Texeira, a Late Addition to Field, Making the Most of Second Chance
August 18, 2016 | BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, MICH.
By Stuart Hall
As darkness draped over the TPC at Valencia on July 25, Jonah Texeira headed back out for a two-man U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier playoff. Barely able to see the ball’s flight, Texeira managed to win the playoff in one hole and earned first-alternate status.
A nice consolation prize after a 36-hole day, Texeira thought.
“I was mostly disappointed because I've been first or second alternate before and never got the call,” said the 20-year-old University of Southern California junior, of Porter Ranch, Calif. “The [Southern California Golf Association] guy was like, ‘Hey, don't have doubt yet. I really think you could still get in.’”
That reassurance did little to improve Texeira’s optimism.
On Aug. 8, two weeks after the qualifier and just five days before the U.S. Amateur’s first practice round at Oakland Hills Country Club, Tim Hogarth, the 1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion who had won the Valencia, Calif., qualifier, withdrew. Soon after, Texeira’s phone rang.
“When I got the call, I was just jumping for joy, and I just couldn't imagine,” said Texeira, who qualified for last year’s U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, but missed making match play by one stroke.
Through Thursday’s Round of 16 matches on the exacting South Course, Texeira was still taking advantage of his newfound opportunity. He defeated Dawson Armstrong, of Brentwood, Tenn., 4 and 3, in the morning and Kyler Dunkle, of Denver, Colo., 6 and 5, in the afternoon, earning a berth in the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals.
“I felt really calm the whole time,” said Texeira, who is No. 223 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, “When I beat Dawson, I was like, man, I think I can keep it going. It was icing on the cake to play against Kyler, who's also a really, really good player. He hits it like a mile. Like, he flew my ball by 20 yards every hole, so that was pretty crazy to watch.”
Texeira will meet another alternate, Luis Gagne, of Orlando, Fla., in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal match. Gagne was the lone alternate from the sectional qualifier at Willowbend Golf Club in Wichita, Kan., on July 12.
Had it not been for another fortuitous phone call in early June, Texeira likely would be watching the U.S. Amateur from home this week.
After tying for 75th at the NCAA Individual Championships in Eugene, Ore., Texeira, who was a Pac-12 All-Freshman selection a year ago, came to the sobering realization that his game had been too inconsistent for nearly 18 months.
Texeira did not hesitate to email instructor Adam Porzak, introducing himself and asking if he could take a few lessons. Porzak, who works with a pair of newly turned professionals – 2015 United States Walker Cup Team members Beau Hossler and Lee McCoy, called and invited Texeira to his Porzak Golf Academy in San Diego.
“[Porzak] is the greatest thing that has happened to me in my career so far,” Texeira said. “It wasn’t even that big of a swing change, just a little tweak at the start and ever since, I have been hitting the ball straighter and farther.”
The process of comfortably implementing the swing changes took about two weeks. Then, after tying for 27th at the Sunnehanna Amateur and 42nd at the Northeast Amateur Invitational, Texeira returned to San Diego to work with Porzak’s assistant, short game and putting specialist Mike Pitt.
Texeira does not hesitate in crediting his U.S. Amateur run to the changes made over the past few months. Now, the question is how far along the bracket line can the 31st seed go?
We’ll find out the answer between now and Sunday, but if Texeira leapt with excitement upon learning of his U.S. Amateur entry, then imagine the celebration should he win Sunday’s 36-hole final.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.