Bremerton, Wash. – Jordan Spieth, 17, of Dallas, Texas, and Chelso Barrett, 16, of Keene, N.H., both won two matches Friday to advance to the 36-hole championship final of the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur, being played at the par-72, 7,111-yard Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club.
Spieth, the 2009 Junior Amateur champion, earned his spot with a 7-and-5 victory over Adam Ball, 17, of Richmond, Va. Barrett advanced with a win in 19 holes over 16-year-old Nicolas Echavarria of Colombia.
Spieth admitted he wasn’t playing his best after his 2-and-1 quarterfinal victory over Andrew Whalen, 17, of Ephrata, Wash. Spieth, who was one over par in the match against Whalen, knew he’d have to play better against Ball, who ousted stroke-play medalist Beau Hossler, 16, of Mission Viejo, Calif., in the quarterfinals.
Ball won the first hole when Spieth bogeyed, but it would be Spieth’s last bogey of the match. Starting at the second hole, he recorded five consecutive birdies and took a 3-up lead after six holes. A bogey by Ball on No. 7 and a double bogey on No. 8 put Spieth firmly in control.
“That was as good as I could play there,” said Spieth, who finished with eight birdies. “It was pretty much a career round in the middle of the round today.”
A birdie from Ball on No. 10 trimmed the deficit to 5 down, but Spieth won the next two holes to close out the match.
“I honestly feel like if I hit it like this in other matches, they would have gone the same way,” said Spieth. The thing was I wasn’t able to hit the greens so I wasn’t able to put any pressure on the other players until the last couple of holes. And I was able to do that early in this round. It was very nice to hit it right where you wanted to hit it. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Although disappointed, Ball was pleased with his play.
“If that’s the way you are going to lose, that’s the way you want to lose,” said Ball, who was competing in his third Junior Amateur. “I played really solid except for seven, eight, nine, where his birdie stretch stopped and I wasn’t mentally ready.”
While Spieth won the first semifinal in a runaway, the other was a seesaw affair that saw Barrett and Echavarria halve only five of 19 holes.
Echavarria took a 1-up lead when Barrett three-putted the 16th hole but Barrett got it back a hole later when Echavarria hit his approach shot to the right fringe. He almost chipped in but missed his par putt and conceded Barrett’s birdie putt to square the match.
On the 277-yard par-4 18th, both players chose to lay up rather than attempt to drive the green. Barrett’s approach shot found the rough above the hole, while Echavarria’s approach came to rest 6 feet from the hole.
Faced with the difficult downhill shot, Barrett opted to use the toe of his putter. The ball slowly made it way down the green and disappeared into the hole.
“I’d like to think it’s skill but it was probably a stroke of luck,” said Barrett of the shot. “There’s really no way to play that shot and I’ve played shots like that before at my home course, actually striking it with the toe of the putter, so I figured you know what, you gotta do it sometime. You’ve got to try different shots sometime. Luckily it worked out.”
Echavarria then calmly made his 6-footer for birdie to extend the match and the two headed to the first extra hole, the par-4 first. Barrett drove his tee shot to the center of the fairway but Echavarria hit his into the far right rough. Without a clear line to the green, he played his second shot along the fairway of the adjacent ninth hole and hit his third shot just short of the green. His chip for par lipped out and Barrett made a 3-footer for par to win the match.
“You needed to be patient in that match,” said Echavarria. “In that match, I played golf in a way I didn’t think I was going to play. I did a lot of birdies, and it was a really good match. He played really well.”
Just once in the history of the Junior Amateur has someone won more than one championship – Tiger Woods won three in a row from 1991 to 1993. This is the fourth Junior Amateur for Spieth, who made it to the semifinals in 2008 and was upset in the second round last year by a then-unknown Robby Shelton.
“I just had a lapse in concentration for one match,” said Spieth of his loss in 2010. “I stood on the tee with little Robby Shelton hitting it 40 [yards] behind me thinking this will be a piece of cake and it wasn’t. That won’t be a problem tomorrow, because it’s the finals. They’ve won five matches to get there.”
To join Woods, Spieth will have to get by Barrett. The two faced each other in the first round of the Junior Amateur a year ago, with Spieth earning a 7-and-5 victory. Barrett knows he’s facing a tough competitor in Spieth but is ready for the challenge.
“I’m sure at some point I’ll probably be nervous to face him but once I’m on the first tee I think I’ll overcome it and just play golf,” said Barrett, who has simple approach for the final. “You’re going to have to make birdies to win this. Pars go far but birdies go further.”
The U.S. Junior Amateur, which concludes with the 36-hole championship final Saturday, is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Beth Murrison is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. For questions or comments, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bremerton, Wash. – Results following Friday’s quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of match play at the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur at the 7,111-yard, par-72 Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club:
Adam Ball, Richmond, Va. (144) def. Beau Hossler, Mission Viejo, Calif. (135), 2 and 1
Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (140) def. Andrew Whalen, Ephrata, Wash. (147), 2 and 1
Chelso Barrett, Keene, N.H. (143) def. William Starke, Chapin, S.C. (139), 1 up
Nicolas Echavarria, Colombia (149) def. Ryan Benton, Dothan, Ala. (150), 2 and 1
Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (140) def. Adam Ball, Richmond, Va. (144), 7 and 5
Chelso Barrett, Keene, N.H. (143) def. Nicolas Echavarria, Colombia (149), 19 holes
Bremerton, Wash. – Pairing for Saturday’s 36-hole championship final at the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur at the 7,111-yard, par-72 Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club (times PDT):
8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.: Jordan Spieth, Dallas, Texas (140) vs. Chelso Barrett, Keene, N.H. (143)