BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (Aug 4, 2007)--Seventeen-year-old Jhared Hack would like to follow in Jamie Lovemark’s footsteps and become the second Western Junior champion in three years to win the Western Golf Association’s national Junior and Amateur championships in back-to-back years. To accomplish that, he’ll have to first get past two-time NCAA All-American Dustin Johnson.
Hack, who won the 2006 Western Junior, and Johnson meet in the opening semifinal match at 7:30 a.m. Sunday at Point O’Woods G. & C.C. in Benton Harbor. The second match, at 7:45 a.m., features a pair of first team All-PAC 10 competitors, Alex Prugh, a 2007 graduate of the University of Washington, and Rob Grube, a senior with 2007 NCAA champion Stanford.
Hack, 17, of Sanford, Fla., defeated 2005 Western Junior champion Rickie Fowler in Saturday’s quarterfinals, while Johnson, 23, North Myrtle Beach S.C., advanced with a win over upset-minded Kyle Hosick, a 2007 graduate of the University of Illinois.
Prugh, 22, of Spokane, Wash., edged Clemson All-American Kyle Stanley, and Grube, 22, of Hinsdale, Ill., outlasted Florida sophomore Tyson Alexander.
Johnson, who starred at Coastal Carolina the past four years, already has won the 2007 Northeast Amateur and Monroe Invitational. He moved into the Western Amateur semifinals with a 3 and 2 victory over Kyle Hosick in a match where both players gave away holes due to balky putters. Still, Johnson is confident heading into Sunday.
“I felt good today even after I gave a couple away,” said Johnson, a two-time NCAA All-American from Coastal Carolina. “I’m playing well right now. I’m feeling good. If I can get the putter going … "
Hack, who will be a freshman at Central Florida this fall, will be trying to rebound from a rocky afternoon. “I played … the worst I’ve played this week,” he said. “This afternoon was definitely the worst I’ve played.”
Still, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to compete against one of the top amateurs in the nation. “It feels great. It’s been a long day – a long week, actually – and it’s rewarding to get to Sunday. This is one of the best fields in Amateur golf.”
Lovemark won the Western Junior in 2004 and followed with a win at the Western Amateur in 2005. Hack indicated he’s not focusing on that as much as he is on conquering the Point O’Woods’ challenging layout. “This is my second year here, and I came in with the attitude I can play this course,” he said.
The second semifinal between Prugh and Grube – who played 36 holes together in Friday’s medal play marathon – assures that the PAC 10 Conference a representative in the championship match.
“He’s played No. 1 for Washington, and we’ve played a lot of 36-hole days in college,” said Grube. “We know each other well. But it doesn’t make a difference to me who I’m playing. I’m playing the golf course. This course is so difficult, if you’re worrying about someone else you’re going to make a mental error.
“Tomorrow, we start over. It’s a new day,” he said. “To win, I’m going to have to play some very good golf.”
Prugh almost didn’t make it to Sunday. After taking a double bogey on the par 5, 13th, he was one down to Stanley. But a par and two birdies later, Prugh stood on the 17th tee with a 2-up lead. The two matched pars on the 208-yard par 3, and Prugh had the 2 and 1 win.
“I had to grind a little bit there at the end. I wasn’t sure how that match was going to go. He’s a good player,” Prugh said. “It feels great. I’m just a little tired right now. I’m going to get a good night’s sleep.”
In Saturday morning’s first round results, Hosick, 22, of Carmi, Ill., upset medalist Lucas Lee, 20, of Torrance, Calif., 2 up, with Lee barely missing a 20-foot putt on 18 that could have evened the match. After missing his own birdie putt, Lee conceded a 10-foot birdie putt to Hosick for the 2 up final.
Lee credited Hosick with playing a solid round. “I played well. I shot 1 under, but he played great,” said Lee, a third team All-American at UCLA. “He made a lot of birdies, and I just didn’t hit the ball close enough.”
Looking back on his week, including earning medalist honors Friday with a 9-under-par 271 total for 72 holes of stroke play, Lee was satisfied with his game. “I’m happy I was able to finish strong Friday,” he said. “I played really well overall.”
In the other upper bracket matches, Johnson defeated Mark Harrell, 22, Hazeltine, Ga., 1 up; Fowler, 18, Murrieta, Calif., topped Kevin Chappell, 21, Fresno, Calif., 3 and 1; and Hack edged Clayton Rask, 22, Otsego, Minn., 2 and 1.
In the lower bracket, Prugh defeated Matthew Savage, 20, Louisville, Ky., 2 and 1; Stanley, 19, Gig Harbor, Wash., outlasted Billy Horschel, 20, Grant, Fla., in 19 holes in a battle of first team All-Americans; Grube eased to a 6 and 5 win over U.S. Public Links champion Colt Knost, 22, Dallas, Texas; and Alexander, 19, Gainesville, Fla., won 1 up over Manuel Villegas, 22, Medellin, Colombia, brother of PGA TOUR professional Camillo Villegas.