THE WOODLANDS, Texas – All four Friday morning quarterfinal matches at the 67th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship delivered a particular dose of drama to pare the field to its final four competitors at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course.
One 40-foot putt over a ridge, one near-comeback from 4 down with four holes to play, one close contest throughout and one ball in the water on No. 18. Four excellent matches with two intriguing semifinal pairings to follow in the afternoon.
William Zalatoris, 17, of Plano, Texas, defeated co-medalist Sean Crocker, 17, of Zimbabwe, 3 and 2. Curtis Luck, 17, of Australia, outlasted Will Grimmer, 17, of Cincinnati, 2 up. Co-medalist Sam Horsfield, 17, of England, defeated Andreas Halvorsen, 17, of Norway, 1 up. Last year’s runner-up, Davis Riley, 17, of Hattiesburg, Miss., defeated Andy Zhang, 16, of the People’s Republic of China, 2 up.
The morning began with Zalatoris, playing in his fifth U.S. Junior, catching fire on the inward nine to surge past Crocker. Trailing 1 down through seven, Zalatoris won four of the next six holes and advanced to the semifinals in memorable fashion.
Standing on the par-4 16th 3 up and dormie, Zalatoris found the bunker off the tee and his approach landed 40 feet behind the hole, on the bottom level of the two-tiered green. After lining up the putt with his caddie, Scott Fawcett, Zalatoris stroked the ball and got a perfect break over the ridge to find the bottom of the hole and close out Crocker.
I really played well today. I stayed steady with my game, Zalatoris said. One thing I was really proud of was, other than the bomb I made on the last hole, all my putts were 15 feet or shorter. I just kept stuffing it over and over.
Out-hitting Grimmer by a wide margin off most tees, Luck seemed destined to run away with his match, winning three in a row from seven through nine to go 5 up. Luck went to 4 up and dormie, but Grimmer was not ready to call it a day.
Grimmer, who played in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, carded three straight birdies on holes 15-17 to send the match to the par-5 18th.
As he had all day, Luck took advantage of his distance and smashed his drive dead center in the fairway. After Grimmer laid up, Luck thought long and hard about his second shot, eventually deciding to use a hybrid instead of 3-wood. The club change paid off, as Luck went slightly over the green, but in good position to get up and down for birdie. Grimmer was unable to make birdie and conceded the match.
He played awesome down the back nine, so it was nice to just finish it off at the end, Luck said. I definitely would have liked to close it out sooner. It takes the pressure off, that’s for sure. Mentally, it keeps you a little bit fresher going into the next round.
The Horsfield-Halvorsen match was nip and tuck the whole way, with neither player leading by more than 2 up, an advantage Horsfield owned for only two holes. Halvorsen won No. 17 to cut the deficit to 1 down and send the match to No. 18. Halvorsen was in good position just in front of the green in two and got up and down for birdie, but Horsfield matched him with a testy chip to halve the hole and seal the win.
Intent on finishing what he couldn’t quite complete last year, Riley got out of the gates quickly, moving to 3 up through seven against his good friend, Zhang.
Zhang settled down and kept the match alive with a brilliant up-and-down from a bunker on the par-3 17th to head to No. 18 1 down.
However, the potential drama was thwarted immediately. Zhang hit his tee shot well left into pine straw and, needing to win the hole to keep the match alive, found the lake with his second shot.
Not the way you want to win, but I’ll take it, said Riley.
Live scoring for the semifinal matches is available on usga.org.
67TH U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP
THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Results from Friday morning’s quarterfinal round at the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course (yardage, par 72):
William Zalatoris, Plano, Texas (140) def. Sean Crocker, Zimbabwe (137), 3 and 2
Curtis Luck, Australia (141) def. Will Grimmer, Cincinnati, Ohio (138), 2 up
Sam Horsfield, England (137) def. Andreas Halvorsen, Norway (148), 1 up
Davis Riley, Hattiesburg, Miss. (138) def. Andy Zhang, People’s Republic of China (143), 2 up
THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Pairings for Friday afternoon’s semifinal round at the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course (all times Central Daylight Time):
12:45 p.m. William Zalatoris, Plano, Texas (140) vs. Curtis Luck, Australia (141)
1 p.m. Sam Horsfield, England (137) vs. Davis Riley, Hattiesburg, Miss. (138)
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.