STRATHAM, N.H. – With the player he had just beaten earlier in the morning stepping in as his caddie, Nicolo Galletti advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2012 U.S. Junior Amateur Thursday.
He joins seven others, including 2010 champion Jim Liu, who won both of their matches and will tee off Friday morning at the Golf Club of New England.
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1. GOOD BET: Nicolo Galletti and Vincent Whaley made a little bet Wednesday after they each won their first-round match and set up a meeting between each other in the Round of 32.
The bet was this: Whomever lost Thursday morning would have to serve as the winner’s caddie in the afternoon.
“My caddie, his legs were hurting him or something, so he said he couldn’t make 36 if I won the first 18,” Galletti said.
Galletti won 2 up, meaning Whaley would be on Galletti’s bag for the Round of 16. It ended up paying off, as Galletti advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-and-2 victory over Douglas Ghim.
“It helped having a player [on the bag],” Galletti said. “He just knew about the game. He actually knew what was going on and how to help me, and it helped a lot.”
The two met this week in Stratham and have quickly become good friends. Whaley was actually supposed to step in as the caddie for his high school teammate, Branson Davis – Davis would win his Round of 16 match with Scottie Scheffler, who was eliminated Thursday morning, on the bag.
“It worked out,” said Whaley, who plans to stay Galletti’s bag for the remainder of the tournament.
That it did. Galletti fell behind by two after two holes, but four consecutive birdies on Nos. 3-6 gave him the lead for good. His last birdie of that stretch came after he hit 9-iron over the green and then holed his chip shot from about 15 feet.
It was a relaxed round from Galletti, but give some credit to Whaley, who talked and laughed with Galletti all round.
“Those jokes helped me stay loose,” Galletti said. “I kept my focus pretty well still, but it’s always good having fun. You don’t want to be too intense.”
Now Galletti gets Jim Liu in the quarterfinals. He lost to Liu in the first round of match play last year.
“Hopefully this year I can get my revenge,” Galletti said.
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2. LIU’s THE MAN: Top-seeded Jim Liu had to fight to win both of his matches Thursday.
The 2010 U.S. Junior champion put up eight birdies in his Round-of-32 match against James Riley, winning 2 and 1, and then followed that by grinding out a 3-and-1 victory over Eric Ricard.
“It was a long day,” Liu said. “I played really well this morning and then this afternoon, I couldn’t really expect to play as well as I did this morning, and that’s kind of what happened. I left a lot of opportunities out there, especially on the greens. I missed a lot of putts, but I hung in there and I’ll be making it tomorrow, so that’s what counts.”
Liu, who will play Nico Galletti in the quarterfinals Friday morning, was about as solid as you’d expect a former champion to be, not making a single bogey. He got down early and didn’t take the lead until the sixth hole, but never relinquished his advantage after that.
His next match started similarly. Ricard took the lead after two holes before Liu pulled back to even with a birdie at No. 3. He took the lead with par at the par-3 6th. Only this time, his opponent wouldn’t go away.
Ricard stayed within one until No. 10, when he made par to pull even. Even after Liu retook the lead on No. 12, Ricard remained a threat. He made a 40-footer for birdie on the par-3 14th, forcing Liu to drain a 5-footer to remain ahead.
“I knew all day I wasn’t making any so eventually one would have to fall,” Liu said. “It did there. And that was good timing, too, because it helped my confidence into the last stretch of holes, which is pretty tough.”
That stretch – Nos. 15-18 – took a toll on Ricard. He drove it out of bounds on the par-5 15th and then found the hazard on the par-3 17th – a shot that ended the match as Ricard conceded birdie to Liu.
Now Liu is just three wins away from hoisting another championship trophy. And he still isn’t feeling much pressure.
“You could say [I’m feeling it] a little, but it really doesn’t make that much of a difference because we’re having so much fun out there, so you kind of forget about it a little bit,” Liu said. “Plus, I’m still young.”
Young, but experienced.
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3. THIRD TIME’S A CHARM: Andy Shim had seen the putt twice before on Thursday: On the par-4, No. 1 green, about 25 feet, right to left, a little downhill.
And both times he missed it just left.
The third time – on the 19th hole of his Round-of-16 match against Andrej Bevins – he made it.
“Read it a little bit more, trusted the putt and it went in,” said Shim, who defeated Bevins in 19 holes to advance to a quarterfinal matchup with Joo-Young Lee.
Shim is no stranger to extra holes at the U.S. Junior. He lost in 23 holes last year to Wesley Gosselin.
“Just got to keep it going until the final,” Shim said.
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4. COMEBACK KID: Maverick McNealy has become accustomed to playing from behind.
On Wednesday, he was 2 down after two holes before beating D. Cameron Young, 1 up, in the Round of 64. In the Round of 32 on Thursday morning, he was 2 down after five holes and didn’t take the lead until No. 9 in a 1-up victory over Dylan Wu.
Then on Thursday afternoon, he found himself 2 down after two holes again, but rallied to beat Zecheng Dou, 3 and 1, and advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.
“I don’t want to say I’m getting familiar with the position, but I definitely don’t feel uncomfortable, even when I’m down early,” McNealy said.
Part of the reason McNealy has been able to outlast his opponents could be his diet. He had plenty of energy Thursday after downing two peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, a banana, three PowerBars and plenty of water between matches.
Joked McNealy: “My uncle, Bobby, who’s caddying for me this week, he told me I get the record for using every single bathroom on the course.”
He’s hoping he’ll get a couple more days to add to that record.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Joo-Young Lee won his match against Zachary Bauchou, 3 and 1, but it wasn’t easy considering Lee is battling mononucleosis. Despite battling cramps and fatigue throughout the day, Lee made five birdies, including one on No. 13 to go 2 up and another on No. 15 to move to 3 up. . . . The winning continues for the dynamic duo of Nicolas Echavarria and his brother/caddie, Andres. Nicolas won his match 2 up over Charles Cai. He will face Branson Davis, a 1-up winner over Richard Hattori, in the quarterfinals. . . . After a rainy and humid day Wednesday, Thursday’s weather in Stratham was near perfect. It was about 70 degrees at the start of the day and temperatures hovered around 80 for most of the afternoon. Perfect golf weather.
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2012 U.S. Junior Amateur Round of 16 results
- Jim Liu def. Eric Ricard, 3 and 1
- Nicolo Galletti def. Douglas Ghim, 3 and 2
- Maverick McNealy def. Zecheng Dou, 3 and 1
- Matthew Scobie def. Tae Wan Lee, 3 and 1
- Nicolas Echavarria def. Charles Cai, 2 up
- Branson Davis def. Richard Hattori, 1 up
- Joo-Young Lee def. Zachary Bauchou, 3 and 1
- Andy Shim def. Andrej Bevins, 19 holes