U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Quarterfinal Digest: Pro's Son, Fred Lee Form Bond; Goodwin Trying to Keep Streak Alive
July 22, 2016 | Ooltewah, Tenn.
By Stuart Hall
On the second hole of Australian Fred Lee’s first U.S. Junior Amateur practice round at The Honors Course, he was hesitant about his second shot on the 562-yard par 5.
“I had about 200 meters (218 yards) and I said this shot just doesn’t look right and [caddie Oliver Simonsen] was like, ‘Mate, just trust me.’ I did, and it turned out pretty well,” said Lee.
Instantly, a bond was formed between the 16-year-old Lee and Simonsen, 18, who is the son of The Honors Course’s head golf professional, Henrik Simonsen.
That trust factor helped Lee advance to Friday morning’s quarterfinals before he lost, 5 and 4, to Noah Goodwin.
“On the golf course against an opponent, there are really only two people you can talk to,” Lee said. “You either talk to yourself or you talk to your caddie. Normally, when you talk to yourself, it’s quite negative, so that’s why it’s important to have a great caddie to support you. So, trust was very important.”
For Simonsen, the week was bittersweet.
Three times previously, he tried to qualify for this championship, including his last attempt a year ago at Edgewood Country Club in Sissonville, W.Va. Simonsen, who will be a freshman on the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s golf team this fall, made a double bogey on the final hole of the 36-hole qualifier to miss advancing by a stroke.
“It was awesome getting the experience,” said Simonsen of being on the bag. “To be able to help Freddy win and get to the quarters made me really happy.”
The Lee-Simonsen pairing came as a result of a random drawing for players who did not bring their own caddie. The USGA does not allow parents or guardians to caddie in its two Junior championships, so often times a friend, sibling or swing coach will offer their services. Lee traveled to the championship with his mother.
“It turns out we became really great friends over the week,” said Simonsen, who said he had looped about 10 times prior to this week. “I could tell him where not to miss and the high and low side of the hole. He was pretty good about reading the greens, but I’d help him if he asked.”
For the most part, Lee gave Simonsen high marks.
“Maybe he could be a little better at reading putts,” said Lee with a wry smile and later rated Simonsen a 12 on a 10-point scale. “It’s not the caddie’s fault, it’s the player’s. I really enjoyed my time with him.”
In addition to the pressure of attempting to win the U.S. Junior Amateur, Noah Goodwin is also saddled with keeping a quirky streak going.
Goodwin is a student of noted instructor Cameron McCormick, whose marquee pupil at the moment is two-time major champion Jordan Spieth.
Should Goodwin advance to and win Saturday's 36-hole final at The Honors Course, he would become the third consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur champion under McCormick’s tutelage.
Will Zalatoris, who sought McCormick’s instruction for his short game, won the 2014 championship at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas. A year ago, Philip Barbaree won the title at Colleton River Plantation Club in Bluffton, S.C.
Spieth also won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2009 and 2011, joining Tiger Woods as the only multiple champion in the event’s history.
“[McCormick has] helped me a lot with my mental game,” said Goodwin, who began working with the Dallas-based professional in 2014. “I used to be very negative on myself and very hard on myself, just kind of beating myself up whenever I failed.
“Also, just all of the things he’s taught me with my swing. I understand my swing better now than ever before. To know if I mishit a shot, basically what I did and why I do it; I think that’s so valuable, especially when you’re playing 36 holes a day.”
Goodwin also is trying to become the seventh different Texan to win the U.S. Junior Amateur since 1999. That list includes two-time champion Spieth. Hunter Mahan won in 1999 and he was followed the next year by Matthew Rosenfeld. Left-hander Cory Whitsett, a member of the victorious 2013 USA Walker Cup Team, won in 2007, and Spieth followed with his two victories in a three-year span. Scottie Scheffler and Zalatoris won in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Min Woo Lee, 17, of Australia, is trying to become the fourth international champion. The previous three have all been from the Republic of Korea, starting with Terry Noe in 1994. Sihwan Kim won in 2004 and Andy Hyeon Bo Shim took the title in 2012. Lee could also join older sister Minjee Lee as the only brother-sister tandem to claim USGA Junior championships. Minjee, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour and a 2016 Olympian, won the U.S. Girls’ Junior four years ago.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites. USGA senior staff writer David Shefter also contributed.