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Vilips, Chinn share first-round lead at U.S. Junior
Karl Vilips (USGA photo)
Karl Vilips (USGA photo)

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (July 16, 2018) – One round into stroke-play qualifying at the U.S. Junior and players are already diving under par. Monday’s leaders came from Baltusrol Golf Club’s Upper Course (half of the field played the Upper while half played the Lower Course), as both Karl Vilips and Kelly Chinn carded rounds of 5-under 66. Each had six pars and a bogey.

Vilips is a new face in this championship even though the 16-year-old from Australia played in the past two U.S. Amateurs. It’s been a good year for the youngster. He won the Wyndham Invitational by six shots and also was runner-up at the Western Junior. Last year, he matched Bobby Jones’ record as the youngest Southern Amateur champion in history. Their titles were 100 years apart.

Vilips’ story is one of perseverance. He was born in Indonesia and spent part of his childhood in Salvation Army shelters when his family was without a home. Fundraising has helped him build a strong competition schedule to showcase his golf game.

Chinn, meanwhile, hails from Great Falls, Va. The 15-year-old recently completed his freshman year of high school, during which he won the individual title at the Virginia Class 6A state championship. Chinn is also a two-time club champion at Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. His father, Colin, is a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy who also serves as Joint Staff surgeon at the Pentagon and is the chief medical advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I was just coming in wanting to have fun. Obviously just being in the field is a really big deal,” Chinn told the USGA on Monday afternoon. “I just wanted to stay patient and take in the moment. That’s really what my expectation was, but shooting 66 today was above what I ever thought I could do.”

Three players are tied for third one shot behind the co-leaders. That includes Travis Vick of Hunters Creek Village, Texas; Ricky Castillo of Yorba Linda, Calif.; and Akshay Bhatia of Wake Forest, N.C. All but Bhatia played the Upper Course. Bhatia won the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley earlier this spring as well as the Polo Golf Junior Classic. He won the latter event by 10 shots.

Cole Hammer, one half of the winning U.S. Amateur Four-Ball team from earlier this spring, put together a steady round of 1-under 69 on the Lower Course and is part of a nine-man tie for 12th. Hammer, an 18-year-old from Houston, is playing in his eighth USGA Championship this week.

Hammer’s partner Garrett Barber, of Stuart, Fla., had 72 on the Lower Course and is tied for 43rd.

ABOUT THE U.S. Junior Amateur

While it is not the oldest competition, the U.S. Junior Amateur is considered the premier junior competition, having been around since 1948. The event is open to male golfers who have not reached their 19th birthday prior to the close of competition and whose USGA Handicap Index does not exceed 6.4. The U.S. Junior is one of 13 national championship conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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