U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Vick Fires Course-Record 64 to Take First-Round Lead
July 18, 2016 | Ooltewah, Tenn.
By Brian DePasquale, USGA
Travis Vick, 16, of Houston, Texas, set a course record with an 8-under-par 64 Monday to take a one-stroke lead on the first day of stroke play in the weather-delayed 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Honors Course.
Vick broke the course standard held by Seth Reeves, who carded a 65 in the second round of the 2014 Southern Amateur. He also tied the second-lowest stroke-play score in U.S. Junior Amateur history, two behind Gavin Hall’s 62 that was established in 2010 at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Mich.
“The U.S. Junior Amateur is definitely something special to me and to come out here and fire a low number is something I’ll never forget,” said Vick, who birdied holes 17 and 18 to cap his record-setting round.
The championship on the 7,326-yard, par-72 Pete Dye layout was delayed twice due to inclement weather for a total of one hour and 55 minutes and play was finally suspended at 8:51 p.m. EDT due to darkness with 18 players remaining on the course. The first round of stroke play is scheduled to resume on Tuesday at 7:15 a.m., with the second round of stroke play beginning at 7:30 a.m.
The U.S. Junior Amateur consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday, July 23, starting at 8 a.m.
Vick, who recorded eight birdies, including five on the inward nine, tied for second in last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur stroke play, one behind medalist Brandon Mancheno after bogeying his final hole at Colleton River Plantation Club.
“There’s a lot of building factors and a ton of learning experiences,” said Vick, a three-sport high school athlete who also competes as a football quarterback/linebacker and a baseball pitcher/third baseman. “I feel like I didn’t make those same mistakes that I did last time.”
Vick, who stuffed a 136-yard pitching wedge to within 3 feet on the 18th hole, made two round-saving pars on the inward nine. He sank a breaking, downhill 15-foot putt on the par-4 10th and got up and down on No. 13 when he used the green’s back slope to chip within close range.
Cole Hammer, 16, of Houston, Texas, nearly turned in the same score 20 minutes earlier before settling for a 7-under 65. His 25-foot birdie putt lipped out on the par-5 17th and his 20-footer for birdie on No. 18 slid by the right side of hole.
Hammer, who made a slight adjustment on the practice range prior to registering a bogey-free round, started quickly with birdies on the opening three holes. He made medium-range putts on Nos. 1 and 2 before striking a 4-hybrid to within 6 inches on the 209-yard, par-3 third.
In 2015, Hammer became the third-youngest golfer to play in the U.S. Open, held at Chambers Bay, and also qualified for match play in the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur.
“Before last summer, if I was playing in something like this I would have been really nervous and not focused on my game as much as I should be,” said Hammer, who reached the Round of 32 in this championship last year. “It’s given me some awesome experience. It feels a lot more natural.”
Won Jun Lee, 17, of the Republic of Korea, is also a veteran player, having advanced to the semifinals last year. Lee, who started his round on No. 10, reeled off seven consecutive birdies from holes 1 through 7 en route to a 6-under 66. He could have gone lower but missed a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and a 3-foot par putt on the par-4 ninth.
“It worked well after I took a break,” said Lee about taking one month off before he earned medalist honors in a U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier in Memphis, Tenn., last week. “It gave me time to think about my game.”
Lee holed an uphill 30-foot birdie putt on No. 3 and then delivered approach shots to within tap-in range on Nos. 4 and 5 during his birdie barrage. He struck a 180-yard 6-iron to set up his birdie on the par-4 fifth.
Wei Wei Gao, 16, of the Philippines, made an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth, his final hole, to finish at 5-under 67. Gao’s round was highlighted by the 12th known hole-in-one in U.S. Junior Amateur history when he aced the par-3 third with a 4-iron.
“I got to play on a course where Tiger Woods played (1991 U.S. Amateur and 1996 NCAA Championship); that’s really special,” said Gao, who is competing in his first USGA championship. “I just wanted to hit the fairways, hit the greens, do the best that I can.”
Noah Goodwin, 16, of Corinth, Texas, totaled eight birdies, but his good work was erased when an unplayable lie led to a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 11th and he double-bogeyed No. 18. His first-round 71 did provide some valuable course knowledge.
“It’s about patience; it was a mentally taxing round,” said Goodwin, who advanced to the Round of 16 last year and is No. 36 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. “It just lets me know that birdies are to be made out there if you play smart.”
Eugene Hong, 16, of Sanford, Fla., a 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur semifinalist, carded a 71. Ryan Grider, 17, of Lewisville, Texas, and John Pak, 17, of Scotch Plains, N.J., a pair of 2015 Junior Amateur quarterfinalists, shot 72 and 73, respectively. Last year’s runner-up, Andrew Orischak, 17, of Hilton Head Island S.C., turned in a 3-over 75.
The Honors Course is hosting its fifth USGA championship.
Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.