FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III was on hand at Sycamore Hills Golf Club on Monday to deliver a keynote address to an audience of nearly 400 at the Opening Ceremony for the 37th Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour and Heritage Food Service Group.
Those in attendance Monday evening included Championship participants, parents, volunteers and local Fort Wayne residents.
Love, the 1997 PGA Champion, had some inspiring words for the 156 elite junior golfers who will compete for a title in the Girls' and Boys' Divisions beginning Tuesday.
"This is a special Championship and has the feeling of a PGA Tour event. You each have an incredible opportunity," said Love. "Don't let these types of opportunities pass by without learning something and building on that experience."
The list of past and current stars who have competed in the Championship is a "who's who" of professional golf: Cristie Kerr, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Alexis Thompson, Michelle Wie and Tiger Woods.
Love also reflected on what the keys were to his success on the golf course. The 48-year-old has 31 worldwide professional victories since becoming a PGA Tour professional in 1985.
"I know it sounds cliché, but you really have to stay in the moment and not get ahead of yourself," said Love. "You have to try and take one shot at a time and not let your emotions get the best of you.
"But I can tell you, it's difficult and I'm still learning those lessons today."
A veteran of six U.S. Ryder Cup teams, Love didn't let the subject of the upcoming Ryder Cup pass.
"My son, Dru, wanted to make sure I was going to talk about the Ryder Cup, because he knew that's what everyone wanted to hear about," said Love. "There's no doubt that we are going to have a really strong team and are going to do our best to get the Ryder Cup back."
In addition to competing for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy in the boys' division and the Patty Berg Trophy in the girls' division, players will be competing for spots on the 2012 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team.
The Champion and runner-up in both the boys' and girls' divisions in this year's Championship earn automatic spots on the Team, who will compete against a European squad of junior golfers, Sept. 24-25, at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club.
The U.S. Team will consist of six boys and six girls who are United States citizens and are members of the 2013 graduating high school class, or younger.
The teams will also compete in a "Friendship Bowl," a nine-hole exhibition that will take place on Sept. 26, at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club, host site for the 39th Ryder Cup.
"After watching some of the play today and knowing who is here this week, I may have to pick a few from this field," Love joked.
Love's special appearance kicked off what will be a sensational week of golf at a venue listed among "America's 100 Greatest Courses" by Golf Digest.
One of golf's major championships for juniors, the Junior PGA Championship is where the best in the world get their start. Begun in 1976, the Championship the 72-hole Championship will feature a 54-hole cut to the low 30 boys and 30 girls, including ties.
Each year the field includes past winners of the Championship, PGA Junior Series event champions, PGA Section winners, many of Polo Golf and Golfweek's top-ranked players, and selected national junior tournament winners.