Matthew Wolff, Noah Goodwin reach U.S. Junior Amateur final

USGA/Jeff Haynes

Matthew Wolff, Noah Goodwin reach U.S. Junior Amateur final

Junior

Matthew Wolff, Noah Goodwin reach U.S. Junior Amateur final

Match-play results

The U.S. Junior Amateur final will feature one familiar face, but the other is no slouch.

Noah Goodwin and Matthew Wolff will compete in the 36-hole final Saturday at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan. It’s a powerhouse matchup.

Goodwin, the top-ranked junior in the country, makes it to the final match for the second straight year. He first eked out a 2-up win in Friday morning’s quarterfinals over third-ranked Davis Shore (an Alabama signee). Goodwin stepped up early in the back nine, birdieing 11 to move 2 up, chipping in for par at the 12th to remain there and birdieing No. 13 to make it a 3-up lead. Shore would win Nos. 15 and 16 to move within one, but Goodwin would hit it to 20 feet for eagle at the 18th and be conceded a short birdie putt for the win.

Goodwin, a 2018 SMU commit and the No. 19 seed in match play this week, followed up in the afternoon by opening a 6-up lead through 10 holes in his semifinal match against Rayhan Thomas. Goodwin would win that match, 5 and 4, after draining a 42-foot par putt at No. 14.

As for Wolff, the No. 8 seed, he faced medalist and future Oklahoma State teammate Austin Eckroat in the quarterfinals. Wolff was 1 down through 12 before draining an 8-footer for birdie at No. 13. He moved 1 up by winning the 15th, but Eckroat birdied 16 to square the match. Wolff would win the 18th and the match when Eckroat struggled at the last.

Wolff was conceded his mid-range eagle putt for a 1-up victory. The pair are both incoming freshmen for the Cowboys, and the camaraderie showed when Eckroat turned around and caddied for Wolff in the semis.

Wolff won Nos. 3-5 to move 2 up early in his semifinal match against Garrick Higgo.

The match was back to all square through 11, but Higgo committed an infraction when he accepted a cart ride from a restroom to the 12th tee. That breached the transportation Rule that states no player or caddie can ride in any form of transportation during a stipulated round, and meant Wolff was now 1 up.

He would birdie No. 13 to make it a 2-up cushion and then seal the match by winning the 17th for a 3-and-1 triumph.

Wolff, of Agoura Hills, Calif., advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2015 event, but that’s the furthest he reached in the U.S. Junior Amateur until this week. Wolff, ranked 17th in the incoming freshman Class of 2017, isn’t expecting any breaks to come in the final.

“It’s really going to be competitive, probably going to have to make a lot of birdies and minimize my mistakes,” Wolff said. “It’s going to be a hard-fought match.”

Goodwin, meanwhile, will be looking to avenge a previous defeat in his quest for the title. Goodwin, of Corinth, Texas, lost to Min Woo Lee in the final last year. (Lee fell in the Round of 64 to Noah Norton in his title defense.)

If Goodwin could produce a winning result this time, he would be the third player to capture the U.S. Junior the year after losing in the final (Mason Rudolph, 1950, and Tim Straub, 1983, are the two who’ve accomplished the feat).

The key Saturday will be to not let up.

“I just have to keep playing my own game and just stick to my game plan and just grind,” Goodwin said.

The 36-hole final will begin at 7:45 a.m. Eastern. Both finalists are exempt into 2018 U.S. Open sectional qualifying as well as this year’s U.S. Amateur at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Bel-Air Country Club, in Los Angeles, Calif.

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