17, of Plano, Texas, went on to defeat Davis Riley for the U.S. Junior Amateur
title that day at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas. In doing
so, Zalatoris arrived at the U.S. Amateur Championship with high expectations,
just as fellow Texan Scottie Scheffler did a year ago after winning his own
U.S. Junior Amateur title.
were juniors by title only.
was talking about Zalatoris, he could easily have been describing Scheffler,
18, of Dallas, who matriculates to the University of Texas for his freshman
year next week. After winning last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, Scheffler
reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline,
Mass. In May, he tied for 22nd at the PGA Tour’s HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Zalatoris both advanced to Wednesday’s opening round of match play at the 114th
U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, but the results differed.
defeated, 1 up, by 2013 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Corey Conners, 22, of Canada,
while Zalatoris recorded a 2-and-1 victory over Jordan Niebrugge, 21, of
Mequon, Wis., the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion and USA Walker Cup Team
first time being in the match play in the U.S. Am, everything from here is a
learning experience,” Zalatoris said. “I had a lot of fun today. Any time
you're playing a Walker Cupper, it doesn't matter if they are injured or sick
or whatever, it's going to be a challenge and that was an absolute blast.”
their respective U.S. Junior Amateur titles, Scheffler and Zalatoris each
gained a measure of belief in their own abilities.
U.S. Junior Amateur] didn’t really change me as much as it gave me confidence
going into the rest of the summer and into my senior year of high school,” said
Scheffler, who starred at Highland Park High and was a three-time Texas
University Interscholastic League Boys 4A champion. “I had been playing really
good golf going in, top-10s and top-fives pretty much the whole summer, but it
did validate the way I had been playing. I won six matches in a row, which is
difficult. So it gave me the confidence to know I could do that.”
there was still work to be done. Yes, he was now a national champion, but only
Tiger Woods has ever won both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur, and
that became a new goal.
told himself he would take five days off after winning the Junior Amateur, but by
the fourth day he was back out working to improve his short game and hone the
course management skills needed to win a U.S. Amateur.
Zalatoris, by virtue of their wins, were also thrust into the discussion of
best amateurs at the national level. While Zalatoris had won the Texas Amateur
and the prestigious Trans-Miss Championship in Tulsa, Okla., just prior to the
U.S. Junior Amateur adding a USGA championship to his résumé placed Zalatoris’
name in the same breath as such recent winners as Woods (1991-93), David Duval
(1989), Hunter Mahan (1999) and Jordan Spieth (2009, 2011).
[title] means a lot to you, but this is the one that really pushed me to play
golf,” said Zalatoris after the U.S. Junior Amateur. “And I really, really
wanted to win this. This is the first week that I really felt like I can do
No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, said he became a bit more recognizable
after winning, and “you ride that for a little while, but then you get back to
doing what you were doing,” he said, adding that the championship trophy
eventually found its place in the corner of the Scheffler family’s dining room.
“So I never really saw it except for the few times I was playing pool and
looked up and noticed it.”
ranks of junior golf also brings a transition that is not just about golf.
While Scheffler will be making a three-hour drive down to the Longhorns’
Austin, Texas, campus, Zalatoris’ trip will be “a four-hour flight and a
one-hour drive, or 16-hour drive from home” to Winston-Salem, N.C.
be a learning curve for sure,” Scheffler said. “I’ll be living in a house, so
that won’t be that big of a change, but living with five guys and having to
learn to do everything on my own. It’s a change, for sure.”
it’s a big change,” said Zalatoris, who has jumped more than 1,000 places this
summer to No. 91 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “It’s part of the
maturation process. I know it’s going to be a big change, being on my own,
doing my own laundry, but it is part of the process. It’s supposed to happen
and I’m excited about it.”
Zalatoris are growing up. Their golf games do not appear to be too far behind.
Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on