U.S. AMATEUR
Two Players at Pebble Beach Know They Will Return Next June August 14, 2018 | PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. By Dave Shedloski

Two U.S. Amateur competitors, including 2018 U.S. Junior champion Michael Thorbjornsen, have a 2019 date with Pebble Beach. (USGA/JD Cuban)

U.S. Amateur Home

There’s always next year for Michael Thorbjornsen and Jovan Rebula. That’s not a message of capitulation for the talented pair competing in this week’s 118th U.S. Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links. It’s simply a fact. A very satisfying one.

While their fates were quite different after two rounds of stroke-play competition at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill – Thorbjornsen is advancing to match play while Rebula, despite a late rally, missed finishing among the top 64 – they are united by a guaranteed return trip to this famed layout on the Monterey Peninsula next year for the 119th U.S. Open Championship.

Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., earned an exemption when he captured the U.S. Junior Amateur title last month at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. Rebula, meanwhile, is exempt after winning the 123rd Amateur Championship in June at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.

“It’s really just a very cool place,” Thorbjornsen said. “You look around and it’s amazing. I’ve definitely learned a lot already about what you need to do around here. I feel pretty comfortable. It’s as great as you hear about.”

Thorbjornsen, who shot a 1-under 70 on Monday at Pebble Beach and came back with a 3-under 69 at Spyglass Hill, wasn’t originally scheduled to compete this week. He didn’t enter the U.S. Amateur, feeling like he had played too much golf already. He had been nursing a few nagging injuries to his wrists and right hip. But winning the U.S. Junior changed his plans.

“It wasn’t like I didn’t want to play. I’m definitely glad to be here,” he said after ending up tied for fourth in stroke play at 4-under 139. “I just know from last year that you can play too much.”

Knowing he was going to be back next June did not change his outlook on the week at hand, he said. There wasn’t any less pressure on him. “Not necessarily,” Thorbjornsen said. “I’m just concentrating on this week. It’s great to have this experience, but I don’t think I would feel any different if I weren’t playing in the U.S. Open. This week is a great opportunity.”

Rebula, 21, who hails from Ranburg, South Africa, opened with a 76 at Spyglass Hill, but a pair of birdies on the inward nine at Pebble Beach late Tuesday afternoon had him inside the projected cutline. A bogey on the tough par-3 17th was a killer, though, and he carded a 1-over 72 for a 148 total, one stroke out of the playoff to make match play.

Rebula, nephew of two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, was upbeat despite the disappointing finish.

“It was unbelievable. With all the history that goes around this golf course, it was awesome,” said the rising junior at Auburn University. “To have Pebble Beach as a venue for an amateur event is special. It was my first time out here and really enjoyed the experience. I didn’t play the way I wanted to. I didn’t have my best stuff, but I really enjoyed it.”

Not surprisingly, he couldn’t wait to come back. Seeing Pebble Beach in championship condition was a worthwhile experience. He just wanted more of it.

“This was a good preview for us,” he said. “Playing a golf course in a practice round, you can’t really compare it to a competitive round. It was really good for me to see this golf course in a tournament situation. You see the places where you can miss it and kind of get a feeling for it. Definitely good preparation for what we have coming next year.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.