Brian Harman, 16, of Savannah, Ga., became the third left-handed golfer in history to win a USGA title with his 5-and-4 victory over Jordan Cox, 15, of Redwood City, Calif., Saturday at the 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the 6,586-yard, par-70 Columbia Country Club.
The victory was particularly sweet for Harman, who in the quarterfinals at the 2002 Junior Amateur was leading Charlie Beljan by one hole going into the 18th. Harman hit his tee shot into the water and eventually lost in 21 holes. Beljan went on to win the championship.
“The choke has been avenged,” said Harman.
All square after the first two holes, Harman struck first when he sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4, 357-yard 3rd hole to go 1-up. He added to that lead at the par-3, 212-yard 4th hole when Cox two-putted for bogey.
Cox got a hole back on the 5th hole when he sank a 25-foot eagle putt.
“I knew I was probably going to need an eagle to win the hole,” said Cox. “So I just said ‘what the heck’ and tried to fire at the flagstick. Making the putt was really an adrenaline rush.”
But Harman would come back to win the next four holes, highlighted by the par-4, 325-yard 7th hole, where he stuck his approach to three feet and sank the putt for birdie.
Cox was able to hold Harman off temporarily when the two players halved the par-4, 431-yard 11th , and Cox then won the par-5, 503-yard 12th hole when Harman three-putted.
But Harman came back to win the par-3, 168-yard 13th hole when Cox missed an eight-foot par putt, and Harman then safely two-putted from 12 feet on the par-4, 423-yard 14th to halve the hole and win the match.
“I came today absolutely ready to play,” said Harman. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do and when stuff starting going my way, I just started playing real well and I just had it going.”
Harman joins 1988 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Ralph Howe and 1990 U.S. Amateur winner Phil Mickelson as the only left-handed champions in the 108-year history of the USGA.
At 15 years, three months, and 22 days, Cox was trying to become the youngest-ever Junior Amateur winner. Tiger Woods remains the record-holder for youngest to win the championship – he was 15 years, six months, and 28 days when he captured the 1991 Junior Amateur.
“I hit the ball all right,” said Cox. “I guess the nerves kind of got to me and I made a couple misjudgments.
Cox knew he ran into a tough competitor in the final.
“He flat out-played me,” he said of Harman. “He played amazing and I couldn’t do anything about that.”
The Junior Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.