Scarsdale, N.Y. – Many of today’s elite junior golfers are a concoction of hubris and cool. The physical stereotypes are obvious; collar turned up, sunglasses covering the eyes, a confident gait.
And there’s the entourage replete with doting parents, a high-profile swing coach, sports psychologist, nutritionist, trainer and sometimes even hangers-on who claim to be advisors. Even the sound bytes appear rehearsed.
They might only be teens, but they’re already walking, talking and playing like grizzled PGA Tour stars.
Then there’s Cameron Wilson. The 17-year-old Rowayton, Conn., resident is one of the country’s best junior golfers. His resumé screams success: quarterfinalist at the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur; round of 32 at the 2009 U.S. Amateur; youngest champion of the Met Amateur and the 2009 Metropolitan Golf Association Player of the Year, based on a year-long points list.
Yet you would never guess at the accomplishments by talking to the humble teen. He doesn’t offer a lot of glib. He won’t boast about past success nor does he worry about bloated expectations or rankings.
That’s just not in Wilson’s DNA.
I never cared a whole lot about what other kids were thinking, said Wilson at an MGA media event at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in April. Whether people are looking at me or not, it’s not going to affect anything I do.
As the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur approaches at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Mich., Wilson would have to be considered one of the favorites to hoist the championship trophy, along with defending champion Jordan Spieth and 2007 runner-up Anthony Paolucci. Last year at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Wilson barely made the match-play cut, but advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to fellow left-hander Logan Harrell. He lost to another lefty (Phillip Mollica) in the round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur.
But Wilson, one of the few competitors entering college in the fall – he signed with Stanford last November and is eligible for the Junior because he doesn’t turn 18 until Nov. 2 – won’t cast himself in the favorite or underdog role.
Confident? Yes. Cocky? No way.
As long as I play well, I should have a chance to win, said Wilson.
Unlike many elite juniors, Wilson takes a respite from competitive golf in the winter months. From November to early March, he won’t pick up a club. In fact, he has played on the squash team at his high school (St. Luke’s in New Canaan, Conn.) the past couple of years. The indoor racket sport doesn’t help his golf swing, but it keeps Wilson in good physical condition. It also gives him an opportunity to interact in a team sport with non-golfers.
Yet even with a winter hiatus, Wilson’s game doesn’t seem to suffer. He posted top-10 finishes at the Terra Cotta Invitational (Naples, Fla.) and Azalea Invitational (Charleston, S.C.) in early spring. He also advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying for the second consecutive year. He opened with a 69 at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., before faltering in the afternoon of the 36-hole event, missing a playoff for the final spot by five strokes.
His longtime instructor, Debbie Doniger, told Golfweek.com that Wilson’s body motion on the backswing and downswing gets a little off kilter because of the squash, but that he quickly adjusts.
The club feels weird in my hands, said Wilson about the layoff. I have a squash grip in the winter and it’s a lot bigger. I will feel my game is back to normal about the middle of May.
Wilson, who is focused on amateur competitions this summer, will conclude his junior career at the U.S. Junior Amateur. The rest of his summer schedule will include the prestigious Northeast Amateur (T-18 in 2009), Western Amateur and Porter Cup. He also hopes to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, which would be the ideal transition to college.
After all, he is traveling across the country anyway to attend Stanford. He chose the Palo Alto, Calif., institution for three key factors: strong academics, great weather and a nationally ranked golf program.
I’m excited about going to college, said Wilson, whose twin sister McKenzie will be joining him on The Farm. I’m excited to play college golf. I’m excited about playing golf in the winter. It will be good for me.
Academically, it’s one of the best schools in the country. [And the golf program] just built a new practice facility two years ago that’s unbelievable. Great weather, great school, great golf team. Everything was there.
Except an entourage.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.