74th U.S. Junior Amateur: 3 Things to Know, Match Play
Despite some challenges from Mother Nature – primarily fog – the two stroke-play rounds of the 74th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort are officially in the books. Once the 11-for-5 playoff is completed, 64 of the 264 competitors who started the championship will try to survive six rounds of match play to join legendary champions such as Johnny Miller, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, David Duval and Scottie Scheffler. The champion also earns an exemption into next year’s U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club.
Whether you are a No. 1 seed or No. 64, the slate is wiped clean. Everyone starts at Ground Zero at Bandon Dunes. Each round brings a new head-to-head battle against an opponent and the David McLay Kidd design that was the first layout to open at the resort, in 1999.
The first two days produced some excellent results and there’s little doubt that the next four days of match play, ending with Saturday’s 36-hole final, will feature similar excitement and drama. Golf Channel will broadcast the semifinals live on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT and the same time for Saturday’s championship match.
Here are 3 Things to Know for match play:
At any USGA championship, it’s an honor to be medalist. It means besting a field of talented players over 36 holes. But with the prize comes added pressure. Everyone expects the great performance from stroke play to carry over to match play.
However, since 2000, only two stroke-play medalists have gone on to hoist the trophy: Texans Matthew Rosenfeld (2000 at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore.) and Jordan Spieth (2009 at Trump National in Bedminster, N.J.), with the latter the only one to do so since the USGA switched to a 36-hole final in 2005.
The Junior Amateur medalist championship drought is one of the longest among the stable of USGA amateur competitions. Only the U.S. Women’s Amateur (Amanda Blumenherst, 2008) and U.S. Amateur (Ryan Moore, 2004) have had longer droughts.
Incoming University of Texas freshman Keaton Vo, of Austin, Texas, who shot 9-under 134, will have the opportunity to end that skein starting on Wednesday.
Coming off a semifinal performance in 2021 at The Country Club of North Carolina and currently No. 100 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, Luke Potter certainly arrived at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort with impressive credentials. But if there’s such a thing as playing under the radar, the 18-year-old from Encinitas, Calif., is Exhibit A.
Potter, an incoming Arizona State freshman, hasn’t received as much attention as another Luke – Clanton – also a 2021 semifinalist who won this year’s North & South, defending champion Nicholas Dunlap, Jack Cantlay and Caleb Surratt, who edged Potter in this year’s Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.
Potter, however, topped most of the high-profile competitors during stroke play, posting a pair of 69s at Bandon Trails/Bandon Dunes to easily qualify for match play, a format he loves. Besides his 2021 semifinal run, he advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2021 Western Amateur, defeating James Piot in the Round of 16 two weeks before he claimed the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club.
In 2020, he edged his U.S. Amateur Four-Ball partner and 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Preston Summerhays by two strokes to win the Maridoe Amateur in Texas. He also learned from a first-round defeat at this year’s California Amateur.
But more importantly, he has plenty of experience with links golf. Potter is the only player in this field to have played in the all-exempt U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes in 2020 (missed cut). Last year, he and partner Summerhays advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Chambers Bay, a course with similar playing characteristics to Bandon Dunes with firm, fescue fairways.
“I think I have a bit of an advantage knowing how to flight my ball around here,” said Potter. “After I finished [the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur], I had to step back and say that was tiring. I need to really conserve my energy. [But] if I keep playing the way I am, I like my chances.”
When the USGA expanded the Junior Amateur field from 156 to 264, it was an opportunity for more players to compete in the championship, specifically international golfers. With exemptions now given to the top 85 age-eligible points leaders in the WAGR, it opened the door for global standouts to avoid having to take a long flight to the States to attempt to qualify.
One such player is University of Texas incoming freshman Christiaan Maas from South Africa. The 18-year-old came into the week as the world No. 25 and fresh off winning this year’s English Amateur, the biggest event he had played in prior to this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur. Maas backed up his lofty ranking in stroke play by posting a 36-hole total of 4-under 139.
Maas is hoping to become just the fourth international player to win the U.S. Junior Amateur, following Min Woo Lee (2016), of Australia, and Koreans Sihwan Kim (2004) and Terry Noe (1994).
He isn’t the only international standout to qualify for match play. Wenyi Ding, of the People’s Republic of China, is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 20. Jayden Ford (New Zealand), Shubham Jaglan (India), Dianchao Wu (China), Harvey Young (Australia), Jose Luis Ballester (Spain), Zhengqian Li (China) and Canadians JeanPhilippe Parr and Hunter Thomson all were in the top 20 following stroke play. Even a golfer from Pakistan (Omar Khalid Hussain) qualified for match play.
Yes, great golf is being played in every corner of the world.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.