Riley Takes Defeat as Building Block for Future


Following his second consecutive runner-up finish in the U.S. Junior Amateur, Davis Riley emphasized the positive. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)
By Stuart Hall
July 26, 2014

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – For Davis Riley, there will be no next year in his attempt to win what became an elusive U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

For the second successive year, Riley, 17, of Hattiesburg, Miss., lost in the final, this time by a 5-and-3 margin to William Zalatoris, 17, of Plano, Texas, Saturday at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course.

While two players had previously rebounded from a loss in the final to win the following year – the last being Tim Straub in 1982-83 – Riley becomes the first in this championship’s 67-year history to lose two straight final-round matches.

“I’m really proud of how I played,” said Riley, who lost by a 3-and-2 margin to Scottie Scheffler at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif., a year ago “Last year was kind of the same deal. I played well, but Scottie won the last four to win it. So, similar performances and I didn’t beat myself either time.

“It gives me a lot of confidence to know that I can play with anybody when my game is on.”

Riley, who has committed to the University of Alabama for fall 2015, played the 33 holes of the par-72, 7,212-yard Nicklaus Course in 3 under par given the usual match-play concessions. Zalatoris, who will attend Wake Forest University starting in August, was 7 under par for the match.

Zalatoris and Riley have known each other for eight years, since they played in a U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, N.C. The champion had nothing but respect and praise for his friend and competitor.

“I told him exactly what I said during the awards ceremony, you're an incredible player,” Zalatoris said. “He was a great player then and he's an incredible player now. I said I had the round of my life today. I said for me to win and have the round of my life means that you weren't far off. I told him, ‘Keep at it kid,’ because that was awesome. “

Riley recognized he was in for a Texas-style shootout when he and Zalatoris combined for four birdies in the opening three holes. On this sweltering day, the finalists combined for 21 birdies and an eagle.

Riley took the match’s first 2-up lead with a birdie at the 160-yard, par-3 12th hole, but Zalatoris managed to square the match by the end of the morning’s 18.

Zalatoris rolled in birdie putts of 12 and 20 feet to win the opening two holes of the afternoon round and stretched his lead to 3 up through the 27th hole.

“I was just telling myself, ‘Stay in it, you fought back against Sam [Horsfield] and that came out pretty good,’” said Riley, who rallied from a 2-down deficit through 12 holes to defeat the second-seeded Horsfield in Friday’s 21-hole semifinal. “I got to 2 down [against Zalatoris], but when I missed an 8-foot putt for birdie on 13, I kind of knew from there it was going to be a tough road ahead.”

Then Zalatoris holed out for eagle from 119 yards on the 437-yard, par-4 14th hole.

“There’s not much you can do at that point,” Riley said.

Said Zalatoris of his afternoon round, “That round today, on that golf course, under that type of pressure, that's the best round of my life today.”

Throughout this week, Riley was asked about last year’s gut-tugging loss to Scheffler. That match ended when Riley called a Rules infraction on himself as he prepared for a birdie putt on the 34th hole. Riley said the ball moved at address, leading to a one-stroke penalty and a bogey.

Each time, Riley answered in a poised, respectful manner. But he admitted that the loss stung and served as motivation for this week’s championship.

“It hurt for a while, but I got over it,” said Riley, who qualified for the U.S. Amateur by advancing to Saturday’s final. “I’m a golfer, there is always another tournament.”

That may be, but sadly there will be no more U.S. Junior Amateur Championships for him to try and win.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.

 

Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @USGA
THE RULES OF GOLF APP
Get The Rules of Golf App For Your iPhone Or Android Today
 
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image