THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Several matches seemed destined for extra holes until high drama on the 18th green stunningly ended things right then and there. At day’s end, only two round-of-64 matches needed overtime to be decided on the opening day of match play at the 67th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course.
Joshua Sedeno, 16, of Roseville, Calif., defeated Trevor Ranton, 17, of Canada, in 20 holes, and Doc Redman, 16, of Raleigh, N.C., also went 20 holes to edge Justin Suh, 17, of San Jose, Calif.
Playing in his first USGA championship, Redman was unintimidated by Suh, who was playing in his fourth U.S. Junior.
After Suh drew even on the 17th hole, he was behind and slightly above the green in two on the 539-yard, par-5 18th, which had a tucked flagstick on the left, over water.
Redman was forced to lay up, but put the pressure on the more experienced Suh by sticking his approach to within 5 feet. Chipping downhill, Suh got to within 4 feet for birdie and both made their short putts to extend the match.
It was a perfect yardage, I think about 123. I just knocked down a little 50-degree [wedge] and stroked it perfectly, Redman said. He made a great shot, too. That was tough. We were back and forth all day.
After both players missed their birdie putts on the par-4 first hole (the 19th of the match), they carried onward to a 20thhole.
Redman and Suh were both errant off the tee on the par-4 second, with Suh in the rough on the right and Redman in tall grass on the left. Although Redman’s ball took longer to find, he ended up with a better lie. Suh hit his approach over the green into more rough, while Redman’s approach stuck on the backside fringe. When Suh’s chip fell short, Redman only needed to execute a routine two-putt for the match.
He’s a very good player, said Redman. I think that brought the best out of me. I haven’t played a lot of match play and I was playing against a guy with a ton of experience. We both battled hard and it means a lot to come out on top.
Sedeno emerged victorious despite only leading for one of the 20 holes played. After missing a par putt on 18, Sedeno was fortunate to win the hole with bogey when Ranton doubled.
Both players bogeyed the first extra hole and Sedeno prevailed on No. 2 (the 20th) with a par.
I hit a bad shot on No. 1 [finding the bunker off the tee], so I was happy to even get to a second hole and I was able to take advantage of it, said Sedeno. I had a lot of opportunities today, but didn’t make many putts. Fortunately, I was able to grind one out.
Wong Makes Strides in Second U.S. Junior
Shuai Ming Wong, 14, of the People’s Republic of China, may have lost his round-of-64 match, 5 and 3, to Aaron DeNucci, but he did showcase an improved game in his second U.S. Junior Amateur appearance.
Wong was the youngest player to advance to match play after missing the cut by five strokes last year. This year, he finished in the top 10 in the stroke-play portion, shooting even par in the first round and 3 under in the second round.
I have improved a lot. The big thing with the age difference is distance. I’m hitting the ball farther this year, said Wong. I’m more consistent in my iron game. Last year was just a fun thing for me, a great experience to even be there. This year, my goal was just to make match play, so it’s been a pretty awesome experience.
Wong didn’t feel playing against a player three years his senior was an advantage or disadvantage against DeNucci, of Clive, Iowa.
He just beat me today, simple as that, he said.
Wong intends to play in more junior tournaments in the U.S. this summer before returning to school in China. However, he is considering moving to Arizona in the winter with an eye on college golf stateside in the future.
Mixed Bag For U.S. Amateur Participants
Nine players who are already in the field for next month’s U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club were in the mix in the round of 64 on Wednesday.
Five of those players won their matches, and international competitors posted a 3-2 record.
Co-medalist Sam Horsfield, of England, cruised to a 5-and-4 win over David Laskin, while Zecheng Dou (People’s Republic of China), Will Grimmer (Cincinnati, Ohio), Curtis Luck (Australia) and William Zalatoris (Plano, Texas) also emerged victorious. Austin Connelly (Irving, Texas), Dominic Foos (Germany), Ryan Ruffels (Australia) and Cameron Young (Scarborough, N.Y.) were eliminated.
Luck, who earned a hard-fought 1-up win over Spencer Ralston in part due to a 70-foot eagle putt on the 560-yard, par-5 eighth hole, has never played at Atlanta Athletic Club, but thinks the format of the U.S. Junior will prepare him well for the game’s most prestigious amateur championship.
The USGA has done a really good job with the rough here, which I imagine will be similar in Atlanta. You get a good mix with the lies. Some sit up nicely for you, while others get buried, said Luck. The greens are running well here, so I think that’s all going to prepare me well.
The field will certainly be tough in Atlanta, but Luck, who is playing without a caddie this week, isn’t concerned.
I’m one of those guys who just goes out and lets what’s going to happen happen, he said. There’s no more you can do. I’ll go out there and give my best whack at it. No matter what, it’s going to be a great experience.
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.