USC rising senior Justin Suh sets sights on No. 1 amateur ranking

Justin Suh Training Golfweek File Photo

USC rising senior Justin Suh sets sights on No. 1 amateur ranking

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USC rising senior Justin Suh sets sights on No. 1 amateur ranking

Wannamoisett Country Club is highly regarded as one of the best golf courses in the Northeast and ranks 45th in the Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list. The Donald Ross design is a par 69 – with just one par 5 – that tips out at 6,732 yards, yet demands a player use every club in the bag.

During his victory last weekend at the Northeast Amateur, one of the year’s top amateur events, USC rising senior Justin Suh used one particular club more than most of his competitors.

Suh frequently challenged the tight fairways of Wannamoisett with his driver. In the final round he missed just one of 14 fairways.

“And that was with a 2-iron,” said Suh, who shot 15-under 261 to set the 72-hole tournament scoring record and win by six shots over Cal’s Sebastian Crampton.

This year marked Suh’s first Northeast Amateur. He typically competes in the Cal State Amateur, which is played around the same time each year, but decided to head north rather than west after competing in the Sunnehanna Amateur the week before.

“I’m not too sure why I didn’t play it sooner,” said Suh, who added that Wannamoisett reminds him of his home course, San Jose (Calif.) Country Club.

Everything clicked for Suh in Rhode Island, and he’s climbed two spots to a career-high second in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. If Suh can reach No. 1 by the end of August’s U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, he would capture the McCormack Medal and with it earn spots in next year’s U.S. Open and British Open (provided he stays amateur).

“It’s been a nice rise for him,” USC coach Chris Zambri said.

Suh had a breakout junior season with the Trojans, winning five times and ascending to No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. However, he tied for 19th at the NCAA Stockton Regional, and because USC didn’t qualify for the NCAA Championship as a team, Suh didn’t make the trip to Karsten Creek.

Not having a chance to play for a national title was tough for Suh and his teammates. Suh also missed a final chance to boost his Haskins Award resume and ended up outside the top 3 in voting.

“All of us on the team are well aware of what happened,” Suh said. “It’ll be in the back of our minds this season. Everyone is motivated this summer and improving. And everyone’s practicing daily and determined to come back even stronger.”

Zambri, who compiled strokes gained statistics for every player in the Pac-12 last season, said Suh ranked highly off the tee and on the greens.

“He’s the best putter from outside of 30 feet I’ve ever seen,” Zambri said.

But surprisingly, Suh showed need for improvement in his iron play. Not that ballstriking is much of a weakness.

Suh is one of amateur golf’s elite all-around talents, and he proved it at the Northeast. He’ll head to Paris on Monday for the Palmer Cup, then cap his amateur schedule with two starts in his native Northern California, the Pacific Coast Amateur at Olympic Club and the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.

Suh has had much success close to home. As a sophomore he won the Western Intercollegiate at Pasatiempo and last season captured an event at Poppy Hills hosted by St. Mary’s. As a junior golfer Suh had a decorated career on the NCGA junior circuit. He played many events with past McCormack medalist Maverick McNealy.

When McNealy, who won 11 times at Stanford, rose to No. 1 two years ago, it motivated Suh.

“It made me realize that I could do it, too,” Suh said.

The belief is there. All that’s left is the execution. Gwk

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