U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
U.S. Junior Amateur Round 2: Five Things to Know
July 16, 2018 | Springfield, N.J.
By Brendan Pierce, USGA
Day 1 of the 71st U.S. Junior Amateur is in the books, and now the focus turns to the second round of stroke play and the 64 competitors who will ultimately advance to the match-play portion of the championship. Here are five things to know as Tuesday dawns:
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Weather is projected to be a factor on Tuesday at Baltusrol Golf Club. "[Tuesday]t could be a rough day, especially in the afternoon,” said Ben Woods, who is serving as the on-site meteorologist for the U.S. Junior Amateur. "The likelihood for a suspension would most likely be tomorrow afternoon around 1 or 2 p.m., and if we get a suspension, it could be long lasting., It may not be a typical thunderstorm that comes and goes in 30 minutes."
The possibility of weather challenges on Tuesday were apparent prior to the start of the championship, and USGA officials considered them as part of their planning.
“When we were looking at golf course setup, because the hole locations and teeing grounds were not changing, the weather forecast for Tuesday was evaluated and considered when setting up all 36 holes,” said U.S. Junior Amateur Championship director Greg Sanfilippo. “Considerations were given to teeing ground selection and hole locations when setting up the golf courses.”
One positive is the dual-course setup for the stroke-play portion of the championship, which means the latest tee time on Tuesday is 11:57 a.m. That could be critical if play is suspended, since there will be a few hours of daylight to work with if a weather disruption occurs.
The player, or players, with the lowest score through 36 holes earn medalist honors. During Round 1, eight of the top 11 scores in relation to par came from the par-71 Upper Course, including co-leaders Karl Vilips and Kelly Chinn. Both Vilips and Chinn had very similar scorecards as they each carded six birdies against just a single bogey to sign for 5-under 66.
Akshay Bhatia also shot 66, on the par-70 Lower Course, and begins Round 2 at 4 under. It will be interesting to see if he can keep the momentum going on the Upper Course after his bogey-free gem on Monday.
While it’s quite an accomplishment to be the medalist, it doesn’t always foreshadow success in match play. Since the championship’s current format began in 1964, the medalist has gone on to win eight times, with Jordan Spieth being the most recent to pull off the feat in 2009. Last year's medalist, Austin Eckroat, was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Matthew Wolf.
Last Day of Stroke Play
With weather being a possible wild card, stroke play is scheduled to finish on Tuesday. While eyes are always at the top of the leader board, the key for competitors will be to complete 36 holes in the top 64, and advance to match play. A playoff on the Lower Course will break any ties to determine the final match play spots.
Once Wednesday comes, the slate starts clean for the remaining competitors. Many will have a survive-and-advance mentality, with the ultimate goal of hoisting the U.S. Junior Amateur trophy and earning a spot in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. In order to do that, they need to make it into the match-play bracket.
“It doesn’t matter if you win stroke play. Once you get into match play, anything can happen,” said Nicolas Cassidy, who shot 2-under 69 on Monday. “I know if I play well, and make it to match play, I can be excited for anything that’s to come.”
Lower Course vs. Upper Course
The challenge for co-leaders Karl Vilips and Kelly Chinn, as well as others who played the Upper Course in their first rounds, will be in facing the stouter test that is the Lower Course. The four-time U.S. Open and two-time U.S. Women’s Open venue played just over a stroke harder in relation to par than the Upper did during Round 1.
What does this mean for tomorrow? Well, for those players who took advantage of more scoring-friendly conditions on the Upper Course, it will be interesting to see how easily they are able to stay toward the top of the pack. And for those that may have struggled on the Lower Course, their chance to jump back into the mix on Tuesday is for the taking. Expect to see some movement up and down the leader board during Round 2.
Experience: How Much Will it Come Into Play?
2018 marks the second year that 18-year-olds can play in the U.S. Junior Amateur. Through one round of stroke play, a chunk of competitors have taken full advantage of the extra year of eligibility. Of the 20 players that broke par on Monday, nine of them are 18. On the other hand, co-leaders Karl Vilips and Kelly Chinn are 16 and 15, respectively, and Chinn is making his U.S. Junior Amateur debut at Baltusrol. As the match-play bracket begins to shape up on Tuesday, we’ll see if a pattern begins to emerge, or if, as they say, age really is just a number.
Brendan Pierce is an intern in the USGA's Global Content and Media Distribution department. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.