Keaton Vo didn’t have a target score when he teed off for his second round of stroke play on Tuesday at the 74th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. But when the 18-year-old from Austin, Texas, rolled in a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth hole at Bandon Dunes, his score added up to a course-record-matching 7-under-par 65.
Vo’s 36-hole total of 9-under 134 – he posted a 69 in Monday’s first round at stroke-play co-host Bandon Trails – was good enough to earn medalist honors, two strokes better than Jayden Ford, 18, of New Zealand, and first-round co-leader Grant Lester, 17, of Washington, D.C.
The start of the second round was delayed 2½ hours due to fog that caused several holes to be visually unplayable.
Once play commenced, Vo, an incoming University of Texas freshman, took full advantage of the pleasant conditions – winds in the low teens and bright sunshine – to dominate the course’s par 3s and par 5s, playing them in a combined 7 under par, including an eagle on the par-5 18th, his ninth of the day on the 6,912-yard David McLay Kidd layout.
Two bogeys spoiled Vo’s chance to surpass the 65 registered by James Piot, the 2021 U.S. Amateur champion, during the 2020 U.S. Amateur.
“It was a great round,” said Vo, who helped Anderson High to the Texas Class 5A title this year, the first state championship of any sport for an Austin district school in 19 years. “It wasn’t perfect golf. My goal was just to try and get a good seed coming into match play. But I hit the ball much better than I did yesterday. I missed in the right spots and converted my putts, so it was a really fun round all around.”
Ford, who is half Samoan and briefly played rugby before turning to competitive golf, backed up his 68 at Bandon Dunes on Monday with a 3-under 68 on Bandon Trails, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design that measured 6,723 yards. His first visit to the United States in four years brought him to the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2, where he lost to eventual runner-up Tommy Morrison in the first round, as well as the Southern Amateur and Monroe Invitational.
Lester, competing in his first USGA championship, followed a first-round 66 at Bandon Trails with a 70 at Bandon Dunes, which included six birdies against four bogeys.
Four players finished at 6-under 137, including Jack Cantlay, of Los Alamitos, Calif., the younger brother of 2020-21 PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay. University of Washington incoming freshman Joshua Koo, of Cerritos, Calif., Dianchao Wu, of the People’s Republic of China, and Nicholas Gross, of Downington, Pa., also posted 137.
Defending champion Nick Dunlap, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., made match-play after posting a 71 at Bandon Dunes for a 36-hole total of 141. Last year’s semifinalists, Luke Potter, of Encinitas, Calif., and Luke Clanton, of Miami Lakes, Fla., also qualified with totals of 138 and 142, respectively. Clanton had a 68 at Bandon Dunes on Tuesday.
The cut for match play came at 1-over-par 144. Eleven players will play off for the last five spots in the match-play draw on Wednesday morning.
The 11-for-5 playoff for the last spots in the draw is scheduled to take place at Bandon Trails on Wednesday morning at 8 PDT. The first Round-of-64 match will commence at 9:30 a.m.
“I really enjoy it. It suits my game really well. I’m from Texas and we [hit] a lot of low balls and we know how to flight the ball [down] well. If I can just keep the putter rolling this week, I should be in a good spot.” – Keaton Vo on playing links golf
“I thought it would be good to get over here through the summer. Obviously, it is winter back home [in New Zealand] so there is not much going on. [I wanted to] come here and get some exposure and get more experience playing international golf.” – Jayden Ford
“He is a high school coach at a local school where I am from [in Southern California]. I didn’t know he was a [U.S. Junior Amateur] runner-up but he told me earlier this week that he was, and I was like, ‘Wow that is pretty cool’. It’s great to have somebody [who] has had experience in an event like this.” – Jack Cantlay on his caddie, John Mahon, the 1983 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up
“A lot of big momentum swings in match play. It’s almost like college basketball where one big shot can turn the course of an entire match.” – Luke Potter on his love for the head-to-head format
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.