U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Far From Home, Eichhorn's Game Has Also Come a Long Way
July 19, 2016 | Ooltewah, Tenn.
By Joey Flyntz, USGA
Hunter Eichhorn traveled more than 900 miles to compete in this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Honors Course. It’s the farthest he’s ventured from his hometown of Carney, Mich., in the Upper Peninsula. Based on early results, his golf game has also come a long way.
Eichhorn, 17, shot 72-71 for a 1-under-par total of 143 to safely advance to match play, which begins on Wednesday with the Round of 64.
Unlike the majority of competitors in the field, Eichhorn doesn’t have a swing coach and has never taken a formal golf lesson. He fell in love with the game around 6 years old, playing with his grandfather, Steve, at Wild Pines Golf Course, a nine-hole facility in Hermansville, Mich.
From that point forward, Eichhorn taught himself how to play through trial and error. When he was 11, a coach recommended he try to play on the Wisconsin Junior Tour, and things took off from there.
“My mom took me there and I finished second and first a few times,” said Eichhorn. “It was then I thought, ‘Hey I can do this. I'm pretty darn good at this.’"
Eichhorn is a rising senior at Carney-Nadeau Public School, a K-12 school with only 17 people in his senior class. His golf coach also coaches basketball and cross-country.
"You know everybody, because there are only 60-70 people in the entire school,” said Eichhorn. “It's a different experience than a lot of the kids here who go to bigger schools, I imagine. But it's a nice place to grow up."
The golf scene in the Upper Peninsula can be challenging, as the access to top-notch courses is scarce and the weather is too cold to play for eight months out of the year.
Being so far from home and competing in his first USGA championship, Eichhorn entered the week under the radar. But his play has changed things.
"It's unbelievable. It's a great experience. It's a beautiful place out here,” said Eichhorn. “I worked hard to play as well I did today, so it means a lot to make match play."
Beginning on Wednesday, he has another opportunity to validate his hard work and make a name for himself in a field of the world’s best junior golfers.
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.