Theegala advances, faces friend Crocker at U.S. Junior

Sahith Theegala, who missed qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Amateur by a shot, kept his hopes of reaching the U.S. Junior final with a second-round victory, but now faces his friend, Sean Crocker, in the Round of 16.

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THE WOODLANDS, Texas –– Sahith Theegala knows he has one more chance to get into next month’s U.S. Amateur – make the final of the U.S. Junior.

The champion and runner-up this week at The Club at Carlton Woods earn spots in the field at Atlanta Athletic Club, assuming they aren’t already eligible. Theegala would’ve already earned his invitation, but missed out by one shot in a qualifier at Victoria Golf Club in Riverside, Calif.

“I was playing well and then I double-bogeyed the 17th hole,” said Theegala, a Chino Hills, Calif., native. “I still thought I might have a chance, but two guys came in at 8 under and I was 7 under.”

After defeating Nathan Jeansonne, 4 and 3, in Thursday’s Round of 32, Theegala is one step closer to reaching the U.S. Junior final. His next step, though, is facing top-seeded Sean Crocker, who won six holes with birdie in beating John Augenstein, 3 and 2.

“Me and Sean are good friends,” Theegala said. “We’re both from Southern California and we’ve known each other for a long time. I’m excited to play him. It’s going to be a good match.”

Theegala said his driving has been key this week – he’s hitting driver on most every par 4 and par 5, too. On the other hand, Crocker, a Westlake Village resident but native Zimbabwean, credited his putter for helping him advance out of the Round of 32.

“I loosened my grip with the putter and got a lot more to drop,” Crocker said.

Both players were eliminated in the Round of 32 at last year’s U.S. Junior, and both are excited to extend their career-best runs in the championship.

Crocker, being the top seed, might just have to deal with a little more pressure, though.

“I honestly don’t mind that target,” Crocker said. “I’m happy to be the No. 1 seed and take on all the pressure.”

For Theegala, he’s trying not to look at Crocker as the top seed.

“Just playing one of my friends,” he said.

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