The U.S. Junior Amateur returns to the Lowcountry for the 75th edition of the championship. But since this event’s youthful group of golfers last played in South Carolina eight years ago the field has expanded to 264 players, the age limit was raised to 18, and a U.S. Open exemption now goes to the champion.
South Carolina is hosting the Junior Amateur for the fourth time, but this will be the first USGA championship at Daniel Island Club, a 4,000-acre property that is just north of historic downtown Charleston between the Cooper and Wando Rivers.
Daniel Island Club’s Ralston Creek Course, which was designed by Rees Jones, will be set up as a 7,367-yard, par-72 layout and will be used for match play and stroke play. The Tom Fazio-designed Beresford Creek Course will serve as the stroke-play co-host and will play to 7,039 yards and a par 71.
The second-highest total in championship history (4,261) filed entries to compete on the two courses that weave through a landscape of saltwater marsh, tidal creeks and waterways. But which player will place his name on a trophy that includes U.S. Open champions Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Johnny Miller and major champions Scottie Scheffler and David Duval? Two rounds of stroke play and six rounds of match play will make that determination.
Here are 3 Things to Know going into the competition:
A USGA tradition is to have local players hit the first ball at a championship. Rowan Sullivan, of Charleston, will start from the first tee at Ralston Creek at 7 a.m. EDT in Monday’s first round of stroke play. Matt Moloney, of Daniel Island, will begin his championship from the first tee at Beresford Creek at 7:15 a.m. EDT. Sullivan, who qualified at Daniel Island Club on June 5, won the 2022 Class 3A independent state high championship while playing at Porter-Guad School. Moloney, a club member, helped Bishop England High capture its ninth state title when he tied for seventh individually in the 2A classification.
Three other South Carolina natives are competing. Davis Neal, of North Augusta, outdueled Tip Price, of Greenville, in a playoff to win this year’s Class 4A state high school crown. Neal’s performance provided North Augusta High with its first championship in 40 years. Price is one of four players here at Daniel Island Club who has triumphed in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, winning at Augusta National in 2018 in the age 10-11 division. Andrew Gregory, of Spartanburg, will play in his third consecutive Junior Amateur and was one of the last players added to the field.
Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, will be on full display at the U.S. Junior Amateur and some of their golf roots were planted by their fathers. Luke Beckman, of San Antonio, Texas, is the son of Cameron, who has played in two U.S. Opens and three U.S. Senior Opens, and was three-time winner on the PGA Tour.
Jonathan Byrd won five PGA Tour events, played in five U.S. Opens and was a member of the 1999 USA Walker Cup Team. He reached the Round of 32 in the 1995 Junior Amateur and now his son, Jackson, will have the same opportunity to play in this championship. The 16-year-old from St. Simons Island, Ga., also has another notable relative. His uncle, Jordan, is the head men’s golf coach at Clemson University following a fine amateur career.
Gunnar Green, of Kissimmee, Fla., is the son of a longtime PGA Tour caddie. His father, Damon, worked with two-time major champion Zach Johnson and has competed in three U.S. Senior Opens. Xunshu Zhou competed as a professional years before his son, Yanhan, became the youngest winner (age 14) on the China Tour last December.
Wenyi Ding, of the People’s Republic of China, became the fifth international U.S. Junior Amateur champion last year. In 2023, there are 33 countries represented in the competition, including seven players who in the top 150 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR® as of July 19.
TK Chantananuwat, of Thailand, is the highest-ranked player at No. 25. TK (first name is Ratchanon) captured the 2022 Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup to become the fifth amateur and first since 2009 to win on the Asian Tour. A semifinalist in this year’s Amateur Championship at Hillside in England, he is already exempt into next month’s U.S. Amateur.
Min Woo Lee, an Australian who tied for fifth in this year’s U.S. Open, was the last international winner (2016) prior to Ding’s victory at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. The other three champions came from the Republic of Korea – Terry Noe (1994), Sihwan Kim (2004) and Andy Hyeon Bo Shim (2012).
Although eligible, Ding decided not to defend his title this year.
Brian DePasquale is a senior manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.