The two 17-year-olds, good friends and each in their last
year of eligibility for this championship, survived a thrilling but exhausting run
through the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday and will have the
opportunity to hoist a trophy that has eluded them for many years.
Zalatoris has the edge in experience, as he is playing in
his fifth U.S. Junior Amateur, which ties a record for the most appearances. He
is attempting to become the seventh Texan since 1999 to win this championship,
and has been supremely comfortable all week with the demands of the course and
He also has done an admirable job of sticking to his game
plan during match play, which served him well during his 1-up semifinal defeat
of Curtis Luck, of Australia. Zalatoris looked to be in control of the match,
leading 3 up through 13, before Luck went on a roll to tighten things up.
“Even when he won three in a row, 14-16, and then his
putt [from the fringe] should have gone in on 17 when it hit the flagstick, I
just stayed patient and I knew exactly what I needed to do,” said Zalatoris. “Like
I’ve said all week, my ball-striking has held up as well as it has all year.
“It was a fun day today. This is what you live for, being
under the gauntlet. It was a lot of fun.”
If tomorrow’s 36-hole final, which gets underway at 8
a.m. CDT, will also end up being fun for Zalatoris, he will have to get past a
talented and motivated opponent in Riley.
Riley, who lost the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur final to
Scottie Scheffler, has made no secret this week about wanting to avenge that
stinging defeat. He is attempting to become the first player since Tim Straub
in 1982-83 to lose a U.S. Junior Amateur final and then win it the following
For a while it looked as if Riley would be denied that
chance. He won the first hole to take a quick 1-up lead over his semifinal
opponent, Sam Horsfield, of England, but his cushion was short-lived. Horsfield
won the second hole to square the match and then, from the fourth through the
15th holes, Horsfield led Riley by either a 1-up or 2-up margin.
Riley squared the match with a birdie on the par-4 16th,
and after that the two players limped to the finish. Riley had a 3-footer for
par on 18 that would have won the match, but the putt slid by and the match
went to extra holes.
“I just told myself there was nothing I can do about that
putt now, so I might as well just shake it off and go to the next hole,” said
He had to shake off another miss, a 4-footer for par on
the second hole (20th of the match), that also would have clinched the victory,
before finally converting a 3-footer on the 21st hole to eliminate Horsfield.
“Tomorrow, I just need to play consistent, keep the ball
in front of me, and make a lot of birdies,” said Riley. “It’s going to be a
tough match, because anybody who gets this far is playing well. But you just
have to go out there and try to get the win.”
By virtue of making it to the U.S. Junior final, Riley
did meet the first of his goals – gaining entry to next month’s U.S. Amateur
Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga. He attempted to
qualify a few weeks ago but missed out by three strokes, and now is assured a
place in the field.
But before he starts thinking ahead to future USGA
championships, he will be focused on the one that is nearly in his grasp yet
Live scoring for the final match will be available on
usga.org, and live on-course updates will be posted at www.twitter.com/usga.
Midland is the USGA’s director of editorial and multimedia content. Email him
67TH U.S. JUNIOR
THE WOODLANDS, Texas
– Results from Friday morning’s quarterfinal round at the 2014 U.S. Junior
Amateur Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course (7,156 yards,
Zalatoris, Plano, Texas (140) def. Sean Crocker, Zimbabwe (137), 3 and 2
Luck, Australia (141) def. Will Grimmer, Cincinnati, Ohio (138), 2 up
Horsfield, England (137) def. Andreas Halvorsen, Norway (148), 1 up
Riley, Hattiesburg, Miss. (138) def. Andy Zhang, People’s Republic of China
(143), 2 up
THE WOODLANDS, Texas
– Results from Friday afternoon’s semifinal round at the 2014 U.S. Junior
Amateur Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course (7,156
yards, par 72):
Zalatoris, Plano, Texas (140) def. Curtis Luck, Australia (141), 1 up
Riley, Hattiesburg, Miss. (138) def. Sam Horsfield, England, 21 holes
THE WOODLANDS, Texas
– Pairings for Saturday’s 36-hole final match at the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur
Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course (Central Daylight
a.m. William Zalatoris, Plano, Texas (140) vs. Davis Riley, Hattiesburg, Miss.