Tommy Morrison, 18, of Dallas, Texas, won two matches Thursday and became the first medalist in six years to earn a spot in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. The 75th edition is being played at the par-72, 7,325-yard Daniel Island Club (Ralston Creek Course).
Morrison, who is competing in his second U.S. Junior Amateur after reaching the first round of match play as 14-year-old in 2019, defeated Torger Ohe, 16, of Edina, Minn., 3 and 2. In his morning Round-of-32 match, Morrison held off Chi Chun Chen, 18, of Chinese Taipei, 1 up.
“I just stayed steady, especially this afternoon,” said Morrison, who played as a freshman last spring for the University of Texas after enrolling in January. “I gave myself a lot of looks and hit enough fairways to put pressure on. That's a big deal in match play.”
Morrison, who was bogey-free in his second match of the day, faces Will Hartman, 16, of Charlotte, N.C., in the quarterfinals on Friday morning at 6:45. Hartman, the No. 8 seed who won his state’s Class 4A high school championship in 2022, rallied to defeat Carson Looney 16, of Bethesda, Md., 2 and 1. He hit the flagstick with his approach on the match’s final hole and made the 4-foot birdie putt to advance. Earlier in the day he toppled Jay Leng Jr., 17, of San Diego, Calif., 4 and 3.
“It feels awesome, said Hartman about being a quarterfinalist. “I haven't really thought about it like that, to be honest. It's just try and keep going, keep winning some matches, and hopefully it'll all work out.”
The other six quarterfinalists are Rowan Sullivan, 18, of Charleston, S.C.; Bryan Kim, 18, of Brookeville, Md.; Billy Davis, 17, of Spring Valley, Calif.; Joshua Bai, 17, of New Zealand, Zeqian Fang, 18, of the People’s Republic of China; and Edan Cui, 16, of Stanford, Calif.
At 6-foot-9, Morrison, who played with ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback and now CBS lead NFL analyst Tony Romo in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Club in May, combined his usual length off the tee with some strong lag putting in the afternoon. He two-putted for par from 70 feet to halve the first hole and later converted a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 6 to stay two holes ahead. He moved out to a 3-up lead on the par-3 12th by drilling a 6-iron to within 10 feet for a conceded birdie. In the morning, he used that same club to hit a 222-yard second shot to the front of the green on the par-5 18th to close out his opponent.
“I think that's been an advantage in these matches,” said Morrison, the No. 120 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR®. “I've had a little more length than everybody I've played with, and I've hit enough fairways, especially on the par-5s, to where it puts a lot of pressure on [my opponent]. My driver is in a great spot, and it feels great.”
Sullivan won the battle of future college roommates with his 2-up decision over Chase Nevins, 18, of Great Falls, Va. Both players are set to enroll at Vanderbilt University next month. The hometown favorite rallied to reach the quarterfinals with winning pars on the last three holes.
“It was a bit of a pillow fight the first couple holes and I made some mistakes and gave up some easy wins to him,” said Sullivan, who was his state’s top junior two years ago. “And then on the back I think both of us just realized how tired we were, and it was just kind of like giving it all we could.”
Kim finished off both of his matches in dramatic style. He chipped in from 45 feet for birdie to post a 3-and-2 victory over Chase Kyes, 17, of Birmingham, Mich., in the Round of 16, and made an 8-foot birdie putt during a brief period of rain to defeat Tyler Watts, 15, of Huntsville, Ala., 1 up, in the second round of match play.
“I kind of caught it a little thin and it was coming by a little hot and then just hit the pin and dropped,” said Kim, who is competing in his third U.S. Junior Amateur but made match play for the first time. “That was exciting for sure. Got my heart rate up.”
Californians Davis and Cui also had some thrills in their Round-of-16 matches. Davis, the twin brother of two-time U.S. Women’s Open competitor and 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Anna Davis, converted a 20-yard birdie chip on No. 16 en route to a 2-and-1 triumph over Bryson Hughes, 16, of St. Johns, Fla. Cui made an uphill 12-foot birdie putt to get past Pongsapak Laopakee, 18, of Thailand, in 21 holes.
“I knew there was a little bit of luck in that, but I mean, to go this far and to be able to say I'm like top eight right now in the U.S. Junior, that's incredible,” said Cui, who advanced to match play in his first Junior Amateur last year.
Eight matches in the Round of 32 went to the last hole and beyond. Joseph Buttress, 17, of Australia, recorded a winning par on the 22nd hole, the par-3 fourth, and Bai sank a 10-birdie putt on the 21st hole in his match. The two would meet in the next round with Bai coming alive on the inward nine for a 2-and-1 victory.
The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will take place on Friday on Ralston Creek Course, with the first quarterfinal at 6:45 a.m. EDT. The two semifinal matches are scheduled for noon and 12:15 p.m. Saturday’s 36-hole final will begin at 8 a.m. and continue at approximately 1:30 p.m. Golf Channel will broadcast the semifinal round live from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT and Saturday’s championship match from 3 to 5 p.m. Spectators are encouraged to attend, and admission is free.
“Everybody around me at the university has taught me to compartmentalize better. It's taught me to get in a routine and stay in a routine, and that's helped me in this championship in terms of preparation and doing the things I need to do. Maybe some of the stuff that I didn't do in junior golf that I learned in college through my team that has really helped me in a big way this week.” – Tommy Morrison on how his first college semester has helped him
“It gets a little windy out here, and that calculation is really helpful. I mean, the release of the greens, like normally in California it's super wet [and] damp, but here it's super different. Yeah, he's been essential. He's worked with me since I was like seven or eight, and without him, my game wouldn't be here.” – Edan Cui on his caddie Maro Buenrostro, who has worked on the PGA Tour
“Well, one that really inspires me is Michael Campbell because he's a New Zealander. He won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, which is where it's going to be next year, so really want to get to that.” – Joshua Bai on his favorite player that he watched compete in the U.S. Open
“I almost hit my drive in the hazard on the right, but I was able to lay up and kind of turn the hole around because he was in the fairway. I had about 183, hit 8-iron to about four feet and made birdie. That was a huge turning point in the match for sure.” – Bryan Kim on the pivotal 11th hole in his Round-of-16 victory
“You're playing for a national championship. It's awesome. But I try and think of it more as just having fun. It's just another round of golf at the end of the day.” – Will Hartman on competing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur
“I mean, the fairways are pretty wide. If you just pay attention, you really should pretty much hit them a good percentage of the time. Greens, the same thing. If you just put yourself in the right spots on the greens, it's pretty gettable.” – Billy Davis on how the Ralston Creek Course fits his eye
“I'm pleased with the way I stuck in there, especially after being 2-down. It's not a spot you want to be in. I did a nice job of staying within myself and getting out of my own way. I look to keep that mindset this afternoon.” – Tommy Morrison on rallying on the inward nine to win his Round-of-32 match
Brian DePasquale is the USGA’s senior manager of championship communications. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.