Will Hartman, 16, of Charlotte, N.C., shot a bogey-free 66 Monday and was one of five players at the top of the leader board on the first day of stroke play in the 75th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Daniel Island Club.
Hartman, Tommy Morrison, 18, of Dallas, Texas, and Carson Kim, 18, of Yorba Linda, Calif., were 5-under on the par-71 Beresford Creek Course. Joshua Bai, 17, of New Zealand and South Carolina native Andrew Gregory shot their 6-under-par scores on the par-72 Ralston Creek Course.
“Ball-striking carried me today,” said Hartman, who is competing in his first USGA championship. “I only missed one green. It was a lot of smart golf to the middle of the green and then make your fair share of 8-10 footers and it ended up adding itself up at the end.”
Bai, who is playing in his second U.S. Junior Amateur, canned nine birdies, including his last two holes, against three bogeys. Gregory, of Spartanburg, who made the field as a first alternate from qualifying, hit his 90-yard approach to within 4 feet on the par-5 18th to put an exclamation point on his round.
“Just kind of a smooth round,” said Gregory, who is competing in his third consecutive Junior Amateur. “I had a lot of tap-ins and didn’t really make any long birdie putts. The other kid [Max Herendeen] in my group we were going back and forth so he kept me pushing the whole way.”
Morrison birdied his last three holes on Beresford Creek in the afternoon. He got up-and-down from greenside on the par-5 eighth and hit his tee shot on the par-3 ninth, his last hole, to within 12 feet behind the flagstick.
“I was pretty patient the whole day and was waiting for something to happen,” said Morrison, who played as a freshman this past spring at the University of Texas. “Thankfully it paid off. The last three holes were gettable. I am glad I took advantage of it and put myself in a better spot for tomorrow.”
Kim strung together four birdies and an eagle in a five-hole stretch en route to a 5-under round in the morning on Beresford Creek. The highlight was when he holed a 60-degree wedge from 40 yards with his third shot on the par-5 10th.
“I was a little short left and I thought it was going to be a pretty tough spot,” said Kim, who is competing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur and has club member Ryan Propes as a caddie. “I got it up and luckily it hit the pin and went right in.”
Kim, who recently made his college commitment to Georgia Tech, jump-started his round with that same wedge when he hit it to 2 feet on No. 7 before making birdie on the par-5 eighth after his wayward tee shot found the trees to the right. He made another birdie by striking his approach to within 6 feet on No. 11.
“This is probably one of the best rounds I have played, especially in a tournament,” said Kim, who won all three of his matches for the U.S. team in the 2022 Presidents Cup. “This course is certainly not easy. The rough is really punishing and the greens are firm. I really felt like my game was solid today.”
A 6-foot par putt on Beresford’s 18th hole horseshoed out, preventing Ethan Fang from posting a bogey-free opening round. The 18-year-old from Plano, Texas, still carded a 4-under 67 with five birdies.
Colin Salema, 17, of Matthews, N.C., Zihang Qiu, 16, of the People’s Republic of China, and Max Herendeen, of Bellevue, Wash., all shot 4-under 68 at Ralston Creek.
Billy Davis, 17, of Spring Valley, Calif., is in a group of six players at 3-under 69. Davis, who made four birdies with one bogey, is the twin brother of Anna Davis, who has competed in two U.S. Women’s Opens (2022, 2023).
Rowan Sullivan, 18, of Charleston, S.C., hit the championship’s opening tee shot and went on to register a 2-under-70 on Ralston Creek. While he found several fairway bunkers during his round, he offset that misfortune with three birdies, including a 45-footer on No. 14.
“You’d rather be in a bunker than be in the rough,” said Sullivan, one of five players from the host state South Carolina in the field. “I was able to get away with some bad drives that would have gone in the rough but luckily ended up in a bunker. With these bunkers, you’re not dealing with heavy sand so it’s easy to hit those longer shots that you need to hit. It was a mix of good fortune and being able to miss in the right spots.”
Bo Carpenter, 18, of Tifton, Ga., vaulted to the lead midway through his round when he recorded a 6-under 30 on his outward nine that included an eagle on the par-4 fifth at Ralston Creek. However, Carpenter was derailed by a double-bogey 7 on No. 11 and finished with a 2-under 70.
A semifinalist in last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, Eric Lee, 18, of Fullerton, Calif., birdied his last hole, the par-3 ninth at Beresford, to shoot even-par 71.
Round 2 of stroke play will take place on Tuesday. Players will switch courses, after which the field of 264 will be reduced to the low 64 scores for match play. Should a playoff be necessary to fill the remaining spots in the bracket, it will take place on the Beresford Creek Course (holes 9, 10 and 8) on Wednesday beginning at 7 a.m. EDT. All of the matches will take place on Ralston Creek, starting at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
“It was really special. It meant a lot. I didn’t expect to care about that as much as I did. As soon as my name was called, it really hit me that this was my final junior tournament and that I was hitting the first tee shot of the U.S. Junior.” – Rowan Sullivan on hitting the first tee shot of the championship
“It’s different. It’s weird having all the tents up and volunteers around. It’s weird to see it, but the course is as good as ever, so it’s been fun.” – Matt Moloney on playing in a USGA championship on his home course
“I was a mess four years ago in that Junior. I remember scrambling around that golf course and was just supper happy to make it to match play. My mindset has changed since that point. Four years ago I was just looking to make match play. I would love to win this golf tournament.” – Tommy Morrison on what has changed since he played in the 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur
“It was a pretty chill day. I was hitting the ball well leading up to this event, so I thought if I just keep hitting fairways and hitting greens, then putts would fall and that’s exactly what happened today. It was a pretty cruisy round.” – Joshua Bai on his first round of stroke play
“For me I just have to stay focused and keep my foot on the pedal, so to speak. Don’t really get complacent. Honestly just try to put up as good a round as I can tomorrow.” – Carson Kim on his philosophy heading into the second round of stroke play
“Obviously with the rain last night, it made the course a little softer and more gettable. I had a good start, was 3-under through 10 [holes] and then just a lot of tap-in pars. Not too much stress.” – Billy Davis on his early morning start after 3.87 inches of rain soaked the two courses late in the day on Sunday
Brian DePasquale is the USGA’s senior manager of championship communications. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.