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Hammer vs. Wong match headlines U.S. Jr quarterfinals
Ben Wong (USGA) photo
Ben Wong (USGA) photo

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (July 18, 2018) – Only eight players remain at the U.S. Junior. Among them are two former USGA champions, and the quarterfinals at Baltusrol Golf Club will begin with a show-down between the two of them.

Cole Hammer, part of the winning U.S. Four-Ball team this spring, and Shuai Ming (Ben) Wong, who was part of the winning Four-Ball team in 2017, will go off Friday morning in the first quarterfinal match. Hammer is the No. 8 seed, Wong the No. 16 seed.

Hammer, an 18-year-old from Houston, has never been this far in his four trips to the U.S. Junior, and it didn’t come easily. After a 4-and-3 win over Kaiwen Liu in the Round of 32, Hammer lost the first two holes of his Round-of-16 match against Trent Phillips and was 3 down through 10 holes before birdies on holes 11 and 14 closed the gap. Phillips was still in the driver’s seat, and had putts to win on Nos. 17 and 18 from 12 feet and 6 feet, but missed them both. A bogey on the 19th hole ended his run.

“This is as far as I've ever been, trust me, I knew that coming down the stretch. I was like, man, I really don't want to lose in the Round of 16 three years in a row,” Hammer told the USGA. “The way we both played coming down the stretch was pretty impressive, and I'm going to remember this for a long time, that's for sure.”

Wong, an 18-year-old from China, enjoyed the largest margin of victory in the Round of 16, losing the second hole of his match to Jacob Bridgeman before winning eight of his next nine holes and ultimately prevailing, 7 and 6. That was likely a welcome respite from his Round-of-32 match in the morning, which took him 19 holes to dispatch Jolo Timothy Magcalayo, of the Philippines.

In addition to Hammer’s match, only one other match reached the 18th hole on Thursday afternoon, with Thomas Ponder winning the last two to defeat Connor Creasy, 1 up, in a contest he never led until the end. Ponder has only appeared in one other U.S. Junior (2017), and he didn’t make match play.

In fact, Hammer and Ponder aren’t alone in finding themselves in new territory. None of the quarterfinalists have advanced this far in the championship previously. Among the group of eight young men, Hammer has made the deepest runs, advancing to the Round of 16 in 2016 and 2017, while Joe Highsmith, last year’s Washington State Amateur champion, bowed out in the Round of 32 the last two years.

Cameron Sisk and Alejandro Madariaga are the only two players remaining who have not trailed in any of their matches this week.

“It's awesome. I can't wait,” Sisk said of Friday’s matches. “I'm on a roll right now. Last year, I was [eliminated] in the Round of 64, so I was eager to come back and play match play and see how I could do. It's exciting. I'm one year more mature. I think my game is a little better. I think it's just a little bit of everything.”

Quarterfinals
7 a.m. - Shuai Ming (Ben) Wong, Hong Kong China vs. Cole Hammer, Houston, Texas

7:12 a.m. - Alejandro Madariaga, Mexico vs. Akshay Bhatia, Wake Forest, N.C.

7:24 a.m. - Joe Highsmith, Lakewood, Wash. vs. Michael Thorbjornsen, Wellesley, Mass.

7:36 a.m. - Thomas Ponder, Dothan, Ala. vs. Cameron Sisk, El Cajon, Calif.

Information from the USGA used in this report

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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