OOLTEWAH, TN (July 19, 2016) -- Travis Vick, 16, of Houston, Texas, shot an even-par 72 Tuesday to earn medalist honors in the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Honors Course. Vick, who fired a course-record 64 in Monday’s first round of stroke play, finished at 8-under-par 136 on the par-72, 7,236-yard Pete Dye layout.
Vick, who was one stroke short of claiming co-medalist honors last year after bogeying the final hole, broke away from a tight pack when he eagled the par-5 second, his 11th hole. He rifled a 211-yard 4-iron over the flag and then sank a breaking 20-foot putt.
“It’s just a humbling feeling,” said Vick, who finished three strokes clear of Min Woo Lee, 17, of Australia, and Eugene Hong, 16, of Sanford, Fla. “All the best players come here from every which way you can think of, so to come out on top, it’s really special.”
The U.S. Junior Amateur consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday, July 23, starting at 8 a.m. EDT.
Vick, a three-sport high school athlete who also plays football and baseball, bogeyed two of his opening three holes but steadied himself on No. 13 when he sank a 20-footer for par after missing the green to the left with his tee shot. After his eagle later returned him to even par on the round, he got up and down for another par on No. 3 and hit a 141-yard gap wedge to within 4 feet for a birdie on the par-4 seventh.
“It boosted my momentum,” said Vick about his eagle putt on No. 2. “It just changed my entire mindset. Being able to hit a crisp iron shot and a good putt was a humongous motivator.”
Lee was one of 18 players who finished their first round earlier in the day after play was suspended for darkness due to two weather delays on Monday. Lee, who shot 4-under 68 in the opening round, had a 71.
Lee, the younger brother of 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion and LPGA Tour player Minjee Lee, bogeyed three holes early in his round but regrouped with five birdies over the next nine holes. He jump-started his play by hitting a 165-yard 8-iron to within 12 feet to set up a birdie on No. 9 and made a 6-foot putt for another birdie on the par-5 11th.
“I knew I had to get my head back in it,” said Lee, who won last year’s Western Australia Amateur. “I am very happy with the way I finished.”
Hong posted a 4-under 68 to move up the leader board and into a tie for second at 5-under 139. Hong started his second round by holing out from a greenside bunker on the par-4 10th, his first hole, and then sank a long par putt on No. 12. He followed with birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 17.
“I made a lot of par putts and birdie putts and that’s made a big difference for me,” said Hong, who advanced to last year’s semifinals at Colleton River Plantation Club.
Won Jun Lee, 17, of the Republic of Korea, and Matthew Sharpstene, 17, of Asheville, N.C., each posted a 36-hole score of 4-under 140. Lee, who was a semifinalist last year, had three birdies and five bogeys en route to a 74. He recorded 6-under 66 in the first round. Sharpstene rebounded from an opening-round 74 with his own 66. He converted a 35-foot eagle chip from just off the green at the par-5 17th, his eighth hole, and added seven birdies.
Sharpstene, who is competing in his first USGA championship and is the son of a club professional, sank a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and made another two-putt birdie on the par-5 second.
“I didn’t expect to play that well, but I am happy,” said Sharpstene, a rising high school senior who was sixth in this year’s Class 4A state championship. “I putted a lot better today. I gave myself a lot of good looks at birdie and executed well.”
Cole Hammer, 16, of Houston, Texas, slumped to a second-round 78 after blistering the course with a 7-under 65 on Monday. Hammer, who still reached the match-play bracket with total of 1-under 143, combined for one double bogey and seven bogeys, including three consecutive on the inward nine.
“My speed on my putts got way off,” said Hammer, who played in last year’s U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur. “I had three three-putts on the back nine and did not play well coming in. It was all speed.”
Andrew Orischak, the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up, and Brandon Mancheno, last year’s stroke-play medalist, each advanced safely to match play with two-round totals of 4-over 148.
Orischak, 17, of Hilton Head Island, S.C., shot rounds of 75 and 73. Mancheno, 16, of Jacksonville, Fla., rallied to get above the cut line. He began his second round with a 7-over 43 on the outward nine, but recovered with an eagle on No. 11 and followed by converting back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13. He carded a 75 to go with a first-round 73.
Thirteen players who tied for 58th place at 7-over 151 will play off for the final seven match-play berths. The playoff will start on Wednesday at 7:15 a.m. on the 10th hole.
The U.S. Junior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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