Thursday, July 21, 2011

These guys are good: Favorites move on at U.S. Junior Amateur

Past champion Jordan Spieth (right) gets playful with Blake Toolan’s caddie on the seventh hole. Spieth beat Toolan, his fellow competitor during stroke-play qualifying, 4 and 3. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

(USGA news service)

BREMERTON, Wash. – High seeds continued to shine in the high grass of the Olympic Course Thursday as stroke-play medalist Beau Hossler and 2009 champion Jordan Spieth each won two matches Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

It didn't go so well for the defending champion.

Earlier in the day, Jim Liu’s hopes of becoming the second repeat Junior Amateur champion in history were dashed by Chelso Barrett in the second round. Back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th holes gave Barrett, 16, of Keene, N.H., a 2-up victory over the 15-year-old Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y.

After a difficult second-round match Thursday morning, Hossler, 16, of Mission Viejo, Calif., was determined to get off to a better start in the third round against Connor Black, 15, of Katy, Texas, at the par-72, 7,111-yard Olympic Course here at Gold Mountain Golf Club. And that’s exactly what he did, winning the second and third holes with birdies.

Hossler, who played in the U.S. Open last month and is playing in his first Junior Amateur, never trailed en route to a 5-and-4 victory.

“It’s the first match where I’ve had a good start,” said Hossler, who is trying to become the first stroke-play medalist to claim the title since Spieth two years ago. “The first few holes out here have given me some problems, so I knew if I got through those holes even or even beating my opponent that I’d have a really good chance.”

Hossler’s quarterfinal opponent will be Adam Ball, 17, of Richmond, Va., who came back from 3 down with six to play in his third-round match against 15-year-old Juan Yumar of Venezuela. Ball eagled No. 14 and made four consecutive birdies starting at the 15th hole to earn a 2-up victory.

“I’ve had really good stretches in my life, but considering the circumstances and winning this tournament has been my dream for the longest time, I really didn’t want to see it crushed right there,” said Ball, who is playing in his third Junior Amateur. “I just kept my head up and finished the best I could.”

Spieth, 17, of Dallas, Texas, kept his hopes for another national championship alive with a 2-and-1 victory over Wilson Bateman, 17, of Canada. Spieth, the only player in the field competing in his fourth Junior Amateur, was keenly aware of the difficulty of playing the second and third rounds.

“Today is the hardest day to get by,” said Spieth. “Three years ago it was the hardest day. Two years ago I beat a kid in 19 holes in the first match and like 2 and 1 in the second match and that kind of propelled me to winning it that year. I don’t even know why [it’s the hardest day]. Maybe it’s just me. You just have so many players that can spark at any time in the afternoon. And there’s not as much as pressure whereas a semifinal would be a lot more pressure for a lot of people.

“I was very, very happy to get by today. I was a little nervous going into the round. Especially after he bombed it by me on one. That was an eye-opener. I thought I was a long one out here. I’ve got to hit the gym to catch up to him.”

While Spieth was happy to get by the second and third rounds, he believes he can play better.

“I’m waiting for everything to fire at the same time,” said Spieth, who has made the cut at the 2010 and 2011 PGA Tour Byron Nelson Championship. “I’m waiting for a really low round. I potentially  had it the second round of stroke play and let it go on the back nine (outward nine). But hey, you don’t want to be playing your best golf until Saturday.”

Againtst defending champion Liu, Barrett hit a 7-iron from 165 yards to 6 feet on No. 17 and made the birdie putt to take the lead. Needing to win No. 18 to extend the match, Liu opted to drive the par-4 hole with his 3-wood. But his tee shot found the hazard right of the hole.

“He’d been striping that 3-wood all day, so I thought he’d just hit it right in the middle of the green,” said Barrett. “I figured I’d take my odds getting up and down from 100 yards, as opposed to me hitting it in the water or something.”

When Liu was unable to get up and down from the hazard, he conceded Barrett’s birdie putt and the match.

“Chelso just beat me,” said Liu, trying to join Tiger Woods, who won three consecutive titles from 1991 to 1993, as the only player to repeat. “We both played decent golf, but I was just outplayed. That’s golf sometimes. You can’t always play your best every time. But he played really great and he just beat me today.”

Barrett went on to earn a 2-and-1 victory over William Zalatoris, 14, of Plano, Texas to advance to the quarterfinals. Barrett, Hossler, Ball and Spieth will be joined in the quarterfinals by Ryan Benton, 17, of Dothan, Ala.; Nicolas Echavarria, 16, of Colombia; William Starke, 17, of Chapin, S.C.; and Andrew Whalen, 17, of Ephrata, Wash.

Junior Am survivors continue with the quarterfinal and semifinal matches Friday. The 36-hole championship final will be played Saturday.

The U.S. Junior Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Story written by Beth Murrison, USGA Manager of Championship Communications. For questions or comments, contact her at

Friday Quarterfinals
Upper Bracket
8 a.m.                    Beau Hossler, Mission Viejo, Calif. (135) vs. Adam Ball, Richmond, Va. (144)
8:10 a.m.              Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (140) vs. Andrew Whalen, Ephrata, Wash. (147)
Lower Bracket
8:20 a.m.              William Starke, Chapin, S.C. (139) vs. Chelso Barrett, Keene, N.H. (143)
8:30 a.m.              Nicolas Echavarria, Colombia (149) vs. Ryan Benton, Dothan, Ala. (150)

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