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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
BREMERTON, Wash. – Wasn’t this supposed to be the predictable part? Thirty-six holes of stroke-play qualifying, 156 players, 64 advance. The best players – Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Grayson Murray, etc. – hardly flinch. So, surely, the defending U.S. Junior Amateur champion can survive that . . .
And then Jim Liu shot 78 in the opening round, dropping into a tie for 72nd, 10 shots back, and needing a good number Tuesday just to extend his stay here at Gold Mountain. “It’s not enjoyable to be down in the pack,” Liu would say later Tuesday, after a 2-under 70 moved him safely inside the cut line, “but once you reach tomorrow, everything is reset.”
So much about Liu, 15, seems familiar. The black Titleist hat. The fashionable black-rimmed glasses. The unusual pre-shot routine, during which he makes two practice swings directly behind the ball and then, like the Red Sox’s Kevin Youkilis, slides his right hand up the shaft and swings to simulate a proper downswing. Even his qualifying scores bare a resemblance to last year. At Egypt Valley, remember, he earned a No. 27 seed after rounds of 72-72. The rest, of course, is part of tournament lore: Liu clinically ...
For complete scores from stroke play, click here.
BREMERTON, Wash. – It’s cut day at the U.S. Junior Amateur, which means it’s the most important round of Zach Herr’s budding career. The 16-year-old is trying to make match play for the first time, and he’s ranked in the top 50 nationally, and the college coaches huddling behind every green here at Gold Mountain only make him more nervous and more excited and more prepared . . . and you can’t help but root for the kid whose heart is three fairways wide.
Never heard of Zachary Herr? His mother, Cyndie, was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2007. He found out while driving home from a club-fitting session. A few weeks later, he already had planned ways to raise money for cancer research. He called it the “Zach Attacks Cancer Foundation.” He rallied the community in his hometown of New Hope, Pa. Yes, New Hope. You can’t make this stuff up.
Zach bought lime green Livestrong bracelets and sold them to his friends for $1. The first day, he sold 1,500 bracelets. “Pretty much the whole school had one,” he said. For the silent auction, the ...
When Mike Perpich is asked to describe Billy Kennerly’s golf game, the River Pines Golf Club instructor pauses, and then answers not with strengths and weaknesses, but through an anecdote.
“I ask all of my new students to fill out a form,” said the swing coach, who first worked with Kennerly in March 2004. “One of the questions is, ‘What are your objectives?’”
Billy’s answer was simple: “’I want to play college golf and professional golf.’”
It is an answer expected of any fifth grader who aspires to the “big leagues,” whether that be on a diamond, the gridiron, or in the case of Billy Kennerly, the golf course. Nobody, not even Mike Perpich, could have said for certain that Billy would achieve his lofty goals. What Mike did see in Billy, and what distinguishes the best from the rest, was an uncanny determination to learn, improve and compete. Now seven years since filling out that questionnaire, with a golf scholarship from Clemson University and an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, Billy’s dreams are looking more like his reality.
That Kennerly’s game is defined best by an attitude reflects the arc of his ...
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