Duluth, Ga. – Charlie Beljan of Mesa, Ariz. and Zac Reynolds of Edmond, Okla., each won two matches to advance to the final of the 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course.
The 18-hole championship match is scheduled for 8 a.m. Sunday.
In the semifinals, Beljan, 17, defeated left-handed Elliott Wainwright, 17, of Hillsborough, Calif., 2 and 1, by winning the 16th and 17th holes. Wainwright had advanced by eliminating defending champion Henry Liaw in the third round and Casey Wittenberg of Memphis, Tenn. in the quarterfinals.
With a see-saw match at all square, Wainwright lost the 16th with a wayward drive, while Beljan two-putted for par from 8 feet. With a 1-up lead, the 6-4 Arizonan rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to close out Wainwright.
“The putt on 17 was a putt I’ll never forget,” Beljan said. “Just to drop that putt and go the finals.”
In the other semifinal, Reynolds, 17, won four consecutive holes – the 13th through 16th -- to turn a 1-down deficit into a 3-and-2 win over co-medalist Tarik Can, 17, of Douglaston, N.Y.
“To have a chance to be national champion is really cool,” said Reynolds, who is the sports editor of his high school newspaper. “It would mean a lot. It’s something everyone thinks about. You want to win the U.S. Open, well, this is our U.S. Open.”
Reynolds realized he needed to compete at a high level to defeat Can, one of only two players to negotiate the 7,008-yard, par-70 Highlands Course in under par during stroke play.
“It was a great match,” Reynolds said, who made four birdies in the semifinal win. “And, it was the best match I played. I needed every bit of it because Tarik played well.”
Beljan, similarly, was tested by Wainwright, who admitted he did not play to the level that allowed him to defeat Liaw and Wittenberg. Wainwright, in Beljan’s mind, was still dangerous, however.
“He didn’t hit the ball that well,” Beljan said. “But he had his short game. He can putt like nobody. On any putt under 30 feet, I was just praying he wasn’t going to make it.”
In the quarterfinals, Beljan withstood a 2-down deficit after 15 holes and defeated Brian Harman, 15, of Savannah, Ga., the youngest remaining participant, in 21 holes. Reynolds won holes 15 and 18, of a closely-contested match, to take a 2-up decision from Joe Panzeri, 15, of Boise, Idaho.
By reaching the final, Beljan and Reynolds are exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, August 19-25 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The U.S. Junior Amateur, for golfers age 17 and younger, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Duluth, Ga. – Results of Saturday’s quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of match play at the 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur played at the 7,008-yard, par-70 Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course:
Charlie Beljan, Mesa, Ariz. (150) def. Brian Harman, Savannah, Ga. (145), 21 holes
Elliott Wainwright, Hillsborough, Calif. (143) def. Casey Wittenberg, Memphis, Tenn. (141), 3 and 2
Tarik Can, Douglaston, N.Y. (139) def. Chanin Puntawong, Bradenton, Fla. (146), 19 holes
Zac Reynolds, Edmond, Okla. (142) def. Joe Panzeri, Boise, Idaho (148), 2 up
Beljan def. Wainwright, 2 and 1
Reynolds def. Can, 3 and 2