Ada, Mich. – On a steamy hot afternoon in western Michigan, Justin Thomas and Jim Liu emerged from a pack of 156 teenage boys who started the week and claimed their spots in Saturday’s 36-hole championship final at the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, being held at Egypt Valley Country Club.
Thomas, 17, of Goshen, Ky., faced off against fellow 17-year-old Denny McCarthy, of Burtonsville, Md., in the semifinal round. Thomas and McCarthy played the first eight holes all square, matching each other par for par. A bogey by Thomas at the par-4 ninth tipped the scales in favor of McCarthy, who carried a 1-up lead for the ensuing five holes. The match eventually headed to the 18th hole all square, with both players converting birdie putts to push ahead into extra holes. Thomas ultimately prevailed in 19 holes, capitalizing when McCarthy sent his ball over the green, and made par to his good friend’s bogey.
He’s a great player and it’s unfortunate the way things worked out, being good friends with him, but I’m happy to be playing tomorrow, Thomas said.
McCarthy, who had defeated stroke-play medalist Curtis Thompson in the second round of match play, was clearly dejected about his approach shot on the 19th hole.
I thought I hit a good shot. Maybe it was more downwind than I thought, McCarthy said.If it landed a couple yards shorter, it probably would’ve been real close, hit the backslope and been a couple feet.
He played well and deserves to go to the next round.
Thomas, who has committed to attend the University of Alabama in 2011, will face another good friend in tomorrow’s final, a friend he affectionately calls Slim Jim. Jim Liu, 14, defeated Robby Shelton, another 14-year-old who had previously defeated defending champion Jordan Spieth and 2007 runner-up Anthony Paolucci, by a 3-and-2 margin.
Shelton led for most of the early part of the match, claiming a 2-up lead going to the par-3 12th hole. Liu was able to make up one hole when Shelton bogeyed, pulled all square with a birdie at No. 13 and then stroked a smooth 40-foot birdie putt on No. 14 to take a 1-up lead.
We were both playing great golf, said Liu, who advanced to the second round of last week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. We were both four under through nine and I thought to myself, ‘OK, I’m four under through nine, I shouldn’t be all square.’
That putt on the 14th proved to be the turning point for Liu. His tee shot on 15 ended up under a tree to the left of the fairway, but he was still able to make a birdie 3 on the 464-yard hole and extend his lead to 2-up. The match ended on the 16th green, after Shelton sent his tee shot into the water hazard.
While disappointed, Shelton was able to put his entire week into perspective, a week that saw him send several of the pre-championship favorites home early.
It’s a big accomplishment, getting into the semifinals, Shelton said. It’s huge.
If Liu is able to win defeat Thomas on Saturday, he would become the youngest champion in the history of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. Tiger Woods won the 1991 championship at 15 years, 6 months, while Liu does not turn 15 until mid-August.
The semifinals earlier on Friday saw McCarthy defeat Canadian Richard Jung; Thomas defeat Scott Wolfes, of St. Simons Island, Ga.; Shelton defeat Paolucci; and Liu defeat Gavin Hall, of Pittsford, N.Y., who shot a championship-record 62 in the second round of stroke play.
The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, established in 1948 for male golfers under the age of 18, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Story written by Christina Lance, coordinator of championship communications for the USGA.
Ada, Mich. – Results from the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of match play on Friday at the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, being played at the 7,111-yard, par-72 Egypt Valley Country Club:
Denny McCarthy, Burtonsville, Md. (145) def. Richard Jung, Canada (138), 19 holes
Justin Thomas, Goshen, Ky. (136) def. Scott Wolfes, St Simons Island, Ga. (146), 2 and 1
Robby Shelton, Wilmer, Ala. (145) def. Anthony Paolucci, Del Mar, Calif. (143), 2 and 1
Jim Liu, Smithtown, N.Y. (144) def. Gavin Hall, Pittsford, N.Y. (135), 1 up
Justin Thomas, Goshen, Ky. (136) def. Denny McCarthy, Burtonsville, Md. (145), 19 holes
Jim Liu, Smithtown, N.Y. (144) def. Robby Shelton, Wilmer, Ala. (145), 3 and 2
Ada, Mich. – Pairing for the final round of match play on Saturday at the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, being played at the 7,111-yard, par-72 Egypt Valley Country Club:
8:00 a.m. Justin Thomas, Goshen, Ky. (136) vs. Jim Liu, Smithtown, N.Y. (144)