They are high school teammates, best friends, fellow club members and residents of the same San Diego-area neighborhood. When asked, Luke Potter and Caden Pinckes estimated that they have played “in the thousands” of rounds together.
No previous match was bigger than the one they played on a breezy Thursday afternoon on the southwest Oregon coast. Potter, 18, of Encinitas, Calif., rolled past his Classical Academy teammate, 7 and 5, in the Round of 16 of the 74th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
A semifinalist in the 2021 championship at The Country Club of North Carolina who has signed to play for Arizona State, Potter advanced to a quarterfinal showdown on Friday against Wenyi Ding, 17, of the People’s Republic of China. Ding, No. 20 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, defeated left-hander John Broderick, of Wellesley, Mass., 5 and 3.
RELATED CONTENT: Meet the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur Quarterfinalists
Broderick, a Vanderbilt signee, had eliminated the medalist and top seed, Keaton Vo, of Austin, Texas, 1 up, in the Round of 32 earlier on Thursday.
Also advancing to the final eight are Eric Lee, 17, of Fullerton, Calif.; Jeffrey Guan, 18, of Australia; Caleb Surratt, 18, of Indian Trail, N.C.; Preston Stout, 18, of Dallas, Texas; Luke Clanton, 18, of Miami Lakes, Fla.; and defending champion Nicholas Dunlap, 18, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.
A day after calm conditions at Bandon Dunes, Thursday saw a return of wind gusts in the 20-mph range and temperatures in the 50s.
This was great news for Potter, who said after his Round-of-64 win on Wednesday that he relishes the challenge that links golf brings. The only player in this U.S. Junior Amateur field who competed in the 2020 U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes, Potter also reached the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball with partner and 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Preston Summerhays at Chambers Bay, a venue in University Place, Wash., that has similar playing characteristics to Bandon Dunes.
Pinckes, 17, a rising senior, plays plenty of friendly matches with Potter at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, their home course. Potter never let his pal breathe in this one, winning No. 1 with a birdie, then earning wins on Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 to grab a 7-up advantage at the turn.
“That was tough,” said Pinckes. “I got my teeth kicked in.”
Said Potter, who played 4-under golf on the front nine: “We practice together every day. We're very competitive on and off the course. Anytime you get a chance to tee it up with him at a tournament, it's going to be a good time, but at the same time you've got to stay focused on what you're doing, and it's just another opponent.”
In another matchup of Southern Californians, Lee, a Sunny Hills rising senior who plans to play for the University of California-Berkeley in 2023, knocked out incoming Long Beach State freshman and Servite High grad Jack Cantlay, of Los Alamitos, Calif., 2 and 1. The winner of the 2021 American Junior Golf Association’s Tournament of Champions and runner-up in the 2021 Junior PGA Championship, Lee never trailed in beating the younger brother of reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay.
Surratt, No. 19 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, continued his impressive play with a 7-and-5 win over Ethan Fang, of Plano, Texas. He has played just 41 holes in three matches. Surratt’s quarterfinal opponent will be Stout, a 3-and-2 winner over Joshua Koo, of Cerritos, Calif. Stout could join an impressive list of seven Texans to have won the U.S. Junior since 1999, a group that includes major champions Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler.
Clanton, a 2021 semifinalist who is headed to Florida State in the fall, twice rallied from 2-down deficits to beat Johnnie Clark, of Mesa, Ariz., 3 and 1. The 2022 North & South Amateur champion next faces University of Alabama incoming freshman Dunlap, the defending champion, in the last of the four quarterfinal matches. Dunlap defeated William Love, of Atlanta, Ga., 1 up. Love had a chance to force extra holes for a second consecutive match, but lipped out a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18. Earlier in the day, Love went 21 holes to defeat Christiaan Maas, of South Africa.
The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be contested on Friday on Bandon Dunes, with the first quarterfinal match starting at 7 a.m. PDT. The two semifinal matches are scheduled for 1:08 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. Saturday’s 36-hole final is set for 7:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Golf Channel will broadcast live from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT on Friday and Saturday. Spectators are encouraged to attend, and admission is free.
“It's fun when it's windy enough to make it hard, but once you're moving around when you're putting, it makes it tough. But that's what I signed up for.” – quarterfinalist Luke Potter
“I am really excited. The target for me this week was to make the top 64 and then focus on every match if I did make it. I did just that today.” – two-time Australian Junior champion Jeffrey Guan on being among the final eight at Bandon Dunes
“It was a fun match today. He started making a comeback [on the second nine], and not going to lie, I got pretty nervous. But I held through. I just knew if I just made the same score as him coming down the stretch, I would end up beating him, so that's what I did.” – Eric Lee on beating Jack Cantlay
“I walked out after he had come off 18 [from his Round-of-32 win], and I said, all right, I'm not your friend for the next five hours, and he kind of smiled and said, ‘OK.’ It's fun to play against somebody that you know. He's a great competitor.” – Cantlay on facing Lee
“You have to learn how to flight the ball and hit it low in Texas. It's a little firmer out here, so you can just hit a lot of low shots and just have them run up on the green. Yeah, it definitely helps a lot.” – quarterfinalist Preston Stout on having experience in windy conditions in the Lone Star State
“It being my first and last U.S. Junior it was a great event. Definitely upset I couldn't pull off this win, but John [Broderick] played great. I had chances coming down the stretch and just didn't convert my putts. I can't be upset with that. Nonetheless, it was a super fun week and great experience.” – medalist Keaton Vo after his loss in the Round of 32
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.