BREMERTON, WASH. (July 18, 2011) -– Beau Hossler, 16, of Mission Viejo, Calif., and Will Starke, 17, of Chapin, S.C., are both playing in their first U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. And each shot 4-under 68 Monday to share the lead after the first round of stroke play.But Hossler arrived at Gold Mountain Golf Club with a bit of a reputation, as the only person in the field to have played in a U.S. Open, which he did last month at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., where he missed the cut. Starke arrived a little under the radar – he is not only playing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur, but his first USGA championship.
Each took different paths to record the low score of the day. Starke credited his solid driving, while Hossler struggled off the tee.
“I hit it terrible all day,” said Hossler, who bogeyed his first hole, the par 4, 378-yard 10th at the par-72, 7,111-yard Olympic Course at Gold Mountain. “I mean, I hit good shots, obviously, to make some birdies, but I was just scrapping it. It was pretty grotesque to watch, but I definitely had some really, really good shots to make up for it, so that was good.”
Despite the shakiness off the tee, Hossler was very pleased with his round, which included several long putts. He made an 8-footer for par on his first hole, a 12-footer for par on No. 13 and a 13-footer for par at the 14th. He converted a 15-footer for birdie at No. 14, his first of five birdies in the round.
“From there, the confidence just grew,” said Hossler, who only played nine holes in a practice round Sunday because his clubs didn’t arrive early enough to play 18 holes. “Knowing that I’m even par through five holes and that I haven’t hit a good shot yet is a good feeling.”
While Hossler was playing in the Open and other high-level amateur events, Starke took a few weeks off leading into the Junior Amateur.
“It was nice to have a few weeks off so I was able to relax and get my game ready,” said Starke, who has already committed to play at the University of South Carolina in the fall of 2012.
In addition to his steadiness off the tee, Starke credited his putting for his low round. On the first hole he made a 15-footer for par and another 10-footer for par on No. 3.“Every time I was in trouble, my putter got me out of it,” said Starke, whose 68 was the only bogey-free round of the day. “That was really the key all day. Every green I missed, I made a 15-footer for par and kept the momentum going.”
Despite the pressure of playing in his first national championship, Starke wasn’t fazed. “I was surprisingly kind of relaxed,” he said. “I warmed up next to my buddy (Matthew Nesmith from North Augusta, S.C.) and talked to him on the putting green and (to) see him tee off before me; that helped I guess.”
One stroke off Hossler and Starke’s pace were Taylor Moore, 17, of Edmond, Okla., and Chelso Barrett, 16, of Keene, N.H. Nine players finished the first round under par.
Reigning champion Jim Liu, 15, of Smithtown, N.Y., got off to a rough start in his title defense, with a quadruple bogey and a triple bogey en route to a 6-over 78.
“I actually started off all right,” said Liu, who is trying to join Tiger Woods as the only repeat winner in the championship’s 64-year history. “I had a lot of pars and I was playing all right. But a couple of errant shots cost me two big numbers. I didn’t strike the ball well today, but I made a comeback halfway through the back nine and hopefully I can take that momentum into tomorrow."
For Liu, who recorded three birdies and was two under on the other 16 holes, the news wasn’t all bad.
“I didn’t play poorly so that’s a good thing, but I just have to eliminate those really poor shots.”
The other past champion in the field – 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur winner Jordan Spieth, 17, of Dallas, Texas, opened with an even-par 72, with four birdies and four bogeys. Spieth, who is the only player in the field to be competing in his fourth Junior Amateur, is playing in his final junior event – he turns 18 the week after the championship.
After a second day of stroke play Tuesday, the U.S. Junior Amateur field will be reduced to 64 players for match play. The first round of match play is scheduled for Wednesday, the second and third rounds will be played Thursday, the quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be played Friday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Saturday.The U.S. Junior Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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