Stratham, N.H. – Beau Edward Hossler. If you’ve only seen him on the 2012 U.S. Open telecast, where the 17-year-old amateur threatened for awhile to win it all, he’s taller than you may think. Rangier. Friendlier. And more talkative.
At the U.S. Open after 11 holes of the second round, Beau Hossler led the field. All by himself. After 54 holes, he was four strokes out of the lead. He finished at 9-over-par 289 and tied for 29th. When he returns to his Mission Viejo, Calif., high school this fall, if anyone asks Beau what he did on his summer vacation, they haven’t been keeping up.
Hossler, along with 2011 runner-up Chelso Barrett and 2010 champion Jim Liu, is one of the highly regarded players at this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
This is the Junior Amateur, not the U.S. Open. The players here are 17 years old, or younger, and every one of them is hungry. An army travels on its stomach and these troops plow through the chow line like Patton’s Third Army. A fresh chicken casserole lands on the buffet table. Six players file through and it’s gone.
“Want some grapes?” a player asks, shoveling up a foot-long bunchof grapes that laps over the edge of his plate.
The energy drinks and bottled water consumed at The Golf Club of New England this week could fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools. Eat. Drink. Play golf. Eat some more.
Beau Hossler is at home here. It’s the wonderful world of junior golf where short pants prevail and mothers, not wives, wait nervously on the lawn for players to finish.
Beau’s mom, Amy Balsz, texted a reminder to be on time for a 2 o’clock interview. In the Media Center he is surrounded by four reporters, not the 1,200 that hung on his every word at the U.S. Open.
This week, Beau knows, will be different from the U.S. Open in almost every way. He’s comfortable with that and his speech is rat-a-tat fast, unlike his measured words on the Open telecast.
“It’s fun, this environment,” Hossler said. “Even though I played in the U.S. Open and the AT&T, I’m still more used to playing with six people in the gallery.”
Some things remain nearly the same, like the golf course. “The USGA sets up golf courses similar,” he said. “Obviously the U.S. Open is going to be harder, but you’re going to have fast greens (here), you’re going to have firm greens and you’re going to have tight fairways, so I’ve gotta go out there and make sure I’m prepared.”
Last month’s U.S. Open experience hasn’t faded. “Actually I learned a lot,” Hossler said. “A lot of it, I can’t really describe. It’s more of just a comfort level. Experience, there’s no substitute for that. That was huge for me to be able to see how my game sizes up to a lot of those players.”
He laughed. “Obviously I’ve got a long way to go before I can go out there with my game on a regular basis but I was glad to see I can go out there and contend.”
Paired with Jason Dufner in the final round, Beau marveled at Dufner’s ability to carve out shots around the course.
“Dufner, he’s pretty creative,” he said. “It’s cool to see it. Normally you go play with amateur guys and they hit a wedge from 150 yards. He’s more of a guy who is able to carve his ball or do whatever he needs to, so it was pretty cool watching him, but I was focused more on my game than his.”
Focusing on his own game is what Hossler needs this week. This is his first trip to New England but he thinks the course suits his game.
“I think it sets up well for me because it’s a pretty tough driving course,” he said. “It’s pretty tough if you miss the fairways. Definitely the key is going to be the last four holes.”
Of the tough 187-yard, par-3 17th, Hossler said he would take a par 3 and a bogey 4 during the championship. Reminded that, in match play, if he played well he wouldn’t have to play the 17th, he laughed.
“Yep, 3 and 2, and go home,” he said. “Once you get to match play, it’s fair game. For me, I’m trying to figure out how to do match play because I haven’t played it that much.”
Hossler will graduate from high school after his winter term. In the autumn of 2013 he will attend the University of Texas, where he’ll play on the Longhorn men’s golf team.
He’d dearly love to win this U.S. Junior Amateur. He was medalist in 2011 and lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Jordan Spieth, who also edged him for low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open. Spieth enrolled at Texas last fall and helped the school to the NCAA golf title last month.
But this is another U.S. Junior Amateur and for Beau Hossler, it’s more comfortable and more fun.
“I might go to a Red Sox game,” he said. “I’ll see how it works out. Do we play 18 holes or 36 on Wednesday? 18? Okay, I might go to the game Tuesday night. We’ll see. I mean, that’d be fun.”
Hossler finished his interviews. He shook hands all around, said, “Thank you,” and ambled away, a lanky 6-footer at the top of his game.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. Email her at email@example.com.