U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Five Things to Watch: First Round of Stroke Play July 18, 2016 | Ooltewah, Tenn. By David Shefter, USGA

Floridian Eugene Hong is one of three returning semifinalists from the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

U.S. Junior Amateur Home

The 69th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship commences on Monday with 156 of the best golfers 17 and under vying to add their name to the list of illustrious champions that includes the likes of Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Johnny Miller, David Duval and Hunter Mahan. After 36 holes of stroke play and six rounds of match play, the 2016 champion will be crowned. Here are five things to watch heading into Round 1 of stroke play:

Motivation

If Andrew Orischak needs any inspiration this week he can look at what Dustin Johnson achieved at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club last month. Johnson three-putted the 72nd green of the 2015 U.S. Open to lose by one stroke to Jordan Spieth. He avenged that finish in the 116th U.S. Open, shooting a final-round 69 to win by three over Jim Furyk, Shane Lowry and Scott Piercy. In last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur final at Colleton River Plantation Club, Orischak was 5 up with eight to play against Philip Barbaree, but wound up losing in 37 holes. The 17-year-old from Hilton Head, S.C., is back, looking to hoist the trophy. Two players in Junior Amateur history have won the title a year after finishing second: Mason Rudolph in 1950 and Tim Straub in 1983.

Global Presence

In addition to the United States of America, 14 countries are represented in the field, including Joaquin Niemann of Chile, the highest-ranked competitor in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR) at No. 11. Paul Chaplet, of Costa Rica, who won the Latin America Amateur Championship, also is in the field. Canada leads the international contingent with seven, followed by the People’s Republic of China with five.

Cast in Dye

For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Junior Amateur is being contested on a Pete Dye layout. Colleton River’s Dye Course provided plenty of challenges to the field in 2015, and The Honors Course certainly will be a test this year. The course, which opened in 1983, has previously hosted the U.S. Amateur (1991) and two NCAA Championships (1996 and 2010). Tiger Woods, a three-time U.S. Junior champion, won the 1996 NCAA individual championship at The Honors.

In the Nick of Time

Several competitors barely snuck into the field before reaching their 18th birthday, including Connor Nolan and Brice Wilkinson, both of whom turn 18 two days after the scheduled 36-hole championship match. Min Woo Lee, whose sister, Minjee Lee, won the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior, turns 18 four days after the final.

Back for More

Twenty-three players in the 156-player field competed in last year’s championship, including semifinalists Eugene Hong and Won Jun Lee. Ryan Grider and John Pak are returning quarterfinalists. Easton Paxton, of Riverton, Wyo., is the only player in the field who will be making his fourth U.S. Junior appearance. Pak, Lee, Noah Goodwin, Davis Shore, Patrick Welch and Shuai Ming Wong are playing in their third Juniors. Shore, who is from Knoxville, Tenn., should have some local support being 112 miles from home. Welch, of Providence, R.I., won the Boys’ 14-15 Division in the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.