, and enjoys reading and playing other sports in her free time.
Sam Bennett, Texas A&M: His most memorable experience in golf was playing in the 2021 Valero Texas Open. He played soccer, tennis, basketball and baseball in high school.
James Piot, 22, Michigan State University: He began playing at age 4. Shot a career-low 62 at the Southern Amateur this year. His favorite musician is Morgan Wallen, his favorite food is tacos and his favorite movie is Step Brothers.