Caleb Surratt entered the 2022 competitive golf season with a completely new outlook. His focus was on rest, nutrition and taking care of his body. That approach has been paying off in a major way for the 18-year-old from Indian Trail, N.C.
Surratt, an incoming University of Tennessee freshman, continued his torrid play on Wednesday in the Round of 64 of the 74th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Surratt hardly broke a sweat in producing the largest margin of victory in Day 1 of match play on the 7,078-yard Bandon Dunes layout, an 8-and-7 triumph over Ismael Encinas, of Mexico. It also was the largest Round-of-64 win in the championship since 2001 when Jessie Mudd defeated Robby Walizer at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas.
Just how well has Surratt, now No. 19 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, been playing?
Since tying for 16th in the Jones Cup Invitational at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga., in early February, he hasn’t finished worse than ninth in nine subsequent starts. That includes victories in the prestigious Junior Invitational at Sage Valley and Terra Cotta Invitational, a tie for second in last week’s Pacific Coast Amateur in Portland, Ore., solo third at the Northeast Amateur in Rhode Island, fourth at the Southern Amateur at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga., and a tie for fourth at the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Pa.
“This year, I felt like I've been taking a lot more effort into rest,” said Surratt, who currently leads the Elite Amateur Series, a seven-event points list from several elite U.S. competitions that concludes with next month’s Western Amateur and awards the top five players an exemption into the U.S. Amateur at The Ridgewood Country Club (Surratt is already in the field). “That's something that has become more of a factor, and I've been trying to [improve] because it's not always just about working out and stuff. It's more about are you 100 percent [ready] to go?”
Surratt was more than ready against Encinas, not losing a single hole and playing 5-under golf, with the usual match-play concessions. On the par-5 ninth, his approach from 231 yards stopped 5 feet from the hole for a winning eagle. That put him 6 up at the turn and the match ended two holes later.
Conditions on Wednesday were as calm as they’ve been all week. Some fog rolled through but only for a brief moment as the day featured sunshine, light winds and temperatures that were in the upper 50s.
“Today was as easy as it gets,” said Christiaan Maas, of South Africa, a 5-and-4 winner on Wednesday. “There was no wind, not at all. A lot of the holes were playing a lot shorter and a lot different than [they were] playing in stroke play. That was fun to see.”
Luke Potter, 18, of Encinitas, Calif., a semifinalist last year, said he would have preferred gustier winds to make conditions more challenging because he’s an admitted grinder. But the incoming Arizona State freshman built a 4-up lead through nine before holding off a strong challenge from Liam Pasternak, of Morristown, N.J., 2 and 1. Florida State incoming freshman Luke Clanton, 18, of Miami Lakes, Fla., another semifinalist from The Country Club of North Carolina, raced out to a 4-up lead through five en route to a 7-and-5 win over Zhengqian Li, 15, of the People’s Republic of China.
“I wouldn't say [it] is ever easy,” said Clanton, the winner of the 2022 North & South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2. “But he's a good kid. He's young, 15 years old. When I was 14, I got my bootie slapped, 6 and 4. I just played really solid golf today. I didn't really do much wrong, and he had a couple mistakes, and I took advantage of it.”
Defending champion Nicholas Dunlap, 18, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., overcame an early 2-down deficit to defeat Collin Hodgkinson, of Beaverton, Ore., the only player from the host state to qualify for match play, 2 and 1. The University of Alabama incoming freshman played the equivalent of 4-under-par golf over the 17 holes.
Jack Cantlay, 18, of Los Alamitos, Calif., the younger brother of reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay, defeated fellow Southern Californian Connor Williams, of Escondido, 4 and 3. Down one hole at the turn, the incoming Long Beach State freshman won five of the next six holes, a stretch that included three birdies.
The day also went well for medalist and top seed Keaton Vo, 18, of Austin, Texas. With the match tied on the 11th tee, the incoming University of Texas freshman won four of the last five holes of the match. But No. 2 seed Jayden Ford, 17, of New Zealand, was eliminated by Oscar Bach, 15, of Norway, 3 and 2. Bach had survived an 11-for-5 playoff earlier in the day just to qualify for match play.
The Round of 32 will commence at 7 a.m. PDT, followed by the Round of 16 at 1:15 p.m. Friday’s quarterfinal matches are scheduled for 7 a.m., with the semifinals to follow at 1:08 p.m. The 36-hole final on Saturday will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue at 1:15 p.m. Golf Channel will broadcast the semifinals live from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT as well as Saturday’s championship match at the same time.
“Sometimes when you're playing in a massive stroke-play [competition] and you're playing in no wind … [players] start thinking about what's fair and what's not fair. I didn't really think too much about it just because I'm just playing the guy next to me. It doesn't matter what the guy in the group behind me shoots. I wasn't really concerned with it. I knew we were both playing the same conditions, and it was just going to be who handled it the best.” – Caleb Surratt on the calm conditions
“I haven't played well recently, but lately I’ve kind of figured some stuff out and I’m swinging it really well. But [it was] good to get the juices flowing again.” – defending champion Nicholas Dunlap on his 2-and-1 victory
“It's definitely weird. I've had a lot of late tee times this week. But luckily, it's so pretty out here, you can just get caught up staring at the beach or whatever, so time goes by pretty fast. But I kept myself busy today.” – medalist and top seed Keaton Vo on having the final tee time for the Round of 64
“Everyone was texting me and … asking me what happened. I really just said nothing. It was just one bad shot and [it] put me a little bit behind. I knew my game was there and it's been there all summer. When it came back on the front nine, shot 5 under, I kind of knew, okay, let's just get into a good seed now.” – Luke Clanton on his second-round 68 at Bandon Dunes to get into match play after an opening 74
“Really relieved. I haven't felt that much pressure in a while. So it was good fun.” – Shubham Jaglan after closing with 4 straight birdies in a 1-up, come-from-behind win
“That's great for someone who hasn't played a USGA championship before and being on the biggest stage and being able to do that after that kind of start (4 over through eight holes). I thought that showed a lot of character.” – reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and 2011 U.S. Amateur runner-up Patrick Cantlay on his younger brother, Jack, shooting a U.S. Junior Amateur record 9-hole score of 28 in Round 1 of stroke play
“I've always been a big fan of Jordan Spieth. I watched a lot of golf in 2015, 2016. I know he had a bad period [from] 2018-2020, so I've always liked him a lot. And Tiger [Woods], of course, and Rory [McIlroy]. Those were probably my three. I've always liked the way Jordan putts. You can see I kind of hold my grip the same way because I've always tried to look like him.” – Norway’s Oscar Bach when asked who he idolized growing up
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.