Fortlage, Lester, Young Share Day 1 Lead With 66s at Bandon
A little wind. Some sunshine mixed with fog. A career-best round and a record nine-hole score. Round 1 of the 74th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on Monday provided a bit of everything.
Grant Lester, 17, of Washington, D.C.; Erich Fortlage, 15, of Paraguay; and Harvey Young, 18, of Australia all posted matching 66s to share the Day 1 lead. Lester played at par-71 Bandon Trails, the stroke-play co-host, while Fortlage, who turns 16 on Thursday, and Young played par-72 Bandon Dunes, where match play will take place beginning on Wednesday.
It wasn’t just the leaders who provided the headlines. Jack Cantlay, 18, of Los Alamitos, Calif., the younger brother of reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay, broke the championship nine-hole scoring record with a 28 on Bandon Dunes’ front nine. Cantlay started on No. 10, and his second nine included a pair of eagle 3s on the two par 5s, a 45-foot putt on the third hole and a 65-foot chip-in on No. 9. Four over par through his first eight holes, Cantlay, an incoming freshman at Long Beach State, rallied to play his final 11 holes in 9 under par to card a 5-under 67. The previous nine-hole mark of 29 was held by Eric Bae (2014) and Yuki Moriyama (2018).
The day began with bright sunshine and temperatures reaching the low 60s on the Oregon coast. The winds, which are so much a part of the story here, gusted as high as 20 miles per hour before they were replaced by late-afternoon fog that made visibility challenging for the final groups.
“On [hole] 13, the par 5, it started to get bad and then it got worse and worse,” said Young of the fog. “I said to [my caddie] Daniel [Kitayama], it was one of the most enjoyable rounds I’ve had just because I’ve never played in anything like this before.”
Lester, who like Cantlay is competing in his first USGA championship, picked an opportune time to have a career-best day. Playing in the fifth group off No. 10 at Bandon Trails, the rising high school senior went out in 3-under 32, then added birdies on Nos. 1, 3 and 6 against a lone bogey on the 115-yard, par-3 fifth to come home in 34.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I expected,” said Lester. “My caddie did a really good job of keeping me calm the whole day. Obviously, it’s the U.S. Junior Amateur, but I can’t be thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m playing in a national championship.’ I’ve just got to treat it like any other round of golf.
“I made every putt I looked at today. My ball-striking was good, but that is not what made me shoot 5 under.”
Young, playing in the penultimate grouping off the first tee at Bandon Dunes, got off to a roaring start with birdies on his first three holes, making putts of 7, 10 and 2 feet. Another birdie on the par-5 ninth gave him a front-nine 32. As the fog worsened, Young came home in 34 to complete just the second bogey-free round on Monday (the other was by Zhengqian Li, who shot 68 at Bandon Trails).
This is Young’s first trip to the United States to play golf. He arrived on May 31 and competed in the Dogwood Invitational in Atlanta, Ga.; the International Junior Masters in East Aurora, N.Y.; and the Porter Cup in Lewiston, N.Y.; as well as a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier on June 23 at Huntsville Golf Club in Dallas, Pa., where he posted a bogey-free 71 to garner one of the two available spots.
“If I woke up and said, ‘You’d shoot even,’ I’d go back to sleep,” said Young of surpassing his expectations. “So having six [strokes] better than that is pretty good.”
Like Lester, Fortlage, who spends his summers in Florida playing on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, had a strong day on the greens, converting a 20-foot par putt on the 189-yard, par-3 12th hole. He also nearly holed a 110-yard wedge approach on the 351-yard 16th hole.
While Cantlay posted the lone 67 at Bandon Dunes, Dianchou Wu, of the People’s Republic of China, who holed out for an eagle 2 from 70 yards out on No. 8, and You Seong Choi, of the Republic of Korea, shot the same number at Bandon Trails, a Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore design that measured 6,723 yards.
Caden Pinckes, of Carlsbad, Calif., whose father, Mike, is the PGA Tour’s general manager of media, was among four players who shot 68 at Bandon Dunes, a David McLay Kidd design that measured 6,912 yards. The others were incoming Georgia Tech freshman Aidan Tran, of Fresno, Calif., who was the youngest competitor in the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes,, along with Jayden Ford, of Australia, and Pongsapak Laopakdee, of Thailand.
Nicholas Gross, of Downington, Pa., a 2018 Drive, Chip & Putt age-group finalist, joined Li and Caleb Surratt, of Indian Trail, N.C., in posting 68s at Bandon Trails.
Round 2 of stroke play will take place on Tuesday. Players will switch courses, after which the field of 264 will be trimmed to the low 64 scorers for match play. Should a playoff be necessary to fill the remaining spots in the draw, it will take place on Bandon Trails (holes 1, 2 and 18) on Wednesday beginning at 7:15 a.m. PDT. All of the matches will take place on Bandon Dunes, starting at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
“I think that’s the first time I have broken 30. There’s a first time for everything, I guess. It’s just another round of golf, sometimes you play good and sometimes you play bad. Today I played good.” – Jack Cantlay on his 5-under 67 that included a championship-record nine of 28
“You don’t get fog. It plays pretty similar, hard and fast. The greens are a little bit softer and slower.” – first-round co-leader Harvey Young when asked to compare his home club, Royal Melbourne in Australia, to Bandon Dunes
“During my practice rounds, it just didn’t feel like I was playing golf out there. I hit a driver short of a par 3. I cruise at like 117 miles per hour [with my] clubhead speed. I don’t normally hit drivers into par 3s, let alone leave them short. I was a little scared just because I thought I would have two tough days ahead of me, but the wind calmed down.” – Grant Lester on playing links golf for the first time
“I play a lot of links in China, but the greens are not like this. They are pretty soft. But the winds are strong, too. With super-strong winds you have to be an artist, you can’t be a scientist. You have play golf like art, especially the putting part [of the game].” Dianchou Wu
“It’s my first time in Oregon. Usually my home course [in California] has no wind. I had to make adjustments with my putting speed and hitting it lower.” – You Seong Choi
“I hit some bad golf shots at the wrong time. I battled all day and I hit some great shots coming in. I missed a short eagle putt on 16 and on 18, I had 10 feet for par and three-putted.” – defending champion Nicholas Dunlap on his topsy-turvy round of 1-under 70 at Bandon Trails
“I have heard this is the closest thing to Scotland. It’s a cool experience. The views are different, and the wind is much more exposed on a lot of the holes. Really every single shot out here involves the wind. You can’t find fairways like this anywhere in the country.” – Caleb Surratt
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.