That might be hard to comprehend considering the 16-year-old
from Owensboro, Ky., tied for 31st in the stroke-play portion and then survived
a shaky 1-up win over Keenan Huskey, 17, of Greenville, S.C., in Wednesday’s
opening round of match play at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course.
But he is this week’s No. 33 seed and Augenstein has mojo
working in his favor.
Last year, as a 15-year-old making his debut at the U.S.
Junior, Augenstein was the 33rd seed when he made a spirited run through the
match-play bracket. Along the way, Augenstein knocked off top-seeded Jim Liu, 5
and 4, in the round of 32, and Sam Horsfield, this week’s co-medalist, 1 up, in
the quarterfinals. Augenstein’s run ended with a 20-hole loss to eventual
runner-up Davis Riley in the semifinals.
“This tournament is all about runs,” he said. “I know I’m a
better player this year, but this is the sort of tournament where you could be
a much better player than the other guy and still lose.
“I would definitely like to get back in that position and
hopefully move forward,” he added.
Augenstein is well
aware that moving forward will require him to play much better than he did in his
win over Huskey, who managed to hold 1-up leads after the first and third
holes. Augenstein squared the match with a birdie on the par-4 fourth hole and
then won the fifth, ninth and 11th to build a 3-up lead.
“I didn’t play as well as I would have liked, but I was able
to win some holes and build a lead,” Augenstein said. “Then on the back, it was
back and forth, I hit some bad tee shots and didn’t hit the ball as well as I
know I can.”
Over the final seven holes, Huskey won four, but only one
was won with a birdie.
Augenstein admits he must tighten up his game when he faces
top-seeded and co-medalist Sean Crocker, 17, of Zimbabwe, in Thursday morning’s
“He’s not going to make too many bogeys, that’s for sure,”
Augenstein said. “I’ve played with him before and he’s a really good player. I
am going to have to bring my best to stay with him.”
With a 4-1 overall record in this championship, Augenstein acknowledges
a growing penchant for the match-play format.
“I’m still learning how to play match play, how to deal with
the emotional ups and downs that happen throughout the round,” said Augenstein,
who is quite expressive of his emotions on the course. “You have to try and
find that groove and control your emotions.”
On Wednesday, Augenstein admitted he was getting a little
irritated with his erratic play and was “very disappointed how I handled some
shots. But you learn from these things. Hopefully I will come out and play
better. I’m going to have to.”
It will not hurt to have history in his corner.
Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously
appeared on USGA websites.