Junior Boys

Davis Riley off to hot start at U.S. Junior Amateur

Davis Riley, last year's U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up, fired a 5-under 67 to take the first-round lead on a hot day in The Woodlands, Texas.
Davis Riley, last year's U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up, fired a 5-under 67 to take the first-round lead on a hot day in The Woodlands, Texas. ( Tracy Wilcox )

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THE WOODLANDS, Texas –– While the heat index surpassed 105 on a sunny, humid day at the U.S. Junior Amateur, a handful of top junior golfers proved they’d kept their competitive fires going from last year’s championship.

Davis Riley, runner-up to Scottie Scheffler in 2013, came out Monday morning and fired a 5-under 67 to take the first-round lead at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course.

Then Sam Horsfield, a three-time participant who a year ago rolled off a string of impressive match-play wins before exiting in the quarterfinals, posted an afternoon 68 to grab a share of second with Joshua Sedeno, while Brad Dalke, playing his third U.S. Junior after making match play in each of the past two years, shot 69 and is one of seven players tied for fourth.

But while temperatures were brutal, the course setup wasn’t nearly as severe, providing plenty of birdie opportunities for the 156 players in the field, even if some converted them better than others.

“This course is definitely going to separate the good players from the mediocre players,” Dalke said. “It’s a ballstriking course, for sure. I think all of the good ballstrikers are going to settle at the top of the leaderboard.”

Also, last year’s semifinalist John Augenstein (73), who recently committed to Vanderbilt, and two-time match-play qualifier Andy Zhang (71), who played in the 2012 U.S. Open, are in position to make match play after the first of two stroke-play rounds.

Riley, an Alabama commit from Hattiesburg, Miss., didn’t record a bogey in his first round. Although he said medalist honors would be nice, he’s more concerned with comfortably finishing inside the match-play cut – the top 64 players advanced to Wednesday’s first round of match play.

Should he qualify, Riley plans to draw upon his experience last summer at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif., where he played well until late in his match against Scheffler, who clinched the win after Riley called a penalty on himself on the 16th hole.

“Last year, that was a really good learning experience,” said Riley, who won the Terra Cotta Invitational in April. “I learned that a lot of fairways and greens are going to win matches, so let the other guy make the mistakes.”

Horsfield, a Davenport, Fla., resident who committed to Florida earlier this year, grabbed headlines a year ago by routing his first three match-play opponents – none of those matches reached the 14th hole. Monday, he birdied his first two holes and finished with six birdies.

“I did get off to a hot start,” said Horsfield, who earlier this month qualified for the U.S. Amateur by medaling at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Fla. “I feel like I’m playing better this year than I was last year. This course really fits my eye, so I’m just going to go out there and play my game, and hopefully it’s good enough.”

Dalke has yet to advance past the second round of match play at this event, but he’s feeling more comfortable this time around in the Lonestar state.

The Oklahoma commit – he committed four years ago when he was 12 years old – used to live in McKinney, Texas, near Dallas before moving to Hobart, Okla., last year. His parents, Bill and Kay Dalke, are both in their son’s gallery this week while Dalke's swing coach, Joey Wuertemberger, is on his bag. And Dalke won the CB&I Boys Invitational at Carlton Woods’ Fazio course last year for one of his three AJGA invitational victories.

His first-round 69 was his best score in four career rounds at the Nicklaus course, and he capped it off by making an 8-footer for birdie at the par-5 18th hole.

“Good way to finish the round,” Dalke said, “and I’m definitely excited about the rest of week.”

And with Riley and Horsfield also off to hot starts, you can bet they are, too.

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