Even if Adam Ball doesn't go on to win the U.S. Junior Amateur in his final attempt, the 17-year-old from Richmond, Va., will have a finish to remember for a long time. Trailing by two holes with six to play, Ball, whose father Matt is the head men's coach at Virginia Commonwealth, put on a furious rally to defeat Juan Yumar of Venezuela.
Ball won No. 13 with a par, but then hit a low-hooking 4-iron on the par-5 14th hole to 20 feet above the hole, leaving a very delicate downhill putt for eagle. Ball barely struck the putt, but the ball rolled right into the hole for a winning eagle. It was his second 3 on that hole this week.
At the par-4 15th, Ball left himself just 72 yards for his approach and perfectly executed a wedge approach to 5 feet. Yumar holed his 12-footer for birdie and Ball converted his short putt to halve the hole.
At the 202-yard 16th hole, Ball knew from his morning round that a 4-iron was too much club. So with his adrenaline pumping and nerves working overtime, he pulled a 5-iron and stuck it to 4 feet below the hole. It set up another birdie, which squared the match.
At the challenging 17th hole, Ball left himself 155 yards to the flag. With the wind freshening into his face, he played a knockdown 8-iron punch shot that stopped 3 feet left of the hole. It set up another birdie for a 1-up lead.
At 18, against his better judgement, Ball pulled out a driver on the 305-yard hole. He pulled the shot left into some thick rough. He called it one of the worst lies "I've ever seen."
Nevertheless, Ball executed another perfect shot, lofting his wedge over a bunker to within 7 feet of the hole.
"I put my hands on the club softly and swung as hard as I could," said Ball, who is competing in his third Junior Amateur. "It came out perfectly right where I wanted to land it and it trickled onto the green."
Yumar eventually conceded the birdie putt, giving Ball an improbable 2-up win.
"I think he was [stunned]," said Ball. "I would have been. Playing like that, there's nobody out there that can beat me if I keep that up."
Jordan Spieth, the 2009 champion, certainly was impressed when informed of what Ball achieved.
"That unreal," said the Texan. "That's a tough [quarterfinal] match for [medalist] Beau [Hossler]."
"I’ve had really good stretches in my life," said Ball, "but considering the circumstances -- and winning this tournament has been my dream for the longest time -- I really didn’t want to see it crushed right there. I just kept my head up and finished the best I could." -- David Shefter