Joshua Sedeno is learning there may be some benefit to playing hurt.
Last month, en route to a practice round for the 104th California Amateur Championship, the car Sedeno was riding in was rear-ended. Sedeno, 17 of Roseville, Calif., suffered a pinched nerve in his neck, but stayed the course.
“I think it really showed me that I can still win matches when I don’t have my best stuff and I’m going to have to grin and bear it on some days,” said Sedeno, who advanced to the championship before losing, 5 and 4, to Shotaro Ban, a rising senior at the University of California-Berkeley and No. 31 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™.
At this week’s 68th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Colleton River Plantation Club’s Dye Course, Sedeno is playing with a second injury. Despite physical therapy to alleviate the pinched nerve, Sedeno is playing with tendinitis in his left forearm, a result of developing swing tendencies to compensate for his neck.
Tuesday, Sedeno qualified for match play after tying for 14th at 1-under 143 in stroke play. He then defeated Orion Yamat, of Niles, Ill., 1 up in Wednesday’s Round of 64 before falling to Won Jun Lee, of the Republic of Korea, 1 down, in the Round of 32.
In a week punctuated by suspensions in play due to afternoon rain and lightning, Sedeno has been fortunate.
“I got an early tee time the first day and escaped the winds,” he said. “The second day, I got done before the rain, so I missed that. Then [Wednesday], I got done before the big delay. I think I’ve gotten as lucky as you can get.”
Sedeno admits that last year’s Round-of-32 loss at the U.S. Junior Amateur at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas, provided a learning curve that has benefited him this year.
“The biggest thing I learned is you need to pace yourself,” he said. “Last year being my first year, I came out super hyped up in stroke play, super excited in my first match and by the time I got to the second round of match play I was tired.
“So, I learned that after stroke play you don’t have go and beat balls; you don’t go do this and that. You just relax and pace yourself because it’s a long week.”
Sedeno’s ascension can be linked to a change he made in instructors the summer before eighth grade. Sedeno now works with Phil Dawson, director of the Tour Academy Junior Golf Camp at Morgan Creek Golf Club in Roseville.
"I think his techniques are pretty standard, what you would see from most good coaches,” Sedeno said. “What I think sets him apart is that he is young and is very engaging. For him, it’s more than just an hour golf lesson. We have lunch, we have dinner, we play nine holes, we text, we talk. He’s a friend, a mentor … sort of like another parent, but he fills six or seven different roles.”
Given the results of his summer, which also includes becoming the youngest to win the 18-year-old Memorial Amateur in Carmichael, Calif., in late May, Sedeno believes his mindset might be his biggest strength, especially in match-play situations.
“I’d say my game is pretty solid all around,” said Sedeno, a rising senior at Del Oro High in Loomis who has announced his intentions to play at Southern Methodist University in 2016. “The biggest thing is down the stretch when the pressure gets going, that’s when I focus more and other kids tend to fall back a bit when it gets to that point.
“I think I just grew up that way. My dad [Dave Sedeno] is a firefighter, so there is the mentality that we’re going to the end, fight to the end.”
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.