The audacity of youth is on full display in the 123rd U.S. Amateur Championship. In Round 2 of stroke play on Tuesday morning, a pair of 16-year-olds in the same group, Bowen Mauss and Preston Stout, matched 7-under-par rounds of 65 at Colorado Golf Club (CGC), the stroke-play co-host for the championship. Not to be outdone, two groups later, another 16-year-old named Blades Brown, from Nashville, Tenn., did them one better with an 8-under 64, matching the course record for CGC and earning a share of medalist honors.
Brown, who turned 16 in May, joined Round 1 solo leader Sampson Zheng, 22, of the People’s Republic of China; and Jackson Buchanan, 21, of Dacula, Ga., as co-medalists at 7-under-par 136, thus becoming the youngest co-medalist in championship history. The rising sophomore at Brentwood Academy in Nashville and a two-time state high school champion, eclipses Bob Jones, who was 18 when he earned co-medalist honors in the 1920 U.S. Amateur at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Harbor, N.Y.
Brown sat at 1 over par after five holes at CGC on Tuesday, but he jump-started his run to sharing the medal with four birdies and an eagle in his next seven holes, holing a 58-degree wedge for eagle on the 311-yard, par-4 eighth. He wrapped up his round with an eagle-birdie-birdie flourish to tie the competitive course record at CGC, by Petter Mikalsen, who was playing for the University of Denver in a 2016 event.
“I was told the U.S. Am is like one level down from the U.S. Open,” said Brown. “To be able to shoot 8 under here is awesome. It really gives me confidence in my game and my practice.”
Brown, who is playing in his first U.S. Amateur, is the son of Rhonda (Blades) Brown, who played basketball at Vanderbilt University and was the first pick in the 1998 WNBA expansion draft. She coaches the Brentwood Academy girls’ basketball team. Brown teamed with Jackson Herrington, of Dickson, Tenn., to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in May at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Club.
Zheng, who won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball with fellow rising University of California senior Aaron Du, followed up his 66 on Monday with a 1-under 70 at Cherry Hills on Tuesday. Buchanan, a rising junior at the University of Illinois, followed up a 69 at Cherry Hills Country Club on Monday with a 67 at CGC that featured three consecutive birdies to finish. Cherry Hills, a William Flynn design that is celebrating its 100th anniversary, is hosting its third U.S. Amateur and its 10th USGA championship, including three U.S. Opens.
Stout, of Dallas, Texas, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur, his first USGA championship, set up his stunning 65 with a bogey-free, 6-under 30 on his inward nine. Mauss, of Draper, Utah, had eight birdies and one bogey on the way to his 65. Both got into the match-play bracket, Stout with a 2-under 141 total, and Mauss at even-par 143.
Four players – Piercen Hunt, of Canada; Maxwell Ford, of Peachtree Corners, Ga.; Caleb Surratt, of Indian Trail, N.C., the runner-up in the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur; and Andi Xu, of the People’s Republic of China, finished one stroke back of the leading trio at 6-under 137. Hunt, a rising senior at the University of Illinois, had the best score of the day at Cherry Hills, a 5-under 66. Ford was joined in the match-play bracket by his twin brother, David, who shot a 4-under 68 on Tuesday at CGC for a 2-under 141 total.
Connor Jones, of Denver, Colo., a fifth-year senior at Colorado State, shot 70 at Cherry Hills on Tuesday to tie for eighth in stroke play with Nicholas Gross, of Downingtown, Pa., at 5-under 138.
The cut fell at even-par 143, with exactly 64 players making it, meaning that no playoff was needed to determine the last spots in the bracket. It’s the first time since 2000 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., that no playoff was needed.
The Round of 64 will begin at 9 a.m. MDT. Two rounds of match play will be played on Thursday, with the quarterfinals on Friday, the semifinals on Saturday, and the 36-hole final on Sunday.
Blades Brown began Round 2 in a tie for 72nd place after his 1-over round of 72 at Cherry Hills. His eight-stroke improvement pales in comparison to Bowen Mauss, who improved by 13 strokes (78-65) between Rounds 1 and 2. After his 7-over round at Cherry Hills on Monday, Mauss was tied for 231st.
Four mid-amateurs made the cut for match play, all at even-par 143. They were 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matthew McClean, 30, of Northern Ireland; Colin Prater, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colo., Grant Smith, 25, of West Des Moines, Iowa; and Benton Weinberg, 25, of Potomac, Md.
The three players to tie for medalist is tied for the second-most in U.S. Amateur history, behind the four players last year at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. The three co-medalists had occurred on three previous occasions, in 1909, 1919 and 1931.
The match-play cut at even par ties for the lowest ever, in 2011, when the cut was even-par 142 at Erin Hills and Blue Mound Golf & Country Club in Erin, Wis.
“The greens were soft enough early this morning that I could take advantage of the front nine. There were a couple of holes where I was a little out of position on the back nine, but I scrambled well. To go around here clean, if you had told me at the start of the day that I was going to do that, I’d take it for sure.” – Piercen Hunt, on his bogey-free, 5-under 66 at Cherry Hills
“My expectations were not super high. I just knew it would be a really cool experience and I wanted to make the most out of it and hopefully make match play. That was probably my best round ever, especially in these circumstances.” – Bowen Mauss, on his 7-under 65
“It’s not exactly a secret that making the Walker Cup is a goal and something that I’ve really tried to push myself to be chosen for. It’s an honor to represent your country and, whether I get in or not, I’ve given myself a good fighting chance. I think it shows the committee that even after making a 10, and when I could have thrown in the towel, that I worked my tail off.” – Stewart Hagestad, whose 67 on Tuesday bettered his Monday score by 10 (he made a 10 on the par-5 5th hole on Monday at CGC)
“It was really good to get some experience under pressure. I was sort of trying to push myself to hopefully win medalist. I was thinking coming down the stretch how nice it is to have some pressure on me to prepare me for [match play].” – Maxwell Ford, who made match play for the first time in three tries in the U.S. Amateur
“I hit it really good yesterday, I was just poor around the greens. I don’t think I made a putt outside 4 feet. So I knew I was swinging it good and I was hitting the ball good enough to have a low score. I just needed to get the putter going and that’s what I did today. I just tried to focus more on my feel and speed. That was the biggest difference for me.” – Preston Stout, on his 11-stroke improvement (76-65) from Monday
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.