Medalist Spieth Charges Forward At U.S. Junior Amateur
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Bedminster, N.J. – Chris Houston felt like a world-beater after getting a jump-start on the rest of the U.S. Junior Amateur match-play qualifiers Wednesday.
That’s because he had to be up at the crack of dawn to battle seven other competitors in a playoff for one available match-play spot. He sank a clutch 4-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole. His reward? Taking on fellow world-beater and medalist Jordan Spieth, 15, in the first round of match play on Trump National Golf Club’s 7,099-yard, par-72 New Course.
Taking nothing for granted, Spieth started his pursuit of a Junior Amateur title by eliminating the 15-year-old Gilford, N.H., resident, 6 and 5. It took Spieth, a semifinalist last year at Shoal Creek, seven holes to find a
rhythm, forging a 3-up advantage with consecutive birdies on the sixth and seventh.
All four of Spieth’s birdies won holes. The Dallas, Texas, resident shot the equivalent of three under par, with the usual match-play concessions.
"He was playing with a lot of confidence after making that clutch birdie this morning to win the playoff, and we were all square through four holes,” said Spieth. “I figured this kid came out to play, so I better bear down. He made a mistake, and I made a couple of birdies, and all of the sudden, I was 3 up. So, going into the back side, I knew that if I just played consistently, I'd be OK.”
Following the same strategy, 16-year-old Anton Arboleda of La Cañada, Calif., knocked off James Sullivan, 17, of Katy, Texas, 1 up. Arboleda, the runner-up to Spieth in stroke-play qualifying, never trailed. He got out to a 2-up lead through eight holes and scrambled his way in. He started leaking oil coming down the stretch.
On the 523-yard, par-5 15th, he left a chip 8 feet short of the hole. The left-handed Sullivan finessed a 16-foot putt from the collar to inches of the hole and won it with a birdie. Arboleda clung to a 1-up lead.
“I just kept telling myself to hit fairways and greens. Let him beat me,” said Arbodela of his thoughts when the match tightened. He’s appeared in a U.S. Amateur but never a Junior Amateur.
At the 16th, Arbodela sank a critical 6-footer to equal Sullivan, bringing a fist pump. When Sullivan, also playing in his first Junior Amateur, missed the green at the 18th, his chances to force extra holes went from slim to none. The key to the match, no doubt, could be attributed to Sullivan’s struggles off the tee. He struck just one fairway through the first 13 holes.
“I came back so I’m not going away disappointed,” said Sullivan.
The same couldn’t be said for Oliver Schniederjans of Powder Springs, Ga., who lost to fellow 16-year-old Will Murphy of Columbia, S.C., 3 and 2. He couldn’t overcome the four birdies Murphy carded in the first seven holes.
Murphy knew Schniederjans, one of the youngest 2008 U.S. Open sectional qualifiers at 14 years old, was someone to be reckoned with.
“I don’t get up playing players like him,” said Murphy, “because he’s capable of making birdies and coming back.”
Said an emotional Schniederjans: “I know I can with this tournament. I’m just not used to match play. … I got frustrated a couple of times. I just couldn’t make any putts.”
In other matches, 15-year-old Wyndham Clark of Greenwood Village, Colo., made six birdies and led the entire way in beating Austin Romeo, 16, of Erie, Pa., 6 and 4.
Seventeen-year-old Jack Perry of Santa Barbara, Calif. fought back from being 2 down to push Grayson Murray of Raleigh, N.C. to extra holes. He won on the second extra playoff hole by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt. He also drained a clutch 10-footer on the 18th, just to stay alive in the match. Murray was the youngest participant in 2009 U.S. Open sectional qualifying.
"I had a great sense of calmness over that putt, and I just rolled it right in,” said Perry. “Then, I put a great stroke on the putt in the playoff, and it was dead-center. The momentum in our match switched about halfway through, and I was able to come back and take advantage of it."
Sixteen-year-old Anthony Paolucci of Dallas, Texas, a 2007 Junior Amateur finalist, lost to Marcel Puyat, 16, of the Philippines, 1 up.
The remaining 32 players will play their second-round matches Thursday morning on the 7,100-yard, par-71 Old Course.Third-round matches also are scheduled for Thursday on the Old Course. The quarterfinals and semis are slated for Friday on the New Course, with the 36-hole final set for Saturday, also on the New Course.
The U.S. Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Digital Media Web editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second Round Match-Play Pairings
Bedminster, N.J. – Pairings and starting times for the second round of match play on Thursday at the 62nd U.S. Junior being conducted at Trump National Golf Club. Matches to be played on the 7,100-yard, par-71 Old Course. (All times EDT)
7:30 a.m. Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (137) vs. Jack Perry, Santa Barbara, Calif. (148)
7:39 a.m. Denny McCarthy, Burtonsville, Md. (146) vs. Yosuke Asaji, Japan (146)
7:48 a.m. Yaroslav Merkulov, Penfield, N.Y. (143) vs. Damon Postal, Blythewood, S.C. (148)
7:57 a.m. Wyndham Clark, Greenwood Village, Colo. (143) vs. David Pastore, Greenwich, Conn. (148)
8:06 a.m. Cameron Wilson, Rowayton, Conn. (153) vs. Nicholas Austin, Midlothian, Va. (148)
8:15 a.m. Richard (Sun Il) Jung, Canada (152) vs. Ben Itterman, Carlsbad, Calif. (147)
8:24 a.m. Will Murphy, Columbia, S.C. (153) vs. Ben Palanszki, Hungary (148)
8:33 a.m. Logan Harrell, Huntersville, N.C. (145) vs. Bobby Wyatt, Mobile, Ala. (147)
8:42 a.m. Anton Arboleda, La Canada, Calif. (140) vs. Jay Hwang, San Diego, Calif. (148)
8:51 a.m. Cheng-Tsung Pan, Chinese Taipei (146) vs. Allan Jun, Oceanside, Calif. (151)
9 a.m. Emiliano Grillo, Argentina (143) vs. Shuugo Imahira, Japan (149)
9:09 a.m. Talor Gooch, Midwest City, Okla. (152) vs. Marcel Puyat, Philippines (150)
9:18 a.m. Colin Gunstream, Missoula, Mont. (153) vs. Nicholas Reach, Moscow, Pa. (148)
9:27 a.m. Jim Liu, Smithtown, N.Y. (145) vs. Patrick Cantlay, Los Alamitos, Calif. (147)
9:36 a.m. Juan Luna, Colombia (142) vs. Max McKay, Saint Augustine, Fla. (149)
9:45 a.m. Patrick Rodgers, Avon, Ind. (144) vs. Ramsey Sahyoun, Reseda, Calif. (147)