CHAMPIONSHIPS
9 Things to Know: U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior July 10, 2018 By Scott Lipsky and David Shefter, USGA

Shuai Ming Wong is one of three USGA champions competing in the 71st U.S. Junior Amateur at historic Baltusrol G.C. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Junior Home | U.S. Girls' Junior Home

Starting Monday, July 16, on opposite coasts, the best golfers in the world 18 years of age and under will begin the ultimate tests in junior golf when the #USJuniorAm and #USGirlsJunior get underway at Baltusrol Golf Club, in Springfield, N.J., and Poppy Hills Golf Course, in Pebble Beach, Calif., respectively. From the iconic venues, to the legendary champions that each championship boasts, to the spoils that go to the winners, there is a lot to look forward to next week. Here are some things to keep an eye on during the six days of action.

1)  Spots in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open are on the line…and this time, the players know it. For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior champions will secure spots in the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, respectively. However, that new exemption wasn’t put into place until last October, meaning 2017 champions Noah Goodwin and Erica Shepherd were unaware of the added bonus when they hoisted their trophies last summer. Next week, competitors can stand over the ball with thoughts of Pebble Beach and the Country Club of Charleston dancing in their heads.

2)  You’ve seen these sites before. Baltusrol and Poppy Hills are two venues that are well-accustomed to challenging the best in the game. The Upper and Lower courses at Baltusrol, both of which will be a part of the Junior Amateur, have combined to host five U.S. Opens, a pair of U.S. Women’s Opens, three U.S. Amateurs and two PGA Championships, most recently in 2016. Poppy Hills, for its part, was a part of the three-course rotation PGA Tour pros faced in the annual AT&T National Pro-Am for nearly 20 years, and also co-hosted the Nature Valley First Tee Open, a PGA Tour Champions event.

3)  A double dose of Pebble. The U.S. Junior Amateur champion won’t have to wait until the 2019 U.S. Open to compete at Pebble Beach Golf Links. The winner – and runner-up – will also earn a spot in next month’s U.S. Amateur, which is being held at…you guessed it, Pebble Beach (nearby Spyglass Hill is the stroke-play co-host). Similarly, the champion and runner-up of the U.S. Girls’ Junior will earn spots in August’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be contested at the Golf Club of Tennessee.

4)  Come out and watch! Both championships are free to attend, and fans are encouraged to come out and see the best junior golfers in the world, at two of the top venues in the game, in person all week long! The last two days of the U.S. Junior Amateur will also be aired live on FS1, beginning with the semifinals from 2-4 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 20, and continuing with the championship match from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 21.

5)  We’ll have a new champion at the Junior Am. Only two players have won multiple U.S. Junior Amateur titles, and you may have heard of them – Tiger Woods (1991-93) and Jordan Spieth (2009 and 2011), with the former being the only player to successfully defend the title. If anyone in this year’s field is going to earn either historic distinction, they will have to wait until at least 2019. Reigning champion Noah Goodwin, who just finished his freshman season at Southern Methodist University, is not in the field, nor is any previous U.S. Junior Amateur champion. If either Cole Hammer or Garrett Barber, who teamed up to win the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in May at Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Fla., were victorious, they would become the first U.S. Junior Amateur champion to win multiple USGA titles in the same year (Eun Jeong Seong won the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2016). History could certainly be in the making!

6)  A champion in the house. While the U.S. Junior Amateur won’t have its defending champion in the field, reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., is competing. She will be looking to join Judy Eller (1957-58), World Golf Hall of Famer Hollis Stacy (1969-71) and Eun Jeong Seong (2015-16) as the only players to successfully defend. Only four players have won multiple U.S. Girls’ Junior titles. In addition to the aforementioned trio, the legendary Nancy Lopez won in 1972 and 1974.

Californian Elizabeth Wang tied for 34th in last month's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

7)  They may be young, but they have experience. Four players in the U.S. Girls’ Junior field will be making their fifth (!) starts in the championship. That includes Elizabeth Wang, 18, who first played in the championship when she was a 13-year-old in 2013. Wang made the 36-hole cut in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open, where she tied for 34th. At the U.S. Junior Amateur, Shuai Ming Wong, 18, will be the only player to tee it up at Baltusrol with that kind of experience. Wong, a Hong Kong native who makes his home in The Woodlands, Texas, will be joining Goodwin at SMU this fall, and, with his fifth start, is tying a U.S. Junior Amateur record.

8)  Familiar faces. Eight players in the U.S. Girls’ Junior field teed it up last month in the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek, including Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif. Li, who the following week helped the USA reclaim the Curtis Cup with a resounding 17-3 victory over Great Britain and Ireland, was one of three Girls’ Junior competitors to make the cut (T-55). Hailee Cooper, 18, of Montgomery, Texas, who teamed with future University of Texas teammate Kaitlyn Papp to win the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball title, also tied for 55th, while the aforementioned Wang tied for 34th. The other five players completing the Women’s Open - Girls’ Junior double bill are Gina Kim, Yujeong Son, Shepherd, Dana Williams and Celeste Dao.

9)  Strong pedigree. Some of the game’s greatest players have etched their names on the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior trophies, including the aforementioned Woods, Spieth, Lopez and Stacy. Other notables to have won the U.S. Junior Amateur include 1973 U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller (1964), , 2001 British Open champion and former world No. 1 David Duval (1989), and PGA Tour winners Hunter Mahan (1999) and Brian Harman (2003).

Notable U.S. Girls’ Junior champions include Hall of Famers and multiple U.S. Women’s Open champions Mickey Wright (1952) and JoAnne Gunderson Carner (1956), Hall of Famer and 1980 U.S. Women’s Open champion Amy Alcott (1973), Lexi Thompson (2008), reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn (2011), two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Inbee Park (2002) and four-time LPGA Tour winner Minjee Lee (2012), whose younger brother, Min Woo, won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2016.

Scott Lipsky is the senior manager of content for the USGA. David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email them at slipsky@usga.org and dshefter@usga.org.

 

More From USGA Junior Championships