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Howard, 17, optimistic about budding pro career

Julie Williams

Not long ago, the junior golf circuit was all 17-year-old Ginger Howard knew. Now the Suncoast Ladies Series – a developmental pro circuit in Florida – has become her new playground, and judging by her domination in three of the past four events, she has taken the transition in good stride.

Howard is the latest youngster to advance from junior golf to the pros, joining contemporaries Alexis Thompson and Jessica Korda. Howard turned professional June 7, won a Suncoast event the following week, and has since added two more victories on that tour to her resume.

“The reason why I made the decision was I felt 100 percent committed, I didn’t have any doubts,” Howard said of deciding to skip college golf in favor of a professional career. “Also my play in the Ladies Suncoast Series, and I was playing well so it was just like a no-brainer.

“I just thought that making the jump would be great and fun and exciting and so far it is.”

Howard said the decision was one she made with her family, without consulting friends Thompson and Korda. After being waved into the first stage of LPGA tour Qualifying School last week with a special ...

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College coaches welcome Hall back at Jr. PGA

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Awaiting Gavin Hall on his first day back at work: 20 salivating college coaches. Funny, the six-week layoff seemed harder for them. As one college coach said: “Gavin Hall could miss the next two years and it still wouldn’t matter. We all want him.”

And why not? Hall, 16, is the 10th-ranked junior in the country, and his left-handed swing is powerful and rhythmical and balanced, and he greets everyone with a smile – players, parents, volunteers, officials, everyone. So that’s appealing. But he hasn’t yet won on the national level, and that’s why he’s here, at the Junior PGA Championship, despite a six-week layoff and a monthlong break looming. “It was fun being out there,” said Hall, after a first-round 75 at Sycamore Hills. “Just getting into that competitive grind – that’s what I want to do.”

Unfortunately, he hasn’t done that nearly enough this summer. In March, a few days after his high-school basketball season ended, Hall underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist. (“Wear and tear,” he said.) When he returned three weeks later, he tied for 11th at the AJGA Thunderbird Invitational, then won the New York State ...

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Roachell, Talbert named Jr. Solheim captain's picks

D.J. Piehowski

Summar Roachell and McKenzie Talbert were selected as Meg Mallon’s two captain’s picks for the U.S. Ping Junior Solheim Cup team Tuesday.

Roachell, of Conway, Ark., picked up her first junior golf victory at the Bubba Conlee Invitational on July 8, and followed the win by advancing to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior.

“I think the Girls’ Junior played a big part in me being picked,” said Roachell, No. 35 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings. “The whole thing (Junior Solheim) is match play, so for them to see me do well in match play, I think that went a long way.”

Talbert, of North Augusta, S.C., was a Rolex Junior All-American in 2010 and is a two-time Wyndham Cup participant, where she helped the East team to victory this year. Talbert is ranked No. 28 by Golfweek.

Roachell said she has never been overseas before, but that her game is well-suited for links golf.

“I hit the ball pretty low, which will be good for running the ball on those courses,” Roachell said. “And my chipping and putting has been good with all the work I’ve put into it, so I feel ...

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Spieth defeats Barrett for 2nd U.S. Junior title

BREMERTON, Wash. – As the victory lap turned down the back nine, Michael Greller looked at his player and put this shining moment in perspective. The caddie said: “Well, this is the last nine holes of your junior career.”

Jordan Spieth nearly stopped in the 10th fairway at Gold Mountain. It’s over? He’s been playing in junior events since he was 9, in front of college coaches since he was 13, and now he’s arguably one of the greatest junior players of all-time, having won the U.S. Junior Amateur for the second time in three years after a 6-and-5 victory Saturday over Chelso Barrett.

Yet two hours after winning . . . Spieth slipped into reverie. Red River Shootout, Ardmore, Okla., eighth grade. On the third hole at Dornick Hills, the then-13-year-old chose 5-iron while his older, stronger, bigger competitors used 9. John Fields, the head coach at Texas, waited behind the tee. Then Spieth hit it to 5 feet in front of the first college coach he’s ever seen. A sheepish grin.

“I thought, Oh my gosh, they all just saw me,” Spieth said. “I got over my 5-footer, and I swear I had a lazy eye looking ...

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Spieth cruises into historic U.S. Junior finale

BREMERTON, Wash. – He tip-toed backward as soon as the ball began its glorious ascent. When it finally landed next to the flag, Jordan Spieth walked up to his opponent, Adam Ball, gripped his right shoulder and whispered, “There’s no way you’re getting inside that one.” No, not today. Even a friendly closest-to-the-pin contest would go Spieth’s way.

“Unbelievable,” Ball, 17, said, wiping his hair out of his eyes. “I’m happy to lose to a guy like him.”

For three hours Friday afternoon, Spieth delivered a vintage performance. He strode purposefully, shoulders back, chin up. He blew on his fingertips, and he chatted up the USGA officials, and he smiled, smiled wide, when his shots were executed to perfection. You heard that word a lot while walking around Gold Mountain. Perfection. Spieth won, 7 and 5, in an awe-inspiring romp to advance to the finals of the U.S. Junior Amateur.

Could this have come at a better time? Well, sure, a repeat Saturday wouldn’t hurt. But consider the circumstances: After his quarterfinal match Friday morning against Andrew Whalen, Spieth said he was still waiting for everything to click, for his irons to be struck with ...

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Behind strong short game, Roachell into quarters

Julie Williams

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Summar Roachell stepped to the 11th tee Thursday morning at Olympia Fields Country Club with a 4-up lead on Manuela Carbajo Re and a major decision to make.

Roachell, looking to advance past the second round of match play at the U.S. Girls’ Junior for the first time in her career, could either go for the green at the 260-yard par 4 and risk dropping her drive in the creek guarding the green, or she could lay it up, knock her second shot around the tree in the middle of the fairway, and play it safe.

With the tees moved up from the 330-yard mark, where they had been all week, both players faced that shot for the first time. Carbajo Re, of course, had to go for it.

“I’ve had a couple tournaments this year where I’ve gotten in that situation where they moved the tees and I’ve done something different and it’s kind of messed me up,” Roachell said. “I just tried to stick to what I was doing the whole time.”

And so Roachell pulled a 5-iron, knocked it to 120 yards, then stuck a pitching wedge to 5 ...

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U.S. Junior: Ball’s torrid play earns Elite 8 bid

BREMERTON, Wash. – Quick hits from the Round of 16 at the U.S. Junior Amateur:

Adam Ball turned the final hour at Gold Mountain into his personal highlight reel. Playing in his third and final U.S. Junior, Ball closed eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie – that’s right, 6 under par on the final five holes – to stun Juan Yumar, 2 up, and advance to the quarterfinals. “The best hour of my life,” Ball said.

Let’s recap: Ball was 3 down after 12 holes but won No. 13 with a par. That’s when things got crazy. On the par-5 14th, Ball hit a low, running 4-iron that nestled to within 20 feet but left a challenging putt down the hill. “I never hit a putt easier in my life,” he would say later, but he sank it anyway. Eagle, 1 down.

On to 15, where he laid up to his favorite yardage – 72 yards – and stiffed his wedge shot to 5 feet. Hole halved with birdie. Now, on 16, a dastardly, 209-yard par 3 that plays almost entirely over water, Ball hit a 5-iron to 4 feet. Another birdie, all square. He hit his approach to 3 feet on the par-4 17th ...

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5 things: Cathrea rallies to top Abe at Girls' Jr.

Julie Williams

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Give the award for best fight on a steamy Wednesday at the U.S. Girls’ Junior to Lakareber Abe. The 15-year-old from Angleton, Texas, gave No. 2-seeded Casie Cathrea quite a scare at Olympia Fields’ South Course before fading on the closing holes.

Cathrea, 15, of Livermore, Calif., immediately went up on Abe with a birdie on the first hole but had to give back that advantage with a bogey at the second. Abe led the match or was tied with Cathrea until No. 16, when Cathrea rallied with a timely birdie. Coming into the clubhouse, Abe struggled with her chipping, finishing with a flubbed chip at No. 18 before conceding the match. Cathrea won, 2 up.

It was an afternoon of aggressive play out of Cathrea and Abe. Cathrea fought a swing tempo that she conceded was just “a little off” while Abe fired at pins.

“I wasn’t very consistent the first couple holes,” Cathrea said, noting that Abe’s lead created some stress.

2.) Familiar feeling: Win or lose, count on Karen Chung to greet spectators, friends and media with a smile after a round of golf. At the U.S. Girls’ Junior, the ...

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Notes: Hossler shakes off slow start to advance

BREMERTON, Wash. – Quick hits from the first round of match play at the U.S. Junior Amateur:

Eyes on the top: Beau Hossler is playing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur, and remarkably, Wednesday’s opener was only his second competitive match-play round. Four down after four holes, it began to look like it could be his final one at Gold Mountain.

“I was like, Are you kidding me? This is the worst joke ever!” Hossler said. “I’m just handing him holes by hitting it out of play on a wide-open golf course.”

He lost the opening hole after his opponent, Miller Capps of Denver, N.C., holed a 20-footer for birdie. Hossler lost the second hole after hitting it way left – 20 yards left of the out-of-bounds stakes. He lost the third hole after flying his approach 40 yards left and making double bogey. And he lost the fourth hole after his drive found a divot, then he flubbed a chip in front of the green and bogeyed.

“When the ball went left on 3, I was not in a good mental state. I was angry,” he said. “When you hit one that feels good and goes ...

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U.S. Girls' Junior: Then is all grown up

Julie Williams

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Gabriella Then, 15, isn’t a little girl anymore. These days, she’s armed with new TaylorMade R-11 woods, and a new Ghost putter. She has a team of coaches shared by many an LPGA tour player and most of all, she has experience in her corner.

Casey Jones, Then’s longtime friend and caddie, also knows Then is growing up, though he remembers the old days fondly. Shortly after Then dispatched Lou Daniela Uy in the Round of 64 on Wednesday at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, Jones found a lawn chair and some shade on the veranda at Olympia Fields and told tales on a precocious 7-year-old Then.

Jones remembers Then approaching him on the practice tee at their home course in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Empire Lakes, and asking Jones to teach her the drill he was doing. That particular day, Jones, a 4-handicap, was working on moving the ball right to left.

“Her predominant shot now is a draw,” he says proudly.

Jones remembers another important moment in Then’s career, which happened at last year’s Girls’ Junior, where he also was on the bag. Matched against Victoria Tanco in the first round ...

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U.S. Jr.: Can Spieth avoid another early exit?

BREMERTON, Wash. – One year later, and so much remains the same. Jordan Spieth is the prohibitive favorite at the U.S. Junior Amateur. That much is indisputable. He’s the best junior player in the country, and he has drawn a favorable second-round matchup, and yet there remains an unmistakable wariness.

“Everyone is going to bring their best for me,” Spieth said Wednesday, after defeating Blake Toolan, 4 and 3, in the opening round, “and I really have to be prepared for anything. I had an eye-opener last year.”

A year ago, Jordan Spieth was the prohibitive favorite at the U.S. Junior Amateur. It was indisputable. He was the best player in the country, and he had drawn a favorable second-round matchup, and then he lost the final two holes and was defeated by a peach-fuzzed kid named Robby Shelton, with whom Spieth was unfamiliar.

When Spieth, 17, steps to the first tee here at Gold Mountain, he admittedly knows only about a dozen players. (And his second-round opponent, Wesley Gosselin, isn’t one of them.) But that didn’t matter last year. Against Spieth, the face of junior golf, these players are either intimidated or fearless. There’s ...

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U.S. Junior: Slow play costs Klein hole-in-one

BREMERTON, Wash. – Not even a hole-in-one could prevent 17-year-old Connor Klein from being penalized for slow play at the U.S. Junior Amateur. That he was docked the stroke on his aced hole only added to the cruelty.

During Monday’s first round of stroke-play qualifying at Gold Mountain, Klein and his fellow playing competitors – Andrew Bonner of Ripon, Calif., and Alex Church of Timonium, Md. – were warned while making the turn that they had fallen 20 minutes behind.

On the second hole, his 11th of the day, Klein blew his tee shot way off line, onto the adjoining Cascade Course, and took the allotted five minutes to find his ball while the other two players finished out.

Klein, however, made quick work of the 170-yard, par-3 fifth: He aced it. Unfortunately, No. 5 also represented one of the four U.S. Golf Association’s checkpoint stations, and all three players were docked a stroke for slow play.

After the round, the threesome appealed the penalty to USGA officials. Only Klein was forced to add a stroke, which meant turning his hole-in-one on No. 5 into a birdie.

“Poor play is not held against the group,” said the USGA’s ...

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Bradshaw to take good genes, ambition to Georgia

Julie Williams

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – If Collins Bradshaw is going to have success on the golf course, she knows it has to start with her short game.

“I’m not the longest hitter, so I need to drop some putts, and anything in between 130 (yards) and in, I need to be pretty nasty around the greens,” Bradshaw said matter-of-factly Tuesday. “I’ve been working hard on just making sure that I don’t give a lot of shots away. Today, that’s where my downfall came.”

Bradshaw, of Columbia, S.C., shot 11-over 155 (78-77) and fell one shot outside the cut line at the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Olympia Fields’ South Course. It was not the end to her junior career that she had imagined.

The petite blonde doesn’t have size or length to her advantage, averaging just 230 yards off the tee, but she does have speed. Bradshaw spends little time over the ball, and her parents tell the story of an unofficial visit to Alabama during which head coach Mic Potter said Bradshaw was the only player he had ever seen sprint down the fairway.

Trace this kind of play back to Bradshaw’s younger years ...

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U.S. Junior: Hossler top seed for match play

BREMERTON, Wash. – No player has scored better through two rounds at the U.S. Junior Amateur than 16-year-old Beau Hossler, which naturally has its perks. The No. 1 overall seed. The intimidation factor. The confidence. Trouble is, Wednesday marks the start of the match-play portion of this national championship – and few players have as little match-play experience as Hossler.

Amazingly, his only match-play event was the 2010 AJGA Polo Junior, where in the first round he faced off against Anthony Paolucci, then-ranked No. 1 in the country, and lost, 2 and 1.

“So, I’m 0-for-1,” Hossler quipped.

Yet you can’t shake the feeling that his record soon will be much improved. He’s striking the ball beautifully, and through two rounds at Gold Mountain he can’t recall missing a putt inside 15 feet. Hossler’s play off the tee, however, is quite another matter. On Monday, he called it “pretty grotesque to watch.” Tuesday, he begrudgingly said he’s “gotten away with a few drives.” And still, he shot 68-67, good for medalist honors, and he’s one of only seven players to finish 36 holes under par.

“I think I’ve hit it off the shaft ...

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Lengthy Cathrea planning for the long haul

Julie Williams

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Shortly after Casie Cathrea dropped a 10-foot birdie putt Tuesday at the 18th hole – completing a difficult up-and-down save from trees right of the green – elation turned to fear.

Cathrea nearly got Villegased.

A spectator who had watched Cathrea’s first round of stroke-play qualifying Monday at Olympia Fields Country Club’s South Course mistakenly thought Cathrea had taken a 6 on the par-4 sixth hole instead of the 5 that was written down. When the spectator informed U.S. Golf Association officials, Cathrea and the other two players in her group were shuttled out to No. 6, where all agreed Cathrea had indeed scored a 5.

The crisis averted, Cathrea, 15, remains tied for second on the leaderboard halfway through the second round of stroke-play qualifying. She made up ground Tuesday with a 2-under 70, and is at even-par 144, four shots behind leader Ariya Jutanugarn.

The USGA bit is not a new scene for Cathrea, it’s just a little unfamiliar. This is her third U.S. Girls’ Junior, and her fifth USGA event. She also played the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, reaching the quarterfinals, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur ...

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