TRUCKEE, Calif. – When Davis Riley isn’t playing golf, you can often find him at a pond behind his parents’ house. It’s only 150 yards from the backyard and located near the 18th green at Canebrake Country Club in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Riley, 16, loves to spend afternoons with his friends fishing for bass or white perch. It’s a great way to relax.
“I throw them back,” said Riley of his haul. “I don’t know if you want to eat that stuff.”
This week at the U.S. Junior Amateur, Riley hasn’t visited Lake Tahoe or nearby streams, but he has lured in some of the best junior golfers in the world.
On Friday, Riley won a pair of matches, beating 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links quarterfinalist Zecheng Dou, 4 and 2, in the quarterfinal round and the championship upstart, 15-year-old John Augenstein, 4 and 3, in the afternoon semifinals.
Yet the biggest catch remains. On Saturday, Riley faces Scottie Scheffler in the 36-holefinal. It will be the biggest match either golfer has played in their young careers.
“It will be a good match,” said Riley, who was paired with Scheffler in the final round of the American Junior Golf Association’s recent Rolex Tournament of Champions at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.
The golf course isn’t the only place where Riley and Scheffler have squared off. Both are fine ping-pong players, and earlier in the week Riley teamed with William Register to play Scheffler and Brad Dalke in the Martis Camp clubhouse, renewing a rivalry forged at junior tournaments.
“We play doubles all the time,” said Riley. “He’s good. He’s real good.”
Scheffler won’t argue that fact. While he plays golf and basketball at Highland Park High in Dallas, he said if the school offered ping-pong, he would sign up.
But on Saturday, they’ll settle for a dimpled golf ball and the challenging Martis Camp layout.
Besides being an accomplished golfer – Scheffler is currently ranked 34th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and helped Highland Park to the Class 4A state title this past year – he’s also a good basketball player. Scheffler started at small forward on the school’s junior varsity team as a junior, and he’s hoping to start on the varsity in his senior year.
Scheffler claims that he has no peers among his junior golf brethren when it comes to hoops.
When asked if he could dunk, Scheffler held out his hand and smiled.
“I am literally this far away (holding his thumb and index finger inches apart),” he said.
Hook ’em Horns
The semifinal matchup between Scheffler and Doug Ghim featured a pair of future University of Texas golfers. Both of these rising high school seniors have verbally committed to the Austin school and plan to sign in November.
After Scheffler eliminated Ghim, 6 and 4, the two embraced and wished each other well. Scheffler’s father also congratulated Ghim on his successful run at the championship, saying this will help the Longhorns in the future.
“Me and Scottie have played a lot together,” said Ghim, 17, of Arlington Heights, Ill. “It was just like any other time, only the stakes were a little higher this time and it was a different format (match play). He just got the best of me today.”
Ghim said there wasn’t a lot of chatter during the round, but they did talk about different shots and their next events. Ghim is headed to the PGA Junior Championship at Trump National in Potomac, Md., while Scheffler will play in the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., beginning on Aug. 12.
After barely qualifying for match play at 6-over 150 – the cut came at 151 – Ghim felt fortunate to still be playing on Friday.
“It was a fun run,” he said. “Standing here today in the semifinals … I probably would have taken it after the first round. I wish I would have had a little stronger showing [against Scheffler], but it’s still all right.”
Odds And Ends
A total of 113 NCAA Division I men’s coaches registered this week at the U.S. Junior Amateur. Among that group was newly appointed Florida State assistant Matt Savage, who was a quarterfinalist at the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur at The Olympic Club. Savage also made match play at the 2003 Junior Amateur, despite shooting an opening-round 83. He followed with a 66… After Zecheng Dou was eliminated in the quarterfinals on Friday morning, he was spotted in the men’s locker room playing chess with another Junior Amateur competitor, apparently in fine health after suffering from a nose bleed during his quarterfinal match.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.