U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Thursday at the U.S. Junior Amateur: Five Things to Know July 18, 2018 | Springfield, N.J. By Scott Lipsky and Brendan Pierce, USGA

All nine single-digit seeds won their Round-of-64 matches on Wednesday, including No. 8 Cole Hammer. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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156 players began, only 32 remain. It has been an action-packed week so far at Baltusrol Golf Club, and the pace will only pick up on Thursday, as the field will be pared to eight quarterfinalists when the last putt has dropped (or has been conceded). Here are some things to look out for as the day unfolds.

The marathon begins: Players who win their matches on Thursday will have little time to celebrate. The Round of 32 begins at 7 a.m., and the first Round-of-16 match is slated for 1:15 p.m. And that’s just the beginning for those who continue to end up on the right side of their matches. The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place on Friday, and the 36-hole final is on the docket for Saturday, meaning the two finalists will play six rounds and perhaps 100 holes or more in the next three days.

Will the higher seeds continue to prevail? Twenty-three of the 32 higher seeds won their matches on Wednesday, including the top nine, but that doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park for those with the lowest scores in stroke play. Five of the top nine seeds went at least 18 holes on Wednesday, including No. 2 seed Ricky Castillo, who needed to make a 20-foot putt on the 21st hole to advance, and top seed Kelly Chinn was taken to the 17th hole by No. 64 seed Trent Geritz. Since 2002, a double-digit seed has won the championship nine times, including two occasions in which they were in the lower half of the draw (Kevin Tway was a No. 33 seed in 2005, and Charlie Beljan was No. 56 in 2002). In short, the high seeds should feel good about their start, but there is plenty of historical precedent to suggest that could change in a hurry.

Following in (and surpassing?) his brother’s footsteps: For the third time in four years, Trent Phillips, of Inman, S.C., has advanced in match play at the U.S. Junior Amateur. He fell in the Round of 32 in 2015, and last year, at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan., he made it to the Round of 16 before falling to Aman Gupta. That run was significant for family bragging rights, as his older brother, Trevor Phillips, reached the Round of 16 in 2013. Trent plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall and play for the Bulldogs with Trevor. Win two matches on Thursday, and the incoming freshman will have the upper hand in at least one respect.

Colin the giant killer? No. 57 Colin Sikkenga is the lowest-seeded player remaining after defeating No. 10 Ilirian Zalli. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native won by a 4-and-2 margin, and he’ll be looking to turn more heads at Baltusrol on Thursday. If he’s going to keep advancing, he’ll have to get past Ryan Smith, of Carlsbad, Calif. While just the No. 42 seed, Smith is the only player remaining who advanced to the quarterfinals last year at Flint Hills National. It will be interesting to see how much that experience continues to serve Smith as the week goes on.

Veterans square off: Two matches that will take center stage Thursday are Cole Hammer vs. Kaiwen Liu and Garrett Barber vs. Joe Highsmith. Each match boasts a combined seven U.S. Junior Amateur starts between the competitors. 

Hammer, who defeated Jackson Suber, 1 up, on Wednesday, has already teamed up with Barber to take home the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball title at the Jupiter Hills Club in May. Liu has three U.S. Junior Amateur appearances to his credit. He defeated Nicolas Cassidy on Wednesday, 2 up.

Barber defeated Jack Rahon on Wednesday, 1 up.  Highsmith is looking to improve on his performance from last year when he advanced to the Round of 32, falling to eventual champion Noah Goodwin. 

Hammer and Liu tee off at 7:24 a.m., while Barber and Highsmith begin at 8:48 a.m.

Scott Lipsky is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org. Brendan Pierce is an intern in the USGA’s Global Content and Media Distribution department. Email him at bpierce@usga.org.

 

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