Quarterfinals Are Set At U.S. Junior Amateur
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Bedminster, N.J. – No matter how far Yaroslav Merkulov advances in the U.S. Junior Amateur, each round he plays will be a blessing.
The 17-year-old high school senior from Penfield, N.Y., is thankful each day to be alive. About seven years ago, while playing soccer, Merkulov passed out. He had a congenital heart defect and would need corrective surgery, which he underwent when he was 11. So forgive him if he views each day as a bonus.
“Yes, I definitely do, because I was told it was one of those things that could have killed me in my early 20s,” said Merkulov, who moved into the quarterfinal round with a resounding 7-and-6 victory over Wyndham Clark, 15, of Greenwood Village, Colo., Thursday at Trump National Golf Club’s 7,100-yard, par-71 Old Course.
Merkulov, born in Russia, sprinted to a 6-up margin after the ninth hole. He won a hole with a birdie, four with a par and another with a bogey in steady rain. Beforehand, he expected the match to go 18 holes because Clark had tied for seventh in stroke-play qualifying and charged through his first two matches.
“At one point when I had the big lead,” he said, “I told myself to get it over with – I wanted to get inside.”
Though the mild-mannered Merkulov added that he’s surprised to have gotten past the third round, he’s coming off a victory at the New York State Men’s Amateur and eighth-place finish in the Rolex Tournament of Champions. Not too shabby for the kid who voted to move to the United States at 4 when his stepfather asked the family if they would consider relocating.
For his efforts, Merkulov will face medalist Jordan Spieth, 15, of Dallas, Texas. The semifinalist from last year's U.S. Junior Amateur at Shoal Creek bounced 2008 Japan Junior champion (12- to 14-year-old division) Yosuke Asaji, 2 up.
Spieth, who eliminated 16-year-old Jack Perry of Santa Barbara, Calif., on the 19th hole earlier in the day, lost the first hole of his afternoon match with a bogey before rebounding. In the nip-and-tuck match, Asaji took a 1-up advantage into the 10th hole before suffering a bogey that evened things.
The Junior Byron Nelson Tournament champion took control on the 11th and 12th holes when he won both. Both participants parred the rest of the way.
“The hardest part of this championship is to stay consistent between each match,” said Spieth. “When the weather started to go bad this afternoon, I just told myself to just try and make as many pars as possible, and those pars won some holes for me. I was lucky that he missed a couple of putts, so I’m just happy to walk away from today winning a couple of matches, when I didn’t really have my ‘A’ game.”
Since 1964, when the format changed strictly from match play to including stroke-play qualifying, only seven medalists have won. Spieth is attempting to become the first medalist since 2000 to triumph.
Being medalist was the furthest thought from 16-year-old Cameron Wilson’s mind. That’s because he had to sweat out just making the cut. He qualified at 10 over, one stroke clear of the cutline. He hasn’t wasted a second opportunity, defeating 17-year-old Nicholas Austin of Midlothian, Va., in the morning and then knocking off Ben Itterman, 17, of Carlsbad, Calif., 2 and 1, in the afternoon.
Wilson grabbed the lead on No. 8 with a birdie and never trailed. Wilson thought the sequence on the 13th and 14th holes were keys. On No. 13, Wilson missed a 7-footer that led to bogey and a loss of hole to cut his 2-up lead in half. He bounced back with a nifty par save on the next hole to increase the cushion.
“I was pretty angry with myself for missing the putt, but I knew I had two par 5s coming up,” said Wilson, a long-hitting left-hander from Rowayton, Conn.
He added, “I’m very happy with how close I came to not making the cut.”
Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Reach of Moscow, Pa., also moved on after defeating Jim Liu, 13, of Smithtown, N.Y., 2 up.
Reach went 1 up on the par-3 16th when Liu, who had overshot the green, missed a 12-footer for par.
“The rain was not easy, and Jim – what a great player he is,” said Reach. “It was a tight match – neither of us were ever more than 1 up until the end.”
Others advancing to the quarterfinal round were Logan Harrell, 17, of Huntersville, N.C.; Jay Hwang, 16, of San Diego, Calif.; 16-year-old Shugo Imahira of Japan and 17-year-old Juan Luna of Colombia.
The remaining 16 players will play their quarterfinal matches Friday morning on the 7,159-yard, par-72 New Course. The semifinals also are scheduled for Friday on the New Course, with the 36-hole final set for Saturday, also on the New Course.
It marks the third time that the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior championships are being conducted at the same club.
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 editor of New Media. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second-Round Match-Play Results
Bedminster, N.J. – Results following Thursday’s second and third rounds of match play at the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the par-71, 7,100-yard Old Course at Trump National Golf Club:
Round of 32
Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (137) def. Jack Perry, Santa Barbara, Calif. (148), 19 holes
Yosuke Asaji, Japan (146) def. Denny McCarthy, Burtonsville, Md. (146), 3 and 2
Yaroslav Merkulov, Penfield, N.Y. (143) def. Damon Postal, Blythewood, SC (148), 1 up
Wyndham Clark, Greenwood Village, Colo. (143) def. David Pastore, Greenwich, Conn. (148), 3 and 2
Cameron Wilson, Rowayton, Conn. (153) def. Nicholas Austin, Midlothian, Va. (148), 2 and 1
Ben Itterman, Carlsbad, Calif. (147) def. Richard (Sun Il) Jung, Canada (152), 1 up
Ben Palanszki, Hungary (148) def. Will Murphy, Columbia, S.C. (153), 3 and 2
Logan Harrell, Huntersville, S.C. (145) def. Bobby Wyatt, Mobile, Ala. (147), 19 holes
Round of 32
Jay Hwang, San Diego, Calif. (148) def. Anton Arboleda, La Canada, Calif. (140), 2 and 1
Cheng-Tsung Pan, Chinese Taipei (146) def. Allan Jun, Oceanside, Calif. (151), 2 and 1
Shuugo Imahira, Japan (149) def. Emiliano Grillo, Argentina (143), 3 and 2
Marcel Puyat, Philippines (150) def. Talor Gooch, Midwest City, Okla. (152), 19 holes
Nicholas Reach, Moscow, Pa. (148) def. Colin Gunstream, Missoula, Mont. (153), 1 up
Jim Liu, Smithtown, N.Y. (145) def. Patrick Cantlay, Los Alamitos, Calif. (147), 4 and 2
Juan Luna, Colombia (142) def. Max McKay, Saint Augustine, Fla. (149), 4 and 3
Patrick Rodgers, Avon, Ind. (144) def. Ramsey Sahyoun, Reseda, Calif. (147), 5 and 4
Round of 16
Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (137) def. Yosuke Asaji, Japan (146), 2 and 1
Yaroslav Merkulov, Penfield, N.Y. (143) def. Wyndham Clark, Greenwood Village, Colo. (143), 7 and 6
Cameron Wilson, Rowayton, Conn. (153) def. Ben Itterman, Carlsbad, Calif. (147), 2 and 1
Logan Harrell, Huntersville, N.C. (145) def. Ben Palanszki, Hungary (148), 3 and 2
Round of 16
Jay Hwang, San Diego, Calif. (148) def. Cheng-Tsung Pan, Chinese Taipei (146), 19 holes
Shuugo Imahira, Japan (149) def. Marcel Puyat, Philippines (150), 3 and 2
Nicholas Reach, Moscow, Pa. (148) def. Jim Liu, Smithtown, N.Y. (145), 2 up
Juan Luna, Colombia (142) def. Patrick Rodgers, Avon, Ind. (144), 1 up
Bedminster, N.J. – Pairings and starting times for the quarterfinal round of match play on Friday at the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship being conducted at Trump National Golf Club, on the 6,998-yard, par-72 New Course. Note: Semifinal matches will also to be held Friday on the New Course. (All times EDT)
8 a.m. - Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (137) vs. Yaroslav Merkulov, Penfield, N.Y. (143)
8:10 a.m. - Cameron Wilson, Rowayton, Conn. (153) vs. Logan Harrell, Huntersville, S.C. (145)
8:20 a.m. - Jay Hwang, San Diego, Calif. (148) vs. Shuugo Imahira, Japan (149)
8:30 a.m. - Nicholas Reach, Moscow, Pa. (148) vs. Juan Luna, Colombia (142)