U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Taking Care of the Course July 18, 2018 By Jordan Schwartz, USGA

Nathan Cogswell playing a shot at the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

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Nathan Cogswell knows what it takes to prepare a course for high-level competition. He works on the grounds crew staff at Meridian Valley Country Club in his hometown of Kent, Wash., which hosted a U.S. Open local qualifier this year. So, when he arrived at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., for the U.S. Junior Amateur, he was blown away.

“This is heaven right here,” he said. “They have two courses, so they have to have a lot of guys out here. From the ins and outs of my own course, it’s kind of cool to see how much care they put into this one. You can see a big difference in the way they do it versus a small course where I live.”

Cogswell’s brothers worked for the superintendent at Meridian Valley and suggested he apply. He said the best way to enhance golfer experience is to encourage players to replace divots and repair ball marks.

The work has been very fulfilling for an 18-year-old whose dad put a club in his hand when he was 2.

At age 12, Cogswell competed in his first tournament. He admitted playing awful that day aside from one memorable highlight – an ace on a 165-yard hole with a blind tee shot.

“I couldn’t see it go in, but I walked up there and was like, ‘Okay, it’s in the hole,’” he recalled.

Cogswell went on to become a four-time all-league selection at Kentwood High School, where he finished in the top-11 in four straight WIAA Class 4A state championships, including a tie for fifth in 2017. He’ll play collegiate golf at Seattle University.

Cogswell barely missed advancing to match play at the Junior Amateur. His 7-over score in two rounds of stroke play qualified him for an eight-way playoff for three spots.

Two players qualified, and four others were eliminated after three holes, leaving Cogswell and Trent Geritz, a 17-year-old from Towson, Md., to battle it out for a chance to face top seed Kelly Chinn.

They each parred 4, 5 and 18 before returning to the par 3, 190-yard 4th for their seventh playoff hole. Cogswell put his tee shot in the water and made 6, while Geritz advanced with a 3.

It was a disappointing finish for Cogswell, who thought he could go far in match play, but nonetheless an experience he’ll never forget.

Jordan Schwartz is the creative and content lead for the USGA Foundation. Email him at jschwartz@usga.org.