Hall (wrist) to miss U.S. Junior; return unknown

Gavin Hall during the 2010 AJGA Junior Players

Gavin Hall during the 2010 AJGA Junior Players

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The path to Jordan Spieth’s expected coronation at the U.S. Junior Amateur now has one less roadblock. Gavin Hall, the sweet-swinging left-hander and sixth-ranked junior in the country, told Golfweek that he will miss the upcoming national championship because of a lingering injury to his right wrist.

“It’s the worst,” said Hall, 16, from his home in Pittsford, N.Y. “There isn’t much time I can play up here; there’s a four-month window of really good weather. It just couldn’t have happened at a worse time. I’ve got to take the positives from it and see what I can do to try and have a good summer without golf.”

Hall’s absence from the U.S. Junior (July 18-23) is a damaging blow not only for the player but for the tournament, as well. Spieth, the 17-year-old from Dallas who for the past two years has contended at the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship, is the heavy favorite to win two weeks hence at Gold Mountain Golf Club, outside Seattle. Now, he has one less contender, and a good one at that.

It was Hall who, last year, at age 15, set the U.S. Junior 18-hole scoring record when he shot a 10-under 62 during the second round of stroke-play qualifying at Egypt Valley. A few days later, however, he was bounced in the quarterfinals, by eventual champion Jim Liu.

Hall already is one of the highest-prized recruits in the country, and it’s easy to imagine he and fellow 16-year-old Beau Hossler, the California kid who qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, vying for the No. 1 ranking as the elite players of the 2013 class. Those plans, at least for now, are put on hold because of a right wrist injury that has virtually wiped out his season.

In March, just a few days after basketball season ended, Hall underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist for a separate injury – “just wear and tear from basketball and golf,” he said. He missed three weeks but returned “in good health, playing really great.” He competed with his high school team, tied for 11th at the AJGA Thunderbird International Junior, then won the New York State high school championship after making eagle on the final hole. He re-injured his wrist, however, during a practice round last month for the Monroe Invitational, his hometown event and one of the biggest amateur events of the summer.

“I kind of made this one swing, hit it fat, and felt a shock throughout my arm,” he said. An MRI exam was unable to detect any ligament damage, and Hall was told that rest was the best course of action. In the next few weeks he will seek a second opinion, if only to rule out the possibility of season-ending surgery. He hasn’t picked up a club in more than a month, hasn’t worked with instructor Joe Lusardi, and doesn’t know when he will again.

“It’s a lot of pain, especially when I swing,” he said. “I don’t feel like messing with it, or playing through an injury. I feel like I could do later damage that could cost me in the long run. Hopefully, I’ll get back soon.”

It’s his first summer without competitive golf since he was 11, so he passes the time hanging out with friends, watching a few local tournaments on the final day and tracking online leaderboards. “As of right now, there is no timetable (to return),” he said. “It’s just day to day, and it sucks. It hurts missing the biggest tournament of the year, the U.S. Junior, when I only have a couple of cracks left at it.”

The main goal now, and the only goal, really, is to get healthy. Whenever Hall does return to competition – whether that’s at the Porter Cup, the Junior PGA, the AJGA Junior Players or next spring – he hopes to bring a different mind-set to the course. As he explained, “I kind of re-evaluated myself, and I used to just want to contend and stay up near the top of the leaderboard. But in these junior events, I want to win them now. Titles are how you can distance yourself from other junior golfers.”

When he’ll get another opportunity remains to be seen.

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